Genesis

Introduction

Title

The title Genesis comes from the Greek translation (the Septuagint) and means 'origin, source, creation', whereas the Hebrew title (taken from the book's opening words) is 'In the beginning'. Both titles aptly suggest the book's subject-matter, for it describes the origins of the universe, the world, mankind, human institutions (such as marriage), the nations and, above all, the people of Israel. God's creative work in bringing all these things into being is focused in Genesis.

Another title, now more rarely used, is 'The First Book of Moses'. This title highlights the fact that Genesis is the first part of a five-volume work, traditionally ascribed to Moses, otherwise called the Law or the Pentateuch. Genesis puts the lawgiving at Sinai (the subject-matter of Exodus to Deuteronomy) into historical perspective and provides a theological key to the interpretation of the laws and stories contained in those books.

Place and contents

Like the other books of the Bible, Genesis is primarily theological, i.e. it is concerned with describing who God is, how and why he acts and how he deals with mankind. Often the activity of God in human affairs is not obvious, either in our everyday life or even in some parts of the Bible (e.g. the book of Esther). But in Genesis, especially in the early chapters, God is the central actor. Here he constantly speaks and acts, displaying his power and character. Modern Christian readers, brought up to believe in one all-powerful holy God, may not be surprised by the religious content of Genesis. But ancient readers, coming to the book from a background of the many gods of paganism, would have been astonished by it.

The God of Genesis is not one of many localized gods of limited knowledge and power but the almighty Creator of the whole universe and Lord and Judge of all. It is this God who created mankind, cares for them and judges their misdeeds. It is this God who spoke to Abraham, prompting him to leave his homeland, settle in Canaan (the land of Israel) and bring up his family there. God promised Abraham that his descendants would dwell in Canaan, and Genesis records how, despite numerous mistakes, these promises gradually began to be realized. In the following biblical books a more complete fulfilment of these promises is described. It is this divine perspective that gives Genesis its unity and is central to the author's understanding, and it needs always to be borne in mind as we attempt to relate the stories of Genesis to history. Genesis is not interested in events for their own sake but for what they disclose about the nature of God and his purposes.

Genesis and history

Many individuals pass across the stage of world history in Genesis. Yet, for the most part, their recorded deeds concern their own private families, not national or international affairs. The concern with birth and death, family disputes, grazing and burial rights etc. that characterizes these stories makes it plain that for the writer of Genesis the characters he described were real historical individuals. They are not personifications of clans or the products of his imagination.

Yet can we be sure that the stories in Genesis are really historical? As yet, no patriarchal marriage document or evidence of, for example, Jacob's visit to Paddan Aram or Joseph's work as vizier of Egypt has been discovered outside the Bible. This is hardly surprising given the very small proportion of information committed to writing in ancient times and the small fraction of texts that have survived and been discovered by archaeologists. This makes the chances of demonstrating the reality of one of the patriarchs remote, apart from what we find in the Bible. But there are many pointers in Genesis to the antiquity of its traditions, and these make it unlikely that the stories were the creation of religious 'novelists' writing long after the era they profess to describe, as some scholars suggest.

First, the names of the patriarchs are names that were frequently used in the early second millennium bc but only very rarely later. Names like Jacob, Isaac and Ishmael were standard names among the early Amorites (c. 1800 bc) but went out of fashion later. Other names in the patriarchal narratives, e.g. Serug, Nahor and Terah, confirm that the patriarchs came from the area of Haran.

Secondly, the social customs of the patriarchs fit those mentioned in ancient Near Eastern texts. Some of the practices (e.g. the custom of a man giving his daughter a dowry when she married) changed very little in two thousand years and so do not help us date the stories of the patriarchs exactly. They simply show the stories were true to life, whenever they were written. However, there are some customs which do seem to have changed with time, e.g. adopting a slave as an heir (Gn. 15) or calling the eldest boy rab (Gn. 25:23), and these place the biblical stories in an early period. Similarly, many features of the Joseph story find better parallels in second-millennium Egyptian texts than in later ones, and this again supports the antiquity of the stories about Joseph.

Thirdly, the religion and morality of the patriarchs appear to be earlier than what is found in other books of the Pentateuch. Sometimes the practice and beliefs of the patriarchs contradict the demands of the later law. For example, Abraham married his half-sister (Gn. 20:12; cf. Lv. 18:9), Jacob married two sisters (Gn. 29:21-30; cf. Lv. 18:18) and Jacob erected a stone pillar (Gn. 28:18); cf. Lv. 26:1; Dt. 16:21-22). In Genesis, God nearly always introduces himself as El, e.g. El Shaddai ('God Almighty'; Gn. 17:1), El Elyon ('God Most High'; Gn. 14:19). Later (after Ex. 6:3), Yahweh, 'the Lord, became the standard Israelite name for God.

These observations tend to confirm that the patriarchal stories are historical, though obviously we can never prove the details of particular incidents. But when we come to chapters 1-11 we are treading on different ground. Most of these stories deal with periods long before writing was invented, so they cannot be 'history' in the strict sense of the term or be verified by evidence from outside the Bible. However, Genesis does try to arrange the stories chronologically and explain things in terms of cause and effect. These are the hallmarks of history writing, so that T. Jacobsen has coined the term 'mytho-historical' to describe such literature (JBL, 100 (1981), p. 528). 'Myth' has negative overtones, so 'protohistory' is probably a better way to describe Genesis 1-11. In the present state of knowledge it is difficult to know how to relate these chapters to modern scientific discovery. It is more helpful (see below on the theology of Genesis and in the commentary) to read these chapters against the background of beliefs current in the ancient Near East. Then they will be seen to be offering a powerful critique of the belief in many gods. The writer of Genesis seems to assume the historicity of Adam, Eve and their descendants, for he links them all together in long family trees that end with Abraham. This shows that for him Adam was a real individual like Abraham or Isaac.

Authorship

The authorship of Genesis has been one of the most discussed issues in biblical studies, so for a fuller explanation of the issues the reader should look at the article on the Pentateuch. However, the major viewpoints and the stance taken in the commentary are as follows:

Traditionally, Moses (c. 1300 bc) was regarded as the main author of Genesis and the following four books. However, it was accepted that certain remarks (e.g. 12:6; 36:31) showed that some parts of the book had been added later. The text of Genesis does not claim Moses as its author, in any case.

