Chapter By Chapter: Genesis
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From a chaotic void, God creates the world and everything in it over a period of six days (“evenings and mornings”). He commissions humans as stewards and gives them all the plants for food.
The first three days create spaces (light and dark; sky and sea; dry land), and the second three days fill those spaces (sun, moon, and stars; birds and sea creatures; beasts of the earth and humans).
31: And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
God rests from His creative work. He forms a man from dust and places him in a garden He plants in Eden. He commands the man to avoid the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and He makes a companion from the man’s rib.
God’s rest examples our rest and makes the Sabbath holy. The river flowing from the garden will be seen again in prophecies and the second garden in Revelation. The woman is made from man, so in marriage the woman is joined back to the man in one flesh.
18: Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”
The serpent tempts the man and the woman to eat fruit of the forbidden tree by misquoting God. In response, God curses the serpent to humiliation; the woman to painful childbearing and subservience to her husband; and the man to labor and worry. The man names the woman Eve, and God drives them both out of Eden.
The woman tries to quote God to the serpent, but she misstates the command; when Jesus resists Satan, He also quotes God, but correctly. Satan tempts by distorting the truth, and we convince ourselves to give in by prizing our desires over God.
23: Therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken.
Cain kills his brother Abel because Abel’s offering of firstfruits was acceptable to God, but Cain’s offering was not. God curses Cain and drives him east, where he builds a city and fathers a nation. Adam and Eve have a third son, Seth.
Abel’s offering of the first and the best examples our offering. God’s suggestion to Cain reminds us to focus on God and not sin. Adam and Eve need a third son because one is dead and the other is cursed.
9: Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?”
A genealogy from Adam to Noah and his children. Enoch is taken up to God rather than dying. Every man is extremely long-lived.
Since Noah will be the father of all the living, the connection to Adam through Seth makes all humans sons of Seth. As Matthew 1 proclaims, Jesus too is descended from Adam through this line.
29: [Lamech] called his name Noah, saying, “Out of the ground that the LORD has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.”
As generations pass, the whole population of Earth becomes wicked, except Noah. God determines to destroy all people by flood, and gives Noah instructions to build an ark to survive it.
The corruption Lamech lamented in Genesis 5:28 is here, and it infects the whole world. God has been patient, but his patience has run out and judgment is at hand. Humanity will be saved, but its nature will remain unchanged and require saving again.
18: But I [God] will establish my covenant with you [Noah], and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.
The Flood covers the whole earth, including the mountains, and all birds and land animals and people not on the ark died.
The judgment proclaimed in Genesis 6:7 is completed. Total catastrophe is what happens when God destroys all the non-righteous, showing our desperate need for a savior.
23: He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark.
The Flood subsides, and the ark comes to rest in Ararat. Noah, his family, and the animals leave the ark. Noah sacrifices to God, who makes a covenant with him not to curse the earth or destroy all life.
God fulfills his promise of survival, then makes another one: never again to judge the earth by destroying it. But man is still evil “from his youth,” so we know God will present a different path to salvation.
21: And when the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, the LORD said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done.”
God gives Noah the animals for food. He re-establishes the covenant and gives the rainbow as the sign and seal. Noah plants a vineyard. Noah gets drunk, Ham gossips about him, and Noah curses Ham.
In Genesis 1:29, God gave man plants for food; here He also gives animals. God’s covenant with Noah, the second in Scripture, includes both people and animals. The Bible’s first mention of wine is also its first mention of drunkenness.
13: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.
The early generations of Noah’s sons and where they settled.
The origin stories of the nations surrounding Israel: Egypt, Cush, Put, Canaan, Havilah, Babel, Nineveh, and others. The future enemies of Israel are all descended from Ham.
32: These are the clans of the sons of Noah, according to their genealogies, in their nations, and from these the nations spread abroad on the earth after the flood.
The people build a tower in Shinar to reach heaven, so God confuses their languages and disperses them. The genealogy of Shem down to Terah, Abraham, and Lot. Terah moves from Ur of the Chaldeans to Haran.
God’s response to the tower explains the dispersion in Genesis 10. Babel is Hebrew for Babylon and sounds like Hebrew for “confound”; the tower is another attempt to displace God’s role by man’s effort. Abram’s family begins the journey west to Canaan, but stops halfway.
9: Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth.
God calls Abram to Canaan and promises to bless him; Lot goes along, too. Abram and Sarai go to Egypt to escape a famine. Abram calls her his sister instead of wife; when they find out, they send them away.
