Genesis: A General Overview Edit

Genesis is the first book of the Bible. It is one of the most important book of the Bible because it is a book of beginnings. It gives the account of Creation and tells of God’s choosing of Israel. The purpose of this paper is to describe the biographical details, writing date, historical background, group of people targeted, and purpose of the book of Genesis.


Author Edit

Genesis is part of the canon known as the Pentateuch. A more common name for this is the Books of Moses, or the Law of Moses. It is called the Books of Moses because Moses is the one known to have written these five books. Herbert Wolf stated that: “Judging from the account of Moses’ life given in the Pentateuch, there is every reason to believe that he could have written the book so closely linked with his name.”[1] Elwell and Beitzel confirm this by saying, “We may with confidence conclude that Moses was the human author of Genesis.”[2] The best source to confirm Mosaic authorship, though, is the Bible itself. There are several references in the Bible that support this claim, in both the Old and New Testaments. Joshua 8:31a says, “As Moses the servant of the LORD commanded the children of Israel, as it is written in the book of the law of Moses,…” The Old Testament also states in Deuteronomy 31:24 that: “Moses had made an end of writing the words of this law in a book,…” The New Testament states in John 1:17a, “For the law was given by Moses,…” Because it is always true and reliable, the best confirmation we have that proves Moses’ authorship of Genesis is the Bible.

Biographical Information Edit

Moses’ life began with his mother hiding him in the bulrushes of the Nile. The daughter of Pharaoh found him and raised him as her son in the court of the Pharaoh. When Moses was forty years old, he killed an Egyptian and had to flee into the desert. After forty years in the desert, he was told by God to lead the Israelite slaves to the promised land. The next and last forty years of Moses’ life was filled with amazing miracles, battles, and tests of faith as the chosen people of God were led through the wilderness by this man who spoke with God face to face.

Date Edit

The precise date that Genesis was written is uncertain. The estimated time period, however, is easier to know. Since Moses was the author of Genesis, it stands to reason that he wrote it during either his time spent in the wilderness or during the Exodus. Elwell and Bietzen state that: “Based on the biblical data, Moses must be placed in the 15th century b.c. (cf. Jgs 11:26; 1 Kgs 6:1), but many scholars incline toward a 13th century date.”[3] Even though, the Bible doesn’t say exactly when Genesis was written, one can still guess based upon events that we know happened.

Historical Background Edit

Genesis was written as a historical background of the choosing of the nation of Israel. It records the account of Creation; man was created and placed in the garden, where he ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. His eyes were opened, and he died spiritually; God cast man out of the Garden; man no longer had fellowship with God. However, God clothed them; this was a symbol of how Christ would later clothe believers with his righteousness. Ross states that:

“God’s dealings with people as sinners can be traced back to this act of disobedience by Adam and Eve. God is a saving God, however, and the fact that He clothed … Adam and Eve testifies to that. An animal was sacrificed to provide garments of skin, and later all Israel’s animal sacrifices would be part of God’s provision to remedy the curse—a life for a life. The sinner shall die! (Ezek. 18:20; Rom. 6:23) Yet he will live if he places his faith in the Lord, who has provided a Substitute. The skin with which God clothed Adam and Eve perpetually reminded them of God’s provision. Similarly in the fullness of time God accepted the sacrifice of Christ, and on the basis of that atonement He clothes believers in righteousness (Rom. 3:21–26).” [4]

Shortly after man was cast out of the Garden, man began to spread and populate the earth. Ross says that,

=====“The subject of chapter 4 is the spread of godless society. Here is man in rebellion against God—man who did not obey and who destroyed the godly and denied his responsibility and culpability for it. The ungodly here are portrayed as living on in the world (with a protective mark of grace; cf. comments on v. 15) without being saved.” [5] =====

After the murder of Abel, Genesis 4:17 to Genesis 6:8 list the genealogies of Cain’s line and Seth’s line. Although Seth’s line was originally a godly line, it eventually became as wicked as Cain’s line. Genesis 6:5 says that: “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” But God saw that there was one righteous man: Noah. God told Noah that He was sending a flood to destroy mankind; He told Noah to build an ark so that he and his family would be saved. Noah’s family was spared, and after the flood they began to repopulate the earth. However, they would not spread out, and God confused their languages. This triggered the dispersion of man.

