The Book of Genesis is one of the two important key books of the Bible. The book that opens the Old Testament (Genesis) and the book that opens the New Testament (Matthew) are the two books which I feel are the key to the understanding of the Scriptures.
Before beginning this study, I would like to suggest that you read the Book of Genesis through. If you find it possible to read through it at one sitting, you will find it very profitable.
Let me give you a bird’s–eye view of Genesis, a view that will cover the total spectrum of the book. There are certain things that you should note because the Book of Genesis is, actually, germane to the entire Scripture. The fact of the matter is that Genesis is a book that states many things for the first time: creation, man, woman, sin, Sabbath, marriage, family, labor, civilization, culture, murder, sacrifice, races, languages, redemption, and cities.
You will also find certain phrases that occur very frequently. For instance, “these are the generations of” is an important expression used frequently because the Book of Genesis gives the families of early history. That is important to us because we are members of the human family that begins here.
In this book you will find mention of the covenant. There are frequent appearances of the Lord to the patriarchs, especially to Abraham. The altar is prominent in this book. Jealousy in the home is found here. Egypt comes before us in this book as it does nowhere else. The judgments upon sin are mentioned here, and there are evident leadings of Providence.
Major Divisions of the Book
Where would you divide the Book of Genesis if you divided it into two parts? Notice that the first eleven chapters constitute a whole and that, beginning with chapter 12 through the remainder of the book, we find an altogether different section. The two parts differ in several ways: The first section extends from creation to Abraham. The second section extends from Abraham through Joseph. The first section deals with major subjects, subjects which still engage the minds of thoughtful men in our day: the Creation, the Fall, the Flood, the Tower of Babel. The second section has to do with personalities: Abraham, the man of faith; Isaac, the beloved son; Jacob, the chosen and chastened son; and Joseph, his suffering and glory.
Although that is a major division, there is another division even more significant. It has to do with time. The first eleven chapters cover a minimum time span of two thousand years—actually, two thousand years plus. I feel that it is safe to say that they may cover several hundred thousand years. I believe this first section of Genesis can cover any time in the past that you may need to fit into your particular theory, and the chances are that you would come short of it even then. At least we know the book covers a minimum of two thousand years in the first eleven chapters, but the second section of thirty–nine chapters covers only three hundred and fifty years. In fact, beginning with Genesis 12 and running all the way through the Old Testament and the New Testament, a total time span of only two thousand years is covered. Therefore, as far as time is concerned, you are halfway through the Bible when you cover the first eleven chapters of Genesis.
This should suggest to your mind and heart that God had some definite purpose in giving this first section to us. Do you think that God is putting the emphasis on this first section or on the rest of the Bible? Isn’t it evident that He is putting the emphasis on the last part? The first section has to do with the universe and with creation, but the last part deals with man, with nations, and with the person of Jesus Christ. God was more interested in Abraham than He was in the entire created universe. And, my friend, God is more interested in you and attaches more value to you than He does to the entire physical universe.
May I say that the first eleven chapters of Genesis are merely the introduction to the Bible, and we need to look at them in this fashion. This does not mean that we are going to pass over the first eleven chapters. Actually, we will spend quite a bit of time with them.
Genesis is the “seed plot” of the Bible, and here we find the beginning, the source, the birth of everything. The Book of Genesis is just like the bud of a beautiful rose, and it opens out into the rest of the Bible. The truth here is in germ form.
One of the best divisions which can be made of the Book of Genesis is according to the genealogies—i.e., according to the families.
- Gen. 1–2:6 Book of Generations of Heavens and Earth
- Gen. 2:7–6:8 Book of Generations of Adam
- Gen. 6:9–9:29 Generations of Noah
- Gen. 10:1–11:9 Generations of Sons of Noah
- Gen. 11:10–26 Generations of Sons of Shem
- Gen. 11:27–25:11 Generations of Terahf
- Gen. 25:12–18 Generations of Ishmael
- Gen. 25:19–35:29 Generations of Isaac
- Gen. 36:1–37:1 Generations of Esau
- Gen. 37:2–50:26 Generations of Jacob
All of these are given to us in the Book of Genesis. It is a book of families.
Genesis is an amazing book, and it will help us to look at it from this viewpoint.
(McGee, J. Vernon. Thru the Bible Commentary, Vol. 1: Genesis 1-15. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1991.)