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Getting to Know the Bible: Genesis Overview

Updated: Sep 17, 2023



Peace & Blessings Beloved,

TGBTG for allowing us to see another day. I pray all is well with you and yours, and that your week has been fruitful & blessed thus far.


The very first book of the Holy Bible, Genesis, will be our focus in this post. See below for details, including a link to a YouTube video we created for the book.





Intro:

The book of Genesis is the foundation for the theology of work. Any discussion of work in biblical perspective eventually finds itself grounded on passages in this book. Genesis is incomparably significant for the theology of work because it tells the story of God’s work of creation, the first work of all and the prototype for all work that follows. God is not dreaming an illusion but creating a reality. The created universe that God brings into existence then provides the material of human work—space, time, matter and energy. Within the created universe, God is present in relationship with his creatures and especially with people. Laboring in God’s image, we work in creation, on creation, with creation and—if we work as God intends—for creation.


In Genesis we see God at work, and we learn how God intends us to work. We both obey and disobey God in our work, and we discover that God is at work in both our obedience and disobedience. The other sixty-five books of the Bible each have their own unique contributions to add to the theology of work. Yet they all spring from the source found here, in Genesis, the first book of the Bible.


Title

The first phrase in the Hebrew text of 1:1 is bereshith (in [the] beginning), which is also the Hebrew title of the book (books in ancient times customarily were named after their first word or two). The English title, Genesis, is Greek in origin and comes from the word geneseos, which appears in the pre-Christian Greek translation (Septuagint) of 2:4; 5:1. Depending on its context, the word can mean birth, genealogy, or history of origin. In both its Hebrew and Greek forms, then, the traditional title of Genesis appropriately describes its contents, since it is primarily a book of beginnings.


Where are we?

The first eleven chapters of Genesis paint the early history of the human race in broad strokes. After the great flood, the focus narrows to God’s dealings with one family living in Mesopotamia, a family headed by Abram, later called Abraham. From the Euphrates River (in modern-day Iraq) over to what is now Syria, events move south into Canaan (modern-day Israel) and Egypt.


Genesis covers the most extensive period of time in all of Scripture, longer than the other books in the Bible combined! While the ancient history recounted in the first eleven chapters gives no indication of time span, Abram’s story begins around 2091 BC (Genesis 12:1), and the book ends with Joseph’s death in Egypt around 1805 BC (50:26).


Purpose of Writing: The Book of Genesis has sometimes been called the seed-plot of the entire Bible. Most of the major doctrines in the Bible are introduced in seed form in the Book of Genesis. Along with the fall of man, God's promise of salvation or redemption is recorded (Genesis 3:15). The doctrines of creation, imputation of sin, justification, atonement, depravity, wrath, grace, sovereignty, responsibility, and many more are all addressed in this book of origins called Genesis.


Many of the great questions of life are answered in Genesis. (1) Where did I come from? (God created us - Genesis 1:1) (2) Why am I here? (we are here to have a relationship with God - Genesis 15:6) (3) Where am I going? (we have a destination after death - Genesis 25:8). Genesis appeals to the scientist, the historian, the theologian, the housewife, the farmer, the traveler, and the man or woman of God. It is a fitting beginning for God's story of His plan for mankind, the Bible.


Book Type: Book of Law (or Book of Moses); first book of the Old Testament; first book of the Bible; first book of the five-part Jewish collection known as the Torah.


Author: Moses is the traditional author of this book; Genesis is part of the Law of Moses.


Audience: Moses wrote Genesis to the Jewish people during their forty-year wilderness journey in the Sinai Peninsula.


Date: Written during the forty years in the wilderness, approximately 1440–1400 BC. Genesis means beginning, and this book describes the very first moments of God's creation. This story then proceeds through the time when the nation of Israel came to live in Egypt.


Timeline: From creation to about 1800 BC.


