Genesis Key People


Adam

We can hardly imagine what it must have been like to be the first and only person on earth. It’s one thing for us to be lonely; it was another for Adam, who had never known another human being. He missed much that makes us who we are - he had no childhood, no parents, no family or friends. He had to learn to be human on his own. Fortunately, God didn’t let him struggle too long before presenting him with an ideal companion and mate, Eve. Theirs was a complete, innocent, and open oneness, without a hint of shame.


One of Adam’s first conversations with his delightful new companion must have been about the rules of the garden. Before God made Eve, he had already given Adam complete freedom in the garden, with the responsibility to tend and care for it. But one tree was off-limits, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam would have told Eve all about this. She knew, when Satan approached her, that the tree’s fruit was not to be eaten. However, she decided to eat the forbidden fruit. Then she offered some to Adam. At that moment, the fate of creation was on the line. Sadly, Adam didn’t pause to consider the consequences. He went ahead and ate.


In that case of Adam’s sin, however, God already had a plan in motion to overcome the effects of the rebellion. The entire Bible is the story of how that plan unfolds, ultimately leading to God’s own visit to earth through his Son, Jesus. His sinless life and death made it possible to God to offer forgiveness to all who want it. Our small and large acts of rebellion prove that we are descendants of Adam. Only by asking forgiveness of Jesus Christ can we become children of God.


Strengths and accomplishments

  • The first zoologist - namer of animals

  • The first landscape architect, placed in the garden to care for it

  • Father of the human race

  • The first person made in the image of God, and the first human to share an intimate personal relationship with God


Weaknesses and mistakes

  • Avoided responsibility and blamed others; chose to hide rather than to confront; made excuses rather than admitting the truth

  • Greatest mistake: teamed up with Eve to bring sin into the world


Lessons from his life

  • As Adam’s descendants, we all reflect to some degree the image of God  

  • God wants people who, though free to do wrong, choose instead to love him

  • We should not blame others for our faults

  • We cannot hide from God


Vital statistics

  • Where: Garden of Eden

  • Occupation: Caretaker, gardener, farmer

  • Relatives: Wife: Eve. Sons: Cain, Abel, Seth. Numerous other children. The only man who never had an earthly mother or father.


Key verses

  • “It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it” (Genesis 3:12).

  • “ Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life” (1 Corinthians 15:22).


Adam’s story is told in Genesis 1:26-5:5. He is also mentioned in 1 Chronicles 1:1; Luke 3:38; Romans 5:14; 1 Corinthians 15:22, 45; 1 Timothy 2:13, 14.   



Eve

We know very little about Eve, the first woman in the world, yet she is the mother of us all. She was the final piece in the intricate and amazing puzzle of God’s creation. Adam now had another human being with whom to fellowship-someone with an equal share in God’s image. Here was someone alike enough for companionship, yet different enough for relationship. Together they were greater than either could have been alone.


Eve was approached by Satan in the Garden of Eden, where she and Adam lived. He questioned her contentment. How could she be happy when she was not allowed to eat from one of the fruit trees? Satan helped Eve shift her focus from all that God had done and given to the one thing he had withheld. And Eve was willing to accept Satan’s viewpoint without checking with God.


Sound familiar? How often is our attention drawn from the much that is ours to the little that isn’t? We get that “I” ve got to have it” feeling. Eve was typical of us all, and we consistently show we are her descendants by repeating her mistakes. Our desires, like Eve’s, can be quite easily manipulated. They are not the best basis for actions. We need to keep God in our decision-making process always. His Word, the Bible, is our guidebook in decision making.


Strengths and accomplishments

  • First wife and mother

  • First female. As such she shared a special relationship with God, had co-responsibility with Adan over creation, and displayed certain characteristics of God.


Weaknesses and mistakes

  • Allowed her contentment to be undermined by Satan

  • Acted impulsively without taking either to God or to her mate  

  • Not only sinned, but shared her sin with Adam

  • When confronted, blamed others


Lessons from her life

  • The female shares in the image of God

  • The necessary ingredients for a strong marriage are commitment to each other, companionship with each other, complete oneness, absence of shame (Genesis 2:24, 25)

  • The basic human tendency to sin goes back to the beginning of the human race


Vital statistics

  • Where: Garden of Eden

  • Occupation: Wife, helper, companion, co-manager of Eden

  • Relatives: Husband: Adam. Sons: Cain, Abel, Seth. Numerous other children


Key verse

  • “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him’” (Genesis 2:18).


Eve’s story is told in Genesis 2:18-4:26. Her death is not mentioned in Scripture.



Cain

In spite of parents’ efforts and worries, conflicts between children in a family seen inevitable. Sibling relationships allow both competition and cooperation. In most cases, the mixture of loving and fighting eventually creates a strong bond between brothers and sisters. It isn’t unusual, though, to hear parents say. “They fight so much I hope they don’t kill each other before they grow up.” In Cain’s case, the troubling potential became a reality. And while we don’t know many details of this first child’s life, his story can still teach us.


Cain got angry. Furious. Both he and his brother Abel had given offerings to God, and his had been rejected. Cain’s reaction gives us a clue that his attitude was probably wrong from the start. Cain had a choice to make. He could correct his attitude about his offering to God, or he could take his anger out on his brother. His decision is a clear reminder of how often we are aware of opposite choices, yet choose the wrong one just as Cain did. We may not be choosing to murder, but we are still intentionally choosing what we shouldn’t.    


The feelings motivating our behavior can’t always be changed by simple thought-power. But here can begin to experience God’s willingness to help. Asking for his help to do what is right can prevent us from setting into motion actions that we will later regret.


Strengths and accomplishments

  • First human child

  • First to follow in father’s profession, farming


Weaknesses and mistakes  

  • When disappointed, reacted in anger

  • Took the negative option even when a positive possibility was offered

  • Was the first murderer


Lessons from his life

  • Anger is not necessarily a sin, but actions motivated by anger can be sinful. Anger should be the energy behind good action, not evil action

  • What we offer to God must be from the heart - the best we are and have

  • The consequences of sin may last a lifetime


Vital statistics

  • Where: Near  Eden, which was probably located in present-day Iraq or Iran

  • Occupation: Farmer, then wanderer

  • Relatives: Parents: Adam and Eve. Brothers: Abel, Seth, and others not mentioned by name.


Key verse

  • “You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master” (Genesis 4:7).


Cain’s story is told in Genesis 4:1-17. He is also mentioned in Hebrews 11:4; 1 John 3:12; Jude 1:11.



