Genesis 34-36 Should We Study These Chapters?
The official Come, Follow Me curriculum skips Genesis 34-36, as well as many other chapters of the Old Testament, and generally with good reason. First, the Old Testament is a very long book, at over 1,200 pages in the LDS English version (including the books of Moses and Abraham); whereas the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price are less than 1,300 pages combined.
Secondly, speaking of the various books of the Bible, Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Twelve stated that, “they are not all of equal worth” (“The Bible, A Sealed Book,” Symposium on the New Testament, BYU, 1984). Thus, for the reasons of length and relative value, systematically studying the Old Testament in in one year requires some educated skipping.
As part of your study, you may choose to read the entire Old Testament, which can be a wonderful experience. But if not, read the chapter headings for the skipped chapters, to help you keep a sense of the story lines and the teachings. In the case of these skipped chapters in Genesis, you may also consider these approaches:
- Chapter 34: Read verses 1-4 and compare the “love” in this story to the love in Genesis 29:20. Read the rest of Genesis 34 and consider: What were Simeon and Levi angry about? What did they do? What should they have done? (Unfortunately, when contention arose, they did not follow the examples of their forebears Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as recounted in Genesis 13, 26, and 31-33.)
- Chapter 35: In Genesis 31:3, the Lord had instructed Jacob to leave Haran and take his family to Canaan. Jacob had reason to be concerned, because of prior difficult relocation experiences he had had with Laban, Esau, and the Hivites. Nonetheless, Jacob obediently went. Read verses 1-4 and consider what Jacob and his family did as they approached Beth-el (which means “house of God”). How may this compare to things we do as we prepare to go to the house of the Lord? How did things turn out in verses 5-15? Then what happened in verses 16-20?
Genesis 37-38 Joseph and His Brothers
One of the Bible’s most beloved stories is that of Joseph in Genesis 37, 39-50. A good family or class activity can be to have several individuals read these chapters aloud, as in a “reader’s theater.” To prepare, review the chapters and identify the various characters (a narrator, plus Joseph, his brethren, Jacob, and so forth); and also decide which verses each character will read.
There have been issues with Jacob’s children; Simeon and Levi had dealt dishonestly with the Hivites and killed a number of them for spite (Genesis 34), and Reuben committed adultery with Bilhah, one of Jacob’s wives (Genesis 35:22). The intrigue will continue. Read Genesis 37:1-36 and consider:
- Why did Joseph’s brothers hate him? Were they justified in their hatred? What do you think may have been their true problem?
- In what ways was Joseph a type or foreshadowing of Jesus Christ’s life and ministry? (see especially Genesis 37:2, 7, 9, 11, 18, 23, 26-28, 36.), Note that Jesus Christ began his formal mortal ministry at “about” age thirty (Luke 3:23). Joseph began his saving ministry among the Egyptians—and later for his own family, the house of Israel—at age thirty (Genesis 41:46). Are there other ways in which you see elements or types of Christ in the life and ministry of Joseph?
- In chapter 38 it appears that Judah marries out of the covenant, followed by misbehavior and trials. Some have wondered why this chapter is here, in the middle of the story of Joseph; and perhaps one purpose is to provides a stark contrast to the story of righteous, noble Joseph.
Genesis 39 The Lord Was with Joseph
This chapter states four times that the Lord was with Joseph (verses 2, 3, 21, 23):
- Read this chapter and look for ways the Lord was with Joseph.
- What influence did Joseph have upon Potiphar and upon the keeper of the prison?
- Joseph’s goodness showed his clear, unwavering devotion to the Lord, especially in his reactions when tempted by the wife of Potiphar to violate the law of chastity: He “refused” (verse 8), “hearkened not” (verse 10), and “fled, and got him out” (verse 12).
- Some consider sexual deviancy to be a “victimless” act, but Joseph understood that it is “great wickedness” and is a “sin against God” (verse 9).
Genesis 40-41 Joseph Interprets Dreams
Joseph became subject to an unjustified prison sentence, being incarcerated with two men who had “offended” the Pharaoh (Genesis 40:1-3). It is sometimes the lot of God’s followers to suffer wrongs, despite their righteous choices.
Chapters 40-41 recount significant, inspired dreams, and the Lord gave Joseph the gift to interpret them (40:6-8). Summarize the first two dreams, plus Joseph’s interpretations of them, and how things played out:
- The dream of Pharaoh’s chief butler (Genesis 40:9-13, 20-21).
- The dream of Pharaoh’s chief baker (Genesis 40:16-19, 22).
- What did Joseph ask the chief butler to do, in Genesis 40:14-15? What was the result, in verse 23? Thoughtlessness can lead to hardships for us and others. In the case of Joseph, the butler’s thoughtlessness led to Joseph’s remaining in prison for two more years (Genesis 41:1).
- What were the dreams of Pharaoh? (Genesis 41:1-7).
- The butler recognized his “faults” and told Pharaoh of Joseph’s gift of interpretation (41:10-14). What was Joseph’s interpretation of Pharaoh’s dreams? (verses 25-31; then verses 47-49, 53-57 recount the literal fulfillment of Joseph’s interpretation).
- What was Joseph’s counsel to Pharaoh, in verses 33-36? What was Pharaoh’s response, in verses 37-45?
- Note that Joseph acknowledged that his gift came from God, and he testified of this to others (see Genesis 40:8; 41:16, 25, 28, 32). We must recognize the Lord’s hand and blessings in our lives and give thanks and glory to Him.
- Like Joseph and Pharaoh, have you prepared for eventualities that may challenge you and others?
Regarding temporal preparation, President Gordon B. Hinckley taught the following in the priesthood session of the October 1998 general conference:
“I wish to speak to you about temporal matters. As a backdrop for what I wish to say, I read to you a few verses from the 41st chapter of Genesis. [He then read Genesis 41:17-20, 22-26, 28-30, 32; about Pharaoh’s dream and Joseph’s interpretation. He then continued:] Now brethren, I want to make it very clear that I am not prophesying, that I am not predicting years of famine in the future. But I am suggesting that the time has come to get our houses in order. So many of our people are living on the very edge of their incomes. In fact, some are living on borrowings…. There is a portent of stormy weather ahead to which we had better give heed…. No one knows when emergencies will strike…. We are carrying a message of self-reliance throughout the Church…. I urge you, brethren, to look to the condition of your finances…. This is a part of the temporal gospel in which we believe. May the Lord bless you, my beloved brethren, to set your houses in order…. That’s all I have to say about it, but I wish to say it with all the emphasis of which I am capable.”