The English title comes from the Greek Septuagint translation of the Hebrew (3rd cent. B.C.) and means "origin, birth or generation." The Hebrew title is áøàùéú (from øÅàùÑÄéú [reshiyth /ray·sheeth/) taken from the opening word translated "in the beginning."
The earliest extant records universally attribute the book to Moses. Deuteronomy 1:8; 2 Kings 13:23 and 1 Chronicles 1:1 allude to Genesis as part of the Law of Moses. (Cf. also Matt. 19:4-8; Luke 16:29-31; 24:27; John 5:46-47; 7:19, 23.)
Internally, the book is a literary whole, unified in thematic development. In addition, the story of Joseph reveals several evidences of Egyptian local color. (39:4; 40:9-11 and 41:40 have all been illuminated by archaeological discoveries in Egypt.) Educated by the Egyptians, Moses could have written in several languages and scripts.
His first book serves as an incredible introduction not only to Exodus but also to the whole of the Bible. Mosaic authorship can be safely assumed. Increasing archaeological data has served to confirm Mosaic authorship and embarrass those who have argued against it. A case in point is the fact that it has now been demonstrated that writing was very old by 1500 B.C. instead of unknown as the critics had once claimed.
Date and Setting
The exact date is not given, but Moses could have used any number of written or oral records and most likely wrote it in the wilderness of Sinai after the Exodus in 1445 B.C. (There is voluminous literature written regarding the date of the book. An early date is assumed here.) As Israel became a nation, they needed teaching on the origin, not only of the human race, but also of the nations they would face in Canaan (chap. 10). Especially did they need to know of the covenant made with Abraham, which, among other promises, gave them the land of the Canaanites. The prophecy given to Abraham (15:15-16) not only promised their return but also implied God's will to destroy the wicked inhabitants, whose time for judgment had come. The nation of Israel had, as it were, been born in the womb of Egypt. They needed to recognize their roots as being in the land to which they were going. This should have produced faith that as God had cared for the Patriarchs, so He would care for the nation. The book concludes with a further prediction of the national destiny by Joseph's request to return his bones to the land of their inheritance (50:25).
Theme and Purpose
The book begins with basic material on the beginning of the earth, the birds, the fish, the animals and, finally, the crown of Creation--man. J. Sidlow Baxter has suggested that verse one provides a refutation of six principal false philosophies popular throughout history:
"In the beginning God"--that denies Atheism with its doctrine of no God.
"In the beginning God"--that denies Polytheism with its doctrine of many gods.
"In the beginning God created"--that denies Fatalism with its doctrine of chance.
"In the beginning God created--that denies Evolution with its doctrine of infinite becoming.
"God created heaven and earth"--that denies Pantheism which makes God and the universe identical.
"God created heaven and earth"--that denies Materialism which asserts the eternity of matter. (Baxter, Explore the Book, p. 34.)
More specifically, the book's theme revolves around how God chose one man out of all the nations, through whom He would make a nation to bless all nations. Chapters 1-11 (20%) cover over two thousand years of history from Creation to about 2135 B.C. (obviously this date is subject to debate, but is simply taking the literal date from the book itself. Obviously, other dating systems can be considered), when Abraham was born. Chapters 12-50 (80%) cover less than three hundred years. (Joseph died about 1837 B.C.) Thus, the book is selective, thematic history, not a broad "story of mankind."
In addition, the book was written to prepare Israel to understand their patriarchal roots and their divine destiny as possessors of the land of the Canaanites. Gene sis was thus written to build the faith of a "slave" people that they might become a mighty nation by depending upon God.
Contribution to the Bible
Genesis provides the foundation upon which the entire Bible is built. Without it, redemption's story would have no historical basis. It provides the plot of the biblical "drama" which climaxes in the book of Revelation. Scroggie says it well when he comments,
As to scope, GENESIS tells us the beginning of everything, except God. The beginning of the universe, of life, of man, of the sabbath, of covenants, of nomenclature, of marriage, of sin, of redemption, of death, of family life, of sacrifices, of nations, of government, of music, of literature, of art, of agriculture, of mechanics, of cities, and of languages; indeed, of everything we know. As to its limits, it is only the beginning; there is here no finality (Scroggie, Know Your Bible, p. 21).