Genre: Narrative


Original Language: Hebrew


Audience: The Israelites


Brief Summary: The Book of Genesis can be divided into two sections: Primitive History and Patriarchal History. Primitive history records (1) Creation (Genesis chapters 1-2); (2) the Fall of man (Genesis chapters 3-5); (3) the Flood (Genesis chapters 6-9); and (4) the dispersion (Genesis chapters 10-11). Patriarchal history records the lives of four great men: (1) Abraham (Genesis 12-25:8); (2) Isaac (Genesis 21:1-35-29); (3) Jacob (Genesis 25:21-50:14); and (4) Joseph (Genesis 30:22-50:26). God created a universe that was good and free from sin. God created humanity to have a personal relationship with Him. Adam and Eve sinned and thereby brought evil and death into the world. Evil increased steadily in the world until there was only one family in which God found anything good. God sent the Flood to wipe out evil, but delivered Noah and his family along with the animals in the Ark. After the Flood, humanity began again to multiply and spread throughout the world. God chose Abraham, through whom He would create a chosen people and eventually the promised Messiah. The chosen line was passed on to Abraham's son Isaac, and then to Isaac's son Jacob. God changed Jacob's name to Israel, and his twelve sons became the ancestors of the twelve tribes of Israel. In His sovereignty, God had Jacob's son Joseph sent to Egypt by the despicable actions of Joseph's brothers. This act, intended for evil by the brothers, was intended for good by God and eventually resulted in Jacob and his family being saved from a devastating famine by Joseph, who had risen to great power in Egypt. Foreshadowing: Many New Testament themes have their roots in Genesis. Jesus Christ is the Seed of the woman who will destroy Satan's power (Gen. 3:15). As with Joseph, God's plan for the good of mankind through the sacrifice of His Son was intended for good, even though those who crucified Jesus intended it for evil. Noah and his family are the first of many remnants pictured in the Bible. Despite overwhelming odds and difficult circumstances, God always preserves a remnant of the faithful for Himself. The remnant of Israelites returned to Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity; God preserved a remnant through all the persecutions described in Isaiah and Jeremiah; a remnant of 7,000 priests were hidden from the wrath of Jezebel; God promises that a remnant of Jews will one day embrace their true Messiah (Romans 11). The faith displayed by Abraham would be the gift of God and the basis of salvation for both Jew and Gentile (Ephesians 2:8-9; Hebrews 11). Practical Application: The overriding theme of Genesis is God's eternal existence and His creation of the world. There is no effort on the part of the author to defend the existence of God; he simply states that God is, always was, and always will be, almighty over all. In the same way, we have confidence in the truths of Genesis, despite the claims of those who would deny them. All people, regardless of culture, nationality or language, are accountable to the Creator. But because of sin, introduced into the world at the Fall, we are separated from Him. But through one small nation, Israel, God's redemptive plan for mankind was revealed and made available to all. We rejoice in that plan. God created the universe, the earth, and every living being. We can trust Him to handle the concerns in our lives. God can take a hopeless situation, i.e. Abraham and Sarah being childless, and do amazing things if we will simply trust and obey. Terrible and unjust things may happen in our lives, as with Joseph, but God will always bring about a greater good if we have faith in Him and His sovereign plan. "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28).


Overview: Genesis consists of fifty chapters, giving a quick overview of the history of the nation of Israel. The first eleven chapters deal broadly with the entire world, giving an extremely concise explanation of the state of mankind as various scattered, divided, fallen nations. The remaining thirty-nine chapters focus on the history of the nation of Israel, leading up to their settlement in the land of Egypt prior to the events of the book of Exodus.


Chapters 1 and 2 describe the creation of the world. These verses are the only details given on the entire process by which God made the world, and all life within it, including human beings. (Ref. John 1:1–5; Hebrews 11:1–3)


Chapters 3—5 explain the fall of man, caused by the sin of Adam and Eve. This includes Eve's temptation by the serpent; Cain's murder of his brother, Abel; and the beginnings of human society.


Chapters 6—9 describe the flood, where God wipes out virtually the entire human race in response to their pervasive wickedness. Only Noah and his immediate family are spared, in a wooden vessel designed by God: the ark. After this catastrophe, God blesses Noah and vows to never again destroy the earth with a flood of water.


