Genesis - Introduction




THOUGH THE BOOK OF GENESIS IS anonymous (no author is listed), ancient Jewish and Christian traditions held that Moses authored the first five books of the Bible—referred to as the Pentateuch (“five vessels”) or the Torah (a Hebrew word for “law” or “instruction”). That Moses stood behind these five books is attested to in both the Old and the New Testaments (see Neh 8:1; Mark 12:26).

Assuming Mosaic authorship does not prevent us from accepting that others would have provided some editorial additions later—for example, the details of Moses’s death in Deuteronomy 34:5-12 and the mention of the city Dan in Genesis 14:14, which would not have been named until the time of the judges (see Judg 18:29). Thus, though many critical scholars today reject Mosaic authorship, we have good reason to accept the biblical tradition that Moses wrote the Pentateuch. For Genesis in particular, Moses probably used written sources and put them together to form this book.

Historical Background

Genesis covers the lengthy period from the creation of the heavens and the earth (1:1) to the death of Joseph, the son of Jacob, in Egypt (50:26). It includes an account of the origin of humankind and another of the origin of the nation of Israel. The rest of the Bible is dependent on the history and theology of Genesis. It is foundational for all that follows. Here we have the creation of the universe, man and woman made in the image of God, the mandate for humans to rule the earth, the first marriage, Satan’s opposition to humanity, the fall of humanity into sin, God’s promise to defeat Satan through the seed of the woman, Noah and the flood, the tower of Babylon, God’s cov-enant with Abraham, the faith of Abraham, the sacrifice of Isaac, the introduction to the twelve sons of Jacob (that is, Israel), the story of Joseph, and more.

Message and Purpose

Genesis is the book of beginnings. It is critical because it sets the stage for the rest of Scripture. The best way to understand Genesis is through its personalities, beginning with the first couple: Adam and Eve. God gave his dominion covenant to humankind, to rule on God’s behalf on earth as a reflection of his dominion over all. This set the stage for the fall, when Adam and Eve sinned against God, bringing earth under the temporary control of Satan. But the episode recording the entrance of sin is also embedded with the prophecy of a Redeemer (3:15)—Jesus Christ who will defeat Satan and restore God’s kingdom rule over all.

In the meantime Genesis records the angelic conflict being waged on earth to such an extent that God destroyed the earth with a flood and began again with Noah to establish his kingdom rule—for Genesis introduces us to a kingdom concept. The world after the flood also rebelled against God at Babylon, and God judged the people for trying to establish unity without him.

Then God called one man, Abraham, through whom he would reestablish his kingdom regime. Beginning with chapter 12, Genesis traces the history of Abraham and his family as God lays the foundation of his kingdom through the nation of Israel.



  1. From Adam to Abraham (1:1–11:9)
    1. Creation, Marriage, and the Fall into Sin (1:1–5:32)
    2. The Flood (6:1–8:22)
    3. A New Beginning—And a Dead End (9:1–11:9)
  2. Abraham (11:10–24:67)
    1. Father Abraham and His Rocky Faith Journey (11:10–14:24)
    2. From Abram to Abraham: A Covenant Renewed (15:1–17:27)
    3. Sodom and Lot (18:1–19:38)
    4. Isaac: Birth, Sacrifice, and Quest for a Wife (20:1–24:67)
  3. Jacob (25:1–36:43)
    1. Jacob the Deceiver and Esau the Impulsive (25:1–28:9)
    2. A Holy God, a Beautiful Woman, and a Deceptive Uncle (28:10–29:29)
    3. Jacob Multiplies, Struggles with God, and Meets Esau Again (29:30–33:20)
    4. The Defilement of Dinah and the Return to Bethel (34:1–36:43)
  4. Joseph (37:1–50:26)
    1. Joseph the Dreamer and Judah the Hypocrite (37:1–38:30)
    2. From Rags to Riches in Egypt (39:1–41:57)
    3. Family Reunion (42:1–47:31)
    4. The Blessings of Jacob and the Promises of God (48:1–50:26)