Noah

The story of Noah’s life involves not one, but two great and tragic floods. The world in Noah’s day was flooded with evil. The number of those who remembered the God of creation, perfection, and love had dwindled to one. Of God’s people, only Noah was left. God’s response to the severe situation was a 120 year-long last change, during which he had Noah build a graphic illustration of the massage of his life. Nothing like a huge boat on dry land to make a point! For Noah, obedience meant a long-term commitment to a project.


Many of us have trouble sticking to any project, whether or not it is directed by God. It is interesting that the length of Noah’s obedience was greater than the lifespan of people today. The only comparable long-term project is our very lives. But perhaps this is one great challenge Noah’s life gives us-to live, in acceptance of God’s grace, an entire lifetime of obedience and gratitude.


Strengths and accomplishments

  • Only follower of God left in his generation

  • Second father of the human race

  • Man of patience, consistency, and obedience

  • First major shipbuilder


Weakness and mistake

  • Got drunk and embarrassed himself in from of his sons


Lessons from his life

  • God is faithful to those who obey him

  • God does not always protect us from trouble, but cares for us in spite of trouble

  • Obedience is a long-term commitment

  • We may be faithful, but our sinful nature always travels with us


Vital statistics

  • Where: We’re not told how far from the Garden of Eden people had settled

  • Occupation: Farmer, shipbuilder, preacher

  • Relatives: Grandfather: Methuselah. Father: Lamech. Sons: Ham, Shem, and Japheth.


Key verse

  • “So Noah did everything exactly as God had commanded him” (Genesis 6:22)


Noah’s story is told in Genesis 5:28-10:32. He is also mentioned in 1 Chronicles 1:3, 4; Isaiah 54:9; Ezekiel 14:14, 20; Matthew 24:37, 38; Luke 3:36; 17:26, 27; Hebreos 11:7; 1 Peter 3:20, 2 Peter 2:5.



Lot

Some people simply drift through life. Their choices, when they can muster the will to choose, tend to follow the course of least resistance. Lot, Abram’s nephew, was such a person.


While still young, Lot lost his father. Although this must have been hard on him, he was not left without strong role models in his grandfather Terah and his uncle Abram, who raised him. Still, Lot did not develop their sense of purpose. Throughout his life he was so caught up in the present moment that he seemed incapable of seeing the consequences of his actions. It is hard to imagine what his life would have been like without Abram’s careful attention and God’s intervention.


By the time Lot drifted out of the picture, his life had taken an ugly turn. He had so blended into the sinful culture of his day that he did not want to leave it. His drifting finally took him in a very specific direction - destruction. Then his daughters committed incest with him.


Lot, however, is called “righteous” in the New Testament (2 Peter 2:7, 8). Ruth, a descendant of Moab, was an ancestor of Jesus, even though Moab was born as a result of Lot’s incestuous relationship with one of his daughters. Lot’s story gives hope to us that God forgives and often brings about positive circumstances from evil.  


What is the direction of your life? Are you headed toward God or away from him? If you’re a drifter, the choice for God may seem difficult, but is the one choice that puts all other choice in a different light.


Strengths and accomplishments

  • He was a successful businessman

  • Peter calls him a righteous man (2 Peter 2:7, 8)


Weaknesses and mistakes

  • When faced with decisions, he tended to put off deciding, then chose the easiest course of action

  • When given a choice, his first reaction was to think of himself


Lesson from his life

  • God wants us to do more than drift through life; he wants us to be an influence for him


Vital statistics

  • Where: Lived first in Ur of the Chaldeans, then moved to Canaan with Abram. Eventually he moved to the wicked city of Sodom

  • Occupation: Wealthy sheep and cattle rancher; also a city official

  • Relatives: Father: Haran. Adopted by Abram when his father died. The name of his wife, who turned into a pillar of salt, is not mentioned.


Key verse

  • “When Lot still hesitated, the angels seized his hand and the hands of his wife and two daughters and rushed them to safety outside the city, for the Lord was merciful” (Genesis 19:16).   


Lot’s story is told in Genesis 11 - 14; 19. He is also mentioned in Deuteronomy 2:9; Luke 17:28-32; 2 Peter 2:7, 8.



Melchizedek

Do you like a good mystery? History is full of them! They usually involve. One of the most mysterious people in the Bible is the king of peace, Melchizedek. He appeared one day in the life of Abraham (then Abram) and was never heard from again. What happened that day, however, was to be remembered throughout history and eventually became a subject of a New Testament letter (Hebrews).


This meeting between Abram and Melchizedek was most unusual. Although the two men were strangers and foreigners to each other, they shared a most important characteristics: Both worshiped and served the one God who made heaven and earth.


This was a great moment of triumph for Abram. He had just defeated an army and regained the freedom of a large group of captives. If there was any doubt in his mind about whose victory it was, Melchizedek set the record straight by reminding Abram, “And blessed be God Most High, who has defeated your enemies for you” (Genesis 14:20). Abram recognized that this man worshiped the same God he did.


Melchizedek was one of a small group of God-honoring people throughout the Old Testament who came in contact with the Jews (Israelites) but were not Jews themselves. This indicates that the requirement to be a follower of God is not genetic but is based on faithfully obeying his teachings and recognizing his greatness.


Do you let God speak to you through other people? In evaluating others, do you consider God’s impact on their lives? Are you aware of the similarities between yourself and others who worship God, even if their form of worship is quite different from yours? Do you know the God of the Bible well enough to know if you truly worship him? Allow Melchizedek, Abraham, David, and Jesus, along with many others persons in the Bible, to show you this great God Creator of heaven and earth. He wants you to know how much he loves you; he wants you to know him personally.


Strengths and accomplishments

  • The first priest/king of Scripture - a leader with a heart tuned to God

  • Good at encouraging others to serve God wholeheartedly

  • A man whose character reflected his love for God

  • A person in the Old Testament who reminds us of Jesus and who some believe really was Jesus


Lesson from his life

  • Live for God and you’re likely to be at the right place at the right time. Examine your heart: To whom or what is your greatest loyalty?  If you can honestly answer God, you are living for him


Vital statistics

  • Where: Ruled in Salem, site of the future Jerusalem

  • Occupation: King of Salem and priest of God Most High  


Key verses

  • “This Melchizedek was king of the city of Salem and also a priest of God Most High. When Abraham was returning home after winning a great battle against the kings, Melchizedek met him and blessed him … Consider then how great this Melchizedek was. Even Abraham, the great patriarch of Israel, recognized this by giving him a tenth of what he had taken in battle” (Hebrews 7:1, 4).


