Part First.
Old Testament History

Chapter One

Antediluvian Period, b.c. 4004-2348, from Creation to the Deluge, Genesis 11:1-8:13.

Introductory: The Book of Genesis.—Genesis (generation, beginning) is a "book of origins." Genesis 1:1 gives the genesis of all things. The phrase "generations of..." Occurs ten times, as follows: "Generations of the heavens and the earth," Genesis 2:4; "of Adam," 5:1; "of Noah," 6:9; "of the sons of Noah," 10:1; "of Shem," 11:10; "of Terah," 11:27; "of Ishmael," 25:12; "of Isaac," 25:19; "of Esau," 36:1; "of Jacob," 37:2. This frequent use of the formula is not an accident. The author is consciously dealing with the beginnings of history. This characteristic of the first book of the Bible early attracted attention, and it was appropriately called "Genesis."

1. Genesis of the Universe (Genesis 1:1).—a. The Problem Illustrated.—Given a bar of steel, and we can make hammers, shears, needles, watch springs, etc. That is not creation; it is transformation. Whence the steel? Who made it?

Here is a universe; sun, stars, seas, myriad-sided life. The bottom question is not one of transformation, but of Origin.

b. The Problem Solved.—For ages reason wrought at the problem. "Eternal"; "selfmade"; "chance"; such were some of the solutions offered. Other solutions were disfigured with gross polytheism. In the midst Of this Babel of Opinions, our author clearly sees that there is no chance; that nothing is selfmade; that every effect must have an adequate cause. One word from his inspired pen solves the problem; "in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." God is the solution. Given God, and all else follows. "He spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast" (Psalm 33:9)

c. The Time.—"In the beginning." Science talks learnedly Of millions of years. Very well; carry the origin of things back a million millenniums and Genesis 1:1 meets the demand.

2. Genesis of Order (Genesis 1:2-2:3).—The creation record points to (a) a primeval chaos, "waste and void"; (b) an organizing energy; "the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters"; (c) six successive days or periods in the genesis of order. (1) Genesis of light. Laplace was the author of the nebular hypothesis. It was advanced, not to bolster tip Genesis, but to account for the universe. According to that theory, the condensation of gaseous matter was accompanied by intense heat-emitting light. Men call Moses a fool for placing light before the sun, and Laplace a scientist for doing the same thing. (2) Genesis of the firmament or expanse. The earth's crust cooled; the thick envelope of vapors condensed and fell as rain or rose as clouds, and the expanse of the sky became visible like an illimiTable tent of blue overhead. (3) Genesis of continents, sea. and vegetation. There seems to have been a period of universal sea, with no continents, islands, shoreline. God speaks; continents rise from the ocean beds; islands stud the seas, naked and barren at first, but in course of time robed with varied vegetation. (4) Genesis of sun, moon and stars. The creation record may be conceived as "phenomenal" Or "panoramis," i.e., describing events as they would appear to a beholder from the earth. The heavenly bodies doubtless existed before the fourth period, but then first became visible to the earth. (5) The genesis of marine life and fowls. The life line is crossed. Hitherto no beast roamed the earth, no bird cleaved the air, no fish swam the sea. Once more the divine edict goes forth, and air and seas swarm with life. It is the age of mollusks and reptiles, of fowls and fishes. (6) Genesis Of land-life and man. The characteristic of the sixth period is man; the characteristic of man is that he is in God's image (Genesis 1:27). "Create" is used three times in this chapter: in Genesis 1:1, of the universe; in Genesis 1:21, of the origin Of animal life; in Genesis 1:27, of the genesis of man. The first crosses the line between non-being and being, the second between the non-living and the living, the third between the brute and man. On his lower side man is in the image of the earth to which he returns, of the plant life which roots in its soil, and Of the beast that roams over its surface. But he faces upward as they do not. He is in God's image in (i.) power of intelligent comprehension. Before man there were order and beauty; but no being on earth to appreciate order or beauty, or to connect cause and effect. Only God could create; only man, in God's image, can perceive the plan and beauty in God's creation. (ii.) In sensibility, intelligent, appropriate feeling. (iii.) In power of intelligent choice. (iv.) In moral nature, the sense of right and wrong. (v.) In dominion. This phrase, "Let him have dominion," is his "colonist's charter." It gives him his title to the earth and all its products. It also clothes material creation with its moral meaning: its end is man, whose supreme end is God.