Chapters 10—11 explain the lineage and dispersion of human nations. After the flood, man once again attempts to defy God, in part by building a large tower. In response, God confuses their languages and scatters man across the globe, leading to the diverse people described in chapter 10's "table of nations."


Chapters 12—24 contain the story of Abraham, originally named Abram, who is the first man explicitly "called" by God. God establishes a covenant with Abraham, promising to make his descendants into a great nation, and a blessing on the entire human race. Along the way, Abraham learns to live out a trusting faith; this is tested in the extreme by God's command to sacrifice Abraham's son, Isaac, an act which God does not actually allow to occur.


This section also includes a depiction of God's destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. These cities are marked for judgment for a long list of depraved sins. Lot, Abraham's nephew, is living in Sodom and is barely rescued by angels before God brings down fire on the city.


Chapters 25—35 are mostly composed of the story of Isaac, Abraham's son, and Isaac's son, Jacob. Jacob schemes to earn his father's blessings, at the expense of his older twin brother, Esau. Jacob flees his family to avoid Esau's wrath, and is heavily disciplined by God during his travels. Along the way, Jacob becomes very successful. In a pivotal moment, Jacob wrestles with God, earning both a permanent limp and a new name: Israel.


Chapter 36 describes the descendants of Jacob's brother, Esau. These people became the Edomites.


Chapters 37—50 relate the origins of the twelve tribes of the nation of Israel, as part of the story of Joseph, one of Jacob's sons. The sons of Jacob, who will later be re-named Israel, are jealous of Jacob's favoritism of Joseph, as well as Joseph's uncanny wisdom and ability to interpret dreams. The brothers sell Joseph into slavery in Egypt, telling their father the boy is dead. While in Egypt, Joseph's unique character brings him through various hardships, and he eventually rises to become second-in-command over the entire nation.


When a famine brings Joseph's brothers to Egypt, seeking food, the family is reunited. First, though, Joseph thoroughly tests his brothers, humbling them for their treachery. Jacob's family—and the patriarchs of the twelve tribes—are saved by Joseph's actions, and they settle in the land of Egypt. At this time, Israel is welcomed and beloved by Egypt.


These events set the stage for the story of the Exodus, which occurs several centuries later. By then, a less-friendly Pharaoh will have enslaved the nation of Israel, and will see the exploding Jewish population as a threat.


Key Verses (ESV): Genesis 1:1: "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." Genesis 2:7: "Then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature." Genesis 3:14–15: "The LORD God said to the serpent, 'Because you have done this, \ cursed are you above all livestock \ and above all beasts of the field; \ on your belly you shall go, \ and dust you shall eat \ all the days of your life. \ I will put enmity between you and the woman, \ and between your offspring and her offspring; \ he shall bruise your head, \ and you shall bruise his heel.'" Genesis 6:5: The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." Genesis 7:20–21: "The waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep. And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, livestock, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all mankind." Genesis 11:7–8: "'Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another's speech.' So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city." Genesis 12:1–3: "Now the LORD said to Abram, 'Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. 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. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.'" Genesis 17:5: "No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations." Genesis 19:24–25: "Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the LORD out of heaven. And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground." Genesis 35:10: "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." Genesis 41:38–40: "And Pharaoh said to his servants, 'Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?' Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, 'Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command. Only as regards the throne will I be greater than you.'" Genesis 45:4–5: "So Joseph said to his brothers, 'Come near to me, please.' And they came near. And he said, 'I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.'" Genesis 50:19–21: "But Joseph said to them, 'Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 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. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.' Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them."


Background

Chapters 1-38 reflect a great deal of what we know from other sources about ancient Mesopotamian life and culture. Creation, genealogies, destructive floods, geography and mapmaking, construction techniques, migrations of peoples, sale and purchase of land, legal customs and procedures, sheepherding and cattle-raising -- all these subjects and many others were matters of vital concern to the peoples of Mesopotamia during this time. They were also of interest to the individuals, families and tribes of whom we read in the first 38 chapters of Genesis. The author appears to locate Eden, humankind's first home, in or near Mesopotamia; the tower of Babel was built there; Abram was born there; Isaac took a wife from there; and Jacob lived there for 20 years. Although these patriarchs settled in Canaan, their original homeland was Mesopotamia.