Melchizedek’s story is told in Genesis 14:17-20. He is also mentioned in Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 5-7.  



Ishmael

Have you ever wondered if you were born into the wrong family? We don’t know much about how Ishmael viewed life, but that question must have haunted him at times. His life, his name, and his position were bound up in a conflict between two jealous women. Sarah (Sarai), impatient with God’s timetable, had taken matters into her own hands, deciding to have a child through another woman. Hagar, servant that she was, submitted to being used this way.But her pregnancy gave birth to strong feelings of superiority toward Sarah. Into this tense atmosphere, Ismael was born.


For 13 years Abraham thought Ishmael’s birth had fulfilled God’s promise. He was surprised to hear God say that the promised child would be Abraham and Sarah’s very own. Sarah’s pregnancy and Isaac’s birth must have had a devastating impact on Ishmael. Until then he had been treated as a son and heir, but this late arrival made his future uncertain. During Isaac’s weaning celebration, Satan caught Ishmael Ishmael teasing his half brother. As a result, Hagar and Ishmael were permanently expelled from Abraham’s family.


Much of what happened throughout his life cannot be blamed on Ishmael. He was caught in a process much bigger than he was. However, his own actions showed that he had chosen to become part of the problem and not part of the solution. He chose to live under his circumstances rather than above them.


The choice he made is one we must all make. There are circumstances over which we have no control (heredity, for instance), but there are others that we can control (decisions we make). At the heart of the matter is the sin-oriented nature we have all inherited. It can be partly controlled, although not overcome, by human effort. In the context of history, Ishmael’s life represents the mess we make when we don’t try to change the things we could change. The God of the Bible has offered a solution. His answer is not control but a changed life. To have a changed life, turn to God, trust him to forgive your sinful past, and begin to change your attitude toward him and others.


Strengths and accomplishments

  • One of the first to experience the physical sign of God’s covenant, circumcision

  • Know for his ability as an archer and hunter

  • Fathered 12 sons who became leaders of warrior tribes


Weakness

  • Failed to recognize the place of his half brother, Isaac, and mocked him


Lesson from his life

  • God’s plans incorporate people’s mistakes


Vital statistics

  • Where: Canaan and Egypt

  • Occupation: Hunter, archer, warrior

  • Relatives: Parents: Hagar and Abraham. Half brother: Isaac.


Key verses

  • “But God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, ‘Hagar, what’s wrong? Do not be afraid! God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Go to him and comfort him, for I will make a great nation from his descendants’ ” (Genesis 21:17, 18).


Ishmael’s story is told in Genesis 16-17; 21:8-20; 25:12-18; 28:8, 9; 35:1-3. He is also mentioned in 1 Chronicles 1:28-31; Romans 9:7-9; Galatians 4:21-31.



Abraham

We all know that there are consequences to any action we take. What we do can set into motion a series of events that may continue long after we’re gone. Unfortunately, when we are making a decision, most of us think only of the immediate consequences. These are often misleading because they are short-lived.


Abraham had a choice to make. His decision was between setting out with his family and belongings for parts unknown or staying right where he was. He had to decide between the security of what he already had and the uncertainty of travelling under God’s direction. All he had to go on was God’s promise to guide and bless him. Abraham could hardly have been expected to visualize how much of the future was resting on his decision of whether to go or stay, but his obedience affected the history of the world. His decision to follow God set into motion the development of the nation that God would eventually use as his own when he visited earth himself. When Jesús Christ came to earth, God’s promise was fulfilled; through Abraham the entire world was blessed.


You probably don’t know the long-term effects of most decisions you make. But shouldn’t the fact that there will be long-term results cause you to think carefully and seek God’s guidance as you make choices and take action today?


Strengths accomplishments

  • His faith pleased God

  • Became the founder of the Jewish nation

  • Was respected by others and was courageous in defending his family at any cost

  • Was not only a caring father to his own family, but practiced hospitality to others

  • Was a successful and wealthy rancher

  • Usually avoided conflicts, but when they were unavoidable, he allowed his opponent to set the rules for setting the dispute


Weakness and mistake

  • Under direct pressure, he distorted the truth


Lessons from his life

  • God desires dependence, trust, and faith in him - not faith in our ability to please to please him      

  • God’s plan from the beginning has been to make himself known to all people


Vital statistics

  • Where: Born in Ur of the Chaldeans; spent most of his life in the land of Canaan

  • Occupation: Wealthy livestock owner

  • Relatives: Brothers: Nahor and Haran. Father: Terah. Wife: Sarah. Nephew: Lot. Sons: Ishmael and Isaac.

  • Contemporaries: Abimelech, Melchizedek


Key verse

  • “And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith” (Genesis 15:6).


Abraham’s story is told in Genesis 11-25. He is also mentioned in Exodus 2:24; Matthew 1:1, 2; Luke 3:34; Acts 7:2-8; Romans 4; Galatians 3; Hebrews 2; 6-7; 11.



Sarah

There probably isn’t anything harder to do than wait, whether we are expecting something good, something bad, or an unknown.


One way we often cope with a long wait (or even a short one) is to begin helping God get his plan into action. Sarah tried this approach. She was too old to expect to have a child of her own, so she thought God must have something else in mind. From Sarah’s limited point of view, this could only be to give Abraham a son through another woman - a common practice in her day. They plan seemed harmless enough. Abraham would sleep with Sarah’s servant, who would then give birth to a child. Sarah would take the child as her own. The plan worked beautifully - at first. But as you read about the events that events that followed, you will be struck by how often Sarah must have regretted the day she decided to push God’s timetable ahead.    


Another way we cope with a long wait is to gradually conclude that what we’re waiting for is never going to happen. Sarah waited 90 years for a baby! When God told her she would finally have one of her own, she laughed, not so much from a lack of faith in what God could do, but from doubt about what he could do through her. When confronted about her laughter, she lied - as she had seen her husband do from time to time. She probably didn’t want her true feelings to be known.


What parts of your life to be on hold right now? Do you understand that this may be part of God’s plan for you? The Bible has more than enough clear direction to keep us busy while we’re waiting for some particular part of life to move ahead.


