Hebrew title of the book is called Bereisheet and comes from the first word in the Hebrew text that means “in the beginning.” This is the modern Hebrew name for the book. In ancient times, the original name for the book was Sepher Maasch Bereisheet, which means the book of creation, or the book of the act of creation. It has since been shortened to simply Bereisheet. The Greek title of the book is called Geneseos and emphasizes origin and source. It is where we get the name Genesis. Moses was the human author of Genesis. God, working through Moses, inspired him to write the first five books of the Bible. If Genesis is the foundational book, and Chapter 1 is the foundational chapter, then verse 1 is the foundational verse. It is the foundation of all foundations and thus it is the most important verse in the Scriptures. If you really believe Genesis 1:1, then you will not find it difficult to believe anything else recorded in the Bible. That is, if God really created all things, then He controls all things and can do all things. One could hardly think of a better way to begin the Bible than with these moving words, where Elohim teaches us that He is the Creator of all that exists and He brought the world into existence a long time ago.
Genesis is the book of beginnings and probably the most important book ever written. It provides a dramatic account of the origins of mankind and his universe, the intrusion of sin into the world, the catastrophic effects of its curse on the race and the beginnings of the LORD’s plan to bless the nations through His seed. Most of the books of the Bible draw on the contents of Genesis in one way or another. Apart from this, however, Genesis’ subject matter, and the straightforward way in which it is written, has captivated the minds of people for ages.
The entire book turns on the motifs of blessing and cursing. the verb to curse means to impose a ban, a barrier, a paralysis on movement or other capabilities. This power can only belong to God. The curse involves separation from the place of blessing or even from those who are blessed. On the other hand the verb to bless means to enrich. Here, too, GOD is the source. The contrast between blessing and cursing reflects man’s obedience by faith, or his disobedience by unbelief. The LORD’s approval of faith or disapproval of unbelief leaves nothing to the imagination.
The Structure of Genesis
I. The Origin of the World and the Nation in General (1:1 to 11:9)
A The Creation (1:1 to 2:25)
B The Fall (3:1 to 5:32)
C The Flood (6:1 to 9:29)
D The Nations (10:1 to 11:9)
The time line is two thousand years or more.
II. The Origin of One Nation, the Jewish Nation of Israel (11:10 to 50:26)
A Abraham (11:10 to 25:18)
B Isaac (25:19 to 26:35)
C Jacob (27:1 to 36:43)
D Joseph (37:1 to 50:26)
The time line is 193 years.
Genesis is important not only as the history or the origin of mankind, but also as a prophecy of the future of mankind. Paradise was lost in Genesis and is regained in Revelation. The beginning of Genesis describes a perfect world, made for man and placed under his authority. Had Adam and Eve not sinned they would have continued to rule and enjoy that perfect world. But they did sin. Since God cannot be defeated in His ultimate purpose, even though sin and the curse have come in as intruders for a time, we can be sure that all that the LORD intended in the garden of Eden will eventually come to pass. Therefore, the earth will be restored to its original perfection and will continue on into eternity. Sin and the curse will be no more and death will be eliminated. The creation account reveals that god is a redeeming LORD who buys back that which has been lost. It records how He brought order out of chaos, turned darkness into light, made divisions between them, transformed cursing into blessing, and moved what was evil and darkness into what was righteous and holy. Ultimately God caused His light to shine in our hearts so that we can become new creations.The name for God in this section, Elohim, is actually plural, pointing us to the realization that the Trinity was actively involved in the creation.
