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Book Overview - Genesis
by Arend Remmers
1. Author and Time of Writing
According to an old tradition, not only Genesis (also called the first book of Moses), but the whole Pentateuch (from Greek pente - five and teuchos - container for scrolls) were written by Moses. As far as Exodus to Deuteronomy is concerned, Moses was an eyewitness and partly even main character. When writing Genesis, apart from direct revelations of God (for example the report on the creation of the world in Genesis 1; Genesis 2), he could possibly have referred to documents from the time of the patriarchs (for example the genealogies of Genesis 5:10-11 ,36).Under the direction of the Holy Spirit of God Moses wrote everything down.As he was a prophet, the words of 2 Peter 1:21 apply to him as well:"Holy men of God spake under the power of the Holy Spirit."
Moses lived around 1500-1400 BC. The highly developed hieroglyphic writing existed already in Egypt, as its origins can be traced back to 3000 BC.The Sumerian pictograms and the Assyrian-Babylonian cuneiform also date back that far.
The Akkadian-Sumerian and Assyrian-Babylonian"creation and flood myths" (for example the "Gilgamesh-Epic") have often been compared with the corresponding reports of the Bible, and are often considered to be their "template".But these human poetic writings, full of various "gods", are in great contrast to the simple, clear words of Holy Scripture.But they do show that these heathen peoples kept a small memory of the beginnings of the world which, in their imagination and under the influence of their idolatry, they wrote down in the form we have today. The worship of snakes, which was, and still is, spread in many idolatrous cultures in the whole world, is another example of how Satan succeeded in getting people to turn away from worshipping the one true God and draw them after himself (compare Genesis 3:1, Revelation 12:9).
The tradition that Moses is the author of the first five books of the Bible originates from the Word of God itself. The title "law" does not only refer to the commandments that Moses received at Sinai from God. Already in the Old Testament it often refers to the whole Pentateuch, the Thora, i.e., the first part of the Old Testament. Compare Joshua 1:7; Joshua 8:31; Judges 3:4; 1 Kings 2:3; 2 Chronicles 23:18; Ezra 3:2; Nehemiah 8:1; Daniel 9:11; Malachi 4:4.
The Lord Jesus confirms that Moses is the author in Luke 24:27; Luke 24:44; John 5:46-47.And Paul who often speaks of the law calls it the "law of Moses" (Romans 10:5; 1 Corinthians 9:9; Hebrews 10:28).
It becomes evident from two passages in the New Testament that the term "law" or "law of Moses" includes Genesis: 1 Corinthians 14:34 can only refer to the divine order in Genesis 2:18 ff; Genesis 3:16, since the law of Sinai lacks an explicit command for women to be subject, and in Galatians 4:21 ff Paul talks of the story of Ishmael and Isaac (Genesis 16; Genesis 21).In both cases he speaks of the law.
2. Purpose of writing
Genesis (beginning, becoming) is the book of beginnings. It contains the "seed" for all the dealings of God with this world, the principles of the relationships of God with man, and in type anticipates all future revelations of God.
Genesis describes the creation of the world, the fall of the first men into sin and its consequences, but not only the curse but also the first clear pointer to the redeemer.We see God's righteousness in the judgment of the great flood, but also election of grace and the life of faith in Abraham.In the story of Isaac we see the beloved son of the father who had to be sacrificed, and in the story of Joseph and his brothers the whole way of Israel with their Messiah.In the biographies of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob we are also presented with the personal life of faith.The tent shows us that the believer is a wandering stranger in this world, who has no remaining city here, but is looking for the one to come.The altar is the picture of fellowship with the only true God and the worship that He seeks.
a. The names of God
Not only in Genesis, but in the whole Old Testament occur mainly two names of God: God (Hebrew: Elohim) and Jehovah (Hebrew JHWH: The Eternal One, probably to be pronounced Yahweh). These two names do not however, as many critics think, point to different authors or reports, which would have been compiled by later "editors", but are a proof for the divine inspiration of Scripture. Everywhere, where the omnipotence of the creator should be emphasised, we read God. But when He turns in grace to man He is called Jehovah. For example we read in Genesis 7:16, after Noah entered the ark: ".. As God had commanded him.And Jehovah shut him in."
A certain structure of Genesis can be seen in the fact that eleven times the Hebrew word "toledoth" (generations, histories) is mentioned as conclusion - or introduction - of a report. Similar stereotype statements are known from cuneiform tables from Mesopotamia.The word "toledoth" occurs in the following passages:
1. Chapter 2:4: These are the histories of the heavens and the earth.
2. Chapter 5:1: This is the book of Adam's generations
3. Chapter 6:9: This is the history of Noah
4. Chapter 10:1: These are the generations of the sons of Noah
5. Chapter 11:10: These are the generations of Shem
6. Chapter 11:27: These are the generations of Terah
7. Chapter 25:12: These are the generations of Ishmael
8. Chapter 25:19: These are the generations of Isaac
9. Chapter 36:1: These are the generations of Esau
10: Chapter 36:9: These are the generations of Esau
11: Chapter 37:2: These are the generations of Jacob
c. Seven biographies
Genesis contains biographies of seven believers: Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. They are important for the divisions of this book.
