Genesis – An Overview

The book of Genesis covers the period from the beginning of creation to the death of Joseph. This a period of about two-thousand-three-hundred years. The book of Exodus to the last prophet Malachi covers the period from the exodus from Egypt to approximately four years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem, a period of about one-thousand-six hundred years. The account of the Exodus from Egypt is the period which began about four hundred years after the death of Joseph.

The book of Genesis, i.e. the book of origins, written by Moses through the leading and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is a compilation of various books. The word generation, in Hebrew toledoth,  as it is used in the context of the writings throughout the book of Genesis, means “the records of the origins of…” Genesis 2:4 refers to the record of origins (toledoth) of the heavens and of the earth. Genesis 5:1 refers to the record of the origins of Adam. Genesis 6:9 refers to the record of the origins of Noah. Genesis 10:1 refers to the record of the origins of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Genesis 11:10 refers to the record of the origins of (or generations of) Shem. Genesis 11:27 refers to the record of the origins of Terah. Genesis 25:12 refers to the record of the origins of Ishmael. Genesis 25:19 refers to the record of the origins of Isaac. Genesis 36:1;9 refers to the record of the origins of Esau, who is Edom the father of the Edomites in Mount Seir. Genesis 37:2 refers to the record of the origins of Jacob (who later became Israel, the father of the Israelites).

Adam lived 930 years and his life was contemporary with Seth, Enosh, Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah and Lamech (Noah’s father). Noah lived 950 years and his life was contemporary with Shem, Arphaxad, Shelah, Eber (from whom come the Hebrew people), Peleg, Reu, Serug, Nahor, Treah (Abraham’s father) and Abraham.

In other words, Jacob knew (as contemporaneously) his grandfather Abraham, Abraham knew Noah, and Noah knew Adam’s grandson, Enosh (and of course, Enosh knew Adam). The span of history covered by the book of Genesis is, therefore, far longer than the period covered by any of the other books of the Bible, even when the periods they cover are all put together. Despite the long period covered, there is a considerable overlap in the generations of the patriarchs from Adam to Abraham due to their longevity and we can be confident that a true record of the origins of man was faithfully preserved and passed down from Adam to succeeding generations until Moses compiled the record of Genesis.

The prophetic nature of the book of Genesis covers the period from the beginning of creation to the new creation of all things through the Messiah and Redeemer. It’s prophetic nature even foretold the four hundred year period of the Hebrew peoples’ slavery in Egypt (Genesis 15:13). The gospel of the Messiah is found in the book of Genesis (as it was announced to Adam and Eve -see Genesis 3:15 and as it was announced to Abraham – see Galatians 3:8).

The book of Genesis is the “seed-bed” of all further revelation which was to follow. The knowledge and understanding of it therefore provides the very foundation upon which true faithfulness to God is built. “I have made known the end (i.e. the final revelation of the Messiah) from the beginning (i.e. the Book of Genesis and the account of creation)” (Isaiah 46:10).

The lives of the patriarchs are rich in typology of the Messiah so that the study of Genesis is an exceedingly profitable exercise containing valuable lessons for believers of every age. Adam is the father of all mankind who are destined to die because of Adam’s sin (see 1 Corinthians 15:22). Abraham is (figuratively) the father of all the faithful who are destined to be redeemed from sin and death (see Galatians 3:19). Isaac’s miraculous birth typifies the miraculous birth of the Messiah. Joseph’s life of faithful obedience through unjust suffering typifies the life and suffering of Jesus the Messiah which is followed by his vindication by the LORD (the kingdoms of the world become the kingdom of the Messiah, Revelation 11:15). Judah, when he offers his life vicariously for his brother Benjamin typifies the vicarious, atoning death of Jesus the Messiah (Genesis 44:33 and Isaiah 53:12).

The Book of Genesis is the only inspired and accurate record of the creation (and origin) of all things. It is to be understood as an historical account of the creation of the universe, man, animals, vegetation and all things which exist. However, it is also to be understood as having a deeper allegorical meaning in which we are given the revelation of Jesus the Messiah. The universe was created through and by the Messiah (Hebrews 1:2), by him all things were created: Things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together (Colossians 1:16-17). All things are sustained by his (the Messiah’s) word (Hebrews 1:3) and therefore, the study of his word is the foundation upon which we gain a better understanding of all other things. (Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law. Let me understand the teaching of your precepts; then I will meditate on your wonders. Psalm 119:18;27). The study of Genesis is the foundational study upon which we may come to know the Creator: …since what may be known about God is plain to all men, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without any excuse (Romans 1:19-20).

