Genesis 36 & 38
In chapter 36 we read about the descendants of Esau, the Edomites. These people will inhabit the area south of the Dead Sea, along what today would be the border of Israel and Jordan. King David would defeat and subjugate the Edomites centuries from now, and finally bringing into fruition the prophecy of Isaac when he blessed Jacob instead of Esau.
We skip ahead to 38 because chapter 37 is the beginning of Joseph’s story, and makes more sense narratively to read 37 with 39.
Chapter 38 centers around Judah and his relationship with his daughter in law, Tamar. She was the wife of Judah’s oldest son, and when he died without children Tamar was given in marriage to Judah’s middle son, Onan.
According to the customs of their time and place, if a your brother died without an heir it was your duty to have a child with his wife, who would now be your wife, and then that child would legally be your brother’s heir and inherit his land and possessions. Onan was unwilling to carry out this responsibility, though he could’ve declined altogether, but instead he tried to have his brothers wife as his own, but fail to carry out the act in a way that would produce an heir. For this he was slain by God, just like his older brother was.
Now Judah had a third son, and we’re told he was afraid he’d die like his brothers, but it doesn’t say why he felt that way. So what he does is to send Tamar back to her father’s care until his youngest son was old enough to marry her. It doesn’t say how long she waits for Judah to keep his word but at some point his own wife dies, and his son is grown up but Tamar remains an unmarried widow. Judah hasn’t kept his word, and he hasn’t kept his responsibility towards his daughter in law.
This is the reason she takes the actions she does and essentially tricks her father in law into conceiving a child with her. And even Judah recognizes the irony and injustice that he committed (not to say what she did was a righteous deed at all) and acknowledged that Tamar’s actions were more just than his.
She gives birth to twins and the eldest was named Perez. Both he and his mother Tamar are mentioned by Mathew in the genealogy of Jesus found in Mathew chapter one.
In this chapter of Mathew we read about the death of John the Baptist and how Herod believed that Jesus might be John raised from the dead. It seems that a prophet that you had murdered coming back from the dead would probably be a terrifying thing to have to deal with. When Jesus heard the news, it seems like He wanted some time alone to mourn His cousin and forerunner. But just like many other times, the crowd found Him.
Then we get into the feeding of the 5000, and this is one of the most well know miracles of Jesus. He heals many that came to Him, but when it becomes evening He says that these people need food, and there’s no such thing as late night drive thru at this point in history, so the only option is to send them away hungry the apostles think. But Jesus has them all sit down and he takes what food the apostles had on them, just five loaves and two fish, and He miraculously feeds 5000 men, plus women and children.
One of the recurring themes of this Gospel is Jesus is the new and greater Moses, He is the prophet who was promised by Moses in Deuteronomy. So in verse 13 it says He went to “a lonely place,” that’s to say the wilderness, and then feeds the people with miraculous bread. Moses also fed the people in the wilderness with the miraculous bread called manna. So this is just another in a long list of occurrences that Mathew is showing to say that Jesus is the new Moses.
Also this miracle prefigures the last supper and the Eucharist. The same wording used here and In the last supper narratives He ‘took, blessed, broke and gave’ the bread. And one final thing is that He gives the miraculous bread to the Apostles and they distribute it to the people, just like He have the Eucharist to the apostles who then distribute it to the whole church.
After the feeding of the 5000, Jesus sends the apostles across the sea in a boat while He goes off to pray. In the middle of the night there’s a storm and they think they’re going to sink, but out of the storm appears a figure walking on the water. When some say it is a ghost, Jesus tells them to not be afraid. He also includes a phrase (Ego Eimi in Greek) that in this context and verse is translated as “it is I” but in most other places where He uses it in the Gospels it’s rendered as “I am”
That statement carries lots of theological meaning. When Moses asks what God’s name is, He responds with “I AM”. It is also what Jesus said to the soldiers that came to arrest Him in John’s passion narrative, and at that utterance they fall to the ground, and when Jesus says to the Pharisees “before Abraham was, I AM” they knew exactly what He meant because they said it was blasphemy that He was equating Himself with God (John 8:58).
So these two words, Ego Eimi, mean so much more than just “hey guys it’s me” and the apostles, being faithful jews themselves, would’ve immediately recognized this.
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