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An Introduction to Genesis

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I. NATURE OF THE WORK: Although issues of science, biography and history are a part of Genesis, it is primarily a book of theology

A. Theology is communicated through the stories of Genesis

B. The stories do find reality in history:1

1. “Ugaritic (1400 B. C.) shows widespread use of cultic terms (P), poetic clichés, “Aramaisms,” divine names, and repetition in style”

2. “Early inscriptions demonstrate the plausibility of a high literacy rate at an early stage. The Gezer Calendar represents a school boy’s writing tablet (ca. 925 BC), and the inscriptions in the turquoise mines of Serabit el Khadem (15th century B. C.) are the work of slaves”

3. “Eblaite (Tell Mardikh) is just now beginning to bring forth evidence of having bearing on Genesis. One notable example is the listing of the cities of the plain (Gen. 14) as a southern boundary”

4. “Nuzi tablets, discovered in 1925 on the Tigris, show many customs found in the patriarchal narratives, such as the household servant as heir, the selling of the birthright, deathbed wills, children of concubines, and the stealing of household gods”

5. “Mari tablets (18th century), discovered in 1933, show many names comparable to those in Genesis. Moreover the concept of ‘exile’ is found in Mari (the presence of the anticipation of exile is one reason for the late date of Deuteronomy)”

6. “Hittite legal codes,discovered in 1906, show instructions for selling property with the feudal obligations (Gen. 23)”

7. “Priestly Code laws, legal and cultic, were considered to be late. But the law code of Hammurabi attests earlier codes. Many of the laws are similar (waiting til the 5th year to eat fruit [Lev. 19; Ham. 60], death to both adulterers [Lev. 20; Ham. 129], and bitter water test [Num 19; Ham. 132]). Ugaritic texts provide similar sacrificial terms, the peace offering, sin offering, trespass offering, and the heave offering. Notable is the parallel concerning boiling a kid in milk--the basis of modern Jewish Kosher laws (Ex. 23:19; CTA 52:14)”2

II. DATES: A Conservative Reconstruction of Israel’s History Is As Follows:

A. The Patriarchs 2166--1805 BC

1. Abraham 2166-19913

2. Isaac 2066-18864

3. Jacob 2006-18595

4. Joseph 1915-18056

B. Migration to Egypt 1876 (Gen 45:6)

C. Egyptian Sojourn 1876-1446 BC (Ex. 12:40)7

D. Early Date of the Exodus 1446 BC8

E. Wilderness Wanderings 1446-1406 BC

F. Conquest and Judges 1406-1050 BC

G. United Kingdom 1050-931 BC


A. [Creation] 1:1--2:3

B. Tôledôt of the heavens and the earth 2:4--4:26

C. Tôledôt of Adam 5:1--6:8

D. Tôledôt of Noah 6:9--9:29

E. Tôledôt of Shem, Ham and Japheth 10:1--11:9

F. Tôledôt of Shem 11:10-26

G. Tôledôt of Terah 11:27--25:11

H. Tôledôt of Ishmael 25:12-18

I. Tôledôt of Isaac 25:19--35:29

J. Tôledôt of Esau 36:1--37:1

K. Tôledôt of Jacob 37:2--50:6


A. To present man’s revolt against his Maker and its terrible consequences

B. To provide the historical basis for the covenant of promise with Abraham whereby God will graciously bring about the solution to man’s revolt

C. To encourage faith in YHWH by introducing His election and separation of Israel to Himself as a resolution to the terrible consequences to mankind’s revolt

1 The following comes from Allen P. Ross, "The Literary Analytical Approach," 10-11.

2 For further archaeological studies see Unger's Archaeology and the Old Testament, and Kitchen's Ancient Orient and Old Testament.

3 Abraham dies at ages 175 (Gen. 25:7).

4 Isaac was born when Abraham was 100 in 2066 (Gen 21:5) and died at age 180 in 1886 (Gen 35:21).

5 Jacob was born when Isaac was 60 in 2006 (Gen 25:26), moved to Egypt at age 130 in 1876 (Gen 47:9), and died at age 147 just 17 years after he moved to Egypt in 1859 (Gen 47:28).

