The Pentateuch, the name by which the first five books of the Bible are designated, is derived from two Greek words, pente, "five," and teuchos, a "volume," thus signifying the fivefold volume. Originally these books formed one continuous work, as in the Hebrew manuscripts they are still connected in one unbroken roll. At what time they were divided into five portions, each having a separate title, is not known, but it is certain that the distinction dates at or before the time of the Septuagint translation. The names they bear in our English version are borrowed from the Septuagint, and they were applied by those Greek translators as descriptive of the principal subjects—the leading contents of the respective books. In the later Scriptures they are frequently referred to under the general title, The Law or The Book of the Law. since, to give a detailed account of the preparations for and the delivery of, the divine code, with all the civil and sacred institutions that were peculiar to the ancient economy, is the object to which they are exclusively devoted.
They have always been placed at the beginning of the Bible, not only on account of their priority in point of time, but as forming an appropriate and indispensable introduction to the rest of the sacred books. The numerous and oft-recurring references made in the later Scriptures to the events, the ritual, and the doctrines of the ancient Church would have not only lost much of their point and significance, but would have been absolutely unintelligible without the information which these five books contain. They constitute the groundwork or basis on which the whole fabric of revelation rests, and a knowledge of the authority and importance that is thus attached to them will sufficiently account for the determined assaults that infidels have made on these books, as well as for the zeal and earnestness which the friends of the truth have displayed in their defense.
The Mosaic origin of the Pentateuch is established by the concurring voices both of Jewish and Christian tradition; and their unanimous testimony is supported by the internal character and statements of the work itself. That Moses did keep a written record of the important transactions relative to the Israelites is attested by his own express affirmation. For in relating the victory over the Amalekites, which he was commanded by divine authority to record, the language employed, "write this for a memorial in a book" (Hebrew, "the book"), (Exodus 17:14), shows that that narrative was to form part of a register already in progress, and various circumstances combine to prove that this register was a continuous history of the special goodness and care of divine providence in the choice, protection, and guidance of the Hebrew nation.
First, there are the repeated assertions of Moses himself that the events which checkered the experience of that people were written down as they occurred (see Exodus 24:4-7; 34:27; Numbers 33:2).
Secondly, there are the testimonies borne in various parts of the later historical books to the Pentateuch as a work well known, and familiar to all the people (see Joshua 1:8; 23:6; 24:26; 1 Kings 2:3, etc.)
Thirdly, frequent references are made in the works of the prophets to the facts recorded in the books of Moses (compare Isaiah 1:9 with Genesis 19:1; Isaiah 12:2 with Exodus 15:2; Isaiah 51:2 with Genesis 12:2; Isaiah 54:9 with Genesis 8:21, 22; compare Hosea 9:10 with Numbers 25:3; Hosea 11:8 with Genesis 19:24; Hosea 12:4 with Genesis 32:24, 25; Hosea 12:12 with Genesis 28:5; 29:20; compare Joel 1:9 with Numbers 15:4-7; 28:7-14; Deuteronomy 12:6, 7; 16:10, 11; compare Amos 2:9 with Numbers 21:21; Amos 4:4 with Numbers 28:3; Amos 4:11 with Genesis 19:24; Amos 9:13 with Leviticus 26:5; compare Micah 6:5 with Numbers 22:25; Micah 6:6 with Leviticus 9:2; Micah 6:15 with Leviticus 26:16, etc.)
Fourthly, the testimony of Christ and the Apostles is repeatedly borne to the books of Moses (Matthew 19:7; Luke 16:29; 24:27; John 1:17; 7:19; Acts 3:22; 28:23; Romans 10:5). Indeed the references are so numerous, and the testimonies so distinctly borne to the existence of the Mosaic books throughout the whole history of the Jewish nation, and the unity of character, design, and style pervading these books is so clearly perceptible, notwithstanding the rationalistic assertions of their forming a series of separate and unconnected fragments, that it may with all safety be said, there is immensely stronger and more varied evidence in proof of their being the authorship of Moses than of any of the Greek or Roman classics being the productions of the authors whose names they bear.
But admitting that the Pentateuch was written by Moses, an important question arises, as to whether the books which compose it have reached us in an authentic form; whether they exist genuine and entire as they came from the hands of their author. In answer to this question, it might be sufficient to state that, in the public and periodical rehearsals of the law in the solemn religious assemblies of the people, implying the existence of numerous copies, provision was made for preserving the integrity of "The Book of the Law." But besides this, two remarkable facts, the one of which occurred before and the other after the captivity, afford conclusive evidence of the genuineness and authenticity of the Pentateuch.
