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Bible Insights

3 People Given a New Name by God

In the book of Genesis, God gives a new name to three people.

In doing so, God is effectively saying, I’m giving you a new identity. You may see yourself according to what your parents called you at birth, but I see you differently. I’m giving you a new name and a new future.

  • Abram becomes Abraham
  • Sarai becomes Sarah
  • Jacob becomes Israel

The Amplified Bible tells us the meaning for five of these names:

Abram/Abraham

Abram means “high, exalted father,” whereas Abraham means “father of a multitude” (Genesis 17:5).

Sarai/Sarah

The meaning of Sarai is not given, but Sarah means “Princess” (Genesis 17:15).

Jacob/Israel

Jacob means “supplanter” (one who usurps or replaces another), whereas Israel means “contender with God” (Genesis 32:28).

The Value of a New Name

Consider their original name given to them at birth. Contrast this to their new name given to them by God. How is God reorienting their perspective? Read about them in the Bible to see how they live up to the new identity God gave them. Their new was transformative.

Would you like God to give you a new name? Click To Tweet

There is power in a name.

Would you like God to give you a new name? Just ask him and then listen for his answer. Now adjust your perspective to live up to his new identity for you.

If you do, it will change the rest of your life.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Genesis 15-17 and today’s post is on Genesis 17:5.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Women in the Bible: Dinah

Dinah, the daughter of Jacob, and Leah, is the central character of Genesis 34. Though we know what happened to her and because of her, we know nothing about what she said, did, or thought.

Her story begins tragically. She is raped by Shechem. Yet after his act of lust, he falls in love with her, offering to give whatever dowry is asked.

Jacob doesn’t respond to his daughter’s rape. Is he passive, afraid, or wise as he waits for his sons to return? Dinah’s brothers are outraged when they hear the news and immediately come home.

While their father fails to act, Simeon and Levi, two of Dinah’s full brothers, do. They kill Shechem and all the men in his village; then they rescue her from Shechem’s house. Later, her other brothers plunder the town.

Although Jacob criticizes Simeon and Levi for their excessive reaction and the subsequent risk to the entire family (should neighboring towns take revenge), Dinah’s brothers felt duty bound to avenge their sister’s rape, despite the risk of retaliation or harm.

After her rescue, nothing more is said about Dinah. The end to her story is for us to wonder.

Learn about other biblical women in Women of the Bible, available in e-book, paperback, hardcover, and audiobook.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Women in the Bible: Rachel

Rachel is an interesting character. She’s the wife of Jacob and also his first cousin. Talk about ick! We read about her in Genesis 29-31 & 35.

For some reason, I’m drawn to her, but I don’t know why.

We know she’s beautiful. For Jacob, it’s love at first sight. But there’s calamity when her dad pawns off her older sister, Leah, on Jacob, her unsuspecting betrothed. Though Rachel does marry Jacob, too, the sisters spend their lives vying for his attention.

Jacob favors Rachel, but doesn’t completely ignore Leah, either. While the younger wife has Jacob’s affection, it’s the older Leah who keeps getting pregnant. Their competition heats up and the sisters each offer their maids to their husband to make more babies, and they each have two boys.

Later in one of the oddest moves ever, Rachel trades a night with her husband for food. I guess she was really hungry. As a result Leah has another son.

Eventually Rachel gets pregnant, too, and she has Joseph. Instead of being satisfied over finally having a child, she immediately asks God for another son.

Her story ends a few years later when she dies giving birth to her second son, Benjamin. It’s a tragic end to a tragic life.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Genesis 30-32 and today’s post is on Genesis 30:22.]

Learn about other biblical women in Women of the Bible, available in e-book, paperback, hardcover, and audiobook.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

When God Tells Us to Do Something, Does He Mean Forever?

God Instructs Jacob to Go to Egypt, but He Doesn’t Intend for Him to Stay

Just like Cain and Abel, along with Ishmael and Isaac, Joseph and his brothers have problems, too. There are two reasons why Joseph’s brothers don’t like him. First, he’s Dad’s favorite. Second, he doesn’t know when to keep his mouth shut.

As a result, Joseph’s brothers sell him off as a slave, and he gets hauled off to Egypt. Yet, God orchestrates their reunion: Joseph has risen to a position of power in Egypt. He has stockpiled food for the future.

Meanwhile, his family back home is starving. His brothers go to Egypt to buy food, and eventually Joseph reveals himself to them. He invites them to Egypt, where they have plenty to eat and a great place to live.

As Jacob wrestles over what to do, to go or to stay, God tells him not to be afraid and to go to Egypt. God also promises to bring Jacob back home.

Jacob gathers his family and they had out. When they arrive in Egypt, the family is reunited. Jacob again sees Joseph, his beloved son who he thought was dead.

Sometimes when God tells us to do something, it’s a short-term command, not a permanent instruction. Click To Tweet

Four Hundred Years Later

Jacob directs his family to the land of Goshen, a great place for them to live and raise their flocks. They go there and settle down. Life is good. They stay four-hundred years. I don’t think this is what God had in mind when he sent them to Egypt.

I think this was a short-term command, to go to Egypt for as long as the famine lasted and then return home. Why else would he have promised Jacob he would bring him home again?

Instead, Jacob and his descendants stay. They don’t return home. Their numbers grow, and they’re eventually enslaved. Life’s not so good for them anymore.

Of course, God knew this would happen. Though it may not have been his intent for them to spend four centuries in Egypt, he uses this to make them into a great nation.

