Hello, and welcome to EBible Fellowship’s Bible study in the book of Genesis. Tonight is study #1 in Genesis 37, and we will read Genesis 37:1-2:
And Jacob dwelt in the land wherein his father was a stranger, in the land of Canaan. These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren; and the lad was with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives: and Joseph brought unto his father their evil report
The first thing we read here is that “Jacob dwelt in the land wherein his father was a stranger, in the land of Canaan.” The Hebrew word translated as “stranger” is found only 11 times in the Old Testament. It is the same word we see back in Genesis 17:7-8:
And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.
We find this same word in verse 8 where God was speaking to Abraham, and He told him, “I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession…” We have talked about this a lot. There is no part of this earth that can possibly be an everlasting possession (like Israel) because God is going to destroy the entire world, and very soon. When God destroys the whole universe, no one can hold on to any part of the land of Canaan, as far as that literal land. It will be burned up, destroyed, and removed out of existence. And since the Bible is always true, and since God is always true and faithful, that means that God is using the land of Canaan as a figure pointing to a spiritual reality, and that is that the land of Canaan represents the “new earth.” And God does promise, “The meek shall inherit the earth.” That will be our inheritance, and the “meek” are the elect that are counted for the seed, as represented by Abraham and his seed. That “seed” is singular, pointing to Christ, but all the saved are counted for the seed in Him.
That is one verse where the word “stranger” is found, but another place is in Genesis 28:4:
And give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee, and to thy seed with thee; that thou mayest inherit the land wherein thou art a stranger, which God gave unto Abraham.
This is Isaac, and he is speaking to his son Jacob as he was about to send him to Padanaram to get a wife. So it was a reiteration of the promise given to Abraham, but this time it is Isaac blessing his son Jacob. It is the same promise as was given to Abraham and his seed. Isaac was of the seed, and Jacob was of the seed, but we should not think that it applies to all physical descendants of Abraham. That is the error that many in Israel made, and that many in the churches have made, as they think that God made this promise to the physical nation of Israel, and to the physical descendants of Abraham, the Jews. But that is not so, and there are many Scriptures that prove that the “seed” are Jew and Gentile alike, all whom God has saved. God has spiritually performed the rite of circumcision upon their heart, making them of “spiritual Israel,” and that is who is in view regarding the promise of the land.
And it also regards those classified as “strangers.” “…that thou mayest inherit the land wherein thou art a stranger…” The only “strangers” in this world are God’s elect people. The people of the world, the unsaved of the nations, whether Jew or Gentile, are not “strangers” in the sense that God is using this word, because God is using this word in the sense that the elect of God, or spiritual Israel, are adopted into the family of God, and we have received our citizenship in the kingdom of God. Therefore this world is not our home, but we are sojourning here on our journey to the “celestial city,” to use the figure that John Bunyan used in his book, “Pilgrim’s Progress.” We are headed to the Promised Land, as typified by the land of Canaan, but it is “new earth” that God will create on the last day. And we are following the route of the “narrow way,” the way of affliction that God has laid out for His elect people.
Let us also go to Genesis 47, which was the time when Jacob was leaving Canaan, and entering into the land of Egypt where he would come under the care and protection of Joseph, who was revealed to be prime minister and second in command in Egypt. So Jacob was appearing before Pharaoh, and Pharoah asked him his age, and it says in Genesis 47:9:
And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage.
Our word “stranger” is translated here as “pilgrimage.” By the way, the word “stranger” is Strong’s #4033. Again, he said, “The days of the years of my pilgrimage,” as it does not fit to say, “The days of the years of my going about as a stranger are an hundred and thirty years.” Spiritually, the 130 years is pointing to the elect of God as we came under the care of Christ during the Great Tribulation, which occurred beginning in 1988, the 13,000th year of earth’s history (and the end of the church age). So we can understand the question asked in Genesis 47 as asking the elect, “How long have you been wandering in this world? How long have you been sojourning as strangers among the inhabitants of the earth?” And the answer is, “For 13,000 years (as represented by the 130 years), and from the time that Adam and Eve fell into sin, ‘few and evil have the days of our lives been.” That is really the spiritual picture here. For the whole history of the world, God’s people have always been strangers (pilgrims) in the world.
