Read an Excerpt
What the Bible is All About Handbook
By Henrietta C. Mears
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Gospel Light
All rights reserved.
Genesis Portrays Jesus Christ, Our Creator God
AUTHOR: The author of the book of Genesis is not identified. Traditionally, it has always been assumed that the author was Moses, according to the testimony of the Old Testament (see Exodus 17:14; 24:4; Numbers 33:2) and the New Testament according to the Lord Jesus and His apostles (see John 5:46).
DATE: The book of Genesis does not indicate when it was written. The date of authorship may be between 1265 and 1220 BC, between the time Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt and his death.
PURPOSE AND SUMMARY: The word "genesis" signifies "generation" or "origin" and comes from the Greek translation of Genesis 2:4. It is an appropriate title for the first book of the Bible, which contains the record of the origin of the universe, the human race, family life, nations, sin and redemption. The first 11 chapters, which deal with primeval or pre-patriarchal times, present the events preceding Hebrew history from Adam to Abraham. The remaining chapters (12-50) are concerned with God's dealings with the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Jacob's son Joseph, all "fathers" of the people whom God has chosen to carry out His plan for the redemption of mankind. The book closes with these "Chosen People" in Egypt.
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Genesis is the seed plot of the Word of God. The title "Genesis," which is Greek, means "origin," and the first Hebrew word of Genesis is translated "in the beginning" — words that indicate both the scope and the limits of the book. It tells us the beginning of everything except God. Another thing to notice is that it tells only of beginnings. There is no finality here. Upon its truths all the future revelation of God to people is built up.
Satan appears to have special enmity for the book of Genesis. No wonder the adversary has bent his attacks upon it. It exposes him as the enemy of God and the deceiver of the human race; it foretells his destruction; it depicts his doom (see Genesis 3). Without Genesis, our knowledge of a creating God would be pitifully limited; we would be woefully ignorant of the beginnings of our universe.
A BOOK OF BEGINNINGS
Genesis is the book of beginnings:
The beginning of the world — Genesis 1:1-25
The beginning of the human race — Genesis 1:26-2:25
The beginning of sin in the world — Genesis 3:1-7
The beginning of the promise of redemption — Genesis 3:8-24
The beginning of family life — Genesis 4:1-15
The beginning of civilization — Genesis 4:16-9:29
The beginning of the nations of the world — Genesis 10-11
The beginning of the Hebrew people — Genesis 12-50
Adam began with God and fell through disobedience — Genesis 3:1-24
Abel began with God by the blood of sacrifice — Genesis 4:4
Noah began with God by way of the ark — Genesis 6:8,14,22
Abraham began with God when he built altars — Genesis 12:8
These all made new beginnings for humankind.
Genesis is the record of the beginnings of all these things. No wonder that when people, because of spiritual blindness (see Ephesians 4:18), reject God's revelation in this peerless record of beginnings, they worship chance as the creator, beasts as their ancestors and fallen humanity as the flower of natural evolution!
A Book of History
Genesis begins with "God" (Genesis 1:1) but ends "in a coffin" (Genesis 50:26). This book is a history of human failure. But we find that God meets every failure. He is a glorious Savior. We find that "where sin increased, grace increased all the more" (Romans 5:20).
Genesis gives us a record of at least 2,000 years. It is not entirely history; it is a spiritual interpretation of history. In two chapters, God flashes on the wall an account of the creation of the world and of humanity. From there on, we see the story of redemption: God is bringing lost people back to Himself.
We have noted Satan's reasons for attacking this majestic book. Its authorship by Moses, its scientific accuracy and its literal testimony to human sin as deliberate disobedience to God have all been bitterly attacked. The Word of God, however, definitely declares Genesis to be one of the living oracles delivered to Moses. To its infallible truth and its testimony to the Messiah, our Lord Jesus testified Himself (see John 5:46-47).
If Genesis were to be discounted, a divine Creator, a divine creation, a divinely promised Redeemer and a divinely inspired Bible would also have to be discounted. But around its sacred pages is the protection of the Holy Spirit of God who inspired its words. If there were more study of Genesis instead of so much argument about it, its truth would be clearer. Many origins are recorded in the first 11 chapters: natural universe, human life, sin, death, redemption, civilization, nations and languages.
The remainder of the book — Genesis 12–50 — delves into the beginnings of the Hebrew people: first in their founding through Abraham and then in their subsequent development and history through the great figures of Isaac, Jacob and Joseph. This great Hebrew nation was founded with the definite purpose that through it the whole world should be blessed.