God’s first promise to Abraham comes with a calling: everybody else is going east; you come back west.
2: And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.
Abram and Lot have too many flocks to live together, so they separate. God again promises Abram all the land of Canaan and uncountable offspring. Abram moves to Hebron.
God’s promise of land to Abram is finally fulfilled under David; his promise of offspring is still being fulfilled today.
17: “Arise [Abram], walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.”
Lot is kidnapped during the war of nine kings, and Abram mounts an armed rescue. They encounter Melchizedek, the priest-king of Jerusalem, who blesses him, and Abram gives him a tithe.
As the patriarch, Abram goes to war to rescue his kinsman; his single family does what four kings could not. The author of Hebrews later uses Abram’s encounter with Melchizedek to prove Jesus’s superiority to the Aaronic priests.
18: And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.)
God confirms his covenant with Abram—to give him the land and make him a great nation through his own son—with a formal sacrificial ritual.
Abram’s “deep sleep” reminds us of when God made Eve from Adam’s rib. God, as smoke and fire like during the Exodus, symbolically shows he will take the punishment if the covenant is broken, prefiguring Jesus.
17: When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces.
Abram despairs of having children, so Sarai gives him his servant Hagar. Hagar conceives and bears a son, Ishmael. Sarai resents Hagar. God extends his promise to Abram to Ishmael as well.
Abram and Sarai take God’s promise of innumerable descendants into their own hands, resulting in Ishmael having “his hand against everyone, and everyone’s hand against him.” God’s promise is absolute, so Ishmael receives it too.
11: And the angel of the LORD said to her, “Behold, you are pregnant and shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because the LORD has listened to your affliction.”
God renames Abram to Abraham and repeats his promise to make him a great nation through Sarah’s son. He commands circumcision as a sign of the covenant.
God made these promises in Genesis 12 and Genesis 15 as well. Abraham means “father of multitudes.” Isaac means “he laughs,” a reminder that though Sarah laughed (Genesis 18), God fulfilled his Word.
6: I [God] will make you [Abraham] exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you.
God visits Abraham as a man and specifies a timeline for Isaac’s birth: one year. Sarah hears and laughs. God tells Abraham He will destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, and Abraham bargains with him.
God appearing as a human is a remarkable event, connecting this story to Jesus, the ultimate King, who will come from Abraham’s line. Abraham’s intercession shows God’s mercy in judgment.
14: “Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.”
God destroys Sodom and Gomorrah. Two angels visit Lot in Sodom; when the men try to rape them, Lot offers his daughters instead. The men rescue Lot and his family before God destroys the entire valley.
God shows mercy to Lot and his family for Abraham’s sake, patiently waiting for them to leave before sending destruction. He is patient even though Lot is slow to listen and slow to leave.
24: Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the LORD out of heaven.
Abraham claims Sarah is his sister again, but God tells Abimelech the truth, and he sends them away.
Contrast Abraham’s sinful deception with the righteous acts of the Gentile king. Being chosen by God doesn’t make you sinless. God had to intervene, again, to preserve Sarah as mother of nations.
9: Then Abimelech called Abraham and said to him, “What have you done to us? And how have I sinned against you, that you have brought on me and my kingdom a great sin? You have done to me things that ought not to be done.”
Isaac is finally born. Sarah has Hagar and Ishmael thrown out, but God rescues them, and Ishmael grows up. Abraham makes a treaty with Abimelech.
God fulfills two promises: to Abraham and Sarah, that she would bear a true son; and to Ishmael, that he would also inherit the promises God made to Abraham.
3: Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore him, Isaac.
God calls Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, but stops him at the last minute and provides a ram instead. God repeats his promise to make Abraham a great nation. The genealogy of Rebekah.
Abraham tells Isaac, “God will provide the lamb for the sacrifice,” foreshadowing Jesus’s sacrifice. God withheld Abraham’s hand, but He will not withhold His own.
8: Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.”
Abraham buys a plot of land with a tomb in which to bury Sarah. He buys it from Ephron the Hittite for four hundred shekels of silver.
The dead are always buried in the ancestral homeland—centuries later, the Israelites will take Joseph’s bones with them out of Egypt—so Abraham burying Sarah here shows he has fully adopted Canaan as his new homeland.
19: After this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah east of Mamre (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan.
Abraham’s servant goes to his family in Mesopotamia to find Isaac a wife. Waiting by the well, he finds Rebekah, granddaughter of Abraham’s brother Nahor, and returns with her.