This is not merely a stiff and formal statement about creation. It’s teaching is intended to encourage us about who we are and where we come from, and its emphasis is oriented toward life rather than death. As we read the Bible, it is easy to see that real life is depicted in the people and stories that are presented. Nothing is sanitized or sugarcoated. The pages are full of both joy and pain, truthfulness and lying, faith and unbelief. And sin, always sin. Unyielding, relentless sin. Therein are the Bible’s contents, but for one chapter, in which we get a quick snapshot of what life was like before sin stained the world. There are not a lot of details, and we don’t know how long this innocence lasted. However, I am sure for what seemed like one brief moment, there was once a perfect spot called the garden of Eden. Before one man could bring sin into the world, he would need to be tempted. Would he obey Elohim, or go his own way? Any of us who have ever felt a sense of guilt for something we should not have done will understand the events of the fall. It relates how sin entered the world and ruined the Paradise God had provided in the garden of Eden.
For mankind to be genuinely free, there has to be an option. The choice is to obey or to disobey God. In the case of Adam and Eve, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil symbolized that choice. And to obey God is to love God, but that love needs to be voluntary. You really can’t force someone to love another. And many times by trying to force love on someone, that person ends up hating the other. It is the same with Elohim. He wants us to love Him because we have made a decision to do so. Now the LORD could have created us as little robots. We could throw up our hands and say, “Praise Him, praise Him,” but with no love in it. We wouldn’t want to be loved that way and neither does God. He wants us to love Him because we choose to love Him. So He created us with a free will; free to love Him and have a relationship with Him or free to reject Him and have no relationship. Free to obey His Word or to sin. It is clear then, that god did not create sin. He merely provided the options necessary for human freedom, options which could result in sin.
When Adam sinned, all mankind sinned, and because his first sin transformed his body and soul, all mankind’s bodies and souls were transformed. His perfect, sinless body, which would have endured forever if he had not sinned, was changed. Now he had a sin nature, to be inherited down to you and me today. Now all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:22). As a result, when we are born (because we are descendants of Adam), we are born with this same sin nature. The world thinks that we are born good But the Bible teaches that when we are born we have inherited Adam’s sin nature, and for us to have a right standing before Elohim, something has to go drastically right; we must accept Messiah’s death on the cross for our sin and accept Him as our Lord and Savior. Make no mistake about it, if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ (Romans 8:9b).
The results of the Fall were immediate and devastating. The deceiver had promised that their eyes would be opened, and they would be like God, knowing good and evil (3:5). As usual with Satan, the results were a mixture of half-truths and lies. Their eyes were opened, but in a way they never imagined. Instead of knowing good and evil, they realized they were naked (3:7a). This was hardly the knowledge they bargained for, it was nothing like God’s. It was the opposite. What had been a sign of a healthy relationship in 2:25 now became a sign of shame. Sin had destroyed their innocence.Their actions delivered what Elohim had promised: death! The freedom and joy they once relished just disappeared. Their hearts turned cold toward God. Naked and filled with shame, they frantically stitched fig leaves together to cover themselves. Now they were polluted. The result was that they were uncomfortable with each other. It was not God’s original intention for Adam and Eve to die, but they had free will, and privilege always creates responsibility. The one who is given free will must be given a test to determine whether he or she will obey the LORD or not. For when you eat it you will surely die (2:17b). Death means separation, and Adam was separated from God spiritually the very instant that he ate. They had succeeded in hiding their nakedness from each other, but not from Elohim. Their separation from the LORD showed that they had died spiritually. From the instant they had rebelled against Elohim, Adam and Eve were aware of their sin. Something had gone terribly wrong in the Garden. They were feeling guilt and shame. When we become aware of our sin, it will either drive us far from God or into His arms. Adam and Eve hid from the God because the fellowship they once had with Him was no longer possible. They now feared the very thing they had previously delighted in the most, His presence Those involved in sin without repentance always despise His presence, because they know they cannot stand in the face of such holiness. But wisdom never comes to us when we hide from God.
While Adam and Eve were hiding from God, He was already seeking them with merciful intent. Here He was looking for some honesty so that He would have an opportunity to forgive. It is important to understand that being forgiven does not mean that there are no consequences for our actions. The consequences for the serpent, for Adam and for Eve will come soon enough. But for the moment, God wants confession. Then the consequences of their sin would be realized. The order of their sin, the serpent sinned first, then the woman, and finally the man, would be the same order of their judgment. Because God is just, He must judge sin; and because ADONAI is loving, He gives grace to the sinner. It is not surprising, then, that justice and grace intermingle in each case as the Lord God judges the serpent, the woman and the man.