A Book of Promises and Answers
God promised Abraham, a believer in Him, that his descendants:
1. Would inherit the land of Canaan
2. Would become a great nation
3. Would be a blessing on all nations (see Genesis 12:1-3)
God repeated these promises to Isaac and Jacob (see Genesis 26:1-5; 28:13-15).
Genesis tells us seven great names and messages:
1. Bow with Abel at the cross of the slain lamb.
2. Catch up with Enoch and walk with God.
3. Believe God and launch out with Noah on God's waters.
4. Go forth with Abraham in faith.
5. Dig wells with Isaac and get down to divine resources.
6. Climb ladders with Jacob and see God.
7. Be true like Joseph and live with God.
Genesis answers the great questions of the soul:
What is the eternity of God?
Where did we come from?
Where did sin come from?
How can sinful people get back to God (Abel's sacrifice)?
How can we please God (Abraham's faith)?
How can we have power with God and people (Jacob's surrender)?
Three words might give us the outline of Genesis:
1. Generation — "In the beginning God" (Genesis 1:1)
2. Degeneration — "Now the serpent" (Genesis 3:1)
3. Regeneration — "Now the Lord" (Genesis 12:1, KJV)
Genesis is the record of human failure: first in an ideal environment (Eden), then under the rule of conscience (from the Fall to the Flood), and finally under patriarchal rule (Noah to Joseph). In every case of human failure, however, God met human need with marvelous promises of sovereign grace. It is therefore fitting that the Bible's first book should show us the failure of humanity under every condition met by the salvation of God.
Won't you make a genesis (a beginning) of your own with a new love of our Lord in your own life?
Hints of the Messiah
Remember, Jesus Christ is the center of the Bible. He is somewhere on every page. In Genesis we see Him in type (the foreshadowing of Christian meanings in Old Testament people and events) and prophecy (supernatural knowledge given by God to holy people to reveal truth and to foretell events) in:
Seed of woman — Genesis 3:15
The entrance into the ark of safety — Genesis 7:1,7
The offering up of Isaac — Genesis 22:1-24
Jacob's ladder — Genesis 28:12
Judah's scepter — Genesis 49:10
Joseph lifted from pit to throne — Genesis 37:28; 41:41-44
The Period of the Patriarchs
The period of the patriarchs is the groundwork and basis of all history. It covers the time from Adam to Moses. In consequence of the failures on the part of people during this early period, God called out an individual. He put aside the nations and called a man, Abraham, who was to become the father of the Hebrew nation. We enter into this period in Genesis 12.
There are five patriarchal fathers: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and Job. (The book of Job must be put after the book of Genesis and before the book of Exodus. Job certainly lived before Moses, and we read of Moses in Exodus 2.)
God called Abraham and with him made a covenant, known as the Abrahamic Covenant. Become familiar with this covenant (Genesis 12:1-3). If you are not, the whole study of the Chosen People (in fact, the whole Old Testament) will have little meaning. God repeated that covenant to Abraham's son Isaac and again to his grandson Jacob (see Genesis 26:1-5; 28:13-15). He repeated it to no one else.
These three, therefore, are the covenant fathers, and that is why you read in Scripture, "I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob" (Acts 7:32). He never adds anyone else. God gave His covenant to these three and it is for them to communicate it to others. What is the covenant? Read Genesis 12:1-3, 26:1-5 and 28:13-15.
The Link Between Family and Nation
A very large portion of the story of Genesis is devoted to Joseph (see Genesis 37–48). Why? Because Joseph is the link between the family and the nation. Up till the time of Joseph, the main concern is a family, the family of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Some 70 souls are found at the end of the book of Genesis, constituting the family of Jacob. But still it is a family with which God is dealing. Read about this family and the blessings Jacob gave to each of his sons (see Genesis 49).
The moment we turn the page and step into Exodus, the main concern is a nation, not a family. During the long period from the end of Genesis to the opening of Exodus, the Hebrew nation has developed, and Joseph is the connection between it and the family.
Joseph is a character presented without fault — not that he didn't have any faults, but his faults are not recorded. He was a man of flesh and blood like us. God honored him, for there are at least 130 parallels between the life of Joseph and the life of Jesus. He is therefore the messianic patriarch, the patriarch who reflected the Christ Himself.