We read in Exodus 6:3-4:
And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them. And I have also established my covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage, wherein they were strangers.
Here, the word translated as “pilgrimage” is our word, and not the word “strangers.” Again, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are representative of all the people of God with whom God has established His covenant to give them the earth, which is the land of our pilgrimage. Presently, we dwell on the earth, and are “just passing through.” We are waiting on the Lord to fulfil His promise, and to grant us what He said He would give us. It was not our idea. It was completely God’s idea in His program of salvation. It was His determination to give the earth to His people who during our lives have served Him, witnessing the truth of His Word, and standing before the people of the world as identified with the Gospel.
And, certainly, we have been looked at as “aliens,” and as enemies of the world. We have been viewed by friends (and even family) as “strangers,” people who do not fit in. There is something “off” about the people of God that worldly people find “off-putting,” so they separate from the elect children of God and move away into their own group that are of like-mind and like-spirit. Maybe they cannot even put it into words. “But ever since my son (or my daughter) started getting involved with that Gospel that he heard over the radio, he is just acting odder and odder, and he is more of a stranger by the day.” But, you see, that is the lot of the true elect child of God in this world because we have been translated out of the world, and it is a fact that they notice something that is accurate – we are not of the world. Christ has taken us out of the world, and Jesus commented on this issue in John 17:6:
I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word.
Then He said in John 17:14-17:
I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
I think this says it all. Jesus flatly states this concerning His people. It is only true of His people. It is not true of those that merely profess to be His people, whether the Jew of the Old Testament or the Christian of the New Testament church. They have a profession of being “not of this world.” But when the people of the churches and congregations live like the world, they are betrayed by their own actions and deeds, and by the manner in which they approach the Word of God, the Bible, and especially their lack of love for the truth which reveals that they are still a part of the world. They have not been translated out of the world and into the kingdom of God’s dear Son. They still care very much for the things of the world.
But God’s people who have been truly born again are citizens of the spiritual kingdom of Satan, and we are seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. More than that, we have been delivered out of the darkness of this world, and into the kingdom of light. And even though we remain in the world (which is a dark place), we walk in the light of the Word. We are children of the day, and not of the night, and this is the thing that troubles those who encounter us because there is a definite style of behavior, speech, and conduct that identifies with the Light, and the light is revealed in us. That is what is hated. It is not that they hate the physical form of the child of God because prior to salvation they would have loved us as their own. It is not our physical bodies, but it is what has changed in our souls, and which is emanating out of us. That light is the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ that the world hates, and they want nothing to do with it. You know, the Bible does tell us that. We will not go into all the verses, but the Bible reveals that Christ is hated by the world, and when Christ is within a person, it will cause that person also to be hated. That is why the Bible says, “Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.”
Though we are hated and despised, we are only here temporarily, and that is one of the reasons God wants us to understand that we are just “strangers.” We are just here for a little while, and then the Lord will accomplish all He intends for this world, and we will enter into our eternal home. This is laid out very well in Hebrews 11:8-10:
By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
Then it says in Hebrews 11:13-16:
These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.
And that city is “heavenly Jerusalem,” which is pictured as coming down from above in Revelation 21, and that is where we are going. That is where we are going. It is sometimes easy to take our eyes off that objective, and to put them on what is before us in the present, but the things before us in this world at this time are not pleasant. They are most often difficult, troublesome, and wearisome, and so forth. They are certainly things that the people of God have experienced for a long time, and we wish to be done with them. We wish for it all to be over, and yet we have to wait on the Lord, by God’s grace, as we patiently look to Him and keep our thoughts on things above, knowing He is faithful. He will do what He said He will do. He will bring it all to fulfilment and completion. He will honor His Word because His word is absolute truth, and God cannot lie. So we have that comfort. We have that encouragement. The saints of old held onto the same promises, even though they lived a long ways from the time that God would do the things He has said to end this world. But one thing is definite and absolute in our day – we are not far at all from the ultimate fulfilment of everything in the Bible concerning our receiving the “land of Canaan,” the new heaven and new earth.