Adam’s faith and God’s provision are seen in the next chapters. Elohim would save both him and his wife and ensure that they would not live forever in this state. It would be easy to see Adam’s fall as a bitterly disappointing ending to the creation story. The perfection of God’s glorious creation is destroyed. Humanity, created in His image, is fallen. Death and decay now infect all of life. Adam and Eve are driven out of paradise and sent into a hostile, sin-cursed world. But this isn’t merely the sad ending to the creation story; it is also the glorious beginning of the redemptive story. Genesis 3 contains the first promise of a Deliverer, and the remainder of the Bible is devoted to telling the old, old story of how God, by that Deliverer, ultimately redeems fallen humanity and the rest of creation from the cursed state into which Adam’s sin had plunged the world and everyone in it.
God clothed them. Physically, He clothed their nakedness, and spiritually He covered their sin. Elohim Himself would provide a covering by the shedding of innocent blood. This is the start of progressive revelation. It points to the fact that atonement needed to be made. Blood needed to be shed to forgive their sin. this is why we need jesus. There are four great lessons here. First, mankind must have adequate covering to approach Elohim. You cannot come to Him on the basis of your good works. You must come just as you are – a sinner. Second, fig leaves are unacceptable. God does not take a man-made garment. Third, God Himself must provide the covering. Fourth, an acceptable covering can only be obtained through the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. The garments of skin that God provided them with would continually remind them of His provision. In the same way, God the Father would one day accept the sacrifice of Christ, and on that basis, God the Father would graciously clothe those who believe in the righteousness of His Son. Like a loving Father, God knows what is best for His children even in His discipline. He already had a plan to restore them to paradise (Revelation 2:7).
Therefore, after the Fall, Adam and Eve soon had a sense of guilt . Then followed a sense of condemnation . Last of all came the reality of separation. It was impossible for them to remain in the Garden, and in a state of fellowship with God. Sin and paradise do not mix. So God drove the man and the woman out. Separation from Elohim is always the result of sin. Thus, the threefold punishment of guilt, condemnation and separation piled up on the man because of his sin. Is there any hope? Looking to the New Covenant, paul answers the threefold punishment with three rhetorical questions. To the question: “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen (Romans 8:33)?” the answer is this, there is no guilt! To the question: “Who is he that condemns (Romans 8:34)?” the answer is this, there is no condemnation! And to the question: “Who shall separate us from the love of Messiah (Romans 8:35)?” the answer is, there is no separation! This is surely Good News for all of those who are in Christ (Ephesians 1:3-14).Therefore, Elohim does not put up a roadblock by banning them from eden, but He keeps open the way of life for Adam and Eve. now the way of life is not through the tree of life, but through a Sacrifice.
Once the flood of sin was released on the world there was no way to stop it. Everyone on the earth was drowned by it and it stained everything it came into contact with. Following the example of Adam and Eve, their descendants openly rebelled against god. two families were being formed. While the family of Cain, by building a city, and the invention of worldly arts, was laying a foundation for the kingdom of this world; the family of Seth, by calling on the name of god began to build a foundation for the Kingdom of God. however, you will discover that sin slowly worked its way through the human family affected everyone who would be mastered by it. The first age of human history came to its climax and conclusion in the days of Noah. The terminal disease of sin, which began so innocently when Eve was tempted to doubt God’s word, then began to grow in the life of Cain, came to completion in the godless civilization that could only be purged by the Flood. The human race had become wicked beyond all belief and death would be their punishment. In the days before the Flood, sin had become pervasive. Its evil tentacles reached into every nook and cranny of a person’s life, and no one was ever free of its influence. The description here would be hard to match anywhere in Scripture. A state of anarchy and terror must have reigned. The LORD saw how great mankind’s wickedness on the earth had become. It was not merely that they entertained a somewhat sinful thought once in a while. On the contrary, their depravity was total; every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts and minds were only evil all the time. god was grieved that he had made man on the earth. Mankind had negated the LORD’s purpose in creation. god’s actions toward mankind changed when mankind’s actions toward the LORD changed. He responds one way to obedience and another way to disobedience. Although the demonic angels obviously contributed to the wickedness on the earth, people were ultimately responsible for their own sin. The solution for worldwide wickedness would be a worldwide Flood.