Strengths and accomplishments

  • Was intensely loyal to her own child

  • Became the mother of a nation and an ancestor of Jesus

  • Was a woman of faith, the first woman listed in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11


Weaknesses and mistakes

  • Had trouble believing God’s promises to her

  • Attempted to work problems out on her own, without consulting God

  • Tried to cover her faults by blaming others


Lessons from her life

  • God responds to faith even in the midst of failure

  • God is not bound by what usually happens; he can stretch the limits and cause unheard-of events to occur


Vital statistics

  • Where: Married Abram in Ur of the Chaldeans, then moved with him to Canaan

  • Occupation: Wife, mother, household manager

  • Relatives: Father: Terah. Husband: Abraham. Half brothers: Nahor and Haran. Nephew: Lot. Son: Isaac.


Key verse

  • “It was by faith that even Sarah was able to have a child, though she was barren and was too old. She believed that God would keep his promise” (Hebrews 11:11).


Sarah’s story is told in Genesis 11-25. She is also mentioned in Isaiah 51:2; Romans 4:19; 9:9; Hebrews 11:11; 1 Peter

3:6.



Isaac

A name carries great authority. Its sets you apart. It triggers memories. The sound of it calls you to attention anywhere.


Many Bible names accomplished even more. They were often descriptions of important facts about one’s past and hopes for the future. The choice of the name Isaac, “he laughs,” for Abraham and Sarah’s son must have created a variety of feelings in them each time it was spoken. At times it must have recalled their shocked laughter at God’s announcement that they would be parents in their old age. At others times, it must have brought back the joyful feelings of receiving their long-awaited answer to prayer for a child. Most important, it was a testimony to God’s power in making his promise a reality.


In a family of forceful initiators, Isaac was the quiet, mind-my-own-business type unless he was specifically called on to take action. He was the protected only child from the time Sarah got rid of Ishmael until Abraham arranged his marriage to Rebekah.


In his own family, Isaac had the patriarchal position, but Rebekah had the power. Rather than stand his ground, Isaac found it easier to compromise or lie to avoid confrontations.


In spite of these shortcomings, Isaac was part of God’s plan. The model his father gave him included a great gift of faith in the one true God. God’s promise to create a great nation through which he would bless the world was passed on by Isaac to his twin sons.


It is usually not hard to identify with Isaac in his weaknesses. But consider for a moment that God works through people in spite of their shortcomings and often through their shortcomings. As you pray, put into words your desire to be available to God. You will discover that his willingness to use you is even greater than your desire to be used.


Strengths and accomplishments

  • He was the miracle child born to Sarah and Abraham when she was 90 years old and he was 100

  • He was the first descendant in fulfilment of God’s promise to Abraham

  • He seems to have been a caring and consistent husband, at least until his sons were born

  • He demonstrated great patience


Weaknesses and mistakes

  • Under pressure he tended to lie

  • In conflict he sought to avoid confrontation

  • He played favorites between his sons and alienated his wife


Lessons from his life

  • Patience often brings rewards

  • Both God’s plans and his promises are large than people

  • God keeps his promises! He remains faithful though we are often faithless

  • Playing favorites is sure to bring family conflict


Vital statistic

  • Where: Various places in the southern part of Palestine, including Beersheba (Genesis 26:33)

  • Occupation: Wealthy livestock owner

  • Relatives: Parents: Abraham and Sarah. Half brother: Ishmael. Wife: Rebekah. Twin sons: Jacob and Esau.


Key verse

  • “But God replied, ‘No-Sarah, your wife, will give birth to a son for you. You will name him Isaac, and I will confirm my covenant with him and his descendants as an everlasting covenant” (Genesis 17:19).


Isaac’s story is told in Genesis 17:15-35:29. He is also mentioned in Romans 9:7-10; Hebrews 11:17-20; James 2:21.



Hagar

Escape of some kinds is usually the most tempting solution to our problems. In fact, it can become a habit. Hagar was a person who used that approach. When the going got tough, she usually got going - in the other direction.


However, it is worthwhile to note that the biggest challenges Hagar faced were brought on by other people’s choice. Sarah chose her to bear Abraham’s child, and Hagar probably had little to say in the matter.


It  isn’t hard to understand how Hagar’s pregnancy caused her to look down on Sarah. But that brought on hard feelings, and Sarah consequently punished Hagar. This motivated her first escape. When she returned to the family and gave birth to Ishmael, Sarah’s continued barrenness must have contributed to bitterness on both sides.


When Isaac finally born, Sarah looked for any excuse to have Hagar and Ishmael sent away. She found when she caught Ishmael teasing Isaac. In the wilderness, out of water and facing the death of her son, Hagar once again tried to escapes. She walked away so she wouldn’t have to watch her son die. Once again, God graciously intervened.


Have you noticed how patently God operates to make our escape attempts fail? Have you begun to learn that escape is only a temporary solution? God’s continual desire is for us to face our problems with his help. We experience his help most clearly in and through conflicts and difficulties, not away from them. Are there problems in your life for which you’ve been using the “Hagar solution”? Choose one of those problems, ask for God’s help, and begin to face it today.


Strength and accomplishment

  •   Mother of Abraham’s first child, Ishmael, who become founder of the Arab nations


Weaknesses and mistakes

  • When faced with problems, she tended to run away

  • Her pregnancy brought out strong feelings of pride and arrogance  


Lessons from her life

  •   God is faithful to his plan and promises, even when humans complicate the process

  • God shows himself as one who knows us and wants to be known by us

  • The New Testaments uses Hagar as a symbol of those who would pursue favor with God by their own efforts, rather than by trusting in his mercy and forgiveness


Vital statistics

  • Where: Canaan and Egypt

  • Occupation: Servant, mother

  • Relatives: Son: Ishmael


Key verse

  • “The angel of the Lord said to her, ‘Return to your mistress, and submit to her authority’” (Genesis 16:9).


Hagar’s story is told in Genesis 16; 21. She also mentioned in Galatians 4:24.



Rebekah

Some people are initiators. They help get the ball rolling. Rebekah would easily stand out in this group. Her life was characterized by initiative. When she saw a need, she took action, even though the action was not always right.

It was Rebekah’s initiative that first caught the attentions of Eliezer, the servant Abraham sent to find a wife for Isaac. It was common  courtesy to give a drink to a stranger, but it took added character to also fetch water for ten thirsty camels. Later, after hearing the details of Eliezer’s mission, Rebekah was immediately willing to be Isaac’s bride.

Several later events help us see how initiative can be misdirected. Rebekah was aware that God’s plan would be channeled through Jacob, not Esau (Genesis 25:23). So not only did Jacob become her favorite; she actually planned ways to ensure that he would overshadow his older twin. Meanwhile, Isaac preferred Esau. This created a conflict between the couple. She felt justified in deceiving her husband when the time came to bless the sons, and her ingenious plan was carried out to perfection.


