An Overview of Genesis

Divine Author: God the Holy Spirit “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).

Human Author: Moses is the assumed author.

Date: c. 1440-1400 BC

Setting: Ur of the Chaldees, Canaan, Egypt  

Key Verse: Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”           

Theme : The origin of all things

General Facts: 1st Book of the Bible; 50 Chapters; 1, 533 Verses

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In the Book of Genesis, the origin of every facet of creation is introduced. Since God is not a created being, but is eternal, the Scriptures do not seek to prove His existence, but merely assert, “In the beginning God” (v. 1). If a person can believe the first four words of the Bible, the rest will prove no difficulty in accepting.

In the Book of Genesis, the three greatest questions of life are answered.

Question: “Where did I come from?”
Answer: “I came from the hand of the God who created me.” Genesis 1:27; 5:2

Question: “Why am I here?”
Answer: “I am here to know God and enjoy Him forever.” Genesis 3:8

Question: “Where am I going?”
Answer: “If I believe in God, I am going to a better place.” Genesis 15:6

In the Book of Genesis is the protoevangelium, a compound of two Greek words, protos, meaning “first” and “evangelion”, meaning, “good news,” or, “gospel”. The protoevanglium in Genesis 3:15 is the first mention of the good news of salvation in Scripture. It is the Old Testament counterpart to John 3:16 in the New Testament.

The Covenant of Grace Promised. “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:15).

Consider

The Lord promised that one day a seed, or descendant, of the woman, would crush the head of the serpent. The meaning is that one day Messiah would destroy the works of the devil. However, the blow that be struck was not to be delivered without a cost for, the serpent was to bruise the heel of the Messiah.

The Covenant of Grace Fulfilled. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Two Major Division in the Book of Genesis: First Division: Genesis 1 – 11

The early chapters of Genesis record the creation (1 -2); the Fall of Man (3 -5); the Flood (6 – 9); and the origin of nations, following the incident at the Tower of Babel (10 -11).

We find in the Book of Genesis that God created a beautiful universe that was very good, until sin entered into the world. There was the sin of Satan, and then the sin of Adam. Study Isaiah 14; Romans 5

The entry of sin into God’s creation led to a universal change in nature, and the necessity for a plan of salvation, lest everything perish. In the Garden of Eden, where sin abounded, grace did much more abound, as the protoevangelium was proclaimed (3:15).

The gospel was needed because every imagination of man’s heart became evil, continually (6:5). In white-hot holy anger, God was determined to judge mankind with a universal flood. But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord (6:8). Eight lives would be spared, the cleansed earth would be repopulated, and God’s Covenant of Grace would be honored.

The Second Fall, After the Flood

Unfortunately, after the Flood, Noah too fell into sin, with far reaching consequences. After planting a vineyard, Noah enjoyed the fruit of his labors to the point he became inebriated. While Noah was drunk, one of his sons does something shameful to his father. “And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him” (Gen. 9:24). Once more, a “new Adam” is found naked, and ashamed. The downward spiral of human depravity continues, leading to the foundation of the city of Babylon.

A Tower of Confusion

Following the story of Noah, and the curse he put on Canaan, the son of Ham, the Bible details a Table of Nations in Genesis 10. There was a population explosion as the descendants of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth spread out over the Mesopotamia Valley.

It was an amazing time in human history, for “the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech” (11:1). People were connected in life, and united in any purpose that was undertaken. Unfortunately, the unity of the human race became its greatest source of danger. The Bible explains the Lord’s concern. “And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do” (11:6).

With their ability to build bigger and better buildings, the Lord knew the people in the Mesopotamia Valley (modern Iraq) would build a monument to human pride leading to false worship. To arrest this madness, the Lord humbled the people by confusing their tongues in order to scatter them.

A Common Theme Genesis 1 – 11

If there is a common theme to the stories of Genesis 1 – 11, it is that the opportunities the Lord gives individuals are squander through rebellion, lack of self-control, and inordinate pride. A good world can be turned into an evil place when the Lord is forsaken, and humanity is exalted. However, there is hope, for the first section ends with promise still in view of a Wounded Victor who would come to defeat evil, and crush the head of the serpent. The Lord will bless, and preserve His world.

Second Division: Genesis 12 – 50

Chapters 12 – 50 of Genesis records the history of the Patriarchs. Four individuals are prominent: Abraham (12 – 25:8); Isaac (21:1-35); Jacob (25:21-50:4); and Joseph (30:22 – 50:26).

Because God works His plan of redemption through individuals, the man named Abram (Heb. “exalted father”), from Ur of the Chaldees (modern Sanlurfa, Turkey) was chosen to give birth to a race that would become a nation, that would produce the Savior of the world, the Son of God, the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

 A Closer Look

To facilitate the coming Messiah, God called the man Abram to become the father of a great nation that would be known as Israel. “And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing” (Gen. 12:2). To confirm this Covenant of Promise, the Lord made a Covenant with Abram (17:1-22), and changed his name to Abraham (Heb. “father of a multitude”). Abraham gave birth to Isaac, who gave birth to Jacob, to whom were born the leaders of the tribes of Israel.