The closest ancient literary parallels to Ge 1-38 also come from Mesopotamia. Enuma elish, the story of the god Marduk's rise to supremacy in the Babylonian pantheon, is similar in some respects (though thoroughly mythical and polytheistic) to the Ge 1 creation account. Some of the features of certain king lists from Sumer bear striking resemblance to the genealogy in Ge 5. The 11th tablet of the Gilgamesh epic is quite similar in outline to the flood narrative in Ge 6-8. Several of the major events of Ge 1-8 are narrated in the same order as similar events in the Atrahasis epic. In fact, the latter features the same basic motif of creation-rebellion-flood as the Biblical account. Clay tablets found in 1974 at the ancient (c. 2500-2300 b.c.) site of Ebla (modern Tell Mardikh) in northern Syria may also contain some intriguing parallels.


Two other important sets of documents demonstrate the reflection of Mesopotamia in the first 38 chapters of Genesis. From the Mari letters, dating from the patriarchal period, we learn that the names of the patriarchs (including especially Abram, Jacob and Job) were typical of that time. The letters also clearly illustrate the freedom of travel that was possible between various parts of the Amorite world in which the patriarchs lived. The Nuzi tablets, though a few centuries later than the patriarchal period, shed light on patriarchal customs, which tended to survive virtually intact for many centuries. The inheritance right of an adopted household member or slave (see 15:1-4), the obligation of a barren wife to furnish her husband with sons through a servant girl (see 16:2-4), strictures against expelling such a servant girl and her son (see 21:10-11), the authority of oral statements in ancient Near Eastern law, such as the deathbed bequest (see 27:1-4,22-23,33) -- these and other legal customs, social contracts and provisions are graphically illustrated in Mesopotamian documents.


As Genesis 1-38 is Mesopotamian in character and background, so chapters 39 - 50 reflect Egyptian influence -- though in not quite so direct a way. Examples of such influence are: Egyptian grape cultivation (40:9-11), the riverside scene (ch. 41), Egypt as Canaan's breadbasket (ch. 42), Canaan as the source of numerous products for Egyptian consumption (ch. 43), Egyptian religious and social customs (the end of chs. 43; 46), Egyptian administrative procedures (ch. 47), Egyptian funerary practices (ch. 50) and several Egyptian words and names used throughout these chapters. The closest specific literary parallel from Egypt is the Tale of Two Brothers, which bears some resemblance to the story of Joseph and Potiphar's wife (ch. 39). Egyptian autobiographical narratives (such as the Story of Sinuhe and the Report of Wenamun) and certain historical legends offer more general literary parallels.


During the last three centuries many interpreters have claimed to find in the Pentateuch four underlying sources. The presumed documents, allegedly dating from the tenth to the fifth centuries b.c., are called J (for Jahweh/Yahweh, the personal OT name for God), E (for Elohim, a generic name for God), D (for Deuteronomic) and P (for Priestly). Each of these documents is claimed to have its own characteristics and its own theology, which often contradicts that of the other documents. The Pentateuch is thus depicted as a patchwork of stories, poems and laws. However, this view is not supported by conclusive evidence, and intensive archaeological and literary research has tended to undercut many of the arguments used to challenge Mosaic authorship.


May we establish, nurture, and grow a sincere love for the word of God, and study it lovingly & faithfully.

I pray you receive this with the love intended, and apply it to wisdom.


Love you much.


Stay Safe, Stay Healthy, Stay Blessed!


-Humble Servant


P.S- If you have not given your life to Jesus Christ, I implore you to take the time to do so right now. Use John 3:16 & Romans 10:9-10 as a foundation for making your confession of faith. And use Ephesians 2:1-10 to provide proper context for your salvation.

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