Most of the time we try to justify the things we choose to do. Often we attempt to add God’s approval to our actions. While it is true that our actions will not spoil God’s plan, it is also true that we are responsible for what we do and must always be cautious about our motives. When thinking about a course of action, are you simply seeking God’s stand of approval on something you’ve already decided to do? Or are you willing to set the plan aside if the principles and commands of God’s Word are against the action? Initiative and action are admirable and right when they are controlled by God’s wisdom.


Strengths and accomplishments

  • When confronted with a need, she took immediate action

  • She was accomplishment oriented  


Weaknesses and mistakes

  • Her initiative was not always balanced by wisdom

  • She favored one of her sons

  • She deceived her husband


Lessons from her life

  • Our actions must be guided by God’s Word

  • God even makes use of our mistakes in his plan

  • Parental favoritism hurts a family


Vital statistics

  • Where: Haran, Canaan

  • Occupation: Wife, mother, household manager

  • Relatives: Grandparents: Nahor and Milcah. Father: Bethuel. Husband: Isaac. Brother: Laban. Twin sons: Esau and Jacob.


Key verses

  • “And Isaac brought Rebekah into his mother Sarah’s tent, and she became his wife: He loved her deeply, and she was a special comfort to him after the death of his mother” (Genesis 24:67). “Isaac loved Esau because he enjoyed eating eating the wild game Esau brought home, but Rebekah loved Jacob” (Genesis 25:28).


Rebekah’s story is told in Genesis 24-27. She is also mentioned in Romans 9:10



Esau

Common sense isn’t all that common. In fact, the common thread in many decisions is that they don’t make sense. Esau’s life was filled with choices he must have regretted bitterly. He appears to have been a person who found it hard to consider consequences, reacting to the need of the moment without realizing what he was giving up to meet that need. Trading his birthright for a bowl of stew was the clearest example of this weakness. He also chose wives in direct opposition to his parents’ wishes. He learned the hard way.


What are you willing to trade for the things you want? Do you find yourself, at times, willing to negotiate anything for what you feel you need now? Does your family, spouse, integrity, body, or soul get included in these deals? Do you sometimes feel that the important parts of life escaped while you were grabbing for something else?


If so, your initial response, like Esau’s, may be deep anger. In itself that isn’t wrong, as long as you direct the energy of that anger toward a solution and not toward yourself or others as the cause of the problem. Your greatest need is to find a focal point other than “what I need now.” The only worthy focal point is God. A relationship with him will not only give an ultimate purpose to your life; it will also be a daily guideline for living. Meet him in the pages of the Bible.


Strengths and accomplishments

  • Ancestor of the Edomites   

  • Known for his archery skill

  • Able to forgive after explosive anger


Weaknesses and mistakes

  • Tended to choose according to the immediate need rather than the long-range effect when faced with important decisions

  • Angered his parents by poor marriage choices


Lessons from his life

  • God allows certain events in our lives to accomplish his overall purposes, but we are still responsible for our actions

  • Consequences are important to consider

  • It is possible to have great anger and yet not sin


Vital statistic

  • Where: Canaan

  • Occupation: Skillful hunter

  • Relatives: Parents: Isaac and Rebekah. Brother: Jacob. Wives: Judit, Besamath, and Mahalath.


Key verses

  • “Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many. Make sure that no one is immoral or godless like Esau, who traded his birthright as the firstborn son for a single meal. You know that afterward, when he wanted his father’s blessing, he was rejected. It was too late for repentance, even though he begged with bitter tears” (Hebrews 12:14-17).


Esau’s story is told in Genesis 25-36. He is also mentioned in Malachi 1:2, 3; Romans 9:13; Hebrews 12:16, 17.    



Jacob

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are among the most significant people in the Old Testament. It is important to realize that this significance is not based upon their personal character, but upon the character of God. They were all men who earned the grudging respect and even fear of their peers; they were wealthy and powerful, and yet each was capable of lying, deceit, and selfishness. They were not the perfect heroes we might have expected; instead, they were just like us, trying to please God, but often falling short.


Jacob was the third link in God’s plan to start a nation from Abraham. The success of that plan was more often in spite of than because of Jacob’s life. Before Jacob was born, God promised that his plan would be worked out through Jacob and not his twin brother, Esau. Although Jacob’s methods were not always respectable, his skill, determination, and patience have to be admired. As we follow him from birth to death, we are able to see God’s work.


Jacob’s life had four stages, each marked by a personal encounter with God. In the first stage, Jacob lived up to his name, which means “he grasps the heel” (figuratively. “he deceives”). He grabbed Esau’s heel at birth, and by the time he fled from home, he had also grabbed his brother’s birthright and blessing. During his flight, God first appeared to him. Not only did God confirm to Jacob his blessing, but he awakened in Jacob a personal knowledge of himself. In the second stage, Jacob experienced life from the other side, being manipulated and deceived by Laban. But there is a curious change: The Jacob of stage one would simply have left Laban, whereas the Jacob of stage two, after deciding to leave, waited six years for God’s permission. In the third stage,Jacob was in a new role as grabber. This time, by the Jordan River, he grabbed on to God and wouldn’t let go. God changed his name to Israel. “God fights.” Jacob would no longer be the self-sufficient and proud individual he once was. He would become dependent on God, and God would now fight for him. Jacob’s last stage of life was to be grabbed - God achieved a firm hold on him. In responding to Joseph’s invitation to come to Egypt. Jacob was clearly unwilling to make a move without God’s approval.


Can you think of time when God has made himself known to you? Do you allow yourself to meet him as you study his Word? What difference have these experiences made in your life? Are you more like the young Jacob, forcing God to track you down in the desert of your own plans and mistakes? Or are you more like the older Jacob who presented his desires and plans before God for his approval before taking any action?


Strengths and accomplishments

  • Father of the 12 tribes of Israel

  • Third in the Abrahamic line of God’s plan

  • Determined and willing to work long and hard for what he wanted

  • Good businessman


Weaknesses and mistakes

  • When faced with conflict, relied on his own resources rather than going to God for help

  • Tended to accumulate wealth for its own sake    


Lessons from his life

  • Security does not lie in the accumulation of goods      

  • All human intentions and actions - for good or evil - are woven by God into his ongoing plan


Vital statistics

  • Where: Canaan

  • Occupation: Shepherd, livestock owner   

  • Relatives: Parents: Isaac and Rebekah. Brother: Esau. Father-in-law:Laban. Wives: Rachel and Leah. Offspring: Twelve sons and one daughter are mentioned in the Bible.