Seven Promises of the Abrahamic Covenant: Genesis 12:2-3; 15:1- 6; 17:1-16

  • There is the promise of a great nation through Abraham.
  • There is the promise of a personal blessing on Abraham.
  • There is the promise the name of Abraham shall be great.
  • There is the promise Abraham is to be a blessing to others.
  • There is the promise that a blessing will rest on those blessing Abraham.
  • There is the promise that a curse will rest on those who curse Abraham.
  • There is the promise that all nations of the earth will be blessed through Abraham.

Abraham obeyed the Lord. He left Ur and made his way to Canaan in order to possess the land, which God said would be given to him. “And he said unto him )Abraham(, I am the Lord that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it” (Gen. 15:7).

Boundaries of the Promised Land Different Spirit

I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them”

~ Amos 9:15

Some 3,500 years ago the Canaanites inhabited the land that God promised to give to the offspring of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (see Timeline). God promised that He would give the land of Israel to the Jewish people as an eternal possession. The promise was unconditional. God confirmed it at least 55 times with an oath, and stated at least 12 times that the covenant was everlasting.

God did bring the Israelites into the Promised Land forty years after the Exodus from Egypt. Israel reached the peak of her power some 500 years later under King Solomon.

Israel entered the Promised Land, and hundreds of years later, under King Solomon, they occupied a large part, but not all, of the territory which God had promised to them. Israel was required to obey the Law of Moses, and, when they failed, God thrust them out of the land. However, God’s promise that they will inherit the land still stands. We see the Jews being brought back to the Promised Land in our day. We expect that God’s word will be fulfilled, and that they will enter their full inheritance. The next question is: What are the boundaries of the Promised Land as described in the Bible?

Scripture indicates that the boundaries of the Promised Land are as follows:

NORTH

From the Great Sea, or Western Sea – other names for the Mediterranean – through what is Lebanon and Syria today, to the Euphrates River in the north (Genesis 15:18; Deuteronomy 11:24; Ezekiel 47:17; Joshua 1:4).

SOUTH

From the Red Sea, in the region of Eilat today, to the Sea of the Philistines, which would be the Mediterranean Sea near Gaza. This southern line was to a point called the River of Egypt, or the wadi of Egypt on the Great Sea – another name for the Mediterranean. (Exodus 23:31; Ezekiel 47:19; Genesis 15:18).

EAST

From the Euphrates River in the north, extending south, past Damascus, along the slopes on the eastern side of the Sea of Kinnereth, what we know as the Golan Heights today. The Kinnereth is also called the Eastern Sea in Scripture, and is what we know as the Sea of Galilee.

The Jordan River rises in the mountains of Lebanon and runs south to the Sea of Galilee. At the southern end of the Sea of Galilee the Jordan River flows out and along the Jordan Valley to enter the Dead Sea. The eastern side of the Jordan River, south of the Golan Heights, represents the boundary of the Promised Land (Numbers 34:11-12; Ezekiel 47:18).

WEST

The coastline of the Mediterranean – called, in those days, the Great Sea (Numbers 34:6; Ezekiel 47:20).

Although some of the geographical reference points mentioned in Scripture are difficult for us to identify, God knows the full area into which He is going to bring Israel. We know enough to be sure that Israel is not in her full inheritance yet.

The Bible refers to significant points that we can identify – the Sea of Kinnereth, being the Sea of Galilee; the Salt Sea, being the Dead Sea; and places such as Gaza and Sidon, where there is no doubt about the ancient location. Archaeology has given us proof.

What we can say is that the Promised Land stretches from the Red Sea, around Eilat, as a southern boundary, to the Mediterranean at a point south of Gaza, and extending from there up the coastline at least as far north as Sidon in Lebanon, to form the western boundary, then north to the Euphrates River, to form the northern boundary, and down the line of the Jordan River, to form the eastern boundary.

This area would encompass the Palestinian territories of the West Bank, also called Judea, and Samaria, and Gaza. Certain world leaders may be looking for the establishment of a Palestinian state separate from Israel, but God’s Word makes a different judgment. God says that this is the land that He promised to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Scripture shows that God has a dispute with those who are involved in “dividing up My land” (Joel 3:1-2).

A Kingdom of Priests

The nation of Israel, which God established in Abraham, would become a blessing to all the other nations on earth created by God, for Israel was to be a Kingdom of Priests. “And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel” (Exodus 19:6).

The High Priest, in this kingdom of priests is the King Himself, Jesus Christ, the Righteous one. “For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him” (Heb. 7:1).