Christ in Genesis
Christ is the Seed of the woman (3:15), the Seed of Abraham (12:3) and the Shiloh descended from Judah (49:10). Christ is also the Life-giver in contrast to Adam who brought death (Rom. 5:12; 1 Cor. 15:21-22). Christ is the ultimate object to whom the sacrifices point (Gen. 3:21;John 1:29). In addition, the "sacrifice" of Isaac points to the death of Christ, who was the Lamb provided by God (Gen. 22). Christ is also prefigured in Melchizedek, to whom Abraham paid tithes (Gen. 14:18-20; Ps. 110:1; Heb. 7:1-17). Joseph's life is also at least an illustration of Christ. Both were the objects of their father's love; both were hated and rejected by those closest to them; both were sold for a price, condemned as innocent and raised from humiliation to blessing by the power of God.
SUMMARY OUTLINE OF GENESIS
[note to editors: the following uses the system promoted by the late Harold Hoehner. My intention was to convert these to the more common system using I, A etc). I have simply not had time to convert these in preparation for placing on the web. I don't mind leaving it but to the some people this format could be confusing?]
1A. Introduction--Creation 1
2A. The history of mankind up to Abraham 2-11
1B. The story of the heavens and the earth 2-4
1C. The garden and the people 2
2C. The fall and the curse 3
3C. The children and civilization 4
2B. The story of Adam 5
3B. The story of Noah 6-9
4B. The table of nations 10
5B. The tower of Babel 11
3A. The history of Abraham and his descendants 12-50
1B. The story of Abraham 12-25a
1C. Abraham's call 12
2C. Lot's choice 13
3C. Lot's deliverance 14
4C. Abrahamic covenant 15
5C. Abraham's failure 16
6C. Isaac promised 17
7C. Abraham's intercession 18
8C. Sodom's destruction 19
9C. Abraham's lapse 20
10C. Isaac's birth 21
11C. Isaac's sacrifice 22
12C. Sarah's death 23
13C. Isaac's bride 24
14C. Abraham's remarriage and death 25a
2B. The story of Ishmael--rejected 25b
3B. The story of Isaac--chosen 25c-35
1C. Isaac's twin sons 25c
2C. Isaac's life 26
3C. Jacob's deception 27
4C. Jacob's flight and dream 28
5C. Jacob's marriage and children 29-30
6C. Jacob's return to Canaan 31
7C. Jacob's peace with Esau 32-33
8C. Dinah's compromise 34
9C. Jacob in Bethel 35
4B. The story of Esau-rejected 36
5B. The story of Jacob's sons--chosen 37-50
1C. Joseph's dreams and slavery in Egypt 37
2C. Judah's sin 38
3C. Joseph's purity and imprisonment 39
4C. The cupbearer and the baker 40
5C. Judah's elevation and the famine 41
6C. The arrival of Joseph's brothers 42
7C. The return of Joseph's brothers 43
8C. The testing of Joseph's brothers 44
9C. The reconciliation of Joseph's brothers 45
10C. Jacob in Egypt 46
11C. Joseph's preservation of Egypt 47
12C. Jacob's blessing of Joseph 48
13C. Jacob's blessing of his sons 49
14C. Jacob's death 50
OUTLINE OF GENESIS
1A. Introduction 1:1-2:3
1B. The beginning of Creation 1:1-2
2B. The six days of Creation 1:3-31
1C. Day one--the light 1:3-5
2C. Day two--atmosphere and seas 1:6-8
3C. Day three--land and vegetation 1:9-13
4C. Day four--the lights for the earth 1:14-19
5C. Day five--water creatures and birds of the air 1:20-23
6C. Day six--land animals and man 1:24-31
3B. The seventh day 2:1-3
2A. The history of mankind up to Abraham 2:4-11:26
1B. The story of the heavens and the earth 2:4-4:26
1C. The garden for man 2:4-14
2C. The first couple 2:15-25
1D. The command 2:15-17
2D. The suitable counterpart 2:18-25
3C. The Fall 3:1-13
1D. The temptation 3:1-5
2D. The disobedience 3:6
3D. The result 3:7-13
4C. The curse 3:14-19
1D. Of the serpent 3:14-15
2D. Of the woman 3:16
3D. Of the man 3:17-19
5C. The consequences 3:20-24
1D. The exercise of faith 3:20
2D. The clothing by sacrifice 3:21
3D. The banishment from the garden 3:22-24
