Genesis—a Basis and a Pattern
WHAT book can compare with the Bible? Whether viewed as literature, poetry or drama, as history, as prophecy or as a guide for wise and right living, it is without peer. It consists of sixty-six “books,” written by some forty penmen over a period of some sixteen centuries.
Most appropriately, the first book, Genesis, furnishes the basis and sets the patten for the books that follow. Without it, much that is found in the rest of the Bible could not be understood, for the later writers not only presuppose familiarity with Genesis but also take for granted its being historical, which it truly is. For example, it furnishes the basis for the genealogical lists found in the books of First Chronicles, Matthew and Luke.
Genesis, and especially Ge chapters 1 through 11, has been the favorite target of men who deny God’s willingness to perform miracles. But Genesis, and particularly these eleven chapters, furnish the basis, or first floor, as it were, for what follows in the Bible. To charge it with being composed of myths is like trying to imagine a sixty-five-story skyscraper resting on air, having no first floor or foundation on which to stand.*
Originally, Genesis was just the first part of the Pentateuch (meaning “Five Books”), which comprises what are now the first five books of the Bible. Both the Jews and the early Christians accepted all of them as having been written by Moses. These five books, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, were termed the Torah, or Law, and in the succeeding Scriptures this Law is credited to Moses twenty-seven times.
Logically, Genesis begins by telling of the creation of the universe. Among the sacred writings of the world’s major religions only the Bible relates that God created something out of nothing, this being one of the meanings of the Hebrew word rendered “create.” Time and again, the rest of the Bible portrays God as the Creator of the universe. Typical is Isaiah chapter 40, which encourages us to look to God in faith because of his great power and wisdom displayed in the creation of the starry heavens. See also Isaiah 45:12, 18; Acts 14:15; 17:24; Revelation 10:6.
Next, Genesis tells of six “days,” or epochs, during which the Creator prepared the earth for man’s habitation, and created man and woman.* This factual record is used as a basis for the Israelites’ sabbath: “For in six days Jehovah made the heavens and the earth, the sea and everything that is in them, and he proceeded to rest on the seventh day.” (Ex. 20:11) At Hebrews, chapters 3 and 4, Christians are admonished to rest from their works by exercising faith, even as God rested from his. See also Psalm 95:11.
Chapter 2 of Genesis fills in further details on God’s creating man and woman, and their becoming “one flesh.” Jesus Christ quoted from this chapter in defining the Christian standards with regard to marriage and divorce. (Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:4-6) And the apostle Paul uses this account in explaining the principle of headship among Christians and particularly in the Christian congregation. Man takes precedence, since ‘man was formed first.’—1 Tim. 2:13; 1 Cor. 11:7-9.
SIN’S ENTRY AND CHRIST’S RANSOM
Chapter 3 of Genesis tells of Eve’s being deceived, of Adam’s joining her in her transgression and of their being sentenced to death. Paul refers to this record in warning Christians of Satan’s devices and in stressing woman’s role of subjection: “I am afraid that somehow, as the serpent seduced Eve by its cunning, your minds might be corrupted.” “Adam was not deceived, but the woman was thoroughly deceived.”—2 Cor. 11:3; 1 Tim. 2:14.
The Christian Greek Scriptures show that it was as a consequence of Adam’s falling into sin and death that God was moved to show his incomparable undeserved kindness in providing the ransom. “For if by one man’s trespass many died,” God’s free gift “by the one man Jesus Christ abounded much more to many.” This gives the lie to the evolution teaching, which denies man’s fall into sin. Only on the basis of the Genesis record does it make sense for Jesus to say that he came “to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many,” or for John the Baptist to hail Jesus as “the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” Yes, “just as in Adam all are dying, so also in the Christ all will be made alive.”—Rom. 5:15; Matt. 20:28; John 1:29; 1 Cor. 15:22.
FROM ABEL TO THE TOWER OF BABEL
Genesis chapter 4 records the first human murder, Cain’s killing his brother Abel. Warning us against hating our brothers, the apostle John refers to that event: “We should have love for one another; not like Cain, who originated with the wicked one and slaughtered his brother” because “his own works were wicked, but those of his brother were righteous.” (1 John 3:11, 12) The Ge fifth chapter tells that Enoch walked with God. Both Paul and Jude make reference to Enoch’s righteous course.—Heb. 11:5; Jude 14, 15.
Noah’s life and the flood through which he and his family passed alive are reported in Genesis chapters 6 through 9. Prophets such as Isaiah make reference to the flood and to Noah. Also, Jesus foretold that, just as an indifferent world perished at the time of the Flood, so it would be at the conclusion of this system of things. (Isa. 54:9; Matt. 24:37-39) Paul and Peter also refer to Noah and the flood. (Heb. 11:7; 1 Pet. 3:20; 2 Pet. 2:5) Chapter 10 of Genesis gives us “The Table of the Nations.” Archaeologist W. F. Albright stated that this “remains an astonishingly accurate document.” Genesis chapter 11 describes the origin of Babel, or Babylon, and God’s confusing of mankind’s languages.
ABRAHAM, ISAAC AND JACOB
In the remaining Ge chapters, 12 through 50, we find the detailed history of the three patriarchs of the nation of Israel. These are mentioned time and again in the rest of the Bible. In fact, Abraham’s name appears in twenty-six of the later books, and his sojourning as an alien (and also that of Isaac and Jacob) are dwelt on by both Stephen, the early Christian martyr, and