From Series: "Genesis"
Who wrote the book?
Old Testament books seldom include a byline. So we look to outside sources to
discover authorship. Jewish tradition and other biblical authors name Moses, the
prophet and deliverer of Israel, as the author of the entire Pentateuch—the
first five books of the Old Testament. His education in the courts of Egypt (Acts
7:22) and his close communion with Yahweh—the Hebrew name for God—support
this premise. Jesus Himself confirmed Moses’s authorship (John
5:45–47), as did the scribes and Pharisees of His time (Matthew
From the Hebrew word toledoth,
the first book of the Bible is titled “Genesis” in the Septuagint, the Greek
translation of the Jewish Scriptures. The word means “beginning, origin,”¹ or
generation and is a foundational theme that winds throughout the book.
Moses wrote Genesis for the people of Israel, whom he led out of slavery in
Egypt back to the land of their forefathers. Genesis provides a history of those
forefathers—their origins, their journeys, and their covenants with God. Because
the events contained in the rest of the Pentateuch are responses to the promises
of God found in Genesis, such a history of God’s interaction with their
ancestors would have provided encouragement and inspiration to the former slaves
seeking freedom and prosperity in the Promised Land.
Where are we?
The first eleven chapters of Genesis paint the early history of the human race
in broad strokes. After the great flood, the focus narrows to God’s dealings
with one family living in Mesopotamia, a family headed by Abram, later called
Abraham. From the Euphrates River (in modern-day Iraq) over to what is now
Syria, events move south into Canaan (modern-day Israel) and Egypt.
Genesis covers the most extensive period of time in all of Scripture, longer
than the other books in the Bible combined! While the ancient history recounted
in the first eleven chapters gives no indication of time span, Abram’s story
begins around 2091 BC (Genesis
12:1), and the book ends with Joseph’s death in Egypt around 1805 BC
Why is Genesis so important?
To the original readers of Genesis, the book was valued as a history of their
people. It told them the story of how God created the world and dealt with all
humanity until He initiated a personal relationship with their forefather
Abraham. Genesis revealed to them the eternal promises God made to Abraham,
Isaac, and Jacob—promises which extended to their descendants. It provided
comfort and hope for the downtrodden Hebrews as they waited to return to their
For later readers, Genesis offers a thorough background to the rest of the
Bible. Here we learn ancient history and geography and are introduced to
significant people and events found later in the Bible. God also reveals many
facets of His nature through His dealings with people. We learn of the origin of
sin, of its destructive effect on humanity, and of God’s plan to atone for that
sin through a future Son of the people of Israel (Genesis
3:15; 22:18; 49:10).
What's the big idea?
The Bible is divided into two major parts, the Old and New Testaments. Testament is
another word for covenant.
Covenants figure prominently into the story of Genesis, for they help define
God’s relationship with His people at various times. Sin broke the perfect peace
between God and humanity (Genesis
3) and instead of enjoying the blessing God intended, humanity was burdened
with the curse. But God established His plan for redemption and blessing through
covenants, first with Abraham (Genesis
12:1–5), reaffirmed with Isaac (26:1–35), then with Jacob (28:1–22). These
promises applied to the Israelites in Egypt and to later generations. Genesis
sets the stage for the rest of God’s plan to redeem the world through His Son,