Sometimes when God tells us to do something, like go to Egypt, it’s a short-term command, not a permanent instruction. Thankfully, even if we misunderstand what God tells us to do, he can still turn our situation around and make events work out for our own good.

[Read through the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Genesis 46-48, and today’s post is on Genesis 46:3-4.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

How Many Tribes Were There in Israel?

Just as we know that Jesus had twelve disciples, we know that Israel had twelve tribes, right?

Jacob (also known as Israel) had twelve sons and each son became a tribe, right? Well sort of.

Even though Joseph was Jacob’s favorite son, there is no tribe named Joseph. Instead Joseph’s two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, both became tribes. So that ups the number of tribes to thirteen.

To make things a tad more confusing, the tribe of Manasseh split into two groups, with half receiving territory on one side of the Jordan River and the rest on the other side. Effectively, each half of Manasseh became a tribe. So the number of tribes arguably becomes fourteen.

However, Levi, while a tribe, did not receive a territory (they were assigned cities to live in throughout the nation). So Levi is a tribe without territory. Should we count them or not?

We can go crazy trying to sort this out.

Just as with the question of “How many disciples did Jesus have?” we can best resolve this by understanding that “The Twelve Tribes” was a label, a generic reference, and not a quantifiable amount.

Jesus had “twelve” disciples, symbolically matching the “twelve” tribes of Israel. The fact that the actual number of tribes and disciples may have been thirteen or even fourteen doesn’t matter.

The parallelism of “twelve” connects the Old and New Testaments of the Bible and links the nation of Israel with the salvation of Jesus.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Is Watering Animals a Prelude to Marriage?

In the Bible there’s the story of Jacob, who rolls away the stone from the well to water Rachel’s sheep. They get married.

Then there’s Moses. He rescues some shepherd girls when they are being harassed and provides water for their flocks. He marries one of them.

Performing simple acts of service result in some most amazing things. Click To Tweet

It’s just not a guy thing, either. Rebekah provides water for a stranger and his camels, showing herself to be the one for Isaac, son of the stranger’s master. They get married.

Sometimes performing simple acts of service result in some most amazing things.

[Genesis 29:10, Exodus 2:16-21, and Genesis 24:15-20]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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A Love Story: Life Sustaining Water

In a love story, culturally distant and a bit strange to us, Jacob is enamored by the fetching Rachel. In an act of service, to garner her attention, he rolls away a stone from the mouth of a well to provide life-sustaining water for her sheep. It works and she becomes his bride.

In another love story, also culturally distant and a bit strange, Jesus, in an act of service sacrifices himself for those he loves.

Three days later Jesus is resurrected and an angel rolls away the stone that sealed his tomb, effectively providing living water for his sheep; that would be us. It works and symbolically we become his bride.

The water is provided as an act of love. We drink the water to accept the love.

[Genesis 29:10, Matthew 28:2, and Mark 16:1-6]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Joseph: Dreamer and Interpreter of Dreams

In the story of Jacob’s son Joseph, we read that Joseph had a couple of dreams.

The implicit meaning of his dreams was that his older brothers would become subservient to him, as would his father and mother. To his family this no doubt seemed to be mere wishful thinking of a young boy who was tired of being last and wanted some attention.

Just because God has revealed something to us, does not mean that it is prudent to share it. Click To Tweet

The dream, however, was correct and its predictions did eventually happen. In these two dreams, it was later confirmed that Joseph had heard from God and that he heard correctly.

It may not, however, have been a good idea to share the dreams with this family. His father was insulted and chastised him for his impudent remarks. His ill-advised revelation also fueled his brothers’ jealousy towards him, no doubt hastening their selling him off as a slave.

The lesson to be learned from Joseph is that just because God has revealed something to us, does not mean that it is prudent to share it.

While it is often helpful to tell others what God is doing in our lives or teaching us, sometimes his words to us are for our ears only.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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What’s the Deal with Levi?

Levi was one of Jacob’s sons (the third of twelve). The Bible doesn’t tell us much about him; what it does say, doesn’t bode well.

The short version is that Levi’s sister, Dinah is raped. Levi and brother Simeon exact revenge by killing the perpetrator, his family, and the whole village, plus taking all their stuff. Levi’s version of justice far exceeds the crime—and father Jacob is ticked (Genesis 34:1-5, 25-31).

Jacob doesn’t forget this incident either. On his deathbed, he gathers his sons to prophetically tell them their future. This would be a time of expected blessing.  Not so for Levi (along with Simeon). Because of their misdeed, Jacob essentially curses them (Genesis 49:1, 5-7).

Interestingly, many centuries later God—through the prophet Malachi—reveals what he thinks of Levi, saying “True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin” (Malachi 2:6).

God forgets the bad and focuses on the good. Click To Tweet

God’s view of Levi is certainly different than Jacob’s. While Jacob focuses on the bad and can’t forget it, God forgets the bad and focuses on the good.

When we follow God, that’s what he does.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

An Eye for an Eye; a Tooth for a Tooth

Moses gave a curious command: “Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.” This seems to be an excessive response when one is wronged, but given the culture of that day, it was actually a move towards moderation.

For example, when Jacob’s daughter Dinah was raped, her brothers avenged her violation by killing the perpetrator and all the men in his village and then sacking the city.

That is excessive—and what God, through Moses, wanted to rein in with his “eye of eye, tooth for tooth” imperative.

Jesus, however, took this one step further when he told us to love our enemies and pray for them. That’s how we should act today—lovingly, not vengeful.

[Deuteronomy 19:21, Genesis 34:1-31 (especially verse 2 and 25), Matthew 5:38-48 (especially verse 44)]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.