From the nineteenth century onwards mainline critical scholarship minimized the role of Moses in the composition of the Pentateuch. Indeed, the most widely-accepted view came to be that Genesis was composed from three major sources J (tenth century bc), E (ninth century bc), and P (sixth century bc). Genesis, it was held, went through a series of modifications with new material being added with each new edition.

Since the 1970s there have been many questions raised about the J, E, P documentary theory, with some scholars contesting the dating of the sources and others doubting their very existence. So far, no theory has emerged to replace the old source-critical consensus, so it is still assumed in many textbooks and commentaries.

While this critical debate has continued, it has become widely accepted that the commentator's first job is to explain the present form of the text. Whether the author of Genesis used many sources or just one, what matters is the book as it stands. It is a beautifully constructed whole, full of vividly told stories, that convey a vision of God and his truth which is presupposed throughout the rest of the Bible. So what this commentary focuses on is the present final form of the text. This may well be considerably earlier than is often supposed (for fuller discussions see the article on the Pentateuch). Whoever wrote Genesis, in whatever period, was more interested in telling us about God than in giving us clues to his own identity.

Theology

The book of Genesis splits into two unequal parts. Chapters 1-11, the protohistory, focus on the origins of the human race, and chapters 12-50, the period of the patriarchs, focus on the origins of Israel. The much greater attention devoted to the patriarchs shows what was the chief concern of the author. So, in reviewing the main theological themes of Genesis, chapters 12-50 will be dealt with first and then chapters 1-11, which give background to the choice of Abraham and his descendants.

Theology of Genesis 12-50

The key theological themes of Genesis 12-50, indeed of the whole Pentateuch, are set out in 12:1-3: 'The Lord had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."' Here God makes four promises to Abraham: that he will be given a 'land' (v 1); that he will become a 'great nation' (v 2); that he will enjoy a special (covenant) relationship with God (v 3); and that through him all the nations will be blessed (v 3). Whenever God addresses the patriarchs in Genesis he refers to these promises, very often amplifying or making them more specific. For example, a 'land' (12:1) becomes 'this land' (12:7), 'all the land you see... for ever' (13:15) and 'the whole land of Canaan... as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you' (17:8).

To grasp the importance of the promises in Genesis the reader should look at all God's speeches in the book noting the changes in wording between one passage and the next (12:1-3, 7; 13:14-17; 15:1-7, 13-21; 16:11-12; 17:1-21; 18:10-32; 21:12-13, 17; 22:11-18; 25:23; 26:2-5, 24; 28:13-15; 31:3; 32:27-29; 35:1, 9-12; 46:3-4). These changes show that God makes the promises ever more specific and dogmatic as the patriarchs respond in faith and obedience. But even their misbehaviour does not nullify the promises; it serves only to slow their fulfilment.

Not only does God make promises, but the patriarchs often mention them, or their friends or foes unwittingly allude to them (15:2, 8; 16:2; 17:17-18; 21:6-7; 24:7-8, 35-40, 60; 26:22, 28-29; 27:27-29; 28:2-4, 20-22; 29:32-30:24, 27; 31:5-16, 29, 42, 49-50; 32:9-12; 33:5, 10-11; 34:10, 21; 35:3; 41:52; 45:5-11; 48:3-22; 50:5, 19-21, 24-25). These quotations from, or allusions to, the promises indicate how important they were to the human actors in the story and to the writer of Genesis.

What is more, the episodes from the patriarchs' lives recorded in Genesis illustrate the fulfilment of the promises. Presumably, the author of Genesis (like the evangelist John; see 20:30-31) knew much more about the patriarchs than he chose to tell. He picked out those episodes that showed how the promises came true, albeit slowly. D. J. A. Clines in The Theme of the Pentateuch (JSOT Press, 1979) has aptly defined the theme of the Pentateuch as the partial fulfilment of the promises to the patriarchs. Thus, in reading Genesis we must ask about every incident: how does this contribute to the fulfilment of the promises of land, nationhood, covenant relationship and blessing to the nations?

Clearly, not every aspect of these promises is in focus in every episode. Nor does their fulfilment proceed straightforwardly—there are many hiccoughs and setbacks. Genesis is most obviously concerned with the promise of descendants, that Abraham's offspring will become a great nation. Yet, after the mention of Sarah's barrenness in 11:30, it is not till 21:1 (twenty-five years later) that the promised son, Isaac, is born. Similarly, Isaac's wife Rebekah conceived only after Isaac had prayed for a child for twenty years (25:20, 26). Similarly, Rachel, Jacob's true love and only real wife in his eyes, was dismayed to find her rival Leah and Jacob's slave wives bearing child after child before she bore one (30:23), and then she died giving birth to a second (35:16-19). By the end of Genesis (46:27) Abraham's descendants numbered seventy, which is hardly a great nation. Although they increased dramatically during the period of Egyptian slavery, the promise of innumerable offspring still seems some way from complete fulfilment even in Exodus.

As for the land promise, all that Abraham acquired was a burial plot for his wife (23:1-20). Isaac gained permission to use some wells (26:22-23), and Jacob bought a shoulder of land near Shechem (33:19; cf 48:22). At the end of Genesis none of Abraham's descendants was living in Canaan, the land of promise; they had all migrated to Egypt. Indeed, entry to the land, though it is the dominating concern of Exodus to Deuteronomy, was not secured till the book of Joshua.

Some of the slowness in the fulfilment of the promises may be ascribed to unbelief or disobedience by the patriarchs (e.g. 12:10-20; 16:1-14; 27:1-45). Whatever they did, however, one aspect of the promise repeatedly proved true: God was with the patriarchs, blessing those who blessed them and cursing those who cursed them (12:3). Thus, despite the mortal danger Abraham believed himself to be in Egypt and Gerar, and his faithless fear which placed his wife in jeopardy, both Abraham and Sarah emerged safely and indeed enriched financially from their stays in foreign parts (12:10-20; 20:1-15). Similarly, Isaac prospered despite the opposition of the Philistines (ch. 26). Jacob was conscious that God went with him as he fled for his life to Paddan Aram, and it was through God's help that he was able to escape the clutches of his double-crossing father-in-law and return in peace to a reconciliation with the brother who had planned to murder him (28:20-21; 31:42; 33:11). Above all, the career of Joseph demonstrated that God was with him, as he rose from prison cell to Pharaoh's deputy (39:5, 23; 41:39).