6C. The children 4:1-26
1D. Two kinds of men 4:1-2
2D. Two approaches to God 4:3-4
3D. Rejection by God 4:5
4D. Grace extended by faith 4:6-7
5D. Grace refused by Cain 4:8-9
6D. Sin punished 4:10-15
7D. Cainite civilization 4:16-24
8D. Sethite beginning 4:25-26
2B. The story of Adam 5:1-6:8
1C. The reign of death 5:1-32
2C. The setting for destruction 6:1-8
1D. The warning 6:1-3
2D. The wickedness 6:4-7
3D. The acceptance 6:8
3B. The story of Noah 6:9-29
1C. The preparation of the ark 6:9-22
2C. The destruction by the Flood 7:1-8:19
1D. The preservation of the faithful 7:1-16
2D. The judgment upon the faithless 7:17-24
3D. The waiting for the word of God 8:1-17
4D. The exit of the saved 8:18-19
3C. The covenant with Noah 8:20-9:17
1D. The worship of the saved 8:20
2D. The divine promise 8:21-22
3D. The divine blessing 9:1
4D. The change in man's relation to animals 9:2-4
5D. The establishing of capital punishment 9:5-6
6D. The blessing repeated 9:7
7D. The universal covenant sign 9:8-17
4C. The conditions after the Flood 9:18-28
4B. The story of the sons of Noah 10:1-11:18
1C. The descendants of Japheth 10:2-5
2C. The descendants of Ham 10:6-20
3C. The descendants of Shem 10:21-32
4C. The division of tongues 11:1-9
5B. The story of Shem 11:10-26
3A. The history of Abraham and his descendants 11:27-50:26
1B. The story of Abraham 11:27-25:11
1C. Terah's story 11:27-32
2C. Abraham before Isaac 12:1-20:18
1D. The promise to Abraham 12:1-3
2D. Abraham's traveling to Canaan 12:4-9
3D. Abraham's failure in Egypt 12:10-20
4D. Separation from Lot 13:1-18
5D. Rescue of Lot 14:1-24
1E. The rescue 14:1-16
2E. The blessing 14:17-24
6D. Abrahamic covenant confirmed 15:1-21
1E. The response of faith 15:1-6
2E. The unilateral covenant--land 15:7-21
7D. Hagar and Ishmael 16:1-16
8D. The covenant of circumcision-seed 17:1-27
9D. The three visitors who destroy Sodom 18:1-19:38
1E. A son promised to Sarah 18:1-15
2E. Abraham interceding for Sodom 18:16-33
3E. Angels inspecting Sodom 19:1-11
4E. Angels delivering Lot 19:12-22
5E. Sodom destroyed 19:23-29
6E. Lot and his daughters 19:30-38
10D. Abraham's failure in Gerar 20:1-18
3C. Abraham and Isaac 21:1-22:19
1D. The birth of Isaac 21:1-7
2D. The removal of Ishmael 21:8-21
3D. The treaty at Beersheba 21:22-34
4D. The offering of Isaac 22:1-19
4C. Abraham until death 22:20-25:11
1D. Nahor's sons 22:20-24
2D. Sarah's death 23:1-20
3D. Isaac's bride 24:1-67
1E. The promise of the servant 24:1-9
2E. The test by the servant 24:10-21
3E. The reception of the servant 24:22-33
4E. The story by the servant 24:34-49
5E. The success of the servant 24:50-61
6E. The bride for Isaac 24:62-67
4D. Abraham's marriage to Keturah 25:1-6
5D. Abraham's death 25:7-11
2B. The story of rejected Ishmael 25:12-18
3B. The story of chosen Isaac 25:19-35:29
1C. The birth of Esau and Jacob 25:19-26
2C. Birthright despised by Esau 25:27-34
3C. Isaac and Abimelech 26:1-35
1D. Failure in Gerar 26:1-11
2D. Philistine envy 26:12-22
3D. The Abrahamic covenant confirmed 26:23-25
4D. Philistine treaty 26:26-33
5D. Esau's Hittite marriages 26:34-35
4C. Jacob's deception 27:1-40
1D. The plot 27:1-13
2D. The stolen blessing 27:14-29
3D. Esau's remorse 27:30-40
5C. Jacob's flight 27:41-28:22
1D. Esau's grudge 27:41
2D. Rebecca's plan 27:42-46
3D. Isaac's blessing 28:1-5
4D. Esau's response 28:6-9
5D. Jacob's dream 28:10-22
6C. Jacob's family 29:1-30:43
1D. Jacob meets Rachel 29:1-14
2D. Jacob marries Leah and Rachel 29:15-30
3D. Jacob's children 29:31-30:24
1E. Leah's children 29:31-35
1F. Reuben 29:31-32
2F. Simeon 29:33
3F. Levi 29:34
4F. Judah 29:35
2E. Bilhah's (Rachel's servant) children 30:1-8
1F. The setting 30:1-3
2F. Dan 30:4-6
3F. Naphtali 30:7-8
3E. Zilpah's (Leah's servant) children 30:9-13
1F. Gad 30:9-11
2F. Asher 30:12-13