Abraham insists that Isaac’s wife not come from the Canaanites and that she return to Canaan rather than Isaac returning back east. Abraham’s servant presents a massive dowry, indicating Abraham’s wealth.
67: Then Isaac brought her into the tent of Sarah his mother and took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.
Descendants of Abraham’s new wife Keturah and of Ishmael. Rebekah is barren, but God gives her twins: Esau and Jacob. Esau sells Jacob his birthright for a bowl of stew.
Even though God’s people come from Isaac, God’s blessing of Abraham extends to all his sons, and they are numerous. As He often does, God chooses the younger son, Jacob, rather than the older, Esau.
23: And the LORD said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger.”
God confirms to Isaac His covenant with Abraham. Isaac encounters Abimelech in Gerar and becomes fabulously wealthy. They make a treaty with him and send him away.
Isaac’s sojourn to Gerar is almost identical to Abraham’s in Genesis 20, down to the name of the king and passing off his attractive wife as his sister. Isaac’s wealth is a fulfillment of God’s promise.
25: So he built an altar there and called upon the name of the LORD and pitched his tent there. And there Isaac’s servants dug a well.
With Rebekah’s help, Jacob tricks Isaac in to blessing him instead of Esau. Concerned about Esau’s anger, and not wanting him to marry a Canaanite woman, Rebekah sends Jacob to her brother Laban.
We see later that God honors Isaac’s blessing of Jacob, the younger brother. Rebekah sending him to Laban ensures that he marries within Abraham’s family rather than mixing with the Canaanites, an instruction God later gives to all of Israel.
36: Esau said, “Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has cheated me these two times. He took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing.” Then he said, “Have you not reserved a blessing for me?”
Jacob flees from Esau toward Haran. One night, he sees a stairway to heaven, and God confirms to him the promise he made to Abraham and Isaac to bless and multiply him. Jacob names that place Bethel, “house of God.” Esau marries an Ishmaelite.
God confirms Abraham’s covenant yet again, this time to Jacob. Later, Israel will refer to God as “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” Esau marries an Ishmaelite, which is actually closer to Abraham’s line than Laban’s daughters whom Jacob will marry.
15: Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
Jacob meets Rachel, Laban’s daughter (his cousin). He promises to work for Laban for seven years to marry Rachel. Laban tricks him and he marries Leah (Rachel’s elder sister) instead, so he promises another seven years for Rachel.
As usual, God chooses the younger sibling and the harder path. A consequence of Jacob marrying both sisters due to Laban’s deception is that he has twelve children, of whom only two are Rachel’s, who become the patriarchs of the twelve tribes of Israel.
30: So Jacob went in to Rachel also, and he loved Rachel more than Leah, and served Laban for another seven years.Jacob’s Children
Jacob has children by Rachel’s servant Bilhah, Leah’s servant Zilpah, Leah (again), and finally Rachel herself. Jacob makes a deal with Laban for his wages as he plans to go home to Canaan, and he becomes extremely wealthy.
Rachel’s and Leah’s competition results in Jacob having many sons. They will all be heads of tribes, but Rachel’s firstborn, Joseph, will be Jacob’s favorite, eventually resulting in the saving of Jacob’s family during a famine. God is always working to accomplish His purposes.
25: As soon as Rachel had borne Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, “Send me away, that I may go to my own home and country.”
At God’s command, Jacob takes his family and servants and herds away from Laban back west toward Canaan. Laban goes after him, but God warns him not to interfere. Rachel steals Laban’s household gods and hides them from everyone.
Jacob, like Abram, is finally moving back west to the land God has promised. A major force that might get in his way, Laban, is turned aside by God before he even catches up. God is moving before you’re aware of the need.
13: I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and made a vow to me. Now arise, go out from this land and return to the land of your kindred.’”
Jacob prays to God for success meeting Esau for the first time in twenty years, then sends messengers ahead of him with gifts to appease Esau. That night, Jacob wrestles God; God renames him Israel, and Jacob awakes with a limp.
Jacob still remembers his struggle with Esau, and attempts to make up for it with gifts. Israel means “wrestles with God” and identifies an entire nation for centuries.
28: Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.”
Jacob finally meets Esau again after twenty years. He is afraid, but Esau is just happy to see his little brother again. Jacob and his clan settle in Succoth in Canaan.
Jacob kept his guilt in mind for twenty years, but Esau had forgiven him well in advance. Our fears may be far greater than reality. Jacob has finally returned to the land of the promise.
4: But Esau ran to meet him and embraced him and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.
