Genesis — Book of Beginnings — Overview


Why Study the Book of Genesis?  Significant in 5 key ways

1)  Significant from its TitleBook of Beginnings (transliteration from the Greek translation of the Septuagint); books named by the first word in the book; Book of Origins – looked at this idea last week; need to understand both our origins and our destiny – Jesus identified Himself by the title: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end

First book of the Bible and first book of the Pentateuch – 5 books of the Pentateuch are really viewed as 1 book with 1 author – that will be important when we come to discuss authorship

But many evangelical scholars today would question whether Genesis is scientifically accurate when it comes to explaining the origin of life on earth.  Maybe it is just a mythological adaptation that has theological application but was never intended to be interpreted literally.

Albert Mohler begs to disagree:

Theological disaster ensues when the book of nature (general revelation) is used to trump God’s special revelation, when science is placed over Scripture as authoritative and compelling. And that is the very heart of this discussion. While some would argue that the Scriptures are not in danger, the current conversation on this subject is leading down a path that will do irrevocable harm to our evangelical affirmation of the accuracy and authority of God’s Word.

So our understanding of the inerrancy of Scripture is at stake in how we interpret the book of Genesis.

Certainly it is a controversial bookDerek Kidner:

There can scarcely be another part of Scripture over which so many battles, theological, scientific, historical and literary, have been fought, or so many strong opinions cherished

2)  Significant as the Foundation for so many important doctrines – you can’t expect to skip the level 101 course in any discipline and then fully understand the material that is built on that foundation

Sidlow Baxter:

The other writings of the Bible are inseparably bound up with it inasmuch as it gives us the origin and initial explanation of all that follows. The major themes of Scripture may be compared to great rivers, ever deepening and broadening as they flow; and it is true to say that all these rivers have their rise in the watershed of Genesis. Or, to use on equally appropriate figure, as the massive trunk and wide-spreading branches of the oak are in the acorn, so, by implication and anticipation, all Scripture is in Genesis. Here we have in germ all that is later developed. It has been truly said that “the roots of all subsequent revelation are planted deep in Genesis, and whoever would truly comprehend that revelation must begin here.

Our understanding of the rest of the OT and of the NT and of how Jesus Christ fulfills prophecies relating to God’s plan for redemption must start with an understanding of the first book, the foundational book, the book of Genesis

What doctrines are introduced here?  Just some of the basic ones:  set against the background of the paganism of the countries the nation of Israel

a. Sovereignty and Providence of God

sovereign in creation … but not some type of deistic view where God becomes disengaged; instead God is sovereign in governing the world He created and providentially ordering the affairs of mankind to accomplish His purposes

b. Goodness of God

we see that in Creation; we see that in His providence – testimony of Joseph after being so mistreated by his brothers

Gen. 50:20As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.”

Rom. 8:28  “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

Very practical side to studying Genesis –

Rom. 15:4For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope

Story of Joseph and his perseverance should give each of us hope

1 Cor. 10 speaks of the value of OT examples

c. Power of God

d. Divine Election

Parunak: Note alternation between chosen and rejected lines, emphasizing the selection that is going on throughout the book.

e. Importance of Truth vs. Deception

lies told by Abraham to try to save his life

name Jacob – deceiver; his interaction with twin brother Esau

f. Doctrine of Sin, of Depravity

g. God’s Plan of Redemption

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The first promise of redemption is definite but largely undefined in Genesis 3:15: “He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.”

Later in Genesis we learn that the world will be blessed through Abraham (12:3).

The line through which Messiah would come was through Isaac, not Ishmael; Jacob, not Esau.

Finally in Genesis we see that Israel’s coming ruler will be of the tribe of Judah: “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples (Genesis 49:10).

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Christ is also seen in people and events that serve as types (a “type” is a historical fact that illustrates a spiritual truth). Adam is “a type of Him who is to come” (Rom 5:14). Both entered the world through a special act of God as sinless men. Adam is the head of the old creation; Christ is the Head of the new creation. Abel’s acceptable offering of a blood sacrifice points to Christ, and there is a parallel in his murder by Cain. Melchizedek (“righteous king”) is “made like the Son of God” (Heb 7:3). He is the King of Salem (“peace”) who brings forth bread and wine and is the priest of the Most High God. Joseph is also a type of Christ. Joseph and Christ are both objects of special love by their Fathers, both are hated by their brethren, both are rejected as rulers over their brethren, both are conspired against and sold for silver, both are condemned though innocent, and both are raised from humiliation to glory by the power of God.