Yet even here the promise was only partially fulfilled. God did make a covenant with Abraham (15:18), confirm it (17:7) and guarantee it (22:15-18). But these general covenants were just preambles to, and a foretaste of, the great covenant of Sinai to be made with Abraham's descendants.

Finally, there was a partial fulfilment of the promise to the nations. Through Abraham's efforts, the king of Sodom was rescued (14:17), and through his prayers, the childless women of Gerar conceived (20:17). Most dramatically of all, Joseph was instrumental in saving many lives, not just his own family's but the Egyptians' and those of other nations too (41:57). He pointed out that this was part of God's plan (45:5-7; 50:20-21).

Theology of Genesis 1-11

Why was it necessary for God to choose Abraham, and who was the God who made these promises? How does Abraham fit into world history? It is these questions that Genesis 1-11 addresses.

Genesis 12-50 shows that the twelve tribes were the twelve sons or grandsons of Jacob (29:32-30:24; 35:18; 48:16). Israel's nearest neighbours were descended from Jacob's brother (Edom from Esau; 25:26; 36:1) or uncles (Ishmael; 25:12) or distant cousins (Moab and Ammon; 19:36-38). The table of nations in Genesis 10 shows how Israel was related to seventy other peoples known to the writer of Genesis. Israel, like the tribes of Syria and Arabia, was ultimately descended from Shem, one of Noah's sons (10:21-28). The most distant nations known to Israel, including the Medes, Greeks and other Mediterranean peoples, are traced to Japheth, another son of Noah (10:2-5). Ham, Noah's disgraced son, is said to have been the ancestor of Israel's inveterate enemies, including the Egyptians, Babylonians and Canaanites (10:6-20). Thus, through this table of nations, Israel's place among the nations of the ancient Near East is defined.

These opening chapters of Genesis also define Israel's view of God over against the prevailing beliefs in many gods in the ancient orient. That the biblical story of mankind from creation to flood finds parallels in other ancient literature (such as the Atrahasis and Gilgamesh epics and the Sumerian Flood Story) has often been noticed. But even more significant is the way that Genesis, by retelling what to the author's contemporaries were familiar stories, presents a new, indeed revolutionary, view of God and his relationship to the world and mankind.

Ancient orientals believed in a multitude of gods of limited power, knowledge and morality, so that religion was a dicey business. You could never be quite sure whether you had chosen the right deity, or whether he or she could bring you health and salvation. But the God of Genesis was unique and without equal. He was all-powerful, creating the whole universe (even the sun, moon and stars, often thought to be gods in their own right) by a simple command. He sent the flood and he stopped the flood. He saved Noah and his family because Noah was righteous, not because of favouritism. The God of Genesis was supremely concerned with human welfare. Unlike the Mesopotamian myths, which tell how the gods created mankind as an afterthought to provide themselves with food, Genesis declares that mankind was the goal of God's creation whom God provided with food (1:26-29).

Yet though the creation of mankind was God's crowning achievement he was, according to Genesis, totally flawed as 'every inclination of the thought of his [man's] heart was only evil all the time' (6:5). It was human sin, not human fertility (as in the Atrahasis epic), that provoked the flood. And this profound pessimism about human nature and society again distinguishes Genesis' theology from other ancient oriental beliefs. Mesopotamians (like many modern thinkers), for example, were believers in progress. They held that the Babylonian civilization was the most advanced and enlightened of all time. Genesis declares it was one of the most decadent (6:1-4; 11:1-9). Genesis traces an 'avalanche of sin', unleashed by Adam's disobedience, aggravated by Cain's murder and climaxed in the illicit marriages of 6:1-4, which eventually triggered off the flood. This great act of de-creation was followed by a new creation as the new earth emerged from the waters, and Noah, a sort of second Adam, stepped out to till the land. But like the first Adam he too fell; his son Ham acted even worse; and human sinfulness reached another peak as the men of Babel attempted to build a tower that reached heaven. This led to another act of universal judgment in the scattering of the nations across the globe.

But it was a man who came from Ur, the centre of this corrupt civilization, that God called to leave his homeland, move to a new one and build a new nation, so that all the nations of the world should find blessing. For despite its gloom about human sin, Genesis is a fundamentally optimistic book. It declares that God's purpose for mankind, first intimated at his creation (chapters 1-2), will ultimately be achieved through the offspring of Abraham.

Further reading

F. D. Kidner, Genesis, TOTC (IVP, 1967).

D. Atkinson, The Message of Genesis 1-11, BST (IVP, 1990).

J. G. Baldwin, The Message of Genesis 12-50, BST (IVP, 1986).

J. H. Sailhammer, Genesis, EBC (Zondervan, 1990).

G. J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15, WBC (Word, 1987).

-----------, Genesis 16-50, WBC (Word, 1994).

Outline of contents

1:1-2:3 Prologue: God creates the world
1:1-2 The beginning of creation
1:3-23 Creation continued
1:24-31 The creation of animals and mankind
2:1-3 The holy seventh day
2:4-4:26 The account of the heavens and the earth
2:4-3:24 The Garden of Eden
4:1-26 The first human family
5:1-6:8 The account of Adam's line
5:1-32 Adam's family tree
6:1-8 Human-spirit marriages and their aftermath
6:9-9:29 The account of Noah
6:9-8:22 The story of the flood
9:1-17 God's covenant with Noah
9:18-29 Ham's sin
10:1-11:9 The account of Shem, Ham and Japheth
10:1-32 The Table of Nations
11:1-9 The Tower of Babel
11:10-26 The account of Shem
11:27-25:11 The account of Terah and the story of Abraham
11:27- 12:9 The call of Abram
12:10-20 Abram in Egypt
13:1-18 Abram and Lot separate
14:1-24 Abram rescues Lot
15:1-21 The covenant promise
16:1-16 The birth of Ishmael
17:1-27 The covenant of circumcision
18:1-19:38 The overthrow of Sodom
20:1-18 Sarah and Abimelech
21:1-21 Isaac and Ishmael part
21:22-34 Treaty with Abimelech
22:1-24 The sacrifice of Isaac
23:1-20 The burial of Sarah
24:1-67 Rebekah's call to marriage
25:1-11 The last days of Abraham
25:12-18 The account of Ishmael
25:19-35:29 The account of Isaac and the stories of Jacob and Esau
25:19-34 First encounters of Jacob and Esau
26:1-33 Isaac and the Philistines
26:34-28:9 Jacob cheats Esau of his blessing
28:10-22 Jacob meets God at Bethel
29:1-30 Jacob marries Rachel and Leah
29:31-30:24 The birth of Jacob's sons
30:25-31:1 Jacob outwits Laban
31:2-32:2 Jacob leaves Laban
32:3-33:20 Jacob and Esau are reconciled
34:1-31 Dinah avenged by her brothers
35:1-29 Journey's end for Jacob and Isaac
36:1-37:1 The account of Esau
37:2-50:26 The account of Jacob
37:2-36 Joseph's brothers sell him into Egypt
38:1-30 Tamar humbles Judah
39:1-47:31 Joseph in Egypt
48:1-50:26 The last days of Jacob and Joseph