Shechem the Hivite rapes Jacob’s son Dinah, then asks to marry her. Jacob’s sons insist Shechem’s whole clan be circumcised before the marriage, then slaughter them all while they’re recovering from the operation.
Jacob’s sons repay rape (of Dinah) with murder (of every man in Shechem). From the beginning, God’s people are set up against the inhabitants of the land, a pattern that will repeat until the present day.
27: The sons of Jacob came upon the slain and plundered the city, because they had defiled their sister.
Jacob returns with his family and flocks to Bethel, where God again confirms to him the promise. Rachel dies in Benjamin’s childbirth. Reuben sleeps with Bilhah. Jacob returns to Isaac at Mamre, and Isaac dies.
God’s promise bookends the story of Isaac and Jacob, and Isaac’s death naturally follows. Rachel’s death surely makes Jacob love Benjamin even more. Reuben’s sin later costs him his birthright.
10: And God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; no longer shall your name be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.” So he called his name Israel.
Esau and Jacob split up because they’ve grown too wealthy to live together. Genealogy of Esau.
Esau’s descendants are the Edomites. One of his grandchildren is Teman, and one of Job’s friends is Eliphaz the Temanite, so Job probably lived in Edom. Edom means “red,” and the land of Edom is full of red sandstone.
9: These are the generations of Esau the father of the Edomites in the hill country of Seir.
Jacob loves Joseph more than his brothers. Joseph dreams two dreams of ruling over his brothers and even parents. His brothers consider killing him, but sell him to an Ishmaelite slaver who takes him to Egypt and sells him to Potiphar. The brothers tell Jacob a wild animal killed him.
This chapter begins the final cycle of Genesis, Jacob’s descent into Egypt, which starts with Joseph. Joseph’s dream recalls Jacob’s stolen blessing from Isaac, that he would lord over his brothers. The brothers’ deceit using a slaughtered goat also echos Jacob’s deceit.
9: Then he dreamed another dream and told it to his brothers and said, “Behold, I have dreamed another dream. Behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”
Judah has Er, Onan, and Shelah by Shuah. Er marries Tamar, but God kills him; so Onan marries her, but refuses to impregnate her, so God kills him; so Judah refuses to let Shelah marry her. She dresses as a prostitute, and Judah, not recognizing her, sleeps with her himself.
The wickedness of Judah, Er, and Onan in this chapter illustrate the dangers of integrating with the Canaanites, about which God repeatedly warns Israel. Onan’s fear, that Tamar’s child would be Er’s and take his inheritance, is the same reason Ruth ends up with Boaz and not her nearest kinsman (Ruth 04 > v6.
26: Then Judah identified them and said, “She is more righteous than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not know her again.
Potiphar identifies God’s blessing on Joseph and makes him head of his household. Potiphar’s wife tries to sleep with Joseph, but Joseph flees, leaving his coat; the wife claims he tried to rape her anyway, and he is thrown into prison.
God’s blessing on Joseph doesn’t require context: whether in the house of Pharaoh’s officer Potiphar or the prison, God makes him prosper. Joseph refuses Potiphar’s wife’s attentions, a striking contrast to Judah’s sleeping with Tamar in Genesis 38. He ends up in the king’s prison, which sets up his rescue.
21: But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.
Pharaoh imprisons his cupbearer and baker. They tell Joseph their dreams, Joseph interprets them, and the interpretation comes true. The cupbearer is restored, and the baker is hanged. The cupbearer forgets Joseph.
God’s favor on Joseph extends to interpreting others’ dreams, not just his own. Joseph says both dreams mean Pharaoh will “lift up their head”—the cupbearer’s head back to his former position, and the baker’s head from off his shoulders.
8: They said to him, “We have had dreams, and there is no one to interpret them.” And Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Please tell them to me.”
Pharaoh has two dreams of cows and corn. His magicians cannot interpret them, but his cupbearer remembers Joseph. Joseph interprets the dreams as seven good years followed by seven years of famine. Pharaoh puts Joseph in charge of Egypt to carry out his plan for survival. Joseph has two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. The famine begins.
By God’s providence, Joseph goes from slave to prison to the second-most-powerful man in Egypt in thirteen years. The repetition of the dream is assurance it will happen. The famine is the tool God uses to protect Israel: in Canaan, they are in danger of integration; the Egyptians would never permit such a thing.
57: Moreover, all the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain, because the famine was severe over all the earth.
Jacob sends his sons to buy grain from Egypt. Joseph recognizes them, but they don’t recognize him. He sends back their money and the grain, but keeps Simeon and makes them promise to bring Benjamin next time. Jacob refuses.