Abraham Edit

Abram was called out of Ur by God and told to “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee:” Through a long process of testing that lasted most of Abraham’s life, God established His covonent with him and chose him to be the first of the Hebrews. God’s promise to Abraham about a son was fulfilled in the birth of Isaac. Abraham’s greatest test of faith was when God told him to sacrifice his son; God spared Isaac and renewed his covenant with Abraham.

Isaac Edit

Isaac was Abraham’s son of promise. He married Rebekah, whom Abraham’s servant was directed to by God. Although Rebekah was barren, Isaac prayed to God, and God answered his prayer. Jacob and Esau were born; Genesis 25:23 states: “And the LORD said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels: and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.” The younger son was Jacob, who became the next Hebrew patriarch

Jacob Edit

Jacob tricked Esau into giving him the birthright. He then fled into the wilderness, where God visited him in a dream and reiterated the Abrahamic covenant to him. He lived with his uncle, Laban, and married both of his daughters, Rachel and Leah. From these two and their handmaidens came the twelve tribes of Isreal.

Joseph Edit

Joseph was the first son of Rachel. His brothers were jealous of him and sold him into slavery; however, God used him and he became Pharaoh’s second-in-command. He stored up food in preparation for the famine that God had warned Pharaoh about in a dream, and was reunited with his brothers when they came to buy food. He received a double blessing from Jacob before his father died. That is why Ephraim and Manasseh, his sons, became tribes of Israel.

To Whom it was Written Edit

To whom was Genesis written? Today, Genesis is written to and available to all who want to read it. However, it was originally intended for the Hebrew slaves that left Egypt during the Exodus, and later to the Jewish nation that was a result of the Exodus. Exodus 34:27 says, “And the LORD said to Moses, ‘Write down all these instructions, for they represent the terms of my covenant with you and with Israel.’” Joshua 22:5 states: “But take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the LORD charged you,…” The Bible states that the books of the Law, which included Genesis, was given to the Israelites by Moses.

Why it was Written Edit

All things have a purpose, and the book of Genesis is no different. Herbert Wolf gives an excellent summary of the purpose of Genesis:

“Genesis was written as a prologue to the rest of the Bible, for it gives us an account of the origin of the universe, of the physical world, of human life and cultures, and of the nation of Israel. Many of the great questions that have puzzled mankind through the ages are dealt with deftly and succinctly in the opening chapters. Not only are we given a brief and majestic account of Creation, but we also learn how sin entered the world and how it ruined God’s original creation. After the judgment of the flood, Moses described the growth of the nations and how they were scattered in the wake of the sad attempt to build the Tower of Babble. Mankind wanted to build that tower to “make a name” for themselves (Gen. 11:4) but instead God chose Abram and promised to make his name great and to build him into a great nation.”[6]

Ross also gives an excellent reason as to why Genesis was written: “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.” [7] Genesis records the beginning of nations and the choosing of Israel from among those nations. After the flood, Noah and his family repopulated the earth. Civil Government was first established by God in Genesis 9:5-6, when God required man’s blood if he shed another’s blood.

As one can see, the book of Genesis is undoubtedly one of the most important books in the Bible. Its author, background, and purpose is fascinating, and should fuel one’s desire to study more deeply into what this book has to offer.

[1] Wolf, Herbert. An Introduction to the Old Testament Pentateuch. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 1991, pg. 60

[2] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 851.

[3] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 852.

[4] Allen P. Ross, “Genesis,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 33.

[5] Allen P. Ross, “Genesis,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 33.

[6] Wolf, Herbert. An Introduction to the Old Testament Pentateuch. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 1991, pg. 94

[7] Allen P. Ross, “Genesis,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 21.

For further studies, see also:Edit

Exodus Outline

Leviticus Outline

Numbers Outline

Deuteronomy Outline

Joshua Outline

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