Repetitive Sin in the Seed of Abraham

The development of the family of Abraham is the focus of attention in Genesis 12 – 50.

An Unfolding Narrative

  • Abraham: Genesis 12 – 25a
  • Isaac and Jacob: Genesis 24b – 36
  • Jacob’s Twelve Sons: Genesis 37 – 50

There is a cyclical narrative in the lives of the descendants of Abraham of bad decisions, being followed by God’s faithfulness. The tragedy is that one generation never learns enough from the previous generation to stop sinning.

In matters of machinery and education, one generation builds upon another. However, in the matter of morality, righteousness is never passed on. One reason for this is that evil is militant. Another reason is that sin is a mutant, and is able to change its form. There are depths to sin that are deeper still. If the essence of sin remains static, the variant expressions of evil are legendary. The sin saturated imagination can be very creative, but always self-destructive, and other destructive. An eternity in hell will not arrest, or quench, the insatiable lusts that drive sin.

 The Bad Decisions of Abraham Genesis 12 and 20

The ability to make a bad decision is reflected in the life of Abraham. On two occasions, Abraham, the man of faith, lost his confidence in God, and thought it expedient to lie. In Genesis 12:10-20, Abraham instructs Sarai to tell Pharaoh that she is his sister. In Genesis 20:1-18, Abraham tells king Abimelech that Sarah is his sister. Because one sin leads to another, the lies Abraham told about Sara were a betrayal of her, and placed her in a position to be sexually abused.

Ishmael and Isaac Genesis 16

If lying was not bad enough, Abraham agreed to have a surrogate son by one of his servants, Hagar. The child born of this unholy union has influenced world history down through the centuries, to the present hour. The descendants of Ishmael, the Arabs, hate the Jews, and vice versa. There is blood in the sand in the Middle East because Abraham tried to circumvent the plan of God. Nevertheless, the Lord proved Himself faithful. Abraham and Sarah did have a son, and they called him Isaac. Study Genesis 17:1-22; 18:1-15; 21:1-8

Circumcision, the Mark of the Covenant

The mark of the Covenant the Lord made with Abraham was to be circumcision. “And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. 10 This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. 11 And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you” (Gen. 17:9-11).

Why did God require circumcision as the sign of the Covenant? The honest answer is this: no one knows. It has been suggested that the act of circumcision was demanded because it requires the shedding of blood. In Leviticus we find that “the life of the flesh is in the blood”, and it is “blood that makes an atonement for the soul. “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul” (Lev. 17:11).

The blood of circumcision opened the way of entrance into the Abrahamic Covenant, and thereby became a type of the way individuals enter into the New Covenant, through the blood of Christ.  “And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission” (Heb. 9:22).

Esau and Jacob Genesis 25b – 36

With the death of Abraham at the age of 175, which is said to be “a good old age” (Gen. 25:8), attention is turned in Genesis to Isaac, and his sons, Esau and Jacob. Even while the children were being birthed, Jacob lived up to his name, “supplanter” (v. 26).

Person, Age at Death

Terah, 205: Genesis 11:32
Sarah, 127: Genesis 23:1
Abraham, 175: Genesis 15:15; 25:7-8
Ishmael, 137: Genesis 25:17
Isaac, 180: Genesis 35:28      

As a gifted supplanter and deceiver, Jacob found a way to get Esau to relinquish his birthright. Then, Jacob deceived his old, blind father, Isaac, to give him the blessing before fleeing to dwell in Haran in Mesopotamia. Study Genesis 27:1 – 28:9

Though he loved Rachel, Jacob would take her sister Leah as a wife, and then bed two female servants who would produce, collectively, twelve sons.  These sons would form the 12 tribes of Israel.

Reaping What is Sown

In spite of his questionable behavior, the Lord honored Jacob according to His own principle of grace. Jacob prospered in Haran, even when his uncle Laban deceived him, and cheated him out of many years of wages. Study Genesis 28:10 – 33:20; 35:1-12

It was a different man who returned to his homeland after an absence of twenty years. Jacob is a humble man, willing to make restitution to his brother Esau. He is also a desperate man, desperate enough to wrestle with the Angel of the Lord until he is blessed saying, “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.” Study Genesis 32:3-32

A New Name

God honored Jacob’s determination, and passed the blessing of Abraham on to Jacob. Then, the Lord renamed Jacob, Israel (Heb. “wrestles with God”). “And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. 28 And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed” (Gen. 32:27-28).

The Sons of Jacob Genesis 37 – 50

In the closing chapters of Genesis, the sons of Jacob are prominent. Of particular importance is the story of Joseph being love by Jacob, and hated by his jealous brothers who sell him into slavery. In the providence of God, Joseph survives many great challenges to become a powerful man in the court of Pharaoh. Joseph was able to save the nation of Egypt, and rescue his family from famine. What his brothers meant for evil, God meant for good. Study Genesis 37 – 46

The Book of Genesis ends with the great testimony that God is faithful. God rules in the affairs of men. One day a King will come who will command the obedience of all the nations on earth. “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be” (Gen 49:10).