One Or two features of the creative record are worthy of special remark. (1) Its remarkable harmony with the established results of science; in that there was a genesis; that chaos preceded order; that creation was not simultaneous, but successive; that it proceeded by progressive development; that the progression was from the lower to the higher; and finally, in general agreement as to the order of successive creations. Is the first chapter of Genesis guesswork? Would Darwin, Or Tyndall, or Huxley, in an unscientific age, have guessed so well? (2) It is not strictly history. History makes use of human sources of information; oral tradition, written laws documents, ancient monuments. No tradition can reach:. back of man's appearance on earth. It must have been an apocalypse, a supernatural revelation. So the Bible opens, so it closes. The unknown past and the unknown future stand revealed in the visions that open and close the Bible.

3. The Genesis of Sin (Genesis 2:4-3:24).—Genesis 1:1-2:3, gives a general account of creation. This section recapitulates with a more particular account of man. In the first section nature, including man, is the theme. All nature is traced up to God as its infinite, intelligent source. In the second section man is the great theme. He is here set forth in his true relation as the crown and lord of creation, because in the image of his Creator.

a. Primeval State.—We enter here upon history proper. Revelation may employ human sources of knowledge. Our knowledge of the primeval state extends to (1) man's abode. This was Eden. Two well known rivers, the Euphrates and the Hiddekel (Tigris) point to southwestern Asia. Widespread tradition, confirmed by modern scientific research, points to the highlands south of Caucasus as the cradle of the race. (2) Society. Man was not made for solitude, nor to find any real companionship with even the higher forms of brute life. Only with his own kind and in family life are the high ends Of his being to be attained. The creation of Eve teaches the essential unity and equality of the race. (3) Occupation. Man was never meant for idleness. In idleness powers rust, morals decay. Hence he was put in the garden to dress it and to keep it. (4) Moral state. The historian pictures a state of full fellowship with God, the blessedness of perfect innocence and trust; of large liberty; "o all the trees of the garden thou may'st freely eat"; with a single restriction: "of the tree Of the knowledge of good and evil thou shalt not eat." Liberty must have limits. Man must respect law, and subject selfish desire to higher good. Sovereign on earth, he must be subject to God.

b. The Transgression.—Already, sin and a sinner are in the universe. Both find their way to Eden. The serpent appears, either as the symbol or agent of Satan (cf. John 8:44; Revelation 12:9; 20:2). Note the course of the temptation and the sin. There is an insinuating question: "Yea, hath God said ye shall not eat?" then a slanderous lie: "Ye shall not surely die." Then follow, in swift succession, distrust of God, wrong desire, wrong choice, open disobedience. The return to God reverses all this; belief of the truth, trust in God, right desire, right choice, open surrender to the will Of God.

c. The Penalty.—There follows, as the natural, necessary result, a sense of guilt and alienation; Adam and Eve "hid themselves." There fell also the judicial penalty: upon the woman, multiplied sorrows; upon the man, increased toil; yet to both a sublime hope, the promised seed to bruise the serpent's head. In Genesis 3:15, at the very gate of the lost Eden, we catch the first dim prophecy of Christ's redemptive work.

4. Echoes of Creation and the Fall.—Ancient literatures contain interesting traces of the great facts here recorded. But they are marred with heathen conceptions, and fall far below the sublime record of inspiration. "The story of the Fall, like that of Creation, has wandered over the world. Heathen nations have transplanted it and mixed it up with their geography, their history, their mythology, although it has never so completely changed form and color and spirit that you can not recognize it. Here, however, in the law, it preserves the character of a universal human, worldwide fact, and the groans of Creation, the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, and the heart of every man conspire in their testimony to the most literal truth Of the narrative."

5. The Genesis of Sacrifice (Genesis 4:1-15).—Children came to this first human home bringing both sunshine and shadow. The brothers differed in Occupations and in the sacrifices they brought. There was a deeper difference in the men themselves. Cain was a tiller of the soil, Abel a keeper of sheep. One brought the firstfruits of the field, i.e., a thank-offering. The Other brought the firstlings of the flock as a sin offering.

Cain's offering was only such as Adam and Eve in the innocence of Eden might have offered. It expressed no sense of sin, no prayer for pardon. Moreover, Cain lacked the faith of his brother Abel (Hebrews 11:4). His spirit, as contrasted with Abel's, was one of unbelief, self-righteousness, selfwill. It was a case of Pharisee and Publican at the gate of Eden. Cain's jealous hate drove him to murder; Abel's fidelity made him a martyr: the one, first in a long line of bloodstained men; the other, first in the mighty roll of God's heroes.

6. The Line of Cain (Genesis 4:16-26).—Cain had a son, Enoch, and built a city, Enoch. Like father, like son. The line of Cain were an enterprising, ungodly race. Cain, Enoch, Irad, Mehujael, Methusael, Lamech, constitute the line. Doubtless there were side lines. This is given because at the end of it stands Lamech, in whose family the characteristics of the line culminate. Lamech had two wives, who bore him three sons: Jubal, a musician; Jabal, a herdsman; and Tubal-Cain, a metal-worker. The violence of Cain repeats itself in Lamech, as shown in his "sword song":


"Adah and Zillah, hear my voice;

Ye wives of Lamech, hearken unto my speech;

For I have slain a man for wounding me,

And a young man for bruising me" (Genesis 4:23).


