“Introduction to Genesis,” Old Testament Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students (2014)
“Genesis,” Old Testament Study Guide
The word genesis means origin or beginning, and the book of Genesis is a book of beginnings. This book sets forth the Creation of the earth and all life thereon, the Fall of Adam and Eve and the introduction of sin into this world, the origin of the house of Israel, and the establishment of covenants by a merciful Father in Heaven for the salvation of His children. As you study the book of Genesis, you will better understand who you are and what the Lord expects of individuals who have made covenants with Him.
Moses is the author of Genesis. Moses was a prophet who was called by God to lead the children of Israel out of bondage from Egypt, through the wilderness, to the promised land of Canaan. Because the events in Genesis occurred before Moses’s time, he did not learn about them firsthand. They were made known to him through revelation (see Moses 1:40; 2:1), and he may also have relied on historical sources available to him (see Abraham 1:31).
There are varying opinions on when Genesis and the other books of Moses were written, but some scholars date the writing to sometime between the 15th and 13th centuries B.C. We do not know exactly where Moses was when he wrote this book. This record would have given encouragement and perspective to the Israelites, who needed to develop faith in the Lord and understand the covenants He had made with their forefathers so they could fulfill their role as the Lord’s chosen people.
Genesis is an introduction to the other books of Moses (Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy), as well as to the entire Old Testament. Genesis recounts events that occurred during the dispensations of Adam, Enoch, Noah, and Abraham. Thus, Genesis provides the Old Testament’s only record of many important events, including the Creation, the Fall of Adam and Eve, the Flood, and the establishment of the Abrahamic covenant. However, Genesis does not focus on these periods equally: only 11 chapters of Genesis are dedicated to the time from the Creation of the earth to Abraham, while 39 chapters are dedicated to the lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jacob’s 12 sons. This emphasis suggests that Moses desired to teach the children of Israel about the covenants the Lord made with their forefathers, through which Israel would join Him in the work of blessing all the nations and families of the earth (see Genesis 12:2–3). The accounts of the lives of these patriarchs and their wives also illustrate that although the Lord’s covenant people will be tested, the Lord will be with them as they remain faithful to Him.
Genesis 1–4. Moses sets forth the Creation of the earth and all living things upon it. Adam and Eve partake of the forbidden fruit and are cast out of the Garden of Eden. They have children. Cain slays Abel.
Genesis 5–11. Because of the wickedness of mankind, God promises to flood the earth. Noah obeys the commandment of God to build an ark, and his family is saved from the Flood. Noah and his family multiply and replenish the earth. The Lord confounds the languages of the people and scatters them throughout the earth after they build the Tower of Babel.
Genesis 12–23. The Lord promises that Abram will become a great nation and that his seed will bless the earth. Abram travels with his wife, Sarai, to Hebron and then to Egypt. The Lord covenants with Abram. He changes Abram’s name to Abraham and Sarai’s name to Sarah and promises them a child. Abraham’s nephew Lot is spared from the destruction of Sodom. Sarah bears Isaac in her old age. Abraham proves his faithfulness to the Lord by showing his willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac.
Genesis 24–26. The Lord guides Abraham’s servant in choosing Rebekah as a wife for Isaac. Esau and Jacob are born. Esau sells his birthright to Jacob. The Lord renews the Abrahamic covenant with Isaac.
Genesis 27–36. Jacob receives the birthright blessing from his father. Esau hates Jacob and plans to slay him. The Lord promises Jacob the same blessings given to Abraham and Isaac. Jacob serves Laban and marries his daughters Leah and Rachel. The Lord appears to Jacob and changes his name to Israel. Jacob returns to Canaan and makes peace with Esau. He then travels to Beth-el, where the Lord appears to him and renews His covenant. Jacob has 12 sons and a daughter.
Genesis 37–50. Joseph is favored by Jacob. Joseph dreams that his parents and brothers will honor and submit to him. Joseph’s brothers sell him into slavery, and he is taken to Egypt. Potiphar’s wife tempts Joseph and falsely accuses him. Joseph is cast into prison. He interprets the dreams of Pharaoh’s butler and baker, and then of Pharaoh. Pharaoh makes Joseph a ruler in Egypt, and Joseph prepares Egypt for a famine. When Joseph’s brothers come to Egypt, he tests and forgives them. All of Jacob’s family come to Egypt, and Jacob blesses his sons. Joseph prophesies and dies in Egypt.