Those who attack or refute the Book of Genesis as a myth, not worthy of serious study, may argue that they are entitled to express scepticism. However, their attacks on the Book of Genesis cannot be justified by such “rational” reasoning, which is in fact irrational. Those who suppress the truth by their wickedness (Romans 1:18), and who are therefore deserving of God’s wrath, attack the very foundation of the revelation of the Creator which is in the Book of Genesis. Such attacks of “higher criticism” amount to an attack against God’s word which is an attack against God Himself. The LORD scoffs at such arrogance and folly (Psalm 1:4) and he is the final judge who will indeed condemn the wicked and rebellious who refuse to believe the truth and so be saved (2 Thessalonians 2:10).

Godly men who are determined to contend for the true faith in the God of Israel, may unwittingly be drawn into a counter-attack against all the ungodly deeds done in the world, but to be drawn into  “warfare”, protesting against the ungodly deeds, may really be a clever, but wicked strategy of the deceiver through which we are diverted from the more important realm of the battle – which is to demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 10:5). Ungodliness is the result of a mind controlled, not by the Spirit and Word of the LORD, but by the sinful nature. The real battle is for the minds of men, for once our minds submit to God’s word and his Spirit, then, and only then, will our behaviour also change (see Romans 8:5-9).

Godly men must defend the foundation and launch their counter-attack at the root of the problem – which is man’s unbelief and rebellion against God. These pretensions which set themselves up against the knowledge of God, often masquerade as religions supposedly worthy of respect and tolerance, but they are false religions designed by the evil one to lead people astray from the true knowledge of God. The theory of evolution is just such a false religion which masquerades under the guise of scientific credibility, but is in fact premised on faith in that theory as opposed to faith in God’s word. The wicked deception which suggests the evolutionary process of all beings, leads people away from God’s purpose, which is to redeem us from a life of sin and rebellion, and it also denies our accountability to Him as our Creator. If things could be accounted for by a suggested evolutionary process, then there can no longer be logical reason to be bound by laws of morality. Evolution gives way to a nebulous “goal” which has nothing to do with that of being reconciled to our Creator, but rather the survival of the fittest by whatever means. But the LORD has said that the meek will inherit the earth.

The Genesis record is literal, historical and scientifically accurate, but it is also written in a manner which may be understood by all men for the intended purpose of revealing the Creator and his plan for our redemption from sin and rebellion. Some Bible teachers take great pride in being “literalists” in that they believe the Word of God should only be understood by its plain literal meaning. They suggest that those who may “spiritualise” the Scriptures, by offering an allegorical interpretation detract from the plain meaning of the Scriptures. However, this would imply that the physical world which can be seen by the carnal man is somehow more real than the invisible, spiritual world, which is certainly not the case. The invisible, spiritual world is absolutely real and is eternal; whereas the physical realm is a temporary shadow of that which is unseen. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18).

How do we fix our eyes on what is unseen? By continually renewing our minds with the word of God which is the very revelation of who God is and His plan for our redemption. Solomon wrote: What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end (Ecclesiastes 3:9-11).

Those who completely fail to fathom, or to desire to fathom, what God has done from beginning to end, will find themselves living only in the present in which they will continually lust after the things which offer immediate gratification to sinful, unbelieving hearts.

We will do well to understand the chronology of the Scriptures, how the beginning unfolds towards God’s intended end for those who love him and called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). The compilation of the various Books of the Bible are not all in their chronological order. A study of the Scriptures will be enhanced by knowing the times and circumstances in which the various Hebrew prophets spoke. The chronological events are the continuous unfolding of God’s revelation of the Messiah. We should firstly come to understand our exile from paradise, our bondage to sin, – then our complete helplessness in redeeming ourselves, which leads to our appreciation of our desperate need for our Saviour and Redeemer, Jesus the Messiah. This chronological order is also taught in the various feasts and religious festivals which were given in the Torah at Mount Sinai. (If we were to begin our study only after the exodus from Egypt into the land of Canaan, we may come to believe that the restoration of all things is to be gathered again to the land of Canaan in this earthly realm and not back into the Garden of Eden.)