The first is the discovery in the reign of Josiah of the autograph copy which was deposited by Moses in the ark of the testimony, and the second is the schism of the Samaritans, who erected a temple on Mount Gerizim, and who, appealing to the Mosaic law as the standard of their faith and worship equally with the Jews, watched with jealous care over every circumstance that could affect the purity of the Mosaic record.
There is the strongest reason, then, for believing that the Pentateuch, as it exists now, is substantially the same as it came from the hands of Moses. The appearance of a later hand, it is true, is traceable in the narrative of the death of Moses at the close of Deuteronomy, and some few interpolations, such as inserting the altered names of places, may have been made by Ezra, who revised and corrected the version of the ancient Scriptures. But, substantially, the Pentateuch is the genuine work of Moses, and many, who once impugned its claims to that character, and looked on it as the production of a later age, have found themselves compelled, after a full and unprejudiced investigation of the subject, to proclaim their conviction that its authenticity is to be fully relied on.
The genuineness and authenticity of the Pentateuch being admitted, the inspiration and canonical authority of the work follow as a necessary consequence. The admission of Moses to the privilege of frequent and direct communion with God (Exodus 25:22; 33:3; Numbers 7:89; 9:8); his repeated and solemn declarations that he spoke and wrote by command of God; the submissive reverence that was paid to the authority of his precepts by all classes of the Jewish people, including the king himself (Deuteronomy 17:18; 27:3); and the acknowledgment of the divine mission of Moses by the writers of the New Testament, all prove the inspired character and authority of his books. The Pentateuch possessed the strongest claims on the attention of the Jewish people, as forming the standard of their faith, the rule of their obedience, the record of their whole civil and religious polity. But it is interesting and important to all mankind, inasmuch as besides revealing the origin and early development of the divine plan of grace, it is the source of all authentic knowledge, giving the true philosophy, history, geography, and chronology of the ancient world.
Finally, the Pentateuch "is indispensable to the whole revelation contained in the Bible; for Genesis being the legitimate preface to the law; the law being the natural introduction to the Old Testament; and the whole a prelude to the gospel revelation, it could not have been omitted. What the four Gospels are in the New, the five books of Moses are in the Old Testament." Robert Jamieson
The Book of Genesis treats the history of the kingdom of God on earth from the time of the creation of the world down to the beginning of Israel's stay in Egypt and to the death of Joseph; and it treats these subjects in such a way that it narrates in the first part (Genesis 1:1-11:26) the history of humankind; and in the second part (Genesis 11:27-50:26) the history of families; and this latter part is at the same time the beginning of the history of the chosen people, which history itself begins with Exodus. 1.
Though the introduction, Genesis 1-11, with its universal character, includes all humankind in the promise given at the beginning of the history of Abraham (12:1-3), it is from the outset distinctly declared that God, even if He did originally set apart one man and his family (Gen. 12-50), and after that a single nation (Exodus 1), nevertheless intends that this particularistic development of the plan of salvation is eventually to include all humankind. The manner in which salvation is developed historically is particularistic, but its purposes are universal.
The history of the chosen people, which begins with Exodus 1, at the very outset and with a clear purpose, refers back to the history as found in Genesis (compare Exodus 1:1-6, 8 with Genesis 46:27; 50:24), although hundreds of years had elapsed between these events; which years are ignored, because they were in their details of no importance for the religious history of the people of God. But to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3 the promise had been given, not only that he was to be the father of a mighty nation that would recognize him as their founder, and the earliest history of which is reported in Exodus and the following books of the Pentateuch, but also that the Holy Land had been promised him.
In this respect, the Book of Joshua, which gives the story of the capture of this land, is also a continuation of the historical development begun in Genesis. The blessing of God pronounced over Abraham, however, continued to be efficacious also in the later times among the people who had descended from him. In this way Genesis is an introduction to all of the books of the Old Testament that follow it, which in any way have to do with the fate of this people, and originated in its midst as the result of the special relation between God and this people. But in so far as this blessing of God was to extend to all the nations of the earth (Genesis 12:3), the promises given can be entirely fulfilled only in Christ, and can expand only in the work and success of Christian missions and in the blessings that are found within Christianity.
Accordingly, this book treats first of beginnings and origins, in which, as in a kernel, the entire development of the kingdom of God down to its consummation is contained. Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
God provides redemption to remedy humanity's sin by providing a covenant and a chosen race.
The following reading plan, taking one reading per day, enables you to read through Genesis in twenty-four days.
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
I have set my rainbow in the clouds and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.
"But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good." kjv
First Old Testament book
"Sweat of your brow" Genesis 3:19
"My brother's keeper" Genesis 4:9
"Dust of the earth" Genesis 13:16
First book of Moses
First book of the Law
First book of the Pentateuch ("Pentateuch" means "five books/scrolls.)
