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The Final Hebrews in Genesis

The Final Hebrews in Genesis

I wrote earlier this week about the first two uses of the word "hebrew" in the book of Genesis. Both of these are fascinating and valuable uses. But the final one almost made me laugh out loud when I heard it this week. It is funny how things strike you that are quite common. Let me place the text before you (to see if it strikes a chord) and then I'll dive into my commentary,

32 So they served him by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves, because the Egyptians could not eat bread with the Hebrews, for that is loathsome to the Egyptians. - Genesis 43:32 (NASB)

Did you catch it? In my previous article I commented on how the word "hebrew" is almost synonymous with "outsider." It isn't too surprising that word is only every used by non-hebrews in the book of Genesis. It marks out the people of God through the people who in fact are not the people of God (much like the word "christian" in the book of Acts).

But look even closer at the text. Who doesn't allow whom at the table for dinner? The Egyptians cannot stand to eat with the Hebrews! The reason for this is perhaps developed more later as it is the shepherding lifestyle of the Hebrews that is offensive to the Egyptians (Gen 46:34). But in either case God's people are denied their place at the table. They're dirty and unclean.

Remind you of anything?

The whole second chapter of Galatians can screaming into my mind. There it was the Jews who refused to sit down with the Gentiles (Gal 2:11-14). My how the tables have turned. From their humble beginnings as people excluded from the tables of Egypt the Jews had turned into the pompous exclusive table. The irony almost made me stop my car as it struck me.

The word "hebrew" was the rejected. The outcasts. The gospel of Luke seems to pick up this theme throughout its particular focus on Christ's ministry. So how had the Jews gotten things backward? They had somehow become the Egyptians thinking so lowly of the Gentiles. Perhaps this better explains Paul's analogy of the bondwoman (Egypt/the law abiding Israel) to the freewoman (Israel/the baptized body).

The irony of this Scripture was obviously lost on the Jews of Paul's day. They had lost the central gospel of their origin. Pretty interesting stuff...

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