4E. Leah's children 30:14-21
1F. Issachar 30:14-18
2F. Zebulun 30:19-20
3F. Dinah 30:21
5E. Rachel's child--Joseph 30:22-24
4D. Jacob's prosperity 30:25-43
7C. Jacob's return 31:1-33:20
1D. Jacob traveling to Canaan 31:1-53
1E. Jacob fleeing 31:1-21
2E. Laban pursuing 31:22-30
3E. Laban's search 31:31-35
4E. Laban and Jacob's covenant 31:36-53
2D. Jacob meets Esau 32:1-33:20
1E. Esau's response 32:1-6
2E. Jacob's plans 32:7-8
3E. Jacob's prayers 32:9-12
4E. Jacob's plans 32:13-21
5E. Jacob's wrestling 32:22-32
6E. Jacob's reconciliation 33:1-20
8C. Dinah's compromise 34:1-31
9C. Jacob in Bethel and Mamre 35:1-29
1D. Jacob in Bethel 35:1-15
1E. Idols buried 35:1-6
2E. Altar built 35:7
3E. Deborah's death 35:8
4E. Covenant confirmed 35:9-15
2D. Rachel's death in childbirth--Benjamin 35:16-20
3D. Jacob in Migdal Eder 35:21-22
4D. Jacob's sons named 35:23-26
5D. Jacob in Mamre 35:27
6D. Isaac's death 35:28-29
4B. The story of rejected Esau 36:1-43
1C. Esau's family 36:1-14
2C. Esau's descendants 36:15-30
3C. Edom's kings 36:31-43
5B. The story of chosen Jacob and his sons 37:1-50:26
1C. Joseph introduced 37:1-36
1D. His position 37:1-4
2D. His dreams 37:5-11
3D. His rejection 37:12-36
2C. Judah's moral failure 38:1-30
1D. Er and Onan killed 38:1-10
2D. Tamar promised 38:11-12
3D. Tamar pregnant 38:13-30
3C. Joseph alone in Egypt 39:1-45:28
1D. Joseph's purity and imprisonment 39:1-23
2D. The dreams interpreted 40:1-23
3D. Pharaoh's dream 41:1-36
4D. Joseph's exaltation 41:37-45
5D. Abundant years 41:46-52
6D. The beginning of famine 41:53-57
7D. Joseph and his brothers 42:1-45:28
1E. The brothers going to Egypt 42:1-28
2E. The brothers returning to Canaan 42:29-38
3E. The second journey to Egypt 43:1-45:15
1F. The debate 43:1-14
2F. The dinner 43:15-34
3F. The test 44:1-15
4F. The substitute 44:16-34
5F. The reconciliation 45:1-15
4E. The return to get Jacob 45:16-28
4C. Jacob going to Egypt 46:1-47:12
1D. The renewed covenant 46:1-4
2D. The family named 46:5-27
3D. The family settled 46:28-47:12
5C. Joseph, the savior of his family 47:13-50:21
1D. Joseph buying all Egypt 47:13-26
2D. Jacob blessing his family 47:27-49:33
1E. The promise to Jacob 47:27-31
2E. The blessing of Manasseh and Ephraim 48:1-22
3E. The blessing of the sons 49:1-28
1F. Introduction 49:1-2
2F. Reuben 49:3-4
3F. Simeon and Levi 49:5-7
4F. Judah 49:8-12
5F. Zebulun 49:13
6F. Issachar 49:14-15
7F. Dan 49:16-18
8F. Gad 49:19
9F. Asher 49:20
10F. Naphtali 49:21
11F. Joseph 49:22-26
12F. Benjamin 49:27
13F. Conclusion 49:28
4E. The death of Jacob 49:29-33
3D. Joseph burying Jacob 50:1-14
4D. Reconciliation complete 50:15-21
4A. Epilogue 50:22-26
ARGUMENT OF GENESIS
In a broad sense Genesis 1-11 is the introduction not only to the book of Genesis but also to the entire Bible. Within this broad sweep of human history (chaps. 1- 11) 1:1-2:3 forms the introduction to the ten-fold úÉåìÀãÉåú (toledoth meaning generataions or account), which comprises the book of Genesis. As the argument below shows, this word is repeated 10 times making a sort of chapter marker to the book by Moses)
This narrower preface (1:1-2:3) introduces the reader to the powerful Creator, who created the universe. The text itself is primarily concerned with the earth. The first three days of His creative activity (literal 24 hr. days) involved giving form to original formless earth (2:2). Day one saw the establishing of a light source which distinguishes day and night by earth's rotation (an implication). On day two God separated the atmosphere (with suspended water) from the liquid water upon the earth. It may also imply a vapor or ice canopy surrounding the earth. Day three saw the formation of dry land to produce vegetation and the seas, which would become home to the aquatic life forms.