3)  Significant because it is Widely Quoted in the NT – what did Jesus think about the book of Genesis?  What did the Apostle Paul think about the book of Genesis?

John 5:46  “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me.”

Luke 24:27  “Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.”

John 1:45


There are at least 165 passages in Genesis that are either directly quoted or clearly referred to in the New Testament. Many of these are alluded to more than once, so that there are at least two hundred quotations or allusions to Genesis in the New Testament … there exist over one hundred quotations or direct references to Genesis 1-11 in the New Testament. Furthermore, every one of these eleven chapters is alluded to somewhere in the New Testament, and every one of the New Testament authors refers somewhere in his writings to Genesis 1-11. On at least six different occasions, Jesus Christ Himself quoted from or referred to something or someone in one of these chapters, including specific reference to each of the first seven chapters.

Genesis is quoted from over 200 times in the New Testament. In fact chapters 1-11 is quoted more than 100 times in the New Testament. It’s not just mentioned but you’ll find it being quoted word for word over 165 in the New Testament.

4)  Significant because it clearly shows how man is accountable to his Creator.


When we compromise the Bible statements about our origin, we invariably end up being confused about our purpose in life and our destiny. Humanistic evolution, for example, denies the creation and says we came by evolutionary forces (chance). The logical consequence would be that there is no real purpose for life, and there is no life after death. We can understand our purpose and goal only when we understand our origin.

If Genesis didn’t matter … If God didn’t care if we believe in a literal six day creation, in how He formed Eve out of Adam, in the institution of marriage as between one man and one woman created in the image of God and joined together in a unique one-flesh relationship, in the historicity of the universal flood of Noah’s day, in the details of the lives of the Jewish patriarchs, then God would have left Genesis out of the canon of 66 inspired books of scripture.

5)  Foundational to a Christian world view – essential in light of Israel’s immersion in a pagan culture surrounding by alternative world views just as we are today –

Brian Borgman develops this – we will look at this aspect next week


Sidlow Baxter, in his excellent work,Explore the Book, sums up the difficulty of authorship by the question,“Is it Mosaic [from Moses], or a mosaic [tapestry constructed from multiple sources]?”

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Traditionally, Moses has been held to be the author of Genesis over the centuries. A number of inferential evidences favor this conclusion. It would appear from a number of passages (e.g., Exodus 17:14; 24:4; 34:27; Leviticus 1:1; 4:1; 6:1,8,19,24; 7:22,28, etc.) that Moses wrote the other books of the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). It would indeed be unusual for the first word of Exodus to be “and” unless Moses wrote it as well.

In the New Testament, our Lord seemingly attributes the Pentateuch to Moses (Matt 8:4; 19:7,8; Mark 1:44; 7:10; 10:3,4; Luke 5:14; 16:29,31; John 5:45,46; 7:22,23). Other New Testament writers follow this same approach (Acts 3:22, 13:39; Rom 10:5,19; I Cor 9:9; II Cor 3:15). It is therefore hard not to conclude that Moses wrote all the Pentateuch, in spite of no one air-tight statement to this effect.

Critics have not been content with this conclusion, however. Beginning with J. Astruc (1753), “scholars” have attributed this book to the work of an unknown redactor who skillfully compiled the writings of four or more editors. Generally the four primary sources are referred to as J, E, D, and P. J is the “Yahwist”; E, the “Elohist”; D is the work of the Deuteronomist; and P, the priestly document.

Several lines of evidence are given to support the Graf-Wellhausen or Documentary hypothesis. First would be the different names which are employed for God. For those who hold to the Documentary hypothesis, the change from Elohim to Yahweh signals a change of author. One major flaw in this approach is that within “E” passages the word Yahweh is also employed (e.g. Genesis 22:11, 14; 28:17-22) and vice-versa.

Secondly, we are pointed to different expressions referring to some act, such as that of making a covenant. “Cut a covenant,” “give a covenant,” and “establish a covenant” are variously employed, by the different authors of the Pentateuch. This leaves the author with no opportunity for stylistic change or for a change in the nuance of a word. One would hate to write under such restrictions today.

Thirdly, we are told that the Pentateuch contains “doublets,” that is duplicate accounts of the same event. One such instance would be the two creation accounts in Genesis 1 and 2. Worse yet are supposed “doublets” where there is any semblance of similarity between two accounts, such as Hagar’s two departures from home (Genesis 16, 21).

