Have you realized the depth of meaning in Genesis? Have you seen that often there’s more significance to what is said than just what lies on the surface?
For 1500 years after Moses wrote the book of Genesis, it was seen as a book that told the history of the nation Israel and told of God’s workings in history that revealed His nature and character. And it was also seen as a book that presents to us moral examples that teach us how to live and how not to live if we want God’s favor and not His wrath. The book of Genesis is all that. But for those first 1500 years, there was a depth of meaning all through the pages of Genesis that people didn’t see. There was a whole layer of meaning and significance that lied hidden just below surface until Jesus came and uncovered it for us.
Let me remind you of a story as we begin here. Luke 24, it’s a Sunday afternoon. Two men are walking together on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus, talking about the recent death of Jesus and the incredible things that had happened while He was dying, and now the inexplicable vacancy of His tomb that many told them about earlier that morning. And the report of some women who claimed to have had a vision of angels who said He was alive. And while they’re discussing all this, Jesus walks right up beside them, but they didn’t recognize Him. And Jesus asked them, “What are you guys talking about?”. And they said, “What do you mean, what are we talking about? Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem, unaware of the things that have happened recently?”. And Jesus said, “What things?”. So they said, “The things about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to the sentence of death, and crucified Him. But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened. But also some women among us amazed us. When they were at the tomb early in the morning, and did not find His body, they came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said that He was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just exactly as the women also had said; but Him they did not see”. They’re explaining to Jesus that it really seems like He rose from the dead. And Jesus said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” Then beginning with Moses [meaning beginning with the books of Scripture Moses wrote, Genesis – Deuteronomy] and with all the prophets [with all the rest of the OT Scriptures], He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures”. He led them in a Bible study and opened their eyes to see Him through all the OT. Later that night Jesus appeared to His apostles and did the same kind of thing with them. Luke 24:44, Jesus said to His apostles, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses [which means Genesis-Deuteronomy] and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled”. Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.
And we are blessed today that those apostles and others, whose minds were opened by Jesus to understand the Scriptures have explained to us in their writings in the NT some of the things Jesus helped them understand in the OT. They’ve taught us a new way of looking at the OT. They’ve taught us that it is full of foretelling and foreshadowing, fore-picturing of Jesus, especially Genesis. The book of Genesis is like a giant arrow that points us to Jesus.
And when you first see it (if you’re like me) you think “Wow, the Bible is amazing! There is no other book so deep and profound and perfect”. And then your faith is just further settled, your faith that Jesus really is all that the gospel says He is, because you can see in these ancient Scriptures written long before Jesus was ever born that God always had Him in mind and He was constantly, all through history, giving us hints about what He would be like and what He would do.
So I want to show you the many places where I see Jesus in Genesis. There are first of all…
A few actual predictions about Christ
Let me give you 3. The first is…
This verse is often called the protoevangelium, which means in Greek, basically the first announcement of the gospel. Satan has possessed a serpent and come to the woman in that form and spoken to her and deceived her into disobeying the one command God gave her and her husband. She then drugged her husband into disobedience with her. After that, God makes this statement to the serpent in Genesis 3:15, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He [that is the seed of woman] shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel”. Now, certainly we see this is true between men and snakes. Generally we don’t get along well. Snakes bite our heels and we bash their heads. But was God just talking to literal snakes? It wasn’t really the snake’s fault that he deceived Eve and enticed her into sin. The snake was possessed and controlled by Satan. It makes good sense to me that God wasn’t just talking to snakes here, but to the evil spirit being who used the snake, and that we find in this description of the plight of snakes, a figurative picture of the plight of Satan. Satan would bruise the seed, the offspring, of woman. But He would bash Satan’s head. Isaiah 53:10 says of Christ, “He was bruised for our iniquities”. And it was Satan who caused His bruising. The gospel of John says Satan was at work in Judas Iscariot to betray Him (John 13:27). But it was like a bruising of the heel, a bruising that could be recovered from. But Christ dealt a devastating irrecoverable blow to Satan’s head. Satan is all about keeping man and God apart. He’s all about preventing and ruining the relationship God wants with human beings. But the work of Christ has attracted us to God and brought us forgiveness and reconciled us to Him. I John 3:8, “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil”. So I see Jesus in Genesis 3:15.
