Introduction to Genesis
The Book of Genesis
Genesis, the story of origins, sets the scene for the whole Bible. The very first episode shows that God is the all-powerful creator of the universe, and that he chose Adam to administer it. The second episode already shows human failure and God's forgiveness, themes woven together especially in Genesis 1-11, through stories couched in the remote past, but relevant to every phase of human history. Much of the imagery is similar to that of other ancient religions, but the conception of God and the world is wholly different. Instead of the fantastic world of quarrelling deities who use human beings as mere pawns, God is a loving creator who repeatedly acts to save the human race even when it fails him.
The stories of the ancestors which follow represent the oldest traditions of Israel. Their world is that of the Hebrews, pastoral nomads on the fringes of civilisation. Abraham stands out as the friend of God at the origin of faith, reckless in his trust in Yahweh, and a partner in the first of the series of covenants which lead up to the great covenant on Sinai. Isaac receives a confirmation of this covenant, and so does Jacob, that figure of cunning and intrigue. Finally, the extended story of Joseph shows that God is able to save his people in Egypt through the very man they had rejected and sold into slavery.
The origin of these traditions is diverse. Many of the stories explain customs such as circumcision or abstention from eating blood; some comment on features of the landscape or the existence of shrines; others explain the origin of names. Although identification of persons is not always certain, details of legal observances often show a striking correspondence with ancient codes of Law, e.g. on ownership of land or on marital customs. Through it all shines the faith of these ancestors and their certainty that they are chosen and protected by their God.
Plan of the Book
Plan of the Book
- The Origin of the World and of the Human Race (Genesis1:1-11:32)
- The Creation and the Fall (Genesis 1:1-6:4)
- The Flood (Genesis 6:5-9:17)
- From the Flood to Abraham (Genesis 9:18-11:32)
- The Story of Abraham (Genesis 12:1-25:18)
- The Story of Isaac and Jacob (Genesis 25:19-37:1)
- The Story of Joseph (Genesis 37:2-50:26)
The origin of the world and of the human race
The creation and the fall
The creation of the world
1 In the beginning God created heaven and earth.
2 Now the earth was a formless void, there was darkness over the deep, with a divine wind sweeping over the waters.
3 God said, ‘Let there be light,' and there was light.
4 God saw that light was good, and God divided light from darkness.
5 God called light ‘day', and darkness he called ‘night'. Evening came and morning came: the first day.
6 God said, ‘Let there be a vault through the middle of the waters to divide the waters in two.' And so it was.
7 God made the vault, and it divided the waters under the vault from the waters above the vault.
8 God called the vault ‘heaven'. Evening came and morning came: the second day.
9 God said, ‘Let the waters under heaven come together into a single mass, and let dry land appear.' And so it was.
10 God called the dry land ‘earth' and the mass of waters ‘seas', and God saw that it was good.
11 God said, ‘Let the earth produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants, and fruit trees on earth, bearing fruit with their seed inside, each corresponding to its own species.' And so it was.
12 The earth produced vegetation: the various kinds of seed-bearing plants and the fruit trees with seed inside, each corresponding to its own species. God saw that it was good.
13 Evening came and morning came: the third day.
14 God said, ‘Let there be lights in the vault of heaven to divide day from night, and let them indicate festivals, days and years.
15 Let them be lights in the vault of heaven to shine on the earth.' And so it was.
16 God made the two great lights: the greater light to govern the day, the smaller light to govern the night, and the stars.
17 God set them in the vault of heaven to shine on the earth,
18 to govern the day and the night and to divide light from darkness. God saw that it was good.
19 Evening came and morning came: the fourth day.
20 God said, ‘Let the waters be alive with a swarm of living creatures, and let birds wing their way above the earth across the vault of heaven.' And so it was.
21 God created great sea-monsters and all the creatures that glide and teem in the waters in their own species, and winged birds in their own species. God saw that it was good.
22 God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the waters of the seas; and let the birds multiply on land.'
23 Evening came and morning came: the fifth day.
24 God said, ‘Let the earth produce every kind of living creature in its own species: cattle, creeping things and wild animals of all kinds.' And so it was.
25 God made wild animals in their own species, and cattle in theirs, and every creature that crawls along the earth in its own species. God saw that it was good.
26 God said, ‘Let us make man in our own image, in the likeness of ourselves, and let them be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven, the cattle, all the wild animals and all the creatures that creep along the ground.'
27 God created man in the image of himself,
in the image of God he created him,
male and female he created them.
28 God blessed them, saying to them, ‘Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it. Be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven and all the living creatures that move on earth.'
29 God also said, ‘Look, to you I give all the seed-bearing plants everywhere on the surface of the earth, and all the trees with seed-bearing fruit; this will be your food.
30 And to all the wild animals, all the birds of heaven and all the living creatures that creep along the ground, I give all the foliage of the plants as their food.' And so it was.
31 God saw all he had made, and indeed it was very good. Evening came and morning came: the sixth day.