2020 Bible Challenge: Weeks Three & Four

Genesis 33 – Exodus 15; Matthew 10-17


How is Jacob doing?

Judging by Genesis 34, times are tough. Jacob’s daughter is raped, and the way he deals with it shows that fatherhood is one of the areas where he needs immediate improvement.

The way Dinah’s story is written is also very troubling to me. If you have a few extra minutes, look over that chapter again and think of what exactly happens to her (especially, verses 2, 14-15, 26). This is not how we react to the rape of a family member in our culture.

But this story is not the only troubling text in our Bible. What do we do with them?

Instead of just ignoring and/or forgetting them, I think we might want to accept them as troubling — and take a moment to acknowledge the pain and trauma this woman went through and how it affected her for the rest of her life.

In the next couple of weeks, you will first follow Jacob’s son, Joseph, to Egypt, and then Moses will lead us out of Egypt and to the desert. In this reading of Gen 45:4-8 I am very impressed with Joseph’s ability to see God working in his life.

If we think of all the pain and injustice in Joseph’s life (even after he became the governor of Egypt (Gen 43:32), we might even think that God abandoned him: slavery, harassment, jail, life as a second-class citizen, etc. But notice how Joseph is able to move through all that pain and find God in the midst of his suffering and loneliness. What an inspiration!

I also encourage you to compare how Exodus talks about Moses — and how Matthew’s gospel describes Jesus.

People Jesus ministered to knew stories about Moses by heart. These stories were in the foundation of their faith.

It is so interesting to read these scriptures side by side. In Matthew 17, you will read about Jesus speaking to Moses and Elijah in one of many examples of how stories from the Old Testament and New Testament are intertwined — and should be read together!

As you read your Bible, I be sure to jot down stories you find surprising, encouraging, or confusing. Bring these notes to our next meetups on February 2 or 3. And feel free to email me in the meantime if you come across something you want to clarify or talk about individually.

Here are a couple of great Q&A’s I have received from you so far:

Q: In Genesis 4 it speaks of Cain leaving after God reprimands him for killing Abel. Then it speaks of his wife having Enoch. Then Enoch having a son. And his son having a son and so on. My question is:  where did all these women come from that these men married?  It was just Adam and Eve, to begin with, and there is no mention of daughters. And even so, Cain would be marrying his sister!

A: You have noticed one of these little wrinkles in our Bible stories. You are right, Cain leaves and finds other humans and finds himself a wife. What that shows us is that God’s amazing creation act was not limited to what God did in the Garden of Eden, where God created Adam and Eve.

God’s creation, as many of the Divine actions, go much further than we know or can comprehend. God has always been at work, and it is impossible to capture it all in the Bible. That is my long answer; simply put, it appears that God created other humans initially, besides Adam and Eve. 

Q: Why is God so testing of Abraham? God tells Abraham multiple times that he’s made a covenant with him that all of the land he sees will be his, and that his descendants will be a multitude and start the nations of the world; Abraham even circumcises himself and his other men in the house as requested by God, but then, God still tests him with Isaac?

A: The story does seem repetitive, and God repeats the same promise over and over again. I think of it as an illustration of how God has ongoing relationships with us, rather than transactions and contracts  — signed and done. We always need to feel God’s presence, to be reminded of the promises  God gives us, and to be reminded of our promises to God. What we see on several pages of Genesis actually depicts decades in the lifetime of Abraham.

Tests and tribulations come to our lives at different times, just as happened with Abraham. So, logically, these events may not make much sense, but they remind us that Abraham is human just as we are, and he lived a life full of ups and downs with extraordinary experiences of God’s presence — and also times of distance from God, doubts, and waywardness. And that is what we are reading in Genesis.

Keep on reading!


Dr. Zhenya Gurina-Rodriguez
Associate Pastor of Grace Groups & Discipleship


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