Day four began the second three-day cycle, which served to correct the emptiness (1:2) of the earth. From the original light source God established our sun and moon. Then, almost as an "after-thought," Moses informed his readers that God made the stellar heavens, called stars, which include the solar system and myriads of galaxies, which are still being mapped. These celestial navigational signs established the seven day cycle of the lunar month as well as the solar year, both of which formed the basis of the calendar systems, ancient and modern. Day five saw God filling the water with living creatures and the air with fowl. They were commanded to propagate and fill their respective habitations with creatures after their kind. On the sixth day the land creatures were created, followed by the crown of God's earthly creation, man himself. Created in the image of God, man was to have dominion over all the creation. Both man and animals were to be vegetarians.
Of the Creation, God noted that it was good (day 1, day 3 twice, day 4, day 5 and day 6). In addition, He climaxed the entire Creation with the added statement, "It was very good."
The introduction concludes with a statement regarding God's having finished (rested from) all His creative activity. This seventh day was later given to Israel as a sign of her covenantal relationship with Yahweh (Exod. 20:8-11). Later, the writer to Hebrews used this day as a type of the faith-rest life made available by the death of Christ (Heb. 4).
The first toledoth (2:4-4:26) úÉåìÀãÉåú (toledoth) is a Hebrew word occurring 10 times in Genesis, translated as "story, history, account, or generations." Many scholars see the word as marking not only the inspired outline of Genesis but perhaps the different "records" used by Moses to compile his inspired account of man's beginnings.) reviews Creation but from the specific viewpoint of man. Details are given in this second account concerning man's environment (2:4-14), responsibility (2:15-17) and original aloneness. This "defect" was solved by the creation of woman (2:18-25).
As beautiful as this Creation account is, it does not explain how the present chaotic condition in creation and man came into being. This the author did next (chap. 3). The fledgling nation of Israel to whom Moses wrote needed to know not only their unique history as separate from the nations (chaps. 12-50) but also the universal presence of sin, which can only be accounted for by a universal curse as a result of man's failure in the Fall (chap. 3). The serpent, here introduced, clearly reveals characteristics beyond that of any animal, and the story implies some malevolent being who is opposed to God. In his getting the woman to focus on the forbidden fruit, God's motives and goodness were called into question; the woman was deceived, ate and gave to her husband. Personal shame and the fear of God resulted but did not prevent God from seeking man out and bringing judgment upon all three individuals involved and, through them, affecting all sub sequent human history.
Adam responded in faith by naming his wife Eve because she would become the mother of all living. God clothed the couple with animal skins, thus setting the pattern for subsequent animal sacrifices, and the couple was expelled from the garden (chap. 3).
The Utopia for which man was created and of which he still often dreams cannot be in the present order of things. Man's preoccupation with immortality, demonstrated so forcefully by the Egyptian culture from which Israel had just escaped, cannot be reality as long as God keeps man from the "tree of life."
The plight of man on an international level is illustrated by the personal conflict of the initial progeny of Adam and Eve. Eve's high hopes for her firstborn (4:1) were dashed when he became a murderer after failing to receive divine approval of his offering (4:5). Cain became a wanderer and established the first civilization, which, before the Flood, had developed remarkable skills in music and industry (4:21-22).
Though men began to call on the name of the Lord in the days of Enosh (4:26), the second toledoth demonstrates the universality of death (5:1-32). It also shows the depraved conditions of the earth in the days of Noah (6:1- 8). God had the right to destroy man before his wickedness went any further. If the "sons of God" were angels (Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7), then their intermarriage with human women created a race of half-angel/half-man "super-men," whose wickedness caused Yahweh great grief and pain (6:6). This also might account for the widespread tales of powerful divine-human beings whose incredible exploits were matched only by their depravity. (Examples are found in Greek mythology.)