Lesson to Learn from Genesis

Made in the Image of God

When the Bible says that men and women are made in the image of God, the reference is their character. An image resembles, and represents someone, or something. To say that humans are made in the image of God is to say that men and women are like God in some way.

To be specific, men and women are like God in moral qualities, such as a desire for righteousness (Eph. 4:24), ethical perfection (Matt. 5:48), personal purity (1 John 3:2, 9), love (1 John 3:16-18), forgiveness (Matt. 6:14; Col. 3:13); humility (Phil. 2:3-11), holiness (Eph. 4:24), and knowledge (Col. 3:10). Men and women are like God in exercising their will, in the power to reason (Isaiah 1:18), and in the power to procreate.

The image of God in man is not an exact image (Isaiah 55:9), but it is real, for to men and women is given the power to exercise dominion over a small part of God’s creation. “Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: 7 All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; 8 The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas” (Psalm 8:6-8).

The Origin of Sin

In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were given a choice. They could obey God by not eating of forbidden fruit, or, they could try to seize autonomy, and define good and evil themselves. Acting as a Federal Representative of the Human Race, Adam consciously rebelled against God and ate the forbidden fruit. The immediate result was death. “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Rom. 5:12). The only way to reverse the curse is to go to another tree, at Calvary, and embrace Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, as the Roman centurion did so long ago. “Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God” (Matt. 27:54).

The rebellion of Adam against God was preceded by the rebellion of Satan against the Most High, for Lucifer asserted his own will against the Lord five times. 

“How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! 13 For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High.15 Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit” (Isaiah 14:12-15).

Wanting Something More

When the serpent appears in Genesis 3, there is no introduction. What is introduced is the idea that Adam and Eve were not made in the image of God, but could be. It is this idea of wanting something more that is the key to understanding how Satan gets the advantage over people.

Consider

During the 1960 presidential election, Senator John F. Kennedy built his political campaign around the idea of “something more.” “Life is good in America,” he acknowledged, “but under my administration, there is something more to be enjoyed. We can do better.” That was the essence of his message. And, it worked. The idea of wanting “something more”, is powerful. It was persuasive in the Garden of Eden, and it was persuasive in a presidential campaign.

Sin Brings Calamity

There are always casualties in sin. When Adam and Eve sinned against God, they immediately found they no longer trusted each other. Hiding their shame with fig leaves, the man turned against the woman, who turned against the serpent. Worse, the intimacy they enjoyed with the Lord was gone.

Because of sin, every facet of life is accompanied by sadness, sorrow, and grief. Women must bring forth children in pain and great agony. Men must work harder, and by the sweat of their brow. The children often grow up to hate mom and dad, or one another, as Cain hated Able, and murdered him.

Marriage is Not to be Polluted

Because of sin, marriage itself has been polluted. There is polygamy, instituted by Lamech, an ungodly descendant of Cain. Lamech married two wives, and committed murder, just like his great-great-great grandfather (Gen. 4:16-18). Today, the institution of marriage is assaulted by abortion, and the homosexual agenda.

Scripture is Not to be Sensationalized

Care must be taken not to sensationalize Scripture reflected in the idea that fallen angels cohabited with women on earth to create a race of giants, the Nephilim (Gen. 6:1-4). Just because proud individuals claim they descended from the gods, does not justify the Church passing on unworthy narratives.

The Sovereignty of God will Overrule Man

The promises God made to Abram is a reflection of the Lord’s sovereignty overruling the generation that had gathered at the Tower of Babel (Gen. 11). At Babel, a spirit of rebellion motivated the people to settle into a large city and build a tower. The people did not want to be scattered (11:4), despite the known will of God that the earth is to be replenished. “So, the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city” (Gen. 11:8). The lesson is clear. God knows how to disrupt the imagination, and determinations of man in order that His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

The Church is a Kingdom of Priests

The commitment by God that Israel would be a kingdom of priests finds ultimate fulfillment in the Church. “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

The Fallacy of Nostalgia  

Every generation without exception tends to look to the past as a romantic past. People talk about the “good ole days” until they are reminded of the problems of the preceding generation. There may be brief periods of peace and prosperity for some, but for most people, life is a vale of tears. “Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7). This shall remain true until Jesus comes and there is a new heaven and a new earth of righteousness (2 Peter 3:13).

Pray for a New Heart

Because sin is insatiable, a person who wishes to be fundamentally and forever different must ask God for a new heart. Pray now, this prayer. “

“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee. Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness. O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise. For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem. Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar” (Psalm 51:10-19).

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