Two lessons may be gleaned from the brief record: (1) Material civilization is not a divine gift, but a purely human development. (2) Civilization is not religion, nor a substitute for it. The line of Cain gives us the following first things: murder, city, polygamy, musician, metal-worker, poetry; but not one example of men who "walked with God."

7. The Line of Seth (Genesis 5). Adam doubtless had other sons after Seth, from whom other lines descended.

This seems to have been preserved because it leads to Noah, who represents its better traits, and through whom the race was perpetuated and the promised seed was to come. The line comprises ten names, as follows: Adam, Seth, Enosh, Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared, Enoch, Methusaleh, Lamech, Noah. At first sight it looks like a bare family register of births, ages, and deaths, and singularly resembles the names in the line of Cain. But the little told contrasts sharply with that line. In the days of Seth and Enosh, "men began to call upon the name of the Lord"; "Enoch walked with God, and was not, for God took him"; a saying significant both of divine fellowship and a blessed immortality. Noah was "a righteous man" and "walked with God." So meager the records, yet so contrasted the portraits of these two lines of Cain and Seth.

8. The Apostasy and the Deluge (Genesis 6:1-8) a. Traditions of the Deluge.—There can be no doubt that these chapters describe a great historic event. Echoes of Eden and the Fall, as we have seen, are found in many ancient literatures. But no other event of early Bible history is so fully corroborated as the Deluge. It left a deep, enduring impression. Traditions of it are found among the four great races, Turanian, Hamitic, Semitic, and Aryan. They vary greatly: some are grossly distorted by polytheism; but those nearest to the spot where the ark rested are most minute and accurate. The Chinese, Hindus, Chaldeans, Egyptians, Greeks, Celts, Laps, Esquimaux, Mexicans, and Central and South Americans, all have preserved the tradition. That of the Chaldeans is most famous, and nearest the Bible account. It exists in two forms: (1) That of Berosus, a priest of Babylon who wrote in Greek, b.c. 260. This has been known for many centuries. (2) That of the cuneiform Tablets dug up from the ruins of Nineveh in 1872, after a sleep Of twenty-five centuries.

b. Moral Causes of the Deluge.—The Deluge was not a mere physical catastrophe. It was a sublime moral event. Read Genesis 6:5. Society was morally rotten, hopelessly so. The causes of the apostasy are not far to seek. Read Genesis 6:1-5. Remember what has been said of the two lines Of Cain and Seth. It is probable that the gross degeneracy was the result of the intermarriage of the line of Seth ("sons of God") with the line of Cain ("daughters Of men"). As in all compromises with evil, the advantages were all on the wrong side. The outcome Of the apostasy was the destruction of the race. Extreme crime calls for extreme penalty. The hardened criminal we imprison for life, or hang by the neck till he is dead. The antediluvians were not the last people swept from the earth for their crimes. The waters of the flood, the rain Of fire that blasted Sodom forever, the breath of pestilence, the tempest of war, have been the divine messengers of judgment.

c. Means of the Deluge.—He who created the earth controls abundant means for its destruction. Again and again, before the era of man, must the earth have been deluged with rains, and submerged beneath the seas. The fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows Of heaven were opened (Genesis 7:11). What occurred so often before man's appearance may easily have occurred again under God's providence, for a great moral purpose. Portions Of Western Asia are still below the level of the sea, and the subsidence of other portions would inundate them and sweep thousands from the earth.

d. Duration and Extent of the Deluge.—It rained for forty days. The waters Continued to rise for one hundred and fifty days, and to subside for two hundred and twenty-five days. It was either universal, or what is more probable, occurred early in the history of the race, before they had spread widely. Either view would account for the universal tradition.

e. Noah and the Deluge.—Some names are forever associated with great epochs. Lincoln with Emancipation, Cromwell with the Commonwealth, Moses with the Exodus; so Noah with the Deluge. Read Genesis 6:9; 7:1; Ezekiel 14:14. Noah was God's man, a heroic figure in an apostate age. Altar after altar had crumbled, but the fires on Noh's altar did not go out till quenched by the flood. It calls for courage to stand alone. But Noah dared to lead where few dared to follow. The absolute obedience and safety of Noah, the hopeless corruption and ruin of the race—such are the impressive lessons. For one hundred and twenty years Noah faithfully preached and heroically lived. Only seven converts rewarded his labors: his wife, and his sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, with their wives. Yet Noah was successful: he did his duty, and he outrode the flood.