A second announcement of the gospel in Genesis is the promise that God repeatedly made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
“In your seed all the nations of the earth will be blessed” (Gen 12:3; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14). Here’s what that means. Paul explains it for us. Galatians 3:16, “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed”. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one. “And to your seed”, that is, “Christ”] Now, that’s interesting, because the word “seed” in Hebrew, zera, was a collective, meaning it could refer to one or to many. It’s like our English word “deer”. When you see a herd of deer you don’t say, “Look at the deers”. Whether there is one or many you say, “Look at the deer”. Or, you don’t say, “Look at the sheeps”. Whether it’s one or many it’s “Look at the sheep”. Words like that are collectives. “Seed” is a collective. But Paul tells us we should understand the seed of Abraham in the promise in a singular sense, as referring to Christ. It means in Christ who descends from Abraham all the nations of the earth will be blessed. And yet interestingly, Paul also explains that we should also understand the seed of Abraham, Christ, in a collective sense, as also including all who belong to Christ. Us Christians are viewed by God as one with Christ, we are like members of Christ’s body, a part of Christ. So we are part of the seed of Abraham. Galatians 3:26-29, “For you [Christians] are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to promise”. So the promise, “In your seed all nations of the earth will be blessed” means those of all nations who are in Christ will be blessed.
A third prediction about Christ is…
Jacob, on his deathbed, was telling his 12 sons what had been revealed to him by God about what would happen to them and their descendants in the future. And in Genesis 49:10 Jacob is speaking to his son Judah and he says, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes, And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples”.
There’s a lot of debate among scholars about what the word “Shiloh” means there. Some say it means “peace” or “one sent” or “to whom it belongs”. The NIV translates this “until he comes to whom it belongs”. But whatever the exact meaning of the term was, it was understood by the ancient Rabbis and Jewish people as a reference to the Messiah, to the King and Savior that God promised to send. Among scrolls of ancient Qumran and in the Jewish Talmud the Messiah is called Shiloh.
You notice that it says “to him shall be the obedience of the peoples”. This is no ordinary king. Nations will obey Him. This verse speaks of when this great king is to come. It is going to be before the scepter and ruler’s staff depart from Judah. Those are symbols of governing authority and national sovereignty.
Well, think about the history of the tribe of Judah. They gained the “scepter”, governing authority, when David a descendant of Judah became king. And then after the reign of his son Solomon, the kingdom divided in two, the 10 tribes in the north became known as the kingdom of Israel and the 2 tribes in the south, Judah and Benjamin, became known as the kingdom of Judah. Judah retained the “scepter”. Judah continued to be a nation and self-governing. Then, eventually the northern kingdom of Israel was conquered by the Assyrians and scattered all over the world and never really returned as a nation. Judah continued on alone for a while until they were conquered by the Babylonians and went away into captivity for 70 years. But even in captivity they retained their national identity and were allowed to have their own laws and their own judges. Then they were returned to their land after 70 years. They remained a self-governing nation until the 1st century A.D.
There’s some debate about when exactly the scepter departed from Judah. Was it in 6-7 A.D. when the Romans set a procurator over Judea and immediately limited the governing authority of the Sanhedrin? Or was it 70 A.D. when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and scattered the surviving people of Judea all over the world? Either way, the promise of God stood true; Christ had arrived before the scepter departed from Judah.
But there’s more related to Jesus in Genesis than just actual predictions about Him. There are also throughout Genesis, what are called…
Types of Christ
Fore-shadowings, fore-picturings, pre-figurings of Him.
The first is the ancestor of us all…
God told Adam to avoid a certain tree. And in the garden Adam said, “Not Your will, but mine be done”. And Adam’s one act of disobedience affected every human being that descended from him. Paul says in Romans 5 that through Adam’s one sin death has spread to all of us. We are all treated like we were involved in Adam’s sin, in that we have all received the sentence of death. We all die physically because of what Adam did. That’s what Genesis says, isn’t it? And not only that, but we also suffer wearisome toil to make a living and thorns and thistles and the shame of nakedness because of what he did. But Paul says in Romans 5:14 that Adam is a type, a figure, of Him who was to come. God told Jesus not to avoid a certain tree, but to go to a certain tree. And in the garden He said, “Not My will, but Yours be done”. And He bore the curses of sin; He took the suffering and the thorns on His own head and the shame of nakedness and death. And again, one man’s act affected us all: Jesus’s one act of obedience affects every human being that has a connection with Him. Through His one righteous act, eternal life is given to all of us who are, in a sense, His children. God treats us as though we are as righteous as Christ. I Corinthians 15:21-22, “Since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead… As in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive”.
Here’s another one…
Genesis 14, Abraham is returning from a victorious military rescue mission of his nephew Lot and the people of Sodom, and on his way back, this mysterious character comes out to meet him. His name is Melchizedek. Melek in Hebrew is king. Zedek is righteousness. His name means king of righteousness. And it says he is king of Salem. Salem means peace. This city would later become Jerusalem, which means city of peace. So here’s this mysterious man who comes out to meet Abraham who is king of righteousness and king of peace. And it says not only is he a king, but he is also a priest of God Most High, which was very unique for one to be both king and priest. Never in the history of Israel in the OT was there one who was both king and priest. And what does he do? He brings out bread and wine; interesting. And He blesses Abraham. Now, whenever you find someone blessing another in Scriptures it’s always the greater blessing the lesser. Fathers bless their sons, not vice versa. So this guy is greater than even God’s chosen man, Abraham. And Abraham voluntarily gives Melchizedek a tithe of the spoils taken from the enemy.