6 Chronology from the Exodus back to Joseph (adapted from Allen P. Ross, "Genesis" BKC, 89):


= yr of the Exodus


= yrs the Israelites were in Egypt (Ex 12:40)


= yr Jacob moved to Egypt after 2 yrs of famine (Gen 45:6)


= portion of 7 yr famine before Jacob moved (Gen 45:6)


= yr the seven-year famine began


= yrs of abundance (Gen 41:47)


= yr Joseph released from prison and made second in command (age 30; Gen 41:46)


= yrs Joseph was in Potiphar's house and in prison


= yr Joseph was sold to Egypt (at age 17; Gen 37:2, 28)


= yrs of Joseph's youth


= yr Joseph was born

Therefore, Joseph was born in 1915, sold into Egypt at age 17 in 1898 (Gen 37:2, 28) and died at age 110 (Gen 50:26).

7 Exodus 12:40-41 proclaims that Israel lived in Egypt for 430 years to the very day of their Exodus (cf. Gal. 3:17).

This are two basic views about the 430 years mentioned in this verse.

(1) There are 430 years from Genesis 15 to Exodus 20 (e.g., 215 years from Abraham to the captivity, and 215 years from the captivity to Sinai). However, these dates do not fit with a conservative chronology (e.g., Abraham was c. 2,000 BC, and the Exodus was c. 1446 BC; Also the captivity was prophesied to be 400 years in Genesis 15:13, not 215 years)

(2) There are 430 years from Genesis 46 to Exodus 20. In Genesis 46 Jacob receives the last confirmation of the Abrahamic covenant and then goes into Egypt as one of the patriarchs c. 1876 BC. Acts 7:6, and Genesis 15:13-16 both describe 400 years of captivity. Perhaps they are using rounded numbers. Or perhaps from the final giving of the promise to Abraham's descendant, Jacob, in the Land until the Exodus is 430 years. This would make the captivity proper 400 years. 1 Chronicles 7:20-21 describes ten generations from Joseph to Joshua. It would take 400 years to grow from 70 to 2-3 million.

8 This date emphasizes the literal interpretation of the biblical numbers in Exodus 12:40 ("Now the time that the sons of Israel lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years"), Judges 11:26 ("While Israel lived in Heshbon and its villages, and in Aroer and its villages, and in all the cities that are on the banks of the Arnon, three hundred years, why did you not recover them within that time?") and 1 Kings 6:1 ("Now it came about in the four hundred and eightieth year after the sons of Israel came out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon's reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv which is the second month, that he began to build the house of the Lord") .

Hill and Walton offer the following arguments for an early date (A Survey of the Old Testament, 108):

"1. 1 Kings 6:1 indicates the Exodus occurred 480 years prior to the 4th year of Solomon's reign. His 4th year is variously dated at 966/960/957 B.C., placing the Exodus at 1446/1440/1437.

2. According to Judg. 11:26, Israel had occupied Canaan for 300 years before the judgeship of Jephthah, which is dated between 1100 and 1050. This dates Joshua's conquest between 1400 and 1350. Adding Israel's 40 years in the desert puts the Exodus between 1440 and 1390.

3. Moses lived in exile in Midian 40 years (Acts 7:3; cf. Exod. 2:23) while the pharaoh of the oppression was still alive. The only pharaohs who ruled 40 years or more were Thutmose III (1504-1450) and Rameses II (1290-1224).

4. The Merneptah Stela (ca. 1220) indicates Israel was already an established nation at the time.

5. The Amarna tablets (ca. 1400) speak of a period of chaos caused by the "Habiru," very likely the Hebrews.

6. The early date allows for the length of time assigned to the period of the judges (at least 250 years). The late date allows only 180 years.

7. The Dream Stela of Thutmose IV indicates he was not the legal heir to the throne (i.e., the legal heir would have died in the tenth plague).

8. Archaeological evidence from Jericho, Hazor, etc., supports a 15th-century date for the Exodus

9. Exod. 12:40 dates the entrance of Jacob into Egypt during the reign of Sesostris/Senusert III (1878-43) rather than during the Hyksos period (1674-1567)."

Therefore a plausible (and approximate) reconstruction would be as follows (Wood, A Survey of Israel 's History, 88-90):


= 4th full year (actually into the fifth) of Solomon's reign (971-931) when the Temple was begun

+44 yrs

= start of David's reign (1010)

+40 yrs

= start of Saul's reign (1050)

+40 yrs

= the time from Saul to Jephthah's statement (1050-1090)

+300 yrs

= the time in the land (Jephthah's statement) (1390)

+16 yrs

= Joshua's leadership (1406)

+40 yrs

= wilderness wondering (1446)

This matches I Kings 6:1 where 966 + 480 = 1446!

+430 yrs

= the time that Israel lived in Egypt before the Exodus (Ex. 12:40) and therefore Jacob moved to Egypt in 1876.

Related Topics: Introductions, Arguments, Outlines