Perhaps our first impression of the chronological events of the Scriptures may lead us to believe that after Adam, came Noah, after Noah, came Abraham, after Abraham, came Moses, after Moses, came David, after David, came Jesus the Messiah. This may give the impression that great men of faith were revealed through the period of history until the time when Jesus the Messiah was finally born in Bethlehem. But in the beginning is the first glimpse of the Messiah who existed from eternity. Our study of the beginning is also the beginning of the process of the unfolding revelation of the Messiah who then enters this earthly realm to offer his life as a ransom so that we may be reconciled to God. Only God is our Redeemer and Saviour and the Messiah is God. He is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being (Hebrews 1:2). The false impression that the Messiah only comes into existence later in the chronological events of history, is misleading. If we read the Scriptures without seeing the Revelation of the Messiah and his existence from the days of eternity (Micah 5:2), then it is like reading the Scriptures with a veil which blinds us from the very One who was intended to be revealed. This arises out of a serious misunderstanding and wrong emphasis of the chronology of the Word of God. 2 Corinthians 3:15-16 – Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord – (Jesus is Lord), – the veil is taken away.

The revelation of God’s Word starts with the words, “In beginning…”. But the LORD said later through the prophet Micah, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose ORIGINS are from of old, from ancient times [or from eternity] (Micah 5:2). The apostle John wrote, “In the beginning was the Word…” (i.e. giving a clear chronological order). He then went on to say, “…and the Word was with God, and the word was God in the beginning.” Then, as to show how the revelation of the Word of God unfolded in the course of time, the apostle John went on to say, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:1;2;14). In order to begin to fathom what God has done from beginning to end is to understand from the beginning that His entire purpose of creation and further revelation of His glory, is to reveal his glory in the face of Jesus the Messiah who existed with God from eternity before creation. That is why the essential midrash of the Scriptures is the revelation of the Messiah.

This principle of midrash was understood by the writers of the Talmud even though they failed to recognize Jesus as the promised Messiah:  All the prophets prophesied not but of the days of the Messiah (Sanhedrin 99a). The world was created but only for the Messiah (Sanhedrin 98b). Jesus confirmed his chronological and eternal being and significance when he said, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I AM!(John 8:58). The writer to the Hebrews confirmed that Moses was a Christian (i.e. his faith was in the Messiah who was yet to be further revealed when he was to enter this earthly realm in human form and the likeness of man), “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be ill-treated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ (Messiah) as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward” (Hebrews 11:24-26). Jesus confirmed that Abraham was a Christian in that he believed that all the nations would be blessed through the coming of the Messiah; Jesus said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad” (John 8:56).

We may devote our entire lives to the study of God’s word but we will never finally and fully fathom its infinite depth and wisdom. God’s wisdom is personified in Jesus who existed from eternity (Proverbs 9:22-27). Contained in the book of beginnings is also the mystery of the end of all things – and that explains why the LORD said through the prophet Isaiah, “I have made known the end from the beginning” (Isaiah 46:10).

The study of Genesis is the foundation upon which we may continue our study of all the written word of God. As we progress in our study of the Scriptures, the beginning (Genesis) becomes clearer and so does the end (the final written Revelation of Jesus the Messiah). For this reason these study notes will always be a working file as we continue our study of God’s word, so that as the beginning becomes all the more clearer as we approach the end, we may go back and revise our notes and expand our insight and understanding. The written word of God is infallible, it is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16). But the commentaries of men are subject to our own interpretations and observations and must always be open to scrutiny and correction.

The Scriptures are the source of life and faith and through constant use we may grow into maturity, training ourselves to distinguish good from evil (Hebrews 5:14) – no longer being tossed back and forth by the waves of men’s opinions, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching – but becoming mature, attaining the whole measure of the fullness of Jesus the Messiah (Ephesians 3:13-14) which is the very goal of the Torah.

Solomon wrote (Ecclesiastes 11:7),  For if a man live many years, let him rejoice : in the joy of the Torah; and remember the days of darkness: these are the days of evil, for they shall be many.  The Midrash Rabbah on this verse comments, “The Torah which a man learns in this world is vanity in comparison with the Torah [which will be learnt in the days] of the Messiah.” These are the days of the Messiah and his word has been revealed to those who humbly and earnestly seek God.

In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by (or in the person of) his Son (Jesus Christ), whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe (Hebrews 1:1-2).