Does this guy sound like somebody you know? Later in the Scripture, through the mouth of David, God told people that there would be similarities between Melchizedek and the Messiah. Psalm 110 which begins, “The Lord says to my Lord: ’Sit at My right hand Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.‘”. It’s a Psalm about the Messiah, and the ancient Jews understood it that way. And down at verse 4 of the Psalm it says to the Messiah, “The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind, “You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek”. So in that strange little paragraph in Genesis 14 about Melchizedek, God was giving a picture of the one He was going to send for us. If you want the Bible’s commentary on this, it’s Hebrews 5, 6, and 7, and it will explain more of what a rich, meaningful little paragraph that is.
Here’s another one…
Isaac was promised by God before he was ever conceived. Isaac’s conception and birth was miraculous. Sarah conceiving a baby at the age of 90 was about as naturally impossible as a virgin conceiving a baby. When he was a young man, Isaac was a beloved son of his father. Ishmael had been sent away. Listen to Genesis 22:1-2, “Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am”. He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, [at the baptism of Jesus the voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved son”. “Abraham, take your only beloved son”] and go to the land of Moriah [II Chronicles 3:1 says Solomon built the temple in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah. Moriah is the Jerusalem area.], and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you”. And Abraham made up his mind to go through with it. And it took him 3 days to travel to the land of Moriah, and so for 3 days in Abraham’s mind Isaac was dead. When they got to the right hill (maybe it was the same hill we call Golgotha or Calvary) this only beloved son carried the wood on which he would die, up to the place where he would die. Listen to some comments about this from Hebrews 11. Hebrews 11:17-19, “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; it was he to whom it was said, “IN ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS SHALL BE CALLED”. He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type,” [as a figure, a foreshadowing]. In Abraham’s mind his son was dead for 3 days. But then he received his son back to life.
There was another foreshadowing up on that hill. There was…
A substitutionary sacrifice that God provided with its horns caught in a thicket, maybe a thorny thicket, maybe its head caught in thorns. John the Baptist pointed at Jesus and said, “Behold, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”. If we were him we might have worded it, “Behold, the ram of God who takes away the sin of the world”, because what they often called a lamb, we would have probably called a ram. The lambs that were used for sacrifice were one year old males. They weren’t cute little new born suckling lambs. They were full grown with horns. Abraham called the place YHVH-jireh, the LORD will provide. God was giving us another hint that He would provide the substitutionary sacrifice.
And then one of the most remarkable prophetic gleams of Jesus, to me, is…
The story of Joseph in Genesis, you could outline into 2 parts; part 1 down, part 2 up. That’s what happened to him. He went all the way down from being the favorite son of his rich father to being a slave and then down even further to being a forgotten slave in a dungeon. But then from there he was quickly exalted all the way up to the right hand of Pharaoh, lord of all Egypt, and became the Savior of the world. Isn’t the story of Jesus, part 1 down, part 2 up as well? Philippians 2:6, “who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. [Part 1. Then here’s part 2.] For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”.
But even the smaller details of the story of Joseph parallel the story of Jesus. God foretold that Joseph would one day rule over his brothers. Remember He gave Joseph those dreams. In the first dream, Joseph and his brothers were all out binding sheaves in the field, and then Joseph’s sheaf stood up tall and then the sheaves of his 11 brothers gathered around his sheaf and bowed. Then in the second dream, the sun and moon and eleven stars came and bowed down to him. What does a bowing sun and moon and stars look like? I have no idea. But that’s what it says. The message was clear. Joseph would one day rule over his brothers.
It probably wasn’t the smartest thing for Joseph to tell his brothers about those dreams. They hated him all the more for it. They already hated him because he was the favorite son of their father. They hated him because of envy. And they tried to get rid of him, selling him off into slavery and then telling his poor old dad he was dead. When the Jewish leaders were pressuring Pilate to crucify Jesus and were bringing all kinds of unfounded charges against Him, it says Pilate knew that it was because of envy that they had handed Him over (Matt 27:18).
And all the horrible things that happened to Joseph were all part of God’s plan, a plan God had, to save Israel. Later in the story, Joseph would explain to his brothers, Genesis 45:5-8, “Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come closer to me”. And they came closer. And he said, “I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. 5 “Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6 “For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. 7 “God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. 8 “Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God…”. I can’t help but think of what Peter explained to the Jews on that day of Pentecost, Acts 2:23, “this Man [Jesus], delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death”. You did these horrible things to Jesus, and yet God did it. It was all part of God’s plan to bring about a great deliverance.