THE AUTHOR OF GENESIS
The age-long Hebrew and Christian position is that Moses, guided by the Spirit of God, wrote Genesis. The book closes approximately 300 years before Moses was born, so Moses could have received his information only by direct revelation from God or from historical records to which he had access that had been handed down from his forefathers. Read Luke 24:27 and John 7:19 to learn what Jesus said about Moses.
Every year proof is being dug up in Egypt and Israel that writing existed in Moses' day and that what is recorded in the Pentateuch is historically accurate. Moses was educated in the palace of Pharaoh and "was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians" (Acts 7:22), which included the literary profession; and Moses did know how to write and in fact encouraged it in others (see Exodus 34:27; Numbers 17:2; Deuteronomy 6:9; 24:1,3; Joshua 8:32).
No doubt the creation story was written long before Moses, maybe by Abraham or Noah or even by Enoch, the grandson of Adam (see Genesis 4:17). Who knows? Writing was in common use before the days of Abraham. In Ur, as in every important city in Babylonia, the libraries contained thousands of books, dictionaries, grammars, reference works, encyclopedias, and works on mathematics, astronomy, geography, religion and politics. No doubt Abraham had received traditions or records from Shem, the son of Noah (see Genesis 6:10), about the story of Creation and the Fall of humanity and of the Flood. Abraham lived in a society of culture, books and libraries. He no doubt made careful and accurate copies of all that happened to him and of the promises God had made to him. He put it down on clay tablets in cuneiform writing (the alphabet of the Babylonians) to be handed down as part of the annals of the nation he was founding.
GENESIS 1–2: CREATION
As Genesis begins, we see these words untarnished by the ages: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1). In these few simple words we have the Bible declaration of the origin of the material universe. God called all things into being by the word of His power. He spoke and worlds were framed (see Hebrews 11:3). Interpretations of the method of God may vary, but the truth of the fact remains.
God's creative work was progressive:
1. The world of matter — Genesis 1:3-19
2. The system of life — Genesis 1:20-25
3. Humanity, the crown of Creation — Genesis 1:26-27
Who was the God mentioned so many times in the first 31 verses of Genesis? Read John 1:1 and Hebrews 1:1. Here we see that the One who redeemed us by His precious blood, our Savior, was the Creator of this universe. Someone has said that God the Father is the architect; God the Son, the builder; and God the Holy Spirit, the beautifier of the universe. We find the Holy Spirit in Genesis 1:2.
In chapter 1 we have the account of Creation in outline form; in chapter 2 is part of the same in detail. The detail concerns the creation of humanity, for the Bible is the history of the redemption of humanity.
Know this: God created people in His own image to have fellowship with Himself. But we have cut ourselves off from God by sin. Only when sin is removed can we have fellowship again. This is why Jesus Christ came to this earth: that He might bear "our sins in his body on the cross" (1 Peter 2:24). Read 1 John 1 to learn how sin keeps us from fellowship not only with God but also with one another. First John 1:9 tells us what we can do to have a restored fellowship.
GENESIS 3–4: THE FALL
Adam and Eve were created in a state of innocence but with the power of choice. They were tested under the most favorable circumstances. They were endowed with clear minds and pure hearts, with the ability to do right. God gave them His own presence and fellowship (see Genesis 3:8).
Satan, the author of sin, acting through a serpent, tempted Adam and Eve to doubt God's word. They yielded to the temptation and failed the test. Here sin entered the world. Satan still influences people to disobey God. The results of Adam and Eve's sin are enumerated in Genesis 3. They were separated from God, the ground was cursed, and sorrow filled their hearts.
In mercy, God promised One who would redeem us from sin (see Genesis 3:15). The offspring of the woman (the virgin-born Jesus) would come to destroy the works of the devil (see 1 John 3:8).
Immediately after the Fall, people began to offer sacrifices to the Lord. No doubt God ordered these sacrifices. They were for the purpose of keeping before people the fact of their fall and of the coming sacrifice. It would be by the shedding of Jesus' blood that people were to be redeemed from sin and death (see Hebrews 9:22).
Two of Adam's sons, Cain and Abel, brought their sacrifices to the Lord: "Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering-fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock" (Genesis 4:3-4). Abel's offering was accepted while Cain's was rejected. From our knowledge of the Word, it is quite evident that Cain's was not accepted because any sacrifice brought to the Lord must be done with proper motivation and through faith and obedience. Cain became angry with his brother, Abel, and in his wrath killed him.
Excerpted from What the Bible is All About Handbook by Henrietta C. Mears. Copyright © 2011 Gospel Light. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc..
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