Joseph’s dreams come true: his brothers bow down to him. They realize their predicament is punishment for selling Joseph, but ironically they don’t realize how directly the two events are related.
5: Thus the sons of Israel came to buy among the others who came, for the famine was in the land of Canaan.
Jacob sends his sons again to buy grain. He agrees to send Benjamin only after Judah pledges his life to keep him safe. They bring the returned money and more as well as gifts. Joseph sets a feast for them and spoils Benjamin.
Judah becomes the spokesman; he receives the birthright over his older brothers. His guarantee (his life) is greater than Reuben’s was (his two sons’ lives). Joseph loves his brother Benjamin dearly and treats him specially.
23: [Joseph’s servant] replied, “Peace to you, do not be afraid. Your God and the God of your father has put treasure in your sacks for you. I received your money.” Then he brought Simeon out to them.
Joseph again returns his brothers’ money. He hides a silver cup in Benjamin’s sack, then sends men after them to bring them back for punishment. Judah pleads for Benjamin’s life for the sake of their father Jacob.
The search for the silver cup is like Laban’s search for his household gods in Genesis 31. Judah’s willingness to substitute himself for Benjamin shows his leadership; Jesus, Judah’s descendant, does the same for the whole world.
33: Now therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the boy as a servant to my lord, and let the boy go back with his brothers.
Joseph reveals his identity to his brothers. He tells them to go get Jacob and his family and bring them into Egypt to rescue them from the famine. The brothers return to Canaan.
Joseph correctly casts his brothers’ selling him into slavery as God’s preparing the way for Jacob’s family to be preserved. It is this invitation that brings Israel down into Egypt for the next four hundred years.
9: Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, “Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; do not tarry.”
God tells Jacob in a dream not to fear going down to Egypt and promises to bring him back out. He takes his family down, and Joseph tells him to make sure to identify themselves as shepherds. A list of all the people who went down into Egypt with Jacob.
God again repeats His covenant, so we will not forget His faithfulness even as we descend into enemy territory. The Egyptians held shepherds as outcasts, ensuring that the Israelites would not—could not—mix with them the way they had with the Canaanites.
3: Then he said, “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation.”
Pharaoh gives the Israelites the land of Goshen to settle in. As the famine sets in, Joseph accepts livestock, land, and even bondage in exchange for food, until Pharaoh owns all the land and people of Egypt. Joseph promises to take Jacob’s bones out of Egypt.
Even though the famine has become dire, God’s plan, implemented by Joseph, continues feeding all those in Egypt, including his family. Jacob knows they are merely sojourners, so he insists on his final resting place being in God’s land of Canaan.
30: “but let me lie with my fathers. Carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burying place.” He answered, “I will do as you have said.”
Jacob adopts Joseph’s sons Ephraim and Manasseh. He blesses them and extends to them God’s promise to his own sons. He raises Ephraim as the greater, even though Manasseh was firstborn.
This adoption means the twelve-part inheritance remains intact. Joseph’s part is divided in two, making thirteen, but Levi and the priests later don’t receive an inheritance, making twelve. God’s abundance extends to all generations. He continues not respecting human traditions of inheritance.
21: Then Israel said to Joseph, “Behold, I am about to die, but God will be with you and will bring you again to the land of your fathers.”
Jacob blesses his sons. He denies Reuben (#1) his birthright for sleeping with Bilhah; he denies Simeon (#2) and Levi (#3) for their slaughter of Shechem; he makes Judah the ruler. He commands that he be buried with Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, and Leah in Canaan.
Again God has chosen a younger son—the youngest of Leah’s first children—to lead. “The scepter shall not depart from [Judah’s] hand,” says Jacob, and both David and Jesus are born of the tribe of Judah. Jacob will be buried in the homeland—they will not be in Egypt forever.
28: All these are the twelve tribes of Israel. This is what their father said to them as he blessed them, blessing each with the blessing suitable to him.
The whole tribe of Israel, along with many Egyptians, goes up to Canaan to bury Jacob. Joseph again identifies his brothers’ treachery as God’s plan to save Israel. Many years later, Joseph dies after making his children promise to carry his bones out of Egypt when they go.
Joseph’s fame in Egypt is so great that the week-long mourning caused the Canaanites to rename the place in their honor: Abel-Mizraim, the mourning of Egypt. Joseph’s faith in God is such that he is sure they will leave Egypt, and he insists on going with them.
20: As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.