Hebrew title: Bereshith: "In the beginning."
Greek title in Septuagint: Genesis: "origin, source, generation, beginning."
Latin title in Vulgate: "The book of generations"
beginning of the world. 1.1-2.25.
beginning of sin. 3.1-24.
beginning family. 4.1-26.
beginning of God's work to restore humankind. 11.27-12.3.
Genesis 1:1; 3:15; 12:3
12 sons of Jacob
The four leading people in Genesis are found in chapters 12-50
Four critical events: 1-11
The Tower of Babel
Adam and Eve
Gain and Abel
Abraham and Lot
Isaac and Ishmael
Esau and Jacob
Joseph and his eleven brothers
Genesis has eleven units, focusing on the word "generations," in the phrase, "these are the generations."
After the prologue where we find the true beginning of all things, we discover ten genealogies, each of which is introduced by the same Hebrew word meaning generation, account or record (Hebrew: Toledot).
These series of genealogies show how God's promise and line of godly descendants pass down through the generations. Both Luke and Matthew use the genealogical accounts to trace Jesus' descendants.
Matthew traces Jesus Christ's genealogy back to Abraham. Luke, however, goes right back to the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God!
"The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham." (Matthew 1:1).
"... the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God." (Luke 3:38).
The following list indicates the foundational importance of the book of Genesis to the New Testament. The first reference on each line is to the book of Genesis. This is followed by the topic. The last reference refers to the relevant verse or verses in the New Testament.
In Genesis Jesus is our Creator God.
Jesus is the Seed of the woman, 3:15
Jesus is from the line of Seth, 4:25
Jesus is the son of Shem, 9:27
Jesus is a descendant of Abraham, 12:3
Jesus is a descendant of Isaac, 21:12
Jesus is a descendant of Jacob, 25:23
Jesus is from the tribe of Judah, 49:10
(In the Bible the word "type" is used of historical facts which serve as illustrations of spiritual truths.)
The foundation of all religion being laid in our relation to God as our Creator, it was fit that the book of divine revelations which was intended to be the guide, support, and rule, of religion in the world, should begin, as it does, with a plain and full account of the creation of the world—in answer to that first enquiry of a good conscience, "Where is God my Maker?" (Job 35:10).
About this the pagan philosophers wretchedly blundered, and became vain in their imaginations, some asserting the world's eternity and self-existence, others ascribing it to a fortuitous concourse of atoms: thus "the world by wisdom knew not God," but took a great deal of pains to lose him. The holy scripture therefore, designing by revealed religion to maintain and improve natural religion lays down, at first, this principle of the unclouded light of nature, That this world was, in the beginning of time, created by a Being of infinite wisdom and power, who was himself before all time and all worlds. The entrance into God's word gives this light, Ps. 119:130. The first verse of the Bible gives us a surer and better, a more satisfying and useful, knowledge of the origin of the universe, than all the volumes of the philosophers. The lively faith of humble Christians understands this matter better than the elevated fancy of the greatest wits, Heb. 11:3.
We have three things in this chapter:
This chapter is an appendix to the history of the creation, more particularly explaining and enlarging on that part of the history which relates immediately to man, the favorite of this lower world. We have in it,
The story of this chapter is perhaps as sad a story (all things considered) as any we have in all the Bible. In the previous chapters we have had the pleasant view of the holiness and happiness of our first parents, the grace and favor of God, and the peace and beauty of the whole creation, all good, very good; but here the scene is altered. We have here an account of the sin and misery of our first parents, the wrath and curse of God against them, the peace of the creation disturbed, and its beauty stained and sullied, all bad, very bad. "How has the gold become dim, and the most fine gold changed!" O that our hearts were deeply affected with this record! For we are all nearly concerned in it; let it not be as a tale that is told. The general contents of this chapter we have (Rom. 5:12), "By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed on all men, for that all have sinned." More particularly, we have here,
In this chapter we have both the world and the church in a family, in a little family, in Adam's family, and an example given of the character of both in all ages, to the end of time. As all humankind was represented in Adam, so that great distinction of humankind into saints and sinners, godly and wicked, the children of God and the children of the wicked one, was here represented in Cain and Abel, and an early instance is given of the enmity which was put between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. We have here,
This chapter is the only authentic history extant of the first age of the world from the creation to the flood, containing (according to the verity of the Hebrew text) 1656 years, as may easily be computed by the ages of the patriarchs. This is one of those which the apostle calls "endless genealogies" (1 Tim. 1:4), for Christ, who was the end of the Old Testament law, was also the end of the Old Testament genealogies; towards him they looked, and in him they centered. The genealogy here recorded is inserted briefly in the pedigree of our Savior (Luke 3:36-38), and is of great use to show that Christ was the "seed of the woman" that was promised. We have here an account,
The most remarkable thing we have on record about the old world is the destruction of it by the universal deluge, the account of which commences in this chapter, in which we have,
Lastly, Noah's obedience to the instructions given him, ver. 22. And this about the old world is written for our admonition, on whom the ends of the new world have come.