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David Pratte:

The Documentary Hypothesis or Graf-Wellhausen Theory states that different parts of the Pentateuch (not just Genesis but the Pentateuch) must have originally been written by different uninspired authors, whose writings may have been collected by some editors (called redactors) long after Moses died. This view is said to be necessary to explain supposed contradictions and different writing styles found in different sections of the books. But such a theory proves nothing. Many writers use different styles at different times for different purposes. Such an approach could just as easily be used to “prove” that modern books were written by more than one author despite the fact we know each one was written by just one author.

Horne reminds us that Moses wrote this inspired record over 2000 years after the creation and many other events in the book actually occurred. At the time Moses wrote, the nations surrounding Israel were steeped in idolatry, especially in the land of Canaan that they were promised to receive as an inheritance. In contrast to the fables and myths of idolatry, the record of Genesis served to give a true account of the character and nature of the true God, the true record of the creation of earth and mankind, the origin of sin and of God’s plan to provide salvation for mankind, including the role of the nation of Israel in that plan.

Gleason Archer, Jr.: Two considerations reinforce this impression of single authorship in Genesis.

1) The first is the significant use of the term toledot (generations, offspring, descendants) to introduce most of the main sections of the outline.

2) The second unitary consideration is found in the technique of the author in dealing with ancestral figures who are not of the chosen line. . .  The author’s motive in each case seems to dispose more briefly of the non-elect branches of the human line before taking up the genealogy of those patriarchs who had a genuine faith in Jehovah.


 1. Grammatical structure

Dr. MacArthur, Van Parunak … many other Hebrew scholars and bible expositors have adopted this as their central approach to the book.  Based on the repetition of the recurring phrase “the records of the generations of”  the history of, the story of …  toledot

But in my way of thinking, this is a pretty bland approach to such earthshaking material.

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Genesis traces two lines: the line of the rebellious offspring of the serpent and the line of the blessed offspring of the woman (Gen. 3:15). In Genesis 4, the rebellious line of Cain culminates in the seventh generation with the murderer Lamech (Gen. 4:23–24). In Genesis 5, the blessed line of Seth culminates in the seventh generation with Enoch, who “walked with God, and he was not” (Gen. 5:24), and in the tenth generation with Noah (Gen. 5:29).

From the Table of Nations in Genesis 10, the narrative zooms in on the blessed line of Shem (Gen. 11:10–26) and Terah, the father of Abraham (11:27–30). The story of Abraham and the patriarchs in Genesis 12–50 revolves around the struggle for the birth of blessed offspring (e.g., Isaac, Jacob) in contrast to the rebellious (e.g., Ishmael, Esau). The line of blessed offspring sets a trajectory from Genesis through the Old Testament, eventually culminating in the genealogy of Jesus, “the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God” (Luke 3:36).

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2. Geographical structure

Three clear divisions

Geography                                                      Timeframe

  1. Mesopotamia – chaps. 1-11                       (Creation to ca. 2090 BC)
  2. The Promised Land – chaps. 12-36           (2090-1897 BC)
  3. Egypt – chaps. 37-50                                 (1897-1804 BC)

So as the treatment gets longer in terms of number of chapters and focus, the timeframe gets compressed and more detail is provided – a common characteristic of Progressive Revelation.

  1. Thematic structure or Overall Content

Two basic Divisions:

  1. Primitive History – chaps. 1-11 – widening ruin of man
  2. Patriarchal History – chaps. 12-50 – narrowing work of God in redemptive history
  3. Abraham    (12:1-25:18)
  4. Isaac           (25:19-26:35)
  5. Jacob          (27-36)
  6. Joseph        (37-50)


Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

Genesis 3:15: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.

Genesis 12:1-3: “Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’”

Genesis 17:7  “I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you.”


David Malick:

  1. To present man’s revolt against his Maker and its terrible consequences

  2. To provide the historical basis for the covenant of promise with Abraham whereby God will graciously bring about the solution to man’s revolt

  3. To encourage faith in YHWH by introducing His election and separation of Israel to Himself as a resolution to the terrible consequences to mankind’s revolt


The real theme of the Pentateuch is the selection of Israel from the nations and its consecration to the service of God and His Laws in a divinely appointed land. The central event in the development of this theme is the divine covenant with Abraham and its … promise to make his offspring into the people of God and to give them the land of Canaan as an everlasting inheritance.

David MurrayMessage of Genesis:

  • Originally — God’s power to create order in life out of disorder and darkness in the universe and in individual lives should encourage Israel to leave the disorder and darkness of Egypt behind them and confidently move to the order and light of Canaan

  • To us today: Should encourage the new Israel of the church to leave the darkness of the old world and move towards the new Canaan