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8 Things You Need to Know About Genesis

I'm launching a new series in this space: Scripture & Story Goes to Seminary!

Call me crazy (I might be), but at 44 I'm going back to school! If I would have known at 18 what I know now, I would have said no to that trip to Australia with my boyfriend and instead reserved a seat in Bible College. But we serve a God who happily redeems wasted years, and my seat in the seminary classroom is proof of that.

Only time will tell if my middle-aged brain can handle the textbooks, papers and exams, but I'm choosing to believing God can work a miracle. But really, I just want to know and love Jesus more. That's my goal. Letters behind my name and a shiny diploma mean little if my affections are not stirred for Jesus. As my mind expands with theological knowledge, I'm praying my heart expands with love.

And I thought it might be fun to invite you along too. WILL YOU COME TO SEMINARY WITH ME? We can learn together! So here's what I'm learning in seminary these days: 8 things you need to know about Genesis.

1. Genesis is divided into two main sections

Genesis 1-11 Primordial History

Genesis 12-50 Patriarchal History

2. Genesis can also be divided into ten sections

We enjoy the added markers of chapter and verse numbers in our Bibles, but these didn’t exist in the ancient text. The original Hebrew text of Genesis had 10 markers that divided it into 10 sections. These markers were noted by the phrase “these are the generations.”

“These are the generations” = TOLEDOTH

Genesis 2:4 These are the generations of the heavens and the earth ...

Genesis 5:1 This is the book of the generations of Adam.

Genesis 6:9 These are the generations of Noah.

Genesis 10:1 These are the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

Genesis 11:10 These are the generations of Shem.

Genesis 11:27 Now these are the generations of Terah.

Genesis 25:12 These are the generations of Ishmael, Abraham’s son ...

Genesis 25:19 These are the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son ...

Genesis 36:1 These are the generations of Esau.

Genesis 37:2 These are the generations of Jacob.

This structure of ten toledoth ...

  • emphasized the importance of origins. After all, Genesis is a book of beginnings.

  • stressed the importance of descendants, which is a key theme in Genesis.

  • traced the roots of all humanity back to one couple, Adam and Eve, who were created in the image of God, thus proving that all people are made in the image of God.

  • enabled the author to fast forward the narrative storyline to the particular people he wanted to spotlight.

An ancient person reading a genealogy would have been on the edge of their seats wondering if this person born would be the seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15). They would also be asking if this person represents the line of the woman or the line of the serpent.

3. The creation account in Genesis 1-2 is foundational to the rest of Scripture

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1). This eternal, triune God created everything we see in our world, including humans. This creation narrative is essential to understanding who God is and who we are as His creations. We were made in the image of God, and commissioned to rule over His creation and bring Him glory. There are two different creation accounts in both chapters. Genesis 1 is the creation story from 30,000 feet and Genesis 2:4-25 is a retelling of creation with the camera zoomed in on the man and woman. The creation account answers questions concerning identity, belonging and purpose.

4. The fall is also foundational to the rest of the biblical narrative

“Genesis 3 is one of the crucial chapters of Holy Scripture. If it were suddenly removed from the Bible, the Bible would no longer make sense. Life would no longer make sense. If we all started out in Edenic bliss, why is life so painful now? Genesis 3 explains why. And if something has gone terribly wrong, do we have any hope of restoration? Genesis 3 gives us hope" (Raymond C. Ortlund).

Genesis 3 explains the suffering and death in the world. A new character is introduced to the biblical narrative in Genesis 3: the serpent. He is more crafty than the other animals. He talks to Eve, questioning God’s goodness and contradicting what He has said. God had instructed Adam and Eve not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This restriction gave them a choice: would they choose to obey God or follow their own desires?

Genesis 3:6

The woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

Immediately after they sinned, Their eyes were opened and they know they were naked, and they were filled with shame and tried to cover themselves by sewing fig leaves together.

This is the original sin that plunged all humanity into sin and brokenness. All who were born after, were born in the likeness of Adam, with a sin nature.

But there is hope ...

5. We get the first glimpse of the gospel in Genesis 3:15

Immediately after Adam and Eve sinned and they heard God walking in the garden, they hid from Him. Our natural tendency is to hide our sin from a holy God. But God called out to Adam and asked him where he was. Why did God ask Adam a question he already knew the answer to? This was pure grace. God was giving Adam the opportunity to confess and repent.

Instead Adam and Eve pointed fingers at each other, in an attempt to shift the blame. So God gave consequences to the man, the woman and the serpent.

Genesis 3:15

I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.

Genesis 3:15 is called the protoevangelium or the first gospel.

The hostility spoken of here is between Satan and Christ. The seed of the serpent, evil men and demonic forces, struck at the heel of the Saviour when He was crucified. But His wound was not the final act. He rose the third day, having paid the price for the sin of all who would ever believe in Him. The ultimate victory was His, and He crushed the head of Satan. The protoevangelium shows us that God always had the plan of salvation in mind, and gave us a glimmer of hope as soon as sin entered the world.

6. The flood narrative is written in a chiasm

There is something really amazing that is happening in the first verse of Genesis 8.

Genesis 8:1

God remembered Noah, as well as all the wildlife and all the livestock that were with him in the ark.

This verse is at the centre of a chiasm. A chiasm is a literary device in which a sequence of ideas is presented and then repeated in reverse order. The result is a mirror effect as the ideas are reflected back in a passage. Picture an X. In fact, the term chiasm comes from the Greek letter chi, which looks like the letter X.

Why is this important, particularly in the flood narrative? At the centre of global judgment on the wickedness of mankind, God remembered Noah. God hadn't forgotten about Noah, floating out there on the floodwaters in that ark. When the Bible uses the phrase "God remembered," it means He is about to act. God sent a wind to cause the floodwaters to subside, and eventually Noah and his family emerged into a re-created world. God remembered and kept His covenant to save the righteous.

7. Genesis introduces covenants

Covenants are very important in the biblical narrative. A covenant is an agreement enacted between two parties in which one or both make promises under oath to perform or refrain from certain actions. There are six key biblical covenants between God and mankind that serve to move the story of redemption forward:

Creation, Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic, New Covenant

8. Genesis ends with a hint toward the seed of the woman

Ancient followers of Yahweh knew that deliverance from sin would come through the seed of the woman. In Genesis 49:10, we get a hint through whom the seed will come.

Genesis 49:10

The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.

The fourth born son of Jacob, Judah will carry forth the blessing.


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