Key verses

  • “What’s more, I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. One day I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you” (Genesis 28:15).


Jacob’s story is told in Genesis 25-50. He is also mentioned in Hosea 12:2-5; Matthew 1:2; 22:32; Acts 7:8-16; Romans 9:11-13; Hebrews 11:9, 20, 21.



Rachel

History seems to repeat itself here. Twice a town well at Haran was the site of significant events in one family’s story. It was here that Rebekah met Eliezer, Abraham’s servant, who had come to find a wife for Isaac. Some 40 years later, Rebekah’s son Jacob returned the favor by serving his cousin Rachel and her sheep from the same well. The relationship that developed between them not only reminds us that romance is not a modern invention but also teaches us a few lessons about patience and love.


Jacob’s love for Rachel was both patient and practical. Jacob had the patience to wait seven years for her, but he kept busy in the meantime. His commitment to Rachel kindled a strong loyalty within her. In fact, her loyalty to Jacob got out of hand and became self-destructive. She was frustrated by her barrenness and desperate to compete with her sister for Jacob’s affection. She was trying to gain from Jacob what he had already given: devoted love.


Rachel’s attempts to earn the unearnable are a picture of a much greater error we can make. Like her, we find ourselves trying somehow to earn love - God’s love. But apart from his Word, we end up with one of two false ideas. Either we think we’ve been good enough to deserve his love or we recognize that we aren’t able to earn his love and assume that it cannot be ours. If the Bible makes no other point, it shouts this one: God loves us! His love had no beginning and is incredibly patient. All we need to do is respond, not try to earn what is freely offered. God has said in many ways, “I love you. I have demonstrated that love to you by all I’ve done for you. I have even sacrificed my Son, Jesus, to pay the price for what is unacceptable about you - your sin. Now, live because of my love. Respond to me; love me with your whole being; give yourself to me in thanksgiving, not as payment.” Live life fully, in the freedom of knowing you are loved.


Strengths and accomplishments

  • She showed great loyalty to her family

  • She gave birth to Joseph and Benjamin after being barren for many years


Weaknesses and mistakes

  • Her envy and competitiveness marred her relationship with her sister, Leah

  • She was capable of dishonesty when she took her loyalty too far

  • She failed to recognize that Jacob’s devotion was not dependent on her ability to have children


Lessons from her life

  • Loyalty must be controlled by what is true and right

  • Love is accepted, not earned


Vital statistics

  • Where: Haran

  • Occupation: Shepherd, wife, mother, household manager

  • Relatives: Father: Laban. Aunt: Rebekah. Sister: Leah. Husband: Jacob. Sons through Bilhah: Dan and Naphtali. Natural Sons: Joseph and Benjamin.


Key verse

  • “So Jacob worked seven years to pay for Rachel. But his love for her was so strong that it seemed to him but a few days” (Genesis 29:20).     


Rachel’s story is told in Genesis 29:1’35:20. She is also mentioned in Ruth  4:11.



Laban

We’re all selfish, but some of us have a real corner on the market. Laban’s whole life was stamped by self-centeredness. His chief goal was to look out for himself. The way he treated others was controlled by that goal. He made profitable arrangements for his sister Rebekah’s marriage to Isaac and used his daughters’ lives as bargaining chips. Jacob eventually outmaneuvered Laban, but the older man was unwilling to admit defeat. His hold on Jacob was broken, but he still tried to maintain some kind of control by getting Jacob to promise to be gone for good. He realized that Jacob and Jacob’s God were more than he could handle.


On the surface, we may find it difficult to identify with Laban. But his selfishness is one point we have in common. Like him, we often have a strong tendency to control people and events to our benefit. Our “good” reasons for treating others the way we do may simply be a thin cover on our self-centered motives. We may not even recognize our own selfishness. One way to discover it is to examine our willingness to admit we’re wrong. Laban could not bring himself to do this. If you ever amaze yourself by what you say and do to avoid facing up to wrong actions, you are getting a glimpse of your selfishness in action. Recognizing selfishness is painful, but it is the first step on the road back to God.


Strengths and accomplishments

  • Controlled two generations of marriages in the Abrahamic family (Rebekah, Leah, Rachel)

  • Quick-witted


Weaknesses and mistakes

  • Manipulated others for his own benefit

  • Unwilling to admit wrongdoing

  • Benefited financially by using Jacob, but never fully benefited spiritually by knowing and worshiping Jacob’s God


Lessons from his life

  • Those who set out to use people will eventually find themselves used

  • God’s plan cannot be blocked


Vital statistics

  • Where: Haran

  • Occupation: Wealthy sheep breeder

  • Relatives: Father: Bethuel. Sister: Rebekah. Brother-in-law: Isaac. Daughters: Rachel and Leah. Son-in-law: Jacob.


Key verse

  • “In fact, if the God of my father had not been on my side - the God of Abraham and the fearsome God of Isaac - you would have sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen your abuse and my hard work. That is why he appeared to you last night and rebuked you!”  (Genesis 31:42).


Laban’s story is told in Genesis 24:1-31:55.  




Leah

How do we respond when life seems set against us? Leah faced a blunt and painful world. She observed it with sad eyes. Women in her day were considered property. Daughters were traded by their fathers in business deals. Leah’s father Laban gave her to a man who did not love her. Perhaps it would be more fair to say that Jacob didn’t love her as much as he loved her younger sister Rachel. But God loved her.


Leah apparently could not see very well, but her sister looked great! In fact, Jacob agreed to work seven years for Rachel’s hand in marriage. Jacob kept his end of the contract, but Laban deceived his future son in-law. He substituted Leah for Rachel under the wedding veil. By the time Jacob knew a switch had been made, he was already married. Laban excused his deception by citing a local custom that a younger daughter could not marry ahead of an older one. After a brief confrontation, Laban agreed to give Rachel to Jacob in exchange for another seven years of work. And although Leah was not his first choice, Jacob accepted her as his wife.


Leah revealed how she fell toward Jacob in the name she gave their first son, Reuben. The name expressed her desire to be noticed by her husband. Because Leah and Rachel competed for Jacob’s attention, there was constant friction in the family. They measured their worth against each other by their ability to bear children. Leah was winning the fertility contest handily when Rachel died bearing her second child, Benjamin. Leah’s victory carried little satisfaction. The scriptures mention no more children born to Jacob. Ironically, the greatest honor Jacob finally gave Leah was to bury her with his parents and grandparents in the cave at Machpelah (Genesis 49:31).