The commentary has been structured according to the divisions suggested by the text itself; these do not always coincide with the medieval chapter divisions. Genesis is notable for dividing itself into ten major sections, each beginning, 'This is the account of (2:4; 5:1; 6:9 etc.). These ten 'accounts' are prefaced by a prologue (1:1-2:3), describing God creating for six days and resting on the seventh. The accounts themselves alternate between quite long narratives (e.g. 6:9-9:29, 'the account of Noah') and briefer genealogies (e.g. 11:10-26, 'The account of Shem'). Within the fullest section of the book (the one dealing with the patriarchs descended from Abraham), the 'non-elect' line is summed up in a genealogy (e.g. Ishmael, 25:12-18; Esau, 36:1-37:1) before the chosen brother's family story is recounted in detail (e.g. Isaac, 25:19-35:29; Jacob, 37:2-50:26).

Commentary

1:1-2:3 Prologue: God creates the world

This opening section of Genesis stands outside the main frame of the book set by the ten headings, 'This is the account of (2:4 etc.). This shows that it is a prologue to the rest of the book, setting out who God is and how he relates to the world. It thus provides a key to the interpretation of Genesis, if not the whole Bible. But this prologue is more than a statement of theology, it is a hymn of praise to the Creator through whom and for whom all things exist.

The prologue itself is carefully arranged. Ten divine commands result in eight acts of creation spread over six days, so that there is a correspondence between days one to three and days four to six. On day one, God created 'light' and on day four, 'lights' (sun, moon and stars); on day two, he created the sky and sea and on day five, the dwellers in the sky and sea (birds and fish); on day three, he created the land and vegetation and on day six, the dwellers in the land (animals and mankind), giving them plants to eat; finally, on the seventh day (the Sabbath), he rested.

The works of creation moved to a climax on day six when mankind was created in two sexes. That this is seen as the crowning feat of God's creation is emphasized by the lengthy comments on their creation and role (1:26-29), which are much fuller than those about any other creature. Indeed, the works of the five preceding days seem to focus on creating a home for mankind. Those aspects of creation that most affect human existence (e.g. plant and animal life and the sun and moon) are described more fully than the creation of light, land, or seas, which are less significant. God's concern for humanity is made explicit in the provision of plants for food.

It also seems likely that the emphasis on God creating for six days and then resting on the seventh is deliberate. God's mode of working was to be a model for human activity. People, who are made in the image of God, are expected throughout the Bible to imitate God. So, as God worked for six days and then rested on the seventh day, human beings are to work for six days and rest on the seventh (Ex. 20:8-11).

The concern with human life on earth, which is apparent in this narrative read by itself, is the more obvious when it is compared with other ancient oriental accounts of creation. Genesis is implicitly rejecting other views of the gods and their relationship with the world. Here we have no story of how gods fought, married and bore children; there is but one God, beyond time and sex, who was there in the beginning. He created all things, even the sun, moon and stars, which other peoples often held to be gods in their own right. He required no magic to do this; his word was sufficient by itself. According to the Genesis account, there is one God, the sovereign Creator, to whom all the universe owes its being and whom it is expected to obey. Within that created universe, men and women have a place of honour, having been made in the divine image. We reflect God's nature and represent him on earth.

1:1-2 The beginning of creation

The niv accepts the traditional understanding of these verses, namely that they describe the very first act of creation, when God created all matter (the heavens and the earth) out of nothing. But the earth immediately after creation was formless and empty, i.e. unproductive and uninhabited. So the narrative then proceeds to relate how in six days God organized this chaos into the well-ordered world we now see.

Some modern translations and commentators understand v 1 differently. Some (e.g. the neb) take it simply to be defining the situation when God started to create, 'In the beginning when God created... the earth was formless...' Others simply regard v 1 as a summary title to the first chapter. But neither view is as likely as that adopted by the niv 'Create' is something that only God does (the verb is used only of God in the OT). He demonstrates his power by creating marvellous and unexpected things (Nu. 16:30), e.g. great sea creatures (v 21), men and women (v 27) and mountains (Am. 4:13).

V 2 pictures the world as dark and desolate, covered by water and with the mysterious Spirit (or 'wind') of God hovering above the ocean. The suggestion here of a power within the Godhead is developed further by Pr. 8:22-31 and Jn. 1:1-3, which speak of 'wisdom' and 'the Word' assisting in creation.

1:3-23 Creation continued

1:3-5 The creation of light. The dark world was lit up when God said, ''Let there be light'. More precisely, day was distinguished from night by the creation of light. Light is a form of energy and may be produced in many different ways, not just by sun and stars (which were not created until the fourth day). Contemporary cosmologists say that the universe began with a hot big bang, which must have made a very bright light. Order began to appear and replace dark chaos. The refrain God saw that [it] was good (cf. vs 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31) affirms the intrinsic goodness of the creation and its Creator.

Note. It is possible that the order of evening-morning in And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day (cf. vs 8, 13, 19, 23, 31) reflects the Hebrew concept of the day beginning with sunset and ending with the following sunset. What matters most to Genesis, however, is that God worked for six 'days' and then rested. In that these are days of God's activity not human work, it is unlikely that they are supposed to last twenty-four hours. Indeed, the Hebrew word for 'day' covers a variety of periods: the hours of daylight (Gn. 29:7), a twenty-four-hour day (Gn. 7:4) or an indefinite period (Gn. 35:3). That they were different from ordinary days is shown by the non-existence of the sun until the fourth day. Another hint that creation did not take six literal days is the mention of the creation of the heavens and the earth, i.e. the unorganized universe (v 1) before the six days were counted down. Finally, it should be noted that 1:1-2:3, unlike all other sections of Genesis, is not headed by the title 'This is the account of, which links the protohistory (2:4- 11:26) to the patriarchal history (11:27-50:26). All these differences indicate that 1:1-2:3 serves as an overture to the rest of the book and that it may not be intended to be taken as literally as what follows. Nevertheless, that God worked for six days and rested on the seventh day (however long by human reckoning his 'days' were) is a pattern for mankind to follow.