Yet this section ends with one glimmer of hope. But Noah found grace in the eyes of ADONAI (6:8). This is the first mention of grace in the Bible. One righteous man stands in the way of human destruction. Here we do not have the judgment of the LORD but His grace. This was the way out of the devastation. We have grace in the context of judgment. Noah’s life was the one point of light shining bravely through the darkness that was about to engulf the world. When the whole world turned its back on god, he stood strong in the face of adversity. Though Noah was a righteous man, he and his family would survive the waters of the Flood not because of his goodness but because of God’s grace. Noah was merely a sinner saved by grace. And so it is with us today. We who are believers would do well to remind ourselves often that it is by grace that we have been saved. nevertheless, the end had come; there was no alternative. God has decided to destroy all mankind and to make Noah and his family the ancestors of a new humanity. after this the name of God changes exclusively to ADONAI, because He is the God of redemption and mercy. He will save His people physically, as Christ saves us spiritually. Of all those on the ark, none were lost. God had spoken to Noah one hundred and twenty years earlier, giving instructions concerning the ark and the animals, and assuring him that the Flood would come on schedule. There had been no further word from heaven, but Noah remained faithful, obeying ADONAI’s commands without question. With all the urgency possible, he preached about the coming judgment, year after year, but without success. There were no converts. All the descendants of Cain and Seth died in the Flood. The tragedy of defying the LORD over and over again, of toying with His patience continually and persistently, is that eventually the time of repentance passes by and it becomes too late to seek His forgiveness. When the Flood came, everyone outside Noah’s immediate family was beyond hope and doomed to destruction. And the situation will be exactly the same when jesus returns.
Noah. He received new specific divine revelation that told him exactly how to run this new world. man is given the authority to rule. Man’s responsibility was to obey the Covenant, or agreement with Noah. The test during that time was to rule properly, but they were not to unite under one government, and they were too disperse over all the earth. But then came the failure. Man tried to unify, using the Tower of Babel as its center. It was both literal and symbolic. Literally, the Tower of Babel was an attempt to build a high tower for the purpose of studying the stars. They wanted to try to reach into the heavens, not to study astronomy, but to study astrology. In reality, they wanted to replace the LORD as the creator and center of the universe and put themselves in His place. They did not believe in the worship of one God, so they started worshiping many gods, which is polytheism. That was the physical purpose of the Tower of Babel. The symbolic purpose was to deliberately disobey the command to spread all over the world. The purpose of the Tower of Babel was to serve as a center of attraction, to keep humanity together so that they would not spread out and lose contact with each other. They wanted to build an empire. Nimrod was an empire builder and he was going to be at the center of it, not ADONAI. As a result of the failure came the judgment, which was the confusion of tongues. Because of their rebellion against God and His authority, He confused their language. Their common language kept them together. With the lack of a common language there is turmoil, confusion, conflict and possibly war. By causing the confusion of language, the LORD forced a separation. Groups of people found others who could speak the same language and they moved to another part of the world to separate themselves from those they could not understand. Grace was displayed in the way ADONAI preserved His remnant. The specific remnant that God preserved is listed after the Tower of Babel incident. Chapter 11 traces the genealogy of Noah and Shem all the way down to Abraham, with whom the LORD will begin His next dispensation. So Elohim did preserve a remnant who will be the followers of the One true God during this period of time. The promise He made about the seed of the woman, continued to be preserved in spite of the Flood and the Tower of Babel. God preserved the unique seed line through which the promise of Christ would be fulfilled. Out of the scattered nations of the world, ADONAI formed one nation that would become His channel of blessing. Consequently, God was not done with the human race. the next step of the LORD’s plan, the calling of Abraham.