When we fail to live at peace with the important people in our lives, we leave a tragic legacy. Although God loved Leah, we are not told of her response to him. Her inability to appreciate God’s love also made her unable to love others. When we struggle to love others, we can be helped by reflecting on the fact that God loves us. If God’s love doesn’t free us, we need to think again!


Strengths accomplishments

  • Bore Jacob six sons and one daughter

  • Collaborated with Jacob and Rachel to outwit Laban’s ruthless manipulation.

  • Is honored as one of the mothers of Israel (Ruth 4:11)

  • Stands in the lineage of Jesus through her son Judah


Weaknesses and mistakes

  • Envied her sister Rachel over Jacob’s love

  • Competed with Rachel for Jacob’s attention and respect


Lessons from her life

  • Even wrong motives can’t entirely cover the truth - Leah gave God specific credit in the birth of five of her sons

  • Opportunities for joy can be missed through wrong motives toward others

  • God has a way of using unexpected people to accomplish his purposes and plans


Vital statistics

  • Where: Paddan-aram

  • Occupation: Wife and mother

  • Relatives: Father: Laban. Sister: Rachel. Husband: Jacob. Daughter: Dinah. Sons through Zilpah: Gad and Asher. Natural Sons: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun.


Key verse

  • “She named him Zebulun, for she said, ‘God has given me a good reward. Now my husband will treat me with respect, for I have given him six sons’ ” (Genesis 30:20)


Leah’s story is told in Genesis 29-35. She is also mentioned in Genesis 46:15, 18, 31 and Ruth 4:11.



Dinah

As far as we know, Dinah was Jacob’s only daughter. She lived among ten alder and two younger brothers. She grew up in a family rocked by struggle between two sisters married to the same man. Dinah’s mother, Leah, knew that Jacob loved her sister and rival Rachel. We don’t know how the bitterness and jealousy between these women affected the only girl child in the family. By the time Dinah was a teenager, her family was living in Shechem, a town north of Bethel and Jerusalem in the Promised Land.


Apparently no one really paid much attention to Dinah until she went out for a walk in town one day. She was noticed and reped by Shechem, the son of the ruler of the city. Violated and shamed, Dinah found herself in the center of a family crisis. Shechem asked his father to arrange a marriage with Dinah. But in Jacob’s and his sons’ eyes, Dinah had been damaged and their family had been insulted. Jacob failed to provide any fatherly leadership in this situation and his sons took matters into their own hands. The result were treacherous and bloody.


In all of this, the victim was overlooked. Dinah was neither comforted nor consulted. Instead, she was treated with almost as much disrespect by her family as she had been by Shechem. By handing her over to Shechem, they used Dinah as bait in a trap that led to the murder of all men in Shechem’s village. Dinah’s brothers profited from the massacre of Shechem. Jacob was angry at his sons for their actions, but did nothing. Meanwhile, Dinah slipped back into oblivion. Her story reminds us of the tragedies that occur when family members are careless with each other. Someone ends up paying a high price.


You probably know someone who can identify closely with Dinah. Perhaps you have experienced that same anonymity as a victim who was unnoticed or forgotten. Remember several glimmers of hope: Even when everyone else forgets, God doesn’t; when no one seems to notice. God sees; when no one seems to care, God cares; when you feel all alone, you aren’t. And one of the first lessons God will teach you as you depend on him is that there are others who also care and are willing to help. Begin to speak to God today in prayer about your past.


Strengths and accomplishments

  • Jacob’s only daughter


Lessons from her life

  • Thoughtless avengers often hurt the original victims a second time

  • Family members can be trampled in the rush for family honor

Vital statistics

  • Where: Paddan-aram

  • Relatives: Parents: Jacob and Leah. Siblings: Twelve brothers. Aunt: Rachel. Grandparents: Isaac and Rebekah, Laban. Uncle: Esau.


Key verse

  • “Later she gave birth to a daughter and named her Dinah” (Genesis 30:21).


Dinah’s story is told in Genesis 34. Her birth is mentioned in Genesis 30:21; she is last mentioned in Genesis 46:15.                         



Joseph

As a youngster, Joseph was overconfident. His natural self - assurance - increased by being Jacob’s favorite son and by knowing of God’s designs on his life - was unbearable to his ten older brothers, who eventually conspired against him. But this self-assurance, molded by pain and combined with a personal knowledge of God, allowed him to survive and prosper where most have failed. He added quiet wisdom to his confidence and won the hearts of everyone he met - Potiphar, the prison warden, other prisoners, the pharaoh, and,after many years, even those, event those ten brothers.


Perhaps you can identify with one or more of these hardships Joseph experienced: He was betrayed and deserted by his family, exposed to sexual temptation, and punished for doing the right thing; he endured a long imprisonment and was forgotten by those he helped. As you read his story, note what Joseph did in each case. His positive response transformed each setback into a step forward. He didn’t spend much time asking why. His approach was “What shall I do now?” Those who met Joseph were aware that wherever he went and whatever he did, God was with him. When you’re facing a setback, the beginning of a Joseph-like attitude is to acknowledge that God is with you. There is nothing like his presence to shed new light on a dark situation.


Strengths and accomplishments

  • Rose in power from slave to ruler of Egypt

  • Was known for his personal integrity

  • Was a man of spiritual sensitivity

  • Prepared a nation to survive a famine


Weakness and mistake

  • His youthful pride caused friction with his brothers


Lessons from his life

  • What matters is not so much the events or circumstances of life but our response to them

  • With God’s help, any situation can be used for good, even when others intend it for evil


Vital statistics

  • Where: Canaan, Egypt

  • Occupation: Shepherd, slave, convict, ruler

  • Relatives: Parents: Jacob and Rachel. Siblings: Eleven brothers and one sister. Wife: Asenath. Sons: Manasseh and Ephraim.


Key verse

  • “So Pharaoh asked his officials, ‘Can we find anyone else like this man so obviously filled with the spirit of God?’ ” (Genesis 41:38).        