The third toledoth (6:9-9:29) picks up this theme by pointing out Noah's walk with God and the fact that he was "unimpaired" (Hebrew) in his genealogy (i.e., had no angelic "blood" in his family) (6:9). Noah received specific instructions to build the ark, which apparently consumed 120 years (6:3). Because of his obedience to God; Noah, along with his three sons and their wives, entered the ark and were alone preserved from the cataclsym of a world-wide Flood (chap. 7-8). Upon leaving the ark, Noah was given a divine covenant establishing the foundation for human government. It gave to society the divine responsibility to preserve the value of human life by establishing capital punishment for murderers, whether animals or men. Animals began to fear man. Both men and some animals became carnivorous. The covenant included God's promise to never again destroy the earth by water. A reminder of this covenant was and is the rainbow. Conditions on earth were different after the Flood as evidenced by Noah's drunken ness and the resultant curse on Canaan (chap. 9). These and other changes, such as the decrease in longevity, may be accounted for by the collapse of the canopy which may have provided a greatly increased oxygen density and pressure on earth.
The fourth toledoth (10:1-11:9) continues the story of Noah's sons and how the seventy nations familiar to Israel came into being. The peoples of the earth are all related. From among the nations, Israel was separated unto God. The various language groups arose from Nimrod's rebellion (10:8-12) because of which God sovereignly con fused the languages of men to force them to spread out over the entire earth.
The fifth toledoth (11:10-26) moves from the general nations of men to the specific account of Shem from whose line was chosen the patriarch Abram, father of the nation which was out in the desert at the time Moses wrote. From this broad sweep of human history covering several thousand years Moses was divinely inspired to emphasize one family and four individuals covering less than three hundred years. Upon this family the remaining five toledoth's focus.
The sixth toledoth (11:27-25:11) introduces the story of Abraham, the friend of God whose faith in Yahweh caused him to leave home and family to follow God to the land of Canaan. God had promised him a land, seed and blessing. In a similar way and in fulfillment of those promises Israel had been called of God to leave Egypt and by faith enter the same land over one half a millennium later.
Following a brief stay in Egypt, when he claimed Sarai was his sister (12:10-20), Abram separated from Lot by letting his nephew take the well-watered plains of Jordan. Again God intervened and promised Abram the land (chap. 13).
Abram proved himself to be a courageous man by his rescue of Lot from the kings who had captured him (chap. 14). This victory gave Abram a reminder of the necessity of submission to "God Most High" to whom he gave a tithe instead of accepting anything for himself.
At this time Abram was again given the promise of a son who would produce more descendants than the stars. His response of faith has become a standard model for all who will believe God (15:6). God also made a unilateral, unconditional covenant that the land would belong to Abraham's descendants after four hundred years of bondage in another country. It was further predicted that in the fourth generation they would return and take over the land of Canaan. Moses no doubt included these words to encourage a believing response among his own generation, who had just left Egypt (chap. 15).
Upon the insistence of Sarai, Abram took her Egyptian servant, Hagar, as a surrogate wife to produce a descendant. Hagar, however, became insolent to her mistress and left home only to be met by God's angel, who sent her back with the promise of a future for her son (chap. 16).
Thirteen years later Yahweh again appeared to Abram (meaning "exalted father"), changed his name to Abraham (meaning "father of a multitude") and gave him circumcision as a sign of the covenant. Sarai's name was changed to Sarah (meaning "princess"). The son she would bear was to be called Isaac (meaning "laughter") (chap. 17). Shortly thereafter Yahweh again appeared to Abraham with the announcement that the birth would be about a year away (18:1-15). As the three heavenly visitors prepared to leave, Yahweh informed Abraham of his plans to destroy Sodom. Abraham responded by interceding for the city, presumably concerned for his nephew Lot (18:16-33).
The angels arrived in Sodom, where they were rejected by the populace but accepted by Lot. After an attempt by the homosexuals of Sodom to rape the angelic visitors, the angels struck them blind and encouraged Lot to gather his family and flee the city before judgment fell. Lot was unsuccessful in getting any to leave except his wife and two daughters, but his wife lingered as daylight came and the judgment fell. She was turned into a pillar of salt for her tardiness (19:1-29). Lot and his daughters went to the city of Zoar, which was divinely spared, but later left to become hermits in a cave. The daughters felt all alone and seduced their father through drunkenness to commit incest. They became pregnant with the children who would become the forefathers of Israel's two enemies--the Moabites and Ammonites (19:30-38).