1:6-8 The separation of the waters. God showed his power again by putting limits on the waters which had hitherto covered the globe (cf. Jb. 38:8-11). Some were confined to the seas, the rest to the sky. The upper waters were kept there by the 'expanse' or 'firmament' (av). From earth the sky (firmament) appears to be a sort of dome that prevents the waters in the clouds falling to earth (cf. vs. 7:11).

1:9-13 The creation of land and plants. Even more important for mankind was the provision, on the third day, of dry land, on which he could live, and plants to sustain life (cf. vs. 1:29-30). The distinct varieties of plants (vs 11-12) bear witness to God's organizing power, and these distinctions should not be blurred (see the rules against mixed breeding in Lv. 19:19; Dt. 22:9-11).

1:14-19 The creation of the heavenly lights. Even more powerful proof of God's creative power, and ever pertinent to human existence, are the sun, moon and stars. Pagan contemporaries of Genesis regarded these bodies as gods in their own right. To avoid any suspicion that the sun and moon were anything but created by God, Genesis calls them just lights. They were appointed to regulate the fundamental rhythms of human life by defining day and night and the seasons of the year.

1:20-23 The creation of birds and fish. The parallel between God's work on the first three days and the second three days now becomes clear. On day one, light was created, on day four, the heavenly lights; on day two, sky and oceans, on day five, birds and fish. Once again, Genesis is stressing God's concern for order. 'The great sea creatures' were regarded as divine in some ancient myths; Genesis insists that they were merely some of God's creatures. Furthermore, God wanted the waters and air to be filled with his creatures, and his command and blessing guaranteed their fertility. No magic or fertility rites were needed to secure it.

1:24-31 The creation of animals and mankind

The creation account reaches its climax on the sixth day. Note how much fuller the description of God's work on this day is than for any of the preceding days and the parallels with the words of day three (land).

Here Genesis defines mankind's purpose and place in God's plan. God says man is to be made in our image, in our likeness. This means that mankind, both male and female, is God's representative on earth. Ancient oriental kings were often seen as bearing the image of their god, but Genesis affirms that every human being is made in God's image. The NT affirms that Christ is 'the image of the invisible God' (Col. 1:15), 'the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being' (Heb. 1:3). Such an understanding of the divine image was beyond the reach of the human author of Genesis, but he alludes to another dimension of it by the comment ''Let us make man in our image'' (v 26). Here God is pictured talking to the angels, the only allusion to other supernatural beings in this chapter. This remark implies that man is like both God and the angels. (Traditionally, Christians have seen us and our to allude to the other persons of the Trinity. While this is a quite legitimate fuller interpretation, it is not the words' primary meaning.)

Secondly, because human beings are created in God's image they are his representatives on earth and should 'rule... over all the earth' (v 26). Ps. 8:4-8 offers a marvellous poetic comment on this idea. Rule implies lordship but not exploitation. Man, as God's representative, must rule his subjects, as God does, for their own good. While legitimizing human use of the world's resources, God gives no licence for our abuse of his creation.

Thirdly, God deliberately created humanity in two sexes to be fruitful and increase in number. He thereby blessed sexual intercourse and indicated its importance in his plan. Other ancient tales, hailing from urban Mesopotamia (which was worried by population growth), tell of the gods taking steps to curb human fertility by sending plagues, famine, flood and miscarriage. The God of Genesis repeatedly urged the first people to be fruitful (1:28; 8:17; 9:1, 7) and promised the patriarchs that they would be successful in fathering innumerable children. Sex is thus seen as an important part of God's very good creation (v 31).

Fourthly, God provided food for mankind in the form of seed-bearing plants and fruit trees (v 29). Not until after the flood was meat-eating expressly sanctioned (9:1-3). Genesis, however, is not primarily interested in whether people were originally vegetarian but in the fact that God provided them with food. In Mesopotamian mythology the gods created man to provide themselves with food; Genesis affirms it was the other way round, that God feeds mankind (cf. Pss. 65; 50:7-15).

2:1-3 The holy seventh day

A dramatic change of pace and style highlights the distinctiveness of the Sabbath. The seventh day is not called the Sabbath here, but it is alluded to, for he rested could be paraphrased 'he Sabbathed'. Furthermore, the seventh day's importance is underlined by God blessing it and making it holy. The Sabbath is regularly called 'holy', but only in Ne. 8:9, 11 is any other festival called 'holy'. Here, God is described as resting on the seventh day, but the narrator clearly implies that mankind, made in the divine image, is expected to copy his Creator. Indeed, the context implies that a weekly day of rest is as necessary for human survival as sex (1:27-28) or food (1:29). This is an emphasis that seems to have been forgotten today, even amongst Christians.

Note. Genesis 1 and science. Genesis and modern science are answering different questions. Genesis explains who God is and how he relates to the created world. Science elucidates the God-given laws that explain natural phenomena; and from these laws scientists can work backwards to trace the course of the universe's development. Science makes us aware of the infinite power and wisdom of the Creator, but it cannot explain God's purpose in creating the universe, or his character. Genesis is not dealing with the issues raised by twentieth-century science but with ideas current in the ancient orient over 3000 years ago. Over against the polytheistic world-view that held there were many gods and goddesses of varying wisdom and power, Genesis declares there is but one God of absolute power and holiness. Rejecting the ancient view that mankind was simply created as an afterthought which the gods later regretted, Genesis affirms that man was the goal of creation and that his welfare is God's supreme concern. These principles are reaffirmed repeatedly throughout Scripture, but they are set out with exemplary clarity in Genesis 1 and are central to what the author was trying to say. Modern readers should concentrate on these original intentions of Genesis and not bring to the text scientific issues which are foreign to its purpose.

2:4-4:26 The account of the heavens and the earth

This section describes three stages in the degeneration of human society from its perfection portrayed in 1:31. The first defiance of God's commandment (3:6) is followed by the first murder (4:8) and finally by the seventy-sevenfold vengeance of Lamech (4:24). The sins are seen as both typical and unique. They are typical in that every sinful act has similar ingredients and consequences; they are unique in that, occurring at the beginning of history, they have had dire consequences for the whole human race.