Abraham would become the father of the faithful. But beforehand, God would bring him through four very definite crises, each of which was designed to build his faith. First, he was called to leave his homeland, Ur of the Chaldeans. He was to leave his family. That would be a real test for him and he didn’t do very well at first, but, nevertheless, he eventually left. Second, he was asked to separate from his nephew Lot. Abraham loved Lot, but the time would come when they would have to separate, and Lot would go down to Sodom. Third, he will be tested by being asked to separate from his boy, the son of Hagar, Ishmael. He would love that boy and would hate to be separated from him, but out of obedience, Abraham would send him away. Finally, Abraham would come to his supreme test, the fourth great crisis in his life. He would be asked to sacrifice Isaac, the son of promise, as a sin offering. He wouldn’t understand it, but he would be willing to go through with it. And Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his only son as a sin offering on Mount Moriah would become a picture of God the Father’s willingness to sacrifice His only Son as a sin offering on Mount Calvary.
The first eleven chapters in the book of Genesis record those events and circumstances that were necessary for the call of Abraham, the patriarchs and the nation of Isra'el in the first place. Human sin had become so severe that it threatened to undo God’s good creation. But no matter how widespread sin becomes, God’s grace preserves a means of saving mankind from the full consequences of sin. The primeval history reached its climax as man prepared to build a monument to Himself. This led the LORD to say: nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them (11:6). The combination of the Babel story with the genealogy of Shem, culminating in Abram, emphatically makes the point that the call of Abraham constitutes the divine response to the human condition, a response of grace channeled through the Hebrew people, an Israelite nation, and a Jewish Savior, the Seed of the woman , Christ the Lord. There is a sequence of blessing-sin-grace that is clearly seen throughout the book of Genesis. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are blessed with promises from God, and in spite of their failures, Elohim guards His promises until they find their fulfillment in the nation of Isra’el. Nevertheless, the sin problem in Genesis 1-11 is shown to be worldwide, so that all of us may understand our own personal problem with sin. None of us are exempt. But God’s grace runs like an undercurrent throughout the whole eleven chapters. He always maintains a means of escape. The promise to Adam and Eve that their offspring would confront and ultimately conquer the offspring of the serpent is still a reality today. As we travel through the book of Genesis, we will learn the means of escape. Through the line of Shem and Terah, He prepared, at long last, for the Messiah and His triumph over sin and evil. And just as the sin problem is both universal and personal, so is the solution. The LORD will pay the price and buy us back through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. This is not only the solution for the world; it is also the solution for you and me.
The birth of Isaac marked a pivotal point in the outworking of God’s eternal purpose. After the call of Abraham to be the father of the faithful, the birth of Isaac was the second great step toward the fulfillment of the LORD’s plan. His eternal desire was to have a people of His own, separate from the surrounding nations; a people who should be trusted with His Word; a people through whom the Savior was to be born; and a people who, ultimately, would become the means of blessing to the entire earth.
