In the aftermath of Babel’s babbling, we’re left with the question lingering: where is the one who would come to resolve the mess we’ve made of the world God gave us? Where is the descendant who would crush evil underfoot and bring life?
The expectation builds as a man is chosen; a descendant, who is given a clear promise by God. His name is Abram, meaning ‘exalted father’, but in a bitter irony, he has no children and is 75 years old. God promises that not only will he have children as numerous as the stars and the grains of sand, but he will also have God’s special blessing of protection and provision, and that through him the world will be blessed.
Despite Abram trying to resolve the matter himself, God gives Abram his new name — Abraham, the father of many. As he hits 100, his 90-year-old wife has their first son, Isaac. He is the inheritor of the promise.
Yet God asks him to sacrifice his son of promise, prefiguring God’s own sacrifice of his Son of promise. Abraham is willing, believing that God could even raise his son back from death. But as the knife is raised, Abraham is stopped, and a ram is killed in Isaac’s place. As Abraham dies, along with his wife Sarah, so they are buried in the land, gaining the promise in death.
Isaac finds a wife, Rebekah, so he can continue the line of promise, except that they can’t have children either. As that’s resolved, the line finds itself at a split junction with twin boys being conceived. Yet Rebekah is told by God that, in a reverse of expectation, the younger shall inherit the promise.
The older one, Esau, despises his inheritance when he sells it to his younger twin, Jacob, because he listened to his belly more than his brain. The deal is sealed when Isaac also listens to his belly more than his brain and is easily tricked into giving Jacob the blessing.
Jacob flees his brother’s anger and meets with God in Bethel. There, God extends the same promise to him as was given to his father and grandfather – that he will receive God’s protection and provision, that he’ll have many descendants and that this will bring global blessing.
Being tricked into marrying twice, Jacob gains twelve sons and many sheep – all a sign of God’s blessing. He returns home to make peace with his brother, but as he’s preparing for that, he meets with God and wrestles with him, while God renames him Israel.
With Israel having twelve sons, we may wonder who’s going to be the son of promise; especially when one of them, Joseph, has two dreams about his brothers bowing down to him. In response, his brothers sell him as a slave to Egypt. As much as he flourishes in all he does, he ends up in prison as an innocent sufferer.
Joseph is raised out of prison because of his God-given gift of interpreting dreams. He tells the Pharaoh that his dreams mean seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine and Pharaoh responds by making him second in command of the nation to save food in the good years and supply it in the bad years.
His brothers, in the midst of the famine, come to buy grain from Joseph, and not recognising him, they bow down to him. After a couple of tests, Joseph ensures that all the brothers come to Egypt and that they regret what they did to him, and so he reveals who he is. The whole family comes down to Egypt, and the sons receive the blessing of their father, Israel, and Judah, in particular, receives the promise of the kingly line.
They’re becoming a large nation of twelve tribes, with God’s protection and blessing upon them. The expectations are growing. But they’re in the wrong land and will be for 400 years. In order for the expectations to be fulfilled, they need to return home.
Next in this series: Exodus »