2:4-3:24 The Garden of Eden

Why, if the world was created very good (1:31), is there so much pain and suffering, anger and hatred in it? This story explains the origin and effects of sin in a simple yet profound way. It starts by describing the idyllic existence of the first human couple, thereby outlining God's pattern for relations between the sexes. It then tells how one apparently minor act of disobedience upset everything and led to mankind's expulsion from paradise.

The Lord God (2:4) is a phrase common in chs. 2-3, but it is hardly used elsewhere in the OT. It sums up two ideas that are important in these chapters—that God is both mankind's Creator ('God' is the term used in ch. 1) and his friend or covenant partner (the Lord, or Yahweh, is God's personal name revealed only to Israel; Ex. 3:14; 6:3).

2:4-7 The creation of the first man. The writer flashes back to the situation before mankind was created on the sixth day (1:26-28) and describes a typical middle-eastern desert, which requires human effort to irrigate and make it bloom. It was from the clay of such an area that God, the great Potter, moulded the first man and breathed into him the breath of life. Through this traditional image Genesis implies that people are by nature more than material; they have a spiritual, God-breathed, element too.

2:8-17 God's garden for mankind. God's concern for human need, already mentioned in 1:29, is again underlined here. A delightful park full of fruit trees, rivers, gold and gemstones is prepared for human habitation in an area called Eden (i.e. 'delight'). Trees, water, gold and gems and cherubim also adorned, the later tabernacle (Ex. 25:27) and temple (1 Ki. 7; Ezk. 41-47), and these symbols suggest what was most important about the garden: the presence of God. He used to walk there in the cool of the day having intimate conversation with Adam and Eve (3:8). The tree of life gives eternal life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil wisdom. The latter was forbidden for human consumption because the wisdom acquired through eating it leads to independence from God, whereas true wisdom begins with 'the fear of the Lord' (Pr. 1:7).

Note. 10-14. Two of the rivers of Eden are well known: the Tigris and the Euphrates flow through modern Iraq into the Persian Gulf. Gihon and Pishon are impossible to identify, and therefore attempts to locate Eden are doomed to failure. Mesopotamian mythology located a paradise island at the head of the Persian Gulf, and therefore the likeliest explanation is that Eden was supposed to be there. But this may be taking the story too literally, for 3:23-24 makes it plain that Eden cannot now be entered by human beings.

2:18-24 The creation of woman. Despite the idyllic environment there was something wrong. God said that 'It is not good for the man to be alone' (v 18), and after his repeated observation that all he had created was good (e.g. 1:10, 31) this comment is a shock and serves to highlight the next acts of creation.

First, animals were created as the man's companions. They were under human authority (the man named them in v 20), but it was intended that they should not be exploited (cf. on 1:24-31). Unfortunately, animals were not the perfect companions for the man. It was only the creation of woman that fully satisfied him.

The charming tale of God creating Eve out of Adam's rib and then presenting her to him as if at a wedding sums up beautifully many of the key biblical ideas about marriage. Here and in 1:27-28 we have God's standard for relations between the sexes set out. Whereas 1:28 emphasized the importance of procreation, 2:20-24 explores the nature of companionship within marriage. First, husband and wife complement each other. Suitable helper would be better be translated 'helper matching him', i.e. supplying what he lacks. She is his missing rib. Matthew Henry commented on God's choice of a rib to create Eve, 'Not made out of his head to top him, not out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.' Perhaps this reads a little too much into the rib, but it expresses well the biblical ideal of marriage.

Secondly, the union between man and wife should be permanent: a man is united (lit. 'sticks') to his wife, and they will become one flesh. Jesus (Mt. 19:5) and Paul (Eph. 5:31) quote this in decrying divorce.

Thirdly, a man must put his wife's interest above all others, even his parents. He will leave his father and mother, not by going to live elsewhere but by putting his very important duty to care for them (Ex. 20:12) second to his duty to look after his wife (cf. Eph. 5:25-29).

Fourthly, the wife is under the authority of her husband: he names her woman (v 23) and later Eve (3:20), just as earlier he had named the animals (v 19). This concept of the man's headship is taken for granted elsewhere in the Bible (e.g. 1 Cor. 11:3; 1 Pet. 3:1-6).

Finally, it may be noted that God created only one Eve for Adam, not several Eves or another Adam, thereby indicating divine disapproval of both polygamy (cf. Lv. 18:18; Dt. 17:17) and homosexual practice (Lv. 18:22; Rom. 1:26-27).

3:1-8 The fall. The innocent harmony of Eden was then ruined by the entry of sin. The mistakes of Adam and Eve are typical of all sins, but as they were the parents of the whole human race their deeds had the gravest consequences. Temptation was mediated by a serpent, later described as an unclean creature (Lv. 11:31) and, therefore, a fitting symbol of evil. The serpent begins by overemphasizing the strictness of the law (God had put only one tree out of bounds) and questioning God's goodwill towards human beings (something the narrative in ch. 2 had put beyond doubt). Eve rebuts his suggestion, though inexactly ('you must not touch if was not part of the original prohibition (2:17). The serpent then challenged God's judgment by claiming 'you will not surely die' and promised instead sophistication (that their eyes will be opened) and spiritual advancement (that they will be like God).

Lured by the prospect of instant pleasure (she saw that the fruit was good for food) and supposed maturity, Eve suddenly succumbed and persuaded her husband also to eat. In so doing he preferred the serpent's suggestions to God's command. (Throughout Scripture, the essence of sin is to put human judgment above divine command.) Immediately guilt and shame gripped them. Their opened eyes saw only their naked bodies, and they attempted to hide from each other and from God.

3:9-20 Trial and sentence. Man, woman and serpent were then interrogated and sentenced by the divine inquisitor. God's questions were designed to elicit confessions, not information; he knew perfectly well what they had done.

The long-term effects of sin then started to appear. The serpent was condemned to crawl and to constant warfare with mankind, the woman's offspring (v 15). In that her offspring will crush the snake's head, the latter will come off worse in the long battle. Thus, though this was a judgment on the snake, it was at the same time a promise to man. It has, therefore, traditionally been seen by Jews and Christians, as the first hint of a saviour for mankind, and 3:15 is often called the iprotevangelion' the 'first gospel'. Allusions to it in the NT include Rom. 16:20; Heb. 2:14; Rev. 12. Within Genesis the promise to Abraham that 'through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed' (22:18) starts to make the vague promise of 3:15 more specific. It is also notable that this first judgment on sin is tinged with hope, something that recurs throughout Scripture (cf. vs. 6:5-8), as God's mercy outweighs his wrath (cf. Ex. 20:5-6).