4. Overview of contents
I. Genesis 1-11 : Ancient history
1. Chapter 1-5 From creation to the flood
a. Chapter 1:1-2:25 Creation
Chapter 1 The work of the six days (general report)
Chapter 2 Creation of man (special report)
b. Chapter 3:1-4:7 The fall and its consequences (Romans 5:12)
Chapter 3 Temptation, fall, judgment and grace
Chapter 4:1-7 Cain and Abel: The first sacrifice, the first murder, and the first city
c. Chapter 4:8-5:32Cain and Seth: Two descendants of Adam (1 Corinthians 15:46)
2. Chapter 6-11 From Noah to Abraham
a. Chapter 6:1-8:14 The flood
Chapter 6 The building of the ark (Matthew 24:38-39; 2 Peter 3:3-10)
Chapter 7 The flood: Judgment and salvation
Chapter 8:1-14 The end of the flood
b. Chapter 8:15-10:32 Noah and his descendants
Chapter 8:15-22 Noah on the "new" earth
Chapter 9 Institution of authority and Noah's fall
Chapter 10 The table of nations: Descendants of Japheth, Shem and Ham
c. Chapter 11:1-26The building of the tower of Babel
II. Genesis 12-50 : The history of the Patriarchs
1. Chapter 12:1-21:34 Abraham, the father of all believers (Romans 4)
a. Chapter 12:1-14:24 The call of Abram and his visible life of faith
Chapter 12 Abram moves to Canaan by faith and fails in Egypt
Chapter 13 Lot's choice and Abram's part
Chapter 14 Abram saves Lot and meets Melchisedec (Hebrews 7:1 ff)
b. Chapter 15:1-21:34Abraham's experiences with God
Chapter 15 The promise of the son and the inheritance
Chapter 16 Hagar and Ishmael: Law and the flesh (Galatians 4:21-31)
Chapter 17 Renewal of the promise and institution of circumcision; change of name (Abraham and Sarah)
Chapter 18 Fellowship with God and prayer for Sodom
Chapter 19 Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; Lot's salvation; origin of Moab and Ammon
Chapter 20 Abraham's failure with Abimelech
Chapter 21 Birth of Isaac and separation from Hagar and Ishmael
2. Chapter 22:1-26:33 Isaac, the son of the promise
a. Chapter 22:1-25:18 Abraham and Isaac: a prophetic view
Chapter 22 The offering of Isaac (Romans 8:32): Death of Christ
Chapter 23 Sarah's death and burial: Setting aside of Israel
Chapter 24 Isaac marries Rebekah: Calling of the bride
Chapter 25:1-18 Abraham's re-marriage and Isaac's inheritance: Millennium
b. Chapter 25:19-34 Isaac's son's Esau and Jacob: Election of grace (Romans 9:6-14)
c. Chapter 26:1-33 Isaac and the country of the Philistines: Failure and blessing
3. Chapter 26:34-37 Jacob-Israel, or the education of the Spirit
a. Chapter 26:34-28:22 Esau and Jacob
Chapter 26:34-35 The wives of Esau
Chapter 27 Jacob deceitfully gets the blessing
Chapter 28 Jacob's flight to Mesopotamia
b. Chapter 29:1-31:55 Jacob's stay with Laban
Chapter 29 Jacob marries Leah and Rachel
Chapter 30 Jacob's sons
Chapter 31 Jacob's return to Canaan
c. Chapter 31:1-37:1 Jacob in Canaan
Chapter 32 Jacob's fight with God and new name (Israel)
Chapter 33 Jacob meets Esau
Chapter 34 Dinah and Shechem
Chapter 35 Jacob goes to Bethel; birth of Benjamin and death of Rachel
Chapter 36:1-37:1 Esau and his descendants; final word
4. Chapter 37:2-50:26 Joseph, type of the rejected and glorified Christ
a. Chapter 37:2-36 Joseph's dreams and imprisonment in Egypt
b. Chapter 38:1-30 Judah and Tamar
c. Chapter 39:1-41:57Joseph's humiliation and exaltation
Chapter 39 Joseph and Potiphar's wife
Chapter 40 Joseph interprets the dreams of Pharaoh's servants
Chapter 41 Pharaoh's dreams and Joseph's liberation
d. Chapter 42:1-47:31 The seven lean years
Chapter 42 Joseph's brothers in Egypt
Chapter 43 The second journey of Joseph's brothers to Egypt
Chapter 44 The conscience of the brothers begins to awake
Chapter 45 Joseph makes himself known
Chapter 46 Jacob comes to Egypt
Chapter 47 Jacob blesses Pharaoh; Joseph, the "saviour of the world"
e. Chapter 48:1-50:26 The end of Jacob and Joseph
Chapter 48 Jacob blesses Ephraim and Manasseh
Chapter 49 Jacob blesses his twelve sons and dies
Chapter 50 Jacob's burial and Joseph's death: The hope of the inheritance
the Fifth Week after Epiphany