Tuesday, October 25, 2016
The Prequel to Exodus and its significance for today
Exodus 1:1-7 "Now these are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob; they came each one with his household: 2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah; 3 Issachar, Zebulun and Benjamin; 4 Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher. 5 All the persons who came from the loins of Jacob were seventy in number, but Joseph was already in Egypt. 6 Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation. 7 But the sons of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly, and multiplied, and became exceedingly mighty, so that the land was filled with them."
I'll never forget watching the Star Wars original triology as a child. I was thrilled when the series was re-released in "enhanced digital" in nineties. Numerous times throughout my college experience, I can recall staying up through the night with my friends as we engaged in a "Star Wars marathon". What came as a surprise and shock was to hear that there was going to be a new "trilogy" released to tell how the original "trilogy" all began. Where did Darth Vader come from? was he always Darth Vader? what about the rebellion? the empire? and other sundry details? As I would come to find out, this new "trilogy" would come to be known as a series of "prequels". A prequel's purpose is to tell the story of the origins and historical narrative that leads up to a current state of affairs. The new "trilogy" did achieve its purpose in filling in the gaps that would make viewing the old "triology" a more complete experience.
When it comes to the first five books of the Bible, the book of Genesis functions as the "prequel" of prequels, functioning as the prequel to not only Exodus through Deuteronomy, but ultimately the whole Bible.
How Genesis functions as the prequel to Exodus
To just focus attention on the book of Exodus, we find that the first seven verses of Exodus 1 assume familiarity with the Book of Genesis. Moses, the author, is filling in the gaps for his readers who were the generation of Hebrews rescued out of bondage in Egypt. We see mention of Jacob and his sons in the opening verses. Jacob's historical journey down to Egypt is contained within the so-called "Joseph cycle" of Genesis 37-50 (particularly Genesis 46). Jacob's story of course begins in Genesis 27 and winds its way into the Joseph cycle of Genesis 37-50.
Going from Jacob, back to Isaac
As one goes backward through Genesis, we find Jacob's father Isaac was promised by God to Jacob's grandfather, Abraham. Jacob and his twin brother Esau scraped and fought their way through the so-called Jacob-cycle of Genesis 27-36. Jacob would steal his older twin-brother's blessing. Undoubtedly Jacob's conniving was truly his doing, and yet it fit within the permissive, Sovereign plan of Almighty God (see Malachi 1:1-2; Romans 9:13).
Isaac, Jacob and Esau's father, was the original child of promise who would function as a continuation of Abraham's bloodline and the promise of God. Although Isaac would be born in Genesis 21, the focal-point of his adult life would be found in the so-called "Isaac cycle" of Genesis 24-26.
So then, what about Abraham? Abraham's story stretches from Genesis 12-25. For nearly the first century of Abraham's life (known originally as "Abram"), we find this "patriarch of patriarchs") living as a gentile in Ur of Chaldees (Genesis 11:27-32). God called him out of darkness to travel some 800 miles to the land of Canaan. His story and God's promises and covenant would provide a template for the fulfillment of such through his descendants (Isaac, Jacob, Jacob's sons and the Hebrew nation in Exodus) and ultimately Christ Himself (see Galatians 3-4).
Abraham's story of course represents the focal point of all the prior history leading up to him in Genesis 1-11. Millennia of history passed from Adam to Noah and then from Noah down to Abraham. God's purposes and plans would funnel down from all of humanity (Genesis 1-9) through one branch of humanity (from Noah's son Shem in Genesis 9) to Abram in Genesis 11.
The audience in Moses' day needed to be told the prequel of their story so that they would realize that God, not Egypt, and not Pharaoh, had called them and created them.
Application and final thoughts
As we find ourselves living here in the 21st century, how familiar are our children, grandchildren and up and coming generations with the Bible? I'm certain that more kids are familiar with the prequels of Star Wars than with the book of Genesis. Just as Moses wrote Genesis under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to inform his audience of how God had redeemed them and where they fit in His grander plan, we today need to bring our children and grand-children "up-to-speed" on where they fit in today's world. Books like Genesis and Exodus remind us of what can happen when one generation (or several in the case of the time-frame that transpired between Genesis 50 and Exodus 1) goes without familiarity with God's revealed purposes in His Word. May we be faithful to our task to pass down the truths of God's word to the next generation (see Deuteronomy 6 and Jude 1:3).