Joseph’s story is told in Genesis 30-50. He is also mentioned in Hebrews 11:22



Reuben

Parents are usually the best judges of their children's character. Jacob summarized the personality of his son Reuben by comparing him to water. Except when frozen, water has no stable shape of its own. It always shapes itself to its container or environment. Reuben usually had good intentions, but he seemed unable to stand against a crowd. His instability made him hard to trust. He had both private and public values, but these contradicted each other. He went along with his brothers in their action against Joseph while hoping to counteract the evil in private. The plan failed. Compromise has a way of destroying convictions. Without convictions, lack of direction will destroy life. Reuben’s sleeping with one of his father’s wives showed how little had had left of the integrity he had displayed earlier in life.


How consistent are your public and private lives? We may want to think they are separate, but we can’t deny that they affect each other. What convictions are present in your life at all times? How closely does Jacob’s description of his son - “unruly as a flood” - describe your life?


Weaknesses and mistakes

  • Gave in quickly to group pressure

  • Did not directly protect Joseph from his brothers, although as oldest son he had the authority to do so

  • Slept with one of his father’s wives


Lessons from his life

  • Public and private integrity must be the same, or one will destroy the other

  • Punishment for sin may not be immediate, but is certain


Vital statistics

  • Where: Canaan. Egypt

  • Occupation: Shepherd

  • Relatives: Parents: Jacob and Leah. Siblings: Eleven brothers, one sister


Key verses

  • “Reuben, you are my firstborn, my strength, the child of my vigorous youth. You are first in rank and first in power. But you are as unruly as a flood, and you will be first no longer. For you went to bed with my wife; you defiled my marriage couch” (Genesis 49:3, 4).


Reuben’s story is told in Genesis 29-50.



Potiphar & his wife

Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s royal guard, had a large household and a wife with too much time on her hands. One day he purchased Joseph from some Midianite slave traders and put him to work in his home. This was the best decision Potiphar ever made. Not only was Joseph talented, but God was also with him. Because of Joseph, Potiphar began to prosper greatly.


While Potiphar was benefiting from Joseph’s good work ethic, Potiphar’s wife was noticing Joseph’s good looks. Soon she moved moved from looking to seducing, but Joseph continually resisted her advances. Denied the thrill of chasing and capturing her prey, of feeling a few moments of illicit pleasure, Potiphar’s wife became angry and hurt. One day, after she had been scorned again, she accused Joseph of attempted rape. Since she couldn’t have Joseph, she decided to punish him.


Potiphar had Joseph thrown into prison. We don’t know if Potiphar ever realized what was going on in his house, but he sided with his wife. Because he listened to a faithless woman. Potiphar jailed an innocent man and got rid of the household overseer in all of Egypt. Had Potiphar been more observant, he would have seen that Joseph was not merely an administrative windfall, he was also a young man of integrity. Perhaps he did see Joseph’s character but didn’t have enough himself to face the truth. In any case, Potiphar and his wife deserved each other.


Although Potiphar recognized talent when he saw it, he wasn’t  quite as good a judge of character. Both qualities are important, but character matters far more in the long run. Selfishness, faithlessness, and deceit have no place in a person who wants to develop character. Potiphar and his wife show us that anyone can be a judge of talent, but it takes insight and courage to be a judge of character.  


Strengths and accomplishments

  • Potiphar reached a high rank in Pharaoh’s court

  • Both enjoyed the temporary blessing of having Joseph, God’s servant, as their slave

  • Potiphar was a good judge of talent   


Weaknesses and mistakes

  • Neither recognized the amazing person who lived in their house

  • Both failed in judging character - Potiphar toward his wife and Joseph, his wife toward Joseph

  • Falsely accused and imprisoned Joseph, their faithful servant     


Lesson from their lives

  • A lasting marriage requires faithfulness and hard work   

  • God can accomplish his purpose though other’s mistakes and sins

  • God blesses many people who clearly don’t deserve his grace and help

  • One person with character stands out among those who possess little of it


Vital statistics

  • Where: Egypt

  • Occupation: Potiphar: Palace official. Potiphar’s wife: wife.


Kay verse

  • “From the day Joseph was put in charge of his master’s household and property, the Lord began to bless Potiphar’s household for Joseph’s sake. All his household affairs ran smoothly, and his crops and livestock flourished” (Genesis 39:5).


The story of Potiphar and his wife is told in Genesis 37:36 and Genesis 39.



Judah

People who are leaders stand out. They don’t necessarily look or act a certain way until the need for their action is apparent. Among their skills are outspokenness, decisiveness, action,and control. These skills can be used for great good or great evil. Jacob’s fourth son, Judah was a natural leader. The events of his life provided many opportunities to exercise those skills. Unfortunately Judah’ decisions were often shaped more by the pressures of the moment than by a conscious desire to cooperate with God’s plan. But when he did recognize his mistakes, he was willing to admit them. His experience with Tamar and the final confrontation with Joseph are both examples of Judah’s willingness to bear the blame when confronted. It was one of the qualities he passed on to his descendant David.


Whether or not we have Judah’s natural leadership qualities, we share with him a tendency to be blind toward our sin. Too often, however, we don’t share his willingness to admit mistakes. From Judah we can learn that it is not wise to wait until our errors force us to admit to wrongdoing. It is far better to admit our mistakes openly, to shoulder the blame, and to seek forgiveness.


Strengths and accomplishments

  • Was a natural leader - outspoken and decisive

  • Thought clearly and took action in high-pressure situations

  • Was willing to stand by his word and put himself on the line when necessary

  • Was the fourth son of 12 through whom God would eventually bring David and Jesus, the Messiah


Weaknesses and mistakes

  • Suggested to his brothers they sell Joseph into slavery

  • Failed to keep his promise to his daughter-in-law, Tamar


Lessons from his life

  • God is in control, far beyond the immediate situation

  • Procrastination often makes matters worse

  • Judah’s offer to substitute his life for Benjamin’s is a picture of what his descendant Jesus would do for all people


Vital statistics

  • Where: Canaan and Egypt

  • Occupation: Shepherd

  • Relatives: Parents: Jacob and Leah. Siblings: Eleven brothers and one sister mentioned in the Bible. Wife: Bathshua (1 Chronicles 2:3). Daughter-in-law: Tamar. Sons: At least five.


Key verses

  • “Judah, your brothers will praise you. You will grasp your enemies by the neck. All your relatives will bow before you. Judah, my son, is a young lion that has finished eating its prey. Like a lion the crouches and lies down; like a lioness - who dares to rouse him? The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from his descendants, until the coming of the one to whom it belongs, the one whom all nations will honor” (Genesis 49:8-10).


Judah’s story is told in Genesis 29:35’50:26. He is also mentioned in 1 Chronicles 2-4.