The sentence on Eve blighted her calling as mother. To be a joyful mother of children was the hope of every OT woman (30:1; Ps. 113:9), but the pain of childbirth was a constant reminder of the first mother's sin. Furthermore, instead of marriage being a relationship of mutual care, tension was often to characterize it. Your desire may be a desire for sexual intercourse or for independence, but ultimately the husband's headship will prevail. He will rule over you may indicate harsh domination, but it may simply be reaffirming the chain of authority (God—man—woman) established at creation but reversed at the fall (v 6). The latter interpretation is more likely in view of the introduction to Adam's sentence of Because you listened to your wife (v 17). God then decreed that the man must suffer frustration in his work (gardeners and farmers face a running battle with weeds to produce food). Hard work would enable him to live, but eventually he would die. This is a hint that he was about to be expelled from Eden and deprived of access to the tree of life.

3:21-24 Judgment. Expulsion from the garden proved the hollowness of the serpent's promise that they would not die (v 4). For though Adam and Eve continued some sort of life outside the garden, it was a shadow of the fulness of life inside Eden, where they had enjoyed intimate fellowship with God. Now the full cost of sin is apparent. It is not just an unquiet conscience (vs 7-8), squabbles with one's dearest spouse (v 12), pain (v 16) or the drudgery of daily toil (vs 17-19) but separation from the presence of God and ultimately physical death (Rom. 6:23). Cherubim later decorated the ark, tabernacle and temple (Ex. 25:18-22; 26:31; 1 Ki. 6:23-28) and were winged lions with human heads (Ezk. 41:18).

4:1-26 The first human family

In sketching the story of Cain and his descendants, Genesis illustrates the increasing grip of sin on the human race.

4:1-16 Cain and Abel. Ch. 3 showed how sin disrupts relations between God and human beings and between man and wife. Ch. 4 shows it destroying the bonds of brotherhood. Indeed, Cain is portrayed as a more hardened sinner than Adam. Killing one's brother is more wicked than eating a protected fruit. Adam had to be persuaded to sin; Cain could not be dissuaded from sinning, even by God himself (vs 6-7). Sin is personified as an animal waiting to pounce (vs 7; cf. 1 Pet. 5:8). When questioned by God about his sin, Adam, though rather petulant, at least told the truth; Cain lied and then made a joke about it (3:9-11 cf 4:9). Adam accepted God's judgment in silence, but Cain protested fiercely (vs 13-14) and was despatched even further from Eden (v 16).

Notes. 5 The reason for the rejection of Cain's sacrifice is not immediately obvious. The contrast between Cain's some of the fruits and Abel's fat portions... of the firstborn of his flocks probably gives the clue. Perhaps Abel brought the best parts of his flocks and Cain was not so particular. But sacrifice is only acceptable to God if it is perfect and costly (Lv. 22:20-22; 2 Sa. 24:24); he will not be satisfied with second best (Mal. 1:6-14; Rom. 12:1). 15 Whether the mark of Cain was a tattoo, his name Cain, a dog or something else is quite obscure. Like the clothing given to Adam and Eve in 3:21, the mark served a double function. It reminded Cain of his sin and assured him of God's protection against potential enemies. Thus, his protest prayer (vs 13-14) did not go unheeded, for even hardened sinners like Cain may pray for mercy and receive it.

4:17-26 Cain's descendants. Several of Cain's descendants (his wife was presumably a daughter of Adam and Eve) are credited with significant cultural and technological advances: city-building (v 17), bedouin life (v 20), music (v 21) and metal-working (v 22). That these achievements are credited to Cain's descendants, rather than Seth's more holy line (ch. 5), suggests that all human progress is somehow tainted by sin.

Most attention is given to Lamech, who is portrayed in gory detail. A slave of passion, he married two lovely wives, Adah ('Jewel') and Zillah ('Melody'). Bigamy represents another regress from the monogamy God established in Eden. But more significant is Lamech's bloodthirsty lust for seventy-sevenfold vengeance, which shows a man who disregarded justice and was prepared to smash all who got in his way. Society was disintegrating and was ripe for judgment.

Vs. 25-26 anticipate the genealogy of Seth in ch. 5. Often at the end of a section in Genesis there is a trailer for what follows (cf 6:5-8 anticipating 6:9-9:17; 9:18-27 anticipating ch. 10).

Call on the name of the Lord means that worship of God also began in this era.

5:1-6:8 The account of Adam's line

This consists of two parts. The first (5:1-32) lists the ten generations from Adam, through his third son Seth, to Noah. This was the beginning of the chosen line in Genesis, through which salvation for mankind would ultimately come (Noah's family was the only one to survive the flood). The second part (6:1-8) focuses on one of the worst sins of the pre-flood period—the marriages between the sons of God (see on 6:1-8) and the daughters of men, which prompted God to send a flood. It closes, however, with a hint that Noah will be saved (6:8).

5:1-32 Adam's family tree

This repetitive genealogy highlights four points about each patriarch: his age when his first son was born, his subsequent lifespan, the fact that he had other sons and daughters and his age at death. The mention of other children implies that these patriarchs fulfilled the command to 'be fruitful and increase in number' (1:28) and shows how mankind gradually populated the earth. The great ages of these men suggest that they lived a very long time ago, and that the degeneration caused by sin leading to a shortening of lifespan only gradually took effect.