Genesis has two major divisions. The first division (1:1 to 11:9) deals with four great events, the Creation, the Fall, the Flood and the making of Nations. The second division (11:10 to 50:26) deals with four great men, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. Jacob had twelve sons . His twelve sons were another assurance that God is faithful and His promises are true. These sons are the first fruits of the twelve tribes of Isra’el that would become a great nation. now Genesis follows the promises of God through the descendants of Jacob not his brother Esau. There is perhaps no greater contrast in Scripture than what is seen in the characters of Esau and Jacob. Esau was sensual in the sense that he lived his life for personal enjoyment. He lived for the moment and seemed perfectly willing to sacrifice everything to get whatever he wanted right then and there. He was in every sense earthy and earth bound. His life was secular. Everything in him was of the world and the flesh, and no part of his life was devoted to ADONAI. This was the root of his trouble. God was not at all in his thoughts. The purpose of Esau’s genealogy is to show that the seed of the serpent is alive and well on planet earth. They are multiplying and being fruitful. Esau had set his heart on the here and now. It seemed that God’s promises to Abraham and Isaac meant nothing to him. Here then, Genesis gives us a picture of Esau’s family, and then the page is turned. The rest of the story lies with Jacob’s family; they would be the Seed of the woman, or the line of blessing. All twelve sons were in the line of blessing through Jacob. They became known as the sons of Isra'el. In time, their descendants were known as Israelite's. As the human key to fulfilling His plans, God chose Joseph. We find that through his story of pain and loss, God was working for Joseph’s good and for the good of all Israelite's, and ultimately for the entire world.
Joseph will teach us how to move from tragedy to triumph, from bitterness to blessing and get past the pain and onto the promises of God. Joseph went from the pit to the palace, and Joseph’s story is your story. Everything that Joseph experienced, you will experience in your lifetime. In the journey of life you will experience rejection. You will experience betrayal. You are going to experience false accusation, sexual temptation, bitterness, and a burning desire for revenge for people who have hurt you deeply. You will experience the agony of being forgotten by those who you have helped the most. You will experience depression, when year after year things go wrong. Satan will sit on your bed at night and he will have this discussion with you. He will say, “You couldn’t love ADONAI and be this messed up.” But when you walk out of the prison into the palace to be with the King, all depression vanishes. Although the line of the Messiah would come through Judah, it was Joseph who would save the family and the nation of Isra’el. its through the life of Joseph we all can trust god to save us regardless of our circumstances. The LORD is always behind the scenes when human evil is present, and He works in the lives of those who are faithful to prosper their service. Joseph is no exception. His faithfulness to God was the means of his advancement.
The reunion of Joseph and his brothers is one of the most beautiful and moving stories in the entire Bible. Reconciliation between brothers once alienated is in itself a powerful theme. But in this case, the offended brother, Joseph, was totally innocent of any wrongdoing. Besides, the treacherous brothers were racked with the pain of guilt, having long since assumed Joseph was dead. Furthermore, the narrative is written in such a way as to heighten the suspense and build to the dramatic moment in which Joseph revealed his true identity to his brothers. It is the climax of the story of Joseph. God planned to bring the family to Egypt so that it would grow there into a great nation. But it was necessary that the people who entered Egypt be faithful to Him. It was necessary that the brothers be tested before they could participate in the LORD’s blessing. Joseph’s brothers had experienced a measure of repentance during their traumatic experience in Egypt, but there was still much more to be accomplished in their hearts by the holy spirit before they would be truly prepared and unified spiritually to serve their fathers and be the founders of the twelve tribes of Isra’el. They had to confront Joseph, learn to confess their sin, and finally experience the joy of forgiveness that brings fellowship and unity. the reunion of the brothers is one of the closing scenes of genesis. Words fail to describe this scene. It is perhaps the most dramatic reunion in all of literature. It was here that the miracle nation of the children of Isra’el was established. It was the founding of a unique people to whom God’s word and the Messiah would be given.
The blessing and cursing of the twelve sons reiterates the book’s major theme. Mankind lost the blessing of ADONAI through sin and rebellion in the garden of Eden, but the LORD will restore His blessings through the Seed of Abraham. God had led them into Egypt, and it would be up to Him to lead them out again. The book of Genesis began with man in the garden of Eden. Paradise had been lost and the world needed to be bought back from sin. Thus the groundwork has been laid and the transition is natural to the opening verses of Exodus, where ADONAI would rise up a new prophet and leader in His servant Moses.
(teaching taken from Hebraic studies on Genesis)