Book Summaries

First book of the Pentateuch, giving the record of sacred history from the 1st day of Creation week to the death of Joseph in Egypt. The title of the book in Hebrew Bibles is Bereshith, the word with which the book opens, translated "in the beginning." The title "Genesis," meaning "birth," or "origin," was assigned the book by the translators of the LXX {LXX Septuagint. A. Rahlfs, editor, Septuaginta (2 vols.; Stuttgart, 1935)}, as being appropriate to its contents. From ancient times Jewish and Christian scholars consistently attributed the book to Moses, but about the middle of the 18th century critical scholarship began its attack on the authenticity of the Scriptures as a divine revelation and as a reliable history of antiquity, and set forth the view that Genesis is a composite work consisting of documents written at various times by different authors, and later combined into its present form by one or more editors. The basis of this supposition was the conjecture that the use of different names for God in different sections--Elohim, "God," and Yahweh, "Lord"--was an indication of different authors, and that the authorship of a given passage may be determined by the name used. However, a careful study of ancient versions, such as the LXX {LXX Septuagint. A. Rahlfs, editor, Septuaginta (2 vols.; Stuttgart, 1935)}, and more recently of the Dead Sea scrolls, has proved conclusively that ancient Hebrew scholars used these terms interchangeably, and thus that the imaginary distinction contrived by modern critics is invalid. Historically, the critics labelled the book as myth and legend. But a remarkable series of archaeological discoveries spanning the past century has conclusively proved the historicity of passage after passage that had formerly been challenged. Among the passages thus attested are those that refer to the Hittites and the Philistines, and to the use of iron and camels in the patriarchal age. The section of the book that deals with Egypt shows a remarkable familiarity with that country, its language, and customs. The successive narratives are true in every respect to what is known of the patriarchal age as a result of archaeological discoveries.

The book was written with the object of enlightening the Hebrew people with respect to their high destiny, and to preserve for all future generations a reliable record of sacred history prior to that time, particularly concerning God's dealings with those who were faithful to Him. It contains the world's only authentic written record of Creation and of the history of the antediluvian world, and the only reliable account of the Deluge. It tells of the origin of man, the entrance of sin, the promise of salvation, and relates the early stages of history that prepared the way for the later fulfilment of that promise.

The book logically divides itself into 4 major sections: (1) from Creation to the Flood, and the peopling of the world following the Flood (Gen 1:1 to 11:26); (2) the patriarchs Abraham and Isaac (chapters 11:27 to 26:35); (3) the patriarch Jacob (chapters 27 to 36); (4) Joseph (chapters 37 to 50). Chapters 1 and 2 describe the creation of this planet and its change from a state described as "without form, and void" (chapter 1:2) to one perfectly adapted to be the home of human beings. Particular attention is given to the establishment of the 1st home and the observance of the 1st Sabbath day. Chapter 3 delineates the fall of man, marks its results, and contains the 1st promise of salvation. Chapters 4 and 5 relate the murder of Abel and trace the history of Adam's descendants during antediluvian times. In Chapters 6 to 9 an account is given of the destruction of the antediluvian world by a flood and of the means by which human and animal life was preserved, together with a brief report of the experiences of Noah and his sons after the Flood. Chapters 10 and 11 record the peopling of the earth by Noah's descendants, down to the time of Abraham.

In the 2nd major division Abraham is the chief character. God called Abraham and his descendants to be His chosen representatives on earth, and guided him to the land of Canaan (Gen 11:27 to 12:9). After many years of sojourning, with its vicissitudes, Abraham received a son of promise, Isaac, who became heir to the covenant promises (chapters 12:10 to 25:18). Isaac was passed over in comparative silence, a far less forceful character than his illustrious father (chapters 25:19 to 26:35). His chief function seems to be to provide a link between Abraham and Jacob.

The 3rd major section relates how Jacob received the birthright by deceit and was compelled to flee to Haran, where he reared a large family and accumulated considerable wealth (Gen 27 to 30). He returned finally to Canaan, migrating from place to place as circumstances required (chapters 31 to 35). Chapter 36 enumerates Esau's descendants.

The 4th major division deals with Joseph as the central figure of the narrative of the last 14 chapters of the book. In chapter 37 an account is given that explains how Joseph was exiled to Egypt, and chapters 39 and 40 tell of his early experiences in that land. Chapters 41 to 47 tell of the famine and of the circumstances under which Jacob and his sons migrated to Egypt and settled there. Chapters 48 and 49 record the blessings pronounced by the patriarch Jacob upon his sons, and chapter 50 tells of his death and of that of Joseph.

Horn, Siegfried H., Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary, (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association) 1979.