With a word, God begins his Creation.
“God said, ‘Lights.’ Lights came on” (Genesis 1:3).
“God liked the light…The first day was over” (1:4, 5).
As it turns out, God likes everything he creates over a stretch of six days, whether the days are literal, or figurative references to eons.
God doesn’t just like what he does on Day Six. “He liked it very much” (1:31). That’s a little extra “like,” and it’s on the day he creates people.
God rests on Day Seven, to enjoy his perfect work.
There’s a glitch. It’s us. We humans have the freedom to make choices. The first couple on record make a bad choice. They decide to eat the only thing that God says isn’t on the menu: “Don’t eat fruit from the tree that gives you wisdom to know right from wrong. If you do, you’re dead” (2:17).
The chewing sounds that follow are the footsteps of sin walking into the Garden of Eden. The disobedience of Adam and Eve somehow turns Paradise into Paradise Lost. People will die; some say Adam and Eve were supposed to live forever. Now, to sustain the human race, women would have to suffer through childbirth. Adam would have to sweat to survive, working in the fields fighting weeds and predators.
God begins working a plan to restore his creation, to get rid of sin and the harm it does. He begins with a do-over—a flood that leaves only “Noah and his family. He was a good man who obeyed God” (6:9).
From Noah’s descendants, God chooses Abraham—who is devoted to him—to become the father of a nation of souls devoted to him: the Jewish people.
Genesis traces the story of Abraham, his son Isaac, grandson Jacob, and great-grandson Joseph.
By book’s end, Abraham’s descendants have all accepted Joseph’s invitation to move to Egypt to weather out a seven-year drought by grazing their flocks alongside the drought-resistant Nile River.
They will stay there more than 400 years, ending up enslaved. It will take Moses and a miracle to free them. Ten miracles, in fact, which become known as the Ten Plagues. But that’s the story in the next book, Exodus.
Some Bible scholars say that the rest of the Bible is the continuing story of God working his plan to undo the damage sin has caused, and to get rid of sin once and for all.
There’s no byline. We don’t know who wrote Genesis. Ancient Jewish tradition says Moses wrote the Bible’s first five books, from Genesis to Deuteronomy, under the direction of God. “God had the angel of his presence [possibly a way of referring to God himself] tell Moses the story of creation…until the time God will build an eternal temple for his people” (Jubilees 1:26, Dead Sea Scrolls). Many Bible scholars say there are clues that someone added material after the time of Moses:
- The writer talks as though the Canaanites are already gone (12:6), but Joshua and the Jews didn’t even start to drive out the Canaanites until after Moses died.
- The writer says Jews already have a king (36:31), though that didn’t happen for at least another 200 years after Moses.
Genesis spans what astrophysicists would say is about 14 billion years, starting when the universe began with a bang. The Big Bang, most scientists agree. Some Christians use genealogies in the Bible to trace Creation back about 6,000 years. Scientists beg to differ. Genesis takes the story of human beings up to the time of Joseph, great-grandson of Abraham. That’s perhaps in the 1800s BC, when Joseph convinces his father, Jacob, to move the entire family to Egypt, to weather out a seven-year drought.
The story takes place in the Middle East, mainly in what are now the countries of Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Israel, and the Palestinian Territories.
Purpose of Genesis
“God created the universe—everything on earth and in the sky” (1:1). That’s the main message the writer wants to get inside the heads of folks—that God is the source of life. The writer also wants readers to know the story of other beginnings: humanity, sin, and the Jewish nation of souls who eventually pledged their allegiance to him.