In this chapter we have the performance of what was foretold in the previous chapter, both about the destruction of the old world and the salvation of Noah; for we may be sure that no word of God shall fall to the ground. There we left Noah busy about his ark, and full of care to get it finished in time, while the rest of his neighbors were laughing at him for his pains. Now here we see the purpose of his work as well as their carelessness. And this famous period of the old world gives us some idea of the state of things when the world that now is shall be destroyed by fire, as that was by water. See 2 Pet. 3:6, 7. We have, in this chapter,
In the close of the previous chapter we left the world in ruins and the church in straits; but in this chapter we have the repair of the one and the enlargement of the other. Now the scene alters, and another face of things begins to be presented to us, and the brighter side of that cloud which there appeared so black and dark; for, though God contend long, he will not contend for ever, nor be always wrath. We have here,
Both the world and the church were now again reduced to a family, the family of Noah. From this family we are all descendants. Here is,
This chapter shows more particularly what was said in general (9:19), about the three sons of Noah, that "of them was the whole earth overspread;" and the fruit of that blessing (9:1, 7), "replenish the earth." This is the only certain account extant of the origin of nations; and yet perhaps there is no nation but the Jews that can be confident from which of these seventy fountains (for so many there are here) it derives its streams. Through the lack of early records, the mixtures of people, the revolutions of nations, and distance of time, the knowledge of the lineal descent of the present inhabitants of the earth is lost; nor were any genealogies preserved but those of the Jews, for the sake of the Messiah, only in this chapter we have a brief account,
The old distinction between the sons of God and the sons of men (professors and profane) survived the flood, and now appeared again, when men began to multiply: according to this distinction we have, in this chapter,
The pedigree and family of Abram we had an account of in the previous chapter; here the Holy Spirit enters on his story, and henceforward Abram and his seed are almost the only subject of the sacred history. In this chapter we have,
In this chapter we have a further account about Abram.
We have four things in the story of this chapter.
In this chapter we have a solemn treaty between God and Abram about a covenant that was to be established between them. In the previous chapter we had Abram in the field with kings; here we find him in the mount with God; and, though there he looked great, yet, I think, here he looks much greater: that honor have the great men of the world, but "this honor have all the saints." The covenant to be settled between God and Abram was a covenant of promises; accordingly, here is,
Hagar is the main person in this chapter, an obscure Egyptian woman, whose name and story we never should have heard of if Providence had not brought her into the family of Abram. About her, we have four things in this chapter:
This chapter contains articles of agreement covenanted between the great Jehovah, the Father of mercies, on the one part, and pious Abram, the father of the faithful, on the other part. Abram is therefore called "the friend of God," not only because he was the man of his counsel, but because he was the man of his covenant; both these secrets were with him. Mention was made of this covenant (15:18), but here it is particularly drawn up, and put into the form of a covenant, that Abram might have strong consolation. Here are,
We have an account in this chapter of another interview between God and Abraham, probably within a few days after the former, as the reward of his cheerful obedience to the law of circumcision. Here is,
In this chapter we find, 2 Pet. 2:6-8, that "God, turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them with an overthrow, and delivered just Lot." It is the history of Sodom's ruin, and Lot's rescue from that ruin. We read (ch. 18) of God's coming to take a view of the present state of Sodom, what its wickedness was, and what righteous people there were in it: now here we have the result of that enquiry.
We are here returning to the story of Abraham; yet that part of it which is here recorded is not to his honor. The fairest marbles have their flaws, and, while there are spots in the sun, we must not expect any thing spotless under it. The scripture is impartial in relating the blemishes even of its most celebrated characters. We have here,
In this chapter we have,
We have here the famous story of Abraham's offering up his son Isaac, that is, his offering to offer him, which is justly looked on as one of the wonders of the church. Here is,
Marriages and funerals are the changes of families, and the common news among the inhabitants of the villages. In the previous chapter we had Abraham burying his wife, here we have him marrying his son. These stories about his family, with their minute circumstances, are related in detail, while the histories of the kingdoms of the world then in being, with their revolutions, are buried in silence; for the Lord knows those who are his. The subjoining of Isaac's marriage to Sarah's funeral shows us that as "one generation passes away another generation comes." Here is,
The sacred historian, in this chapter,