It is hard to know how to understand the long lives of the men who lived before the flood. A comparable text, the Sumerian King List, lists eight kings who reigned before the flood for a total of 241,000 years. This makes the 1500 years covered by ch. 5 seem quite modest, but it still does not explain how, for example, Adam could have lived for 930 years. Various suggestions have been put forward. First, that their 'years' were much shorter than ours. But the chronology of the flood (7:11-8:14) shows that Genesis assumes about 360 days in a year. Secondly, that the years of the patriarch's life do not represent the length of his own life but of the clan he founded. In other words, many generations have been omitted. This is hard to prove since, at the beginning of the list, Seth is clearly Adam's immediate son and, at the end, Lamech—Noah—Shem, Ham and Japheth form a consecutive sequence. Thirdly, that the years are symbolic and represent periods of time known in astronomy, e.g. Enoch's 365 years correspond to the days of a solar year. Fourthly, that the numbers are symbolic and generated by the number system based on 60 used in Mesopotamia. Babylonian mathematics tables made much of the factors of 60 (vs 30, 20, 15 etc.) and their squares and multiples. So many of the numbers in ch. 5 and the Sumerian King List would have seemed familiar to these trained in this system, e.g. 930 (Adam's age) is 302 + 30. However, not all the figures are explicable this way, nor can we explain why certain figures were attached to particular people if they were symbolic. At present, the best that can be said is that the size of the numbers suggests that these men lived a long time ago. Their precision suggests that these were real people who lived and died. For further discussion see G. J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15 (Word Books, 1987) pp. 130-134. Because of Enoch's piety (he walked with God) he probably did not die but was translated to heaven (God took him away; cf. Elijah, 2 Ki. 2:11-12).

6:1-8 Human-spirit marriages and their aftermath

In the ancient world, stories were often told of sexual intercourse between the gods and human beings; and the semi-divine offspring of such unions were held to have abnormal energy and other powers. In Mesopotamia and Canaan, divine-human marriage was celebrated in the sacred marriage rites that took place in the temples. These rites were supposed to ensure the fertility of the soil and ordinary marriages. They involved fathers dedicating their unmarried daughters for service in the temple. In practice these girls served as sacred prostitutes giving pleasure to priests and wealthy worshippers.

Vs 1-2, 4 describe these practices. The sons of God refers to spirit beings (translated 'angels' in Jb. 1:6; 2:1, though they are not benevolent either here or in Job). Sometimes in the OT Israel (Dt. 14:1) or kings (2 Sa. 7:14) are called 'sons of God', but neither meaning is appropriate here. The daughters of men refers to ordinary human women. The Nephilim are the ancient supermen supposed to be the offspring of these spirit-human unions. Some Nephilim were in Canaan when Israel invaded (Nu. 13:33).

This practice of sacred prostitution is, according to Genesis, both unnecessary (men were already increasing in number, v 1) and an abomination to God (v 5). Consequently, the normal span of human life was reduced to 120 years (v 3) and the Lord announced a plan to wipe out mankind and other living creatures (v 7).

Sacred prostitution is viewed here as the culminating sin in a series that began with Adam's eating the forbidden fruit and was continued by Cain's murder of his brother and Lamech's unbridled vengeance. Looking at human beings God concluded that they were incorrigibly wicked and that every human thought was bent towards evil. V 5 spells out the doctrine of human depravity with frightening bluntness, but similar views are expressed by psalmists, prophets, Jesus and Paul (Ps. 51:3-6; Je. 17:9-10; Mk. 7:15; Rom. 1:18-3:20). What is more, human sinfulness provokes a fierce reaction in God, a bitter indignation (his heart was filled with pain) akin to that felt by brothers after their sister's rape (Gn. 34:7), or that of a father after his son's death in battle (2 Sa. 19:2). God, therefore, made a decision to destroy his creation. Nevertheless, as with earlier decrees of judgment (3:15; 4:15), there was a glimmer of hope—Noah found favour in the eyes of the Lord (v 8).

6:9-9:29 The account of Noah

Many ancient peoples around the world tell the story of a great flood from which only one man and his family escaped by building a boat. But, as might have been expected, the closest parallels to the biblical account come from Mesopotamia, in the Atrahasis and Gilgamesh epics. Both texts date from around 1600 bc. Like the biblical story, they tell of a man (Atrahasis or Utnapishtim) who was advised by his god to build an ark to escape the flood. He did so, loaded it with goods and animals, floated on the floodwaters for a short while, and sent out birds to see if the waters were abating. Eventually the ark grounded on a mountain top, the flood survivor emerged and offered sacrifices which greatly pleased the gods, who rewarded him with eternal life. The similarities between the biblical and Babylonian accounts of the flood show that it was a wellknown story in the ancient Near East.

There are, however, various differences between the accounts, which show that they have not simply been borrowed from each other. There are differences of detail, e.g. about the size and shape of the ark, the duration of the flood and the types of birds that were sent out to inspect the floodwaters. But these are relatively trivial differences. Much more important are the theological differences between the accounts. These are so considerable that it seems likely that the author of the biblical account was deliberately trying to correct or refute the common oriental view of the flood. In particular, Genesis is trying to explain what God is really like and how he relates to the world.

In the Babylonian versions, the gods agreed on a flood to stop human population growth, but one dissented and tipped off his worshipper Atrahasis (the equivalent of Noah). When the flood was unleashed, the gods cowered before it like dogs unable to control it. After the flood the gods hurried to the sacrifice as they were hungry, since sacrifices had stopped during the flood. One of the top gods was surprised to find a man had survived the flood (evidently this god was neither omnipotent nor omniscient).

The whole theological and ethical outlook of Genesis is different. First, the flood was sent not to curb human noise or fertility but because of human corruption and sinfulness (6:11-12). Secondly, Noah was saved not because he chanced to worship a god who disagreed with the flood decision but because he was righteous... blameless among the peoples of his time. Throughout the flood story Noah is portrayed as doing exactly what God commanded him (e.g. 6:22; 7:9; 8:18). Thirdly, the God of Genesis is all-powerful and all-knowing. He is always in total control of the flood and knows just what is happening. It was when God remembered Noah that the flood waters started to recede (8:1-2). The sacrifice after the flood did not quench God's appetite (unlike the Mesopotamian gods, he was not in need of human food) but appeased his wrath. Despite continuing human sinfulness (cf. vs. 8:21 with 6:5), God promised that never again would the earth be destroyed in a flood. The rainbow was God's pledge that he would maintain and protect the whole earth (8:22-9:16). Finally, while the Atrahasis epic ends with the gods inventing miscarriage and female infertility to curb population growth, Noah is urged three times to 'Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth' (9:1; cf. 8:17; 9:7). Despite sin, God is basically on our side and concerned for the welfare of the human race. This goodwill was secured by Noah's sacrifice and by the greater sacrifice of Christ.

6:9-8:22 The story of the flood

Genesis regards the flood as the great dividing point in world history. The flood was a great act of de-creation. It returned the earth to the situation of primeval watery chaos that existed before God started speaking in 1:3. Life was destroyed. Water covered everything, even the mountain tops, so that the planet looked as it did when God first created it (1:2). Then, when God remembered Noah, he sent a wind over the earth (