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A Quick Glance at Genesis
by Winn Griffin,
Encountering Genesis: An
Genesis, often viewed as an epic drama, is the first
of the five books called the Pentateuch. The Jews considered the Pentateuch as
one book. Genesis derives its name from the Hebrew word bereshith
(pronounced ba ra sheeth). In English we translate it in the beginning.
The name Genesis comes from the Septuagint (LXX). The
is a Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible that was translated in the
Parts of the Pentateuch are credited to Moses (Exodus
31.24f.). Moses, most likely, was responsible for the choice of the
material that appears in these five books without actually writing every word
within them. While there are several views about how Genesis (and the other
four books of the
came together, it seems wise to understand that the choice and arrangement of
these books are the work of Moses.
The book of Genesis is comprised of two parts. The
first eleven chapters provide the reader with a general history of primeval
times. The exact period of time that occurred in these eleven chapters cannot
be determined. At
a shift in the story occurs. Abraham and his family become the focus of the
The date of the life of Moses is often fixed at about
1370 B.C., while some scholars choose 1250
B.C. Moses may have first told these stories in this
form in the desert while Israel was at Mt. Sinai.
At the core of the beginning stories in Genesis 1-11
is the focus on worshiping God and not straying into the worship of other gods.
Within the land that God had promised Israel, through his word to Abraham, the
second generation would face many temptations of which the prominent one would
be worshipping other gods, not unlike their parents experienced in the
wilderness. Worshiping God and not other gods is a key to understanding the
stories in Genesis.
Understanding Genesis: A Quick Glance
Four Specific Events
1.1-2.25. These two chapters provide the account of the
creation. This is not a scientific account of creation. It is a theological
account. Understanding these two chapters will help you comprehend the value
that God placed on his creation of which humankind is the crown.
Fall: 3.1-5.32.. The story of humankind's temptation and fall
prepares the reader to understand that the world in its fallen condition could
not be laid at the feet of God. God judges Eve, Adam, and the serpent, and
expels Adam and Eve from the Garden. The idea of paradise and a return to it by
God's creation is the ultimate story of the rest of Scripture.
6.1-9.29. The horror stories in today's world do not compare
with the ultimate horror story of the flood. Mankind, in rebellion to God, is
destroyed because infiltrated into every aspect of their lives was sin. In the
midst of turmoil, Noah found grace in God's eyes and followed his instructions
to build an ark in order to escape the judgment of God-the flood. God gave Noah
a promise about the world and future judgments. The stories of Noah's children
are told with all their warts.
10.1-11.26. At Babel, sin found its pinnacle. God confused the
languages of mankind so that mankind would not become like God. This is the
conclusion of the stories of primeval history. The story of Salvation History
begins with the story of Abraham.
11.27-23.20. Genesis now tells the story of the beginning of the
children of God through his fulfilled promises to Abraham. From Ur, Abraham
moves to Haran along the trade routes of
the ancient world. God took Abraham on a journey into Canaan where he was shown
that he would become the father of a great nation and that God would provide a
land for this nation to settle into and own. There are three sets of stories:
Abraham's separation from Lot; the birth of his son Ishmael through Hagar; and
the story of the birth of Isaac, the true heir that God promised to
Isaac: 24.1-26.35. The story of God's dealings with Isaac and
his sons Esau and Jacob.
27.1-36.43. This section tells the story of Jacob stealing
Esau's birthright from him and fleeing. During the separation, God provided
safety to Jacob. Finally, Jacob and Esau are reunited.
37.1-50.26. Joseph was a young arrogant individual whom God
visited in dreams, through which God shared with him his destiny in life. In
haste to become what he had dreamed about, he shared his dreams with his father
and brothers. His brothers responded by selling him into slavery to Egypt.
Through many temptations and trials Joseph allowed God's guidance to prevail in
his life. From the pit of the prison to the pinnacle of position, God worked
things out for good in the life of Joseph. .
Reading the stories is important in order to
understand what God was saying to his children and thus still saying to us.
Here are some ways to read Genesis.
According to its focus on generations:
According to its focus on beginnings:
- The beginning of the world.
A denial of Atheism, Polytheism, Fatalism, Evolution, Pantheism, and
- The beginning of sin.
The model the enemy uses: tempting (3.1-6),
and the results (3.7-24)
- The beginning family.
The heritage, ancestry, and origin of our family roots.
- The beginning of God's work to restore mankind.
The faithfulness of God to his promises.
According to its focus on special people:
- Abraham: Supernatural Call
- Isaac: Supernatural Birth
- Jacob: Supernatural Care
- Joseph: Supernatural Control
Thoughts To Contemplate
- The world exists because there is a God and because
he chose to create the world.
- When God is in control, things go well. When we
are in control, things don't go so well.
- Even when we reject God and commit sin, he does
not reject us.
- God acted in history. His acts occur now in our
- Daily life is to be lived out as the person that
God created you to be. While you live in a fallen world, you are the light
through which others, lost in the darkness, can find real meaning and a new
beginning in their life.
- God is a God of beginnings. Where would you like
for him to make a new beginning in your life? Let him!
It is always important to apply what you have learned.
Pause at this point and ask for the help of the Holy Spirit to help you
meditate on and put into practice some or all of the following.
- Why is it important to view the first part of
Genesis as theology and not science?
- How does God's idea of paradise influence the way
you think and act today? o In what way does the story of Noah cause you to be
alert to the infiltration of sin into your life?
- Why is the idea of Salvation History important to
the understanding of the Old Testament?
Read the following Dictionary Articles from
Easton's Bible Dictionary, or the International Standard Bible
Encyclopedia. Easton's is about a century old, therefore, some of
the information is not current with newer Bible Dictionaries. ISBE is
about seventy-five years old. You might read the articles off-line in a number
of different Bible Dictionaries. If you do not own a Bible Dictionary, I would
Bible Dictionary 3rd Edition. If you like lots of color pictures, try
The Revell Bible Dictionary now out of print but still
can be ordered from amazon.com. One of these should suit your personal
Copyright © 2001, Winn Griffin.
All rights reserved. BibleJourney: An Almost Weekly Bible Study is a service of
SBL Ministries. Unless otherwise stated, scripture quotations are from the
International Standard Version (ISV) of the Bible®. Copyright
© 2001 by The ISV Foundation, 2200 N. Grand Ave., Santa Ana, CA
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