You look at Joseph’s character and it’s remarkable, like no one else in the OT. There is nothing said of Joseph that is bad. We know the Bible generally doesn’t shy away from telling us about faults of its good characters. It tells us of Noah getting drunk and falling asleep naked in his tent, and Abraham’s lying about his wife, and David’s adultery and murder, and Elijah scared and discouraged and wanting to quit preaching. But in the record of Joseph, there’s nothing about him that’s not ideal. Even when he’s sold off as a slave to Egypt, there’s no trace of resentment or complaining or rebelling against God for letting this happen to him. Even though he’s far away from home and totally unknown, he maintains his integrity and his loyalty to God. He stays honest and he works hard for Potiphar his master. Mrs. Potiphar wants him, and isn’t afraid to tell him. And she was probably a fine looking lady, being married to a rich guy like Poitphar. When nobody else was around, she just outright said, “Joseph, come to bed with me”. Joseph said, “Mr. Potiphar has been good to me. He’s put me in charge of everything. Only you has he withheld from me. I can’t do this to him. And how could I do this great evil and sin against God?”. What a man! Now, it’s one thing to resist once. But it says that day after day she would try to entice him. Day after day, “Joseph, come on, no one will know. Just once, Joseph. I’ll make you happy. Have you ever been with a woman, Joseph? You don’t know what you’re missing”. Day after day, until one last attempt; she caught him by his garment and said, “Lie with me” and he fled outside and she was left with his garment in her hand. Her frustrated lust turned to anger and she fabricated a story that Joseph tried to rape her and Mr. Potiphar threw him into the prison for life.
And yet still, there’s no trace of bitterness or rebellion in Joseph even though obeying God has cost him everything. Even at rock bottom, his concern seems to have been to help others. He does good honest work there in the jail in whatever they had the prisoners doing. The jailer put him in charge of the other prisoners and the work that was done there. There came to be Pharaoh’s cup bearer and baker in the jail with him, and it says he took care of them. And one morning he noticed them unusually downcast and he asked them why. And they said they’d had some unusual dreams, but there was no one to interpret them for them. And of course Joseph asked them to tell him their dreams and God gave Joseph the interpretation and he relayed it to them, that in 3 days both of them would be called out of the jail and the baker would be hanged and the cupbearer would be restored to his job. And then it happened exactly as Joseph said, and the cupbearer was supposed to put in a good word for Joseph but forgot. And Joseph remained in prison for 2 full years. It is heart breaking when you get to that point in the story. All he’s ever done in the story is what is right, and all these horrible things happen to him.
But I don’t know what’s the bigger test of a man’s character, being taken all the way down or being taken all the way up to the top, given money and power. Yet after Joseph interprets Pharaoh’s dreams and presents a wise plan to save Egypt from the 7 years of famine to come and is made lord over all Egypt, he maintains his moral excellence. One day, here came those brothers who hated him without good cause, who ignored his cries for mercy when they were throwing him in a pit and selling him off into slavery. They came before him wanting to buy food and didn’t recognize him, since it’d been 13 years and Joseph was dressed like an Egyptian. It was in his power to get even with them. But he didn’t. He messed with them a little bit to see if their character had changed over the years, to see if they felt any remorse over what they’d done to him and if they hated his younger brother Benjamin like they hated him. It’s fun to read how he found that out. But Joseph forgives these brothers. He gives them food. He doesn’t charge them for it. He puts the money back in their sacks. When he makes himself known to his brothers, he comforts them. He reassures them of his forgiveness. He says he wants them to come live in the best land of the Nile Delta in the land of Goshen and he’ll take care of them and their children because there are still 5 years of famine to come. He kisses these brothers and cries with them. It is so extraordinary; Joseph’s brothers can’t believe that Joseph would be that forgiving of them. They actually think he must be putting on a show of forgiveness for dad’s sake: “He doesn’t want to bring dad any more heartache. That’s why he’s being good to us, but when dad dies he’ll probably then repay us for what we did to him”. So when their dad (Jacob) died, these brothers actually sent a messenger to tell Joseph that his father in his dying breaths said, “Tell Joseph, ‘Please forgive your brothers’”. And Joseph’s brothers still can’t believe he’s forgiven them, and he reassures them again and takes care of them. So after being a suffering servant by their doing, he has become their amazingly gracious lord and savior.
Do you see the giant arrow in Genesis pointing to Jesus? This book that was written over a millennium before Jesus was ever born. When I think about all this, it just further settles my faith that Jesus really is the one sent for us; He really was in the mind of God from the beginning.
– James Williams