Abraham, though a godly man, was not without his faults. In Gerar he once again allowed his wife (now nearly 90) to be taken into a harem, where she was divinely protected. Abraham was publicly rebuked and was asked to intercede for Abimelech, whose household was thereby per mitted to once again bear children (20:1-18).
After this Sarah became pregnant and bore the promised son, Isaac. When Isaac was weaned, Ishmael was found mocking; so he and his mother were sent away (21:1-21). Abraham then made a treaty with the Philistines and lived in their country for a number of years (21:22-34). The climax of Abraham's faith is seen in the beautifully prophetic story of the offering of Isaac. He obeyed a direct command of God because he believed that since all the promises of God centered on Isaac, God could even raise him from the dead (Heb. 11:17-19) (Gen. 22:1-19).
The story of Abraham is concluded by the final details of his life. This included the sons of his brother Nahor (22:20-24), the death of Sarah (who at 127 yrs. of age is the only woman in Genesis whose age is given) (23:1- 20), the bride for Isaac (24:1-67), Abraham's marriage to Keturah (25:1-6) and finally the death of Abraham himself (25:7-11). It is obvious from that lengthy account of Abraham that his personal story was very important to Moses, for he devoted more time to that one man than to all of the previous history combined.
The pattern for the toledoth in the second section of the book here begins with the rejected line of Ishmael (25:12-18). The story then focuses in more detail upon the chosen line of Isaac (25:19-35:29).
Isaac, too, had to wait for years before his prayer was heard and his wife became pregnant. This time God answered by sending twins. Again a choice was made both by God and by the two sons, who were to become two nations (Israel and Edom) that would be in constant conflict (25:19-26). The character of Esau is revealed by his despising the birthright (25:27-34).
Isaac showed he was similar to Abraham by his repetition of his father's failure by compromising Rebekah in saying she was his sister (26:1-11). The Philistines did not kill him for his wife, but they did become jealous and stole the wells he had reopened from his father's day (26:12-22). God responded by reaffirming the Abrahamic Covenant (26:23-25). The Philistines recognized the hand of God upon Isaac and made a treaty with him (26:26-33). At this time Esau displeased his parents by entering into marriages with Hittite women (26:34-35).
The story line then turns to Jacob, who, as the patriarch of the twelve tribes, showed as clearly as anyone the evidence of the grace of God in transforming his character. (Jacob means "trickster".) Rebekah dreamed up the plot by which Jacob tricked his old and nearly blind father into giving him the blessing and thereby faced the wrath of his brother Esau, who, while he had no spiritual concerns, did desire the firstborn rights of inheritance (27:1-40).
Fearing his brother's wrath after what seemed to be the imminent death of Isaac, Jacob was instructed by Rebekah to go to the region of Haran, where her family lived. It is significant that Rebekah never saw her son again. Isaac granted his blessing and instructed him to marry outside the Canaanites, specifically to marry one of the daughters of Laban. Esau responded by taking yet another wife, this time from the daughters of Ishmael (27:41-28:9). As for Jacob, he was reminded of the hand of God on his life through a dream. He promised to serve Yahweh as his God if he would be able to return safely with both food and clothes (neither of which he could be sure of at this juncture). This is how the Canaanite city of Luz got its name Bethel (meaning "house of God") (28:10-22).
Jacob's story does not give evidence of great spiritual depth or that he was deserving of special spiritual blessing. Rather, it illustrates the sovereign grace of God in choosing whom He will to accomplish His purposes. Jacob met the girl of his dreams (Rachel), served seven years for her hand in marriage but was given Leah, her older sister, instead. Laban had tricked the trickster but the story is not yet finished. Jacob was given Rachel also as a wife so that he served fourteen years total for his two wives. Then for the next six years, in spite of the changing agreements, the wealth of Laban was transferred to Jacob and his growing family of eleven sons and one daughter (29:1-30:43).
Jacob was then instructed through a dream to return to Canaan. Fearing his father-in-law's wrath and true to his nature, he covertly departed with his large entourage. Laban pursued, and, after overtaking them, it was brought to light that among Jacob's family there was an idolater-- namely his favorite wife, who remained undetected. In the ensuing covenant Jacob took a stone and set up a memorial pillar promising to care for Laban's daughters, and in return Laban pledged not to go past the pillar to harm Jacob (31:1-53).
Jacob then had to face the consequences of his former trickery against Esau. First, he had to come to the end of his self-will by wrestling with an angel from which altercation he was left permanently crippled but in the end was reconciled somewhat tenuously with Esau (32:1-33:20).
One of the reasons the sons of Jacob went into the womb of Egypt to be "birthed" four hundred years later as a nation under Moses was that they not be assimilated into the Canaanite culture. That dreadful possibility was demonstrated in the tragic rape of Dinah by Shechem, the son of Hamor, and the resultant treachery of Simeon and Levi (34:1-31).
In the midst of this trauma God again spoke to Jacob; who, in obedience to the divine vision of twenty years before, requested all the idols of his clan, buried them and then went to Bethel, where he built an altar to God and was renamed Israel (meaning "he struggles with God). There the Abrahamic Covenant was reaffirmed (at about 1875 B.C.) (35:1-15).
As Jacob's family moved on from Bethel, Rachel died in giving birth to Jacob's twelfth son, Benjamin. The names of the twelve sons were then recalled, and Jacob had at last come home to his father Isaac in Mamre, where later he was buried by Esau and Jacob.
In keeping with the usual pattern, Moses then quickly told the story of Esau and his descendants (36:1- 43) before finishing the final part of Jacob's story. This story of chosen Jacob and his sons really focuses on the rejected son, who would one day deliver his family from famine. Thus, Joseph was introduced as a dreamer of dreams, who to his family seemed to be unconsciously elevating himself above his brothers and even his father (37:1-36).
The family jealousies came to a climax when Joseph was sent by his father to check on his brothers, who were grazing their father's flocks near Dothan. Upon seeing him, they angrily talked of killing him but finally settled on the plan of selling him as a slave to a caravan of Ishmaelites on their way to Egypt. Joseph was sold again to Potiphar, captain of Pharaoh's guard (37:1-16).
The story of Joseph is then interrupted as it was imperative for Moses to impress upon the children of Israel coming into Canaan that intermarriage with the Canaanites could lead to devastating results for the chosen people. It was in this light that Moses told of Judah's moral failure and how he shamefully became the father of his daughter-in-law's children. Strictly forbidden by the law of Moses, the history of such immoral behavior would serve as a check on Israel's pride (38:1-30).
The story then comes back to Joseph, who, alone in Egypt, rose to a prominent position in the household of one of Pharaoh's officials. He was unjustly accused of moral impurity and spent over two years in prison. He stood fast in his integrity (39:1-23), and two years after interpreting a dream for the cupbearer (40:1-23) of Pharaoh, he was called upon to interpret a dream for Pharaoh himself (41:1-36). He was then exalted to a position of authority second only to Pharaoh and prepared Egypt during the seven years of plenty for the seven years of famine to come (41:37-52).
When the famine came, it extended even into Canaan, and Joseph's brothers unknowingly came before him to buy food. Joseph devised a test to ascertain if the jealousy that forced him into slavery had somehow moderated with the passage of time. On the second visit Judah's moving defense of and willingness to become a substitute for Benjamin broke down all hostility, and healing came as the twelve brothers were reunited. Only now they were really united as God intended the nation to be (41:53-45:15).
The brothers returned to get Jacob, who agreed to go to Egypt but not before the covenant was renewed (1845 B.C.) and he received divine approval. Jacob saw his son Joseph, and the entire clan of seventy people settled in Goshen (46:1-47:12).
The famine then became so severe that, in the name of Pharaoh, Joseph bought all the land of Egypt except that belonging to the priests. This effectively gave the Israelites (who had just left Egypt as Moses wrote) every right to the wealth of Egypt (to say nothing of their wages) when they were given gifts as they departed (47:13- 26).
Jacob prepared for his death by asking Joseph to bury him in Canaan (47:27-31). Then, as the patriarch of the family, Jacob blessed the two sons of Joseph and gave them the first-born rights originally belonging to Reuben (1 Chron. 5:1-2) and died (49:29-33). Jacob was then buried in Canaan (50:1-14), but his death created a problem for the brothers of Joseph, who feared that Joseph's kindness had only been for the sake of their father. Joseph assured them that his faith was in the sovereignty of God, who used their wrong for the good of all of them. Thus, the family unity was preserved and stood as a powerful plea for unity to the large group who had come out of Egypt (50:15-21).
Joseph lived to 110 years of age and then died. He left instructions that when Israel left Egypt, they were to take his bones to the land of promise. Thus, the book which began with the creative activity of God (1:1) ends with the embalmed body of Joseph, Israel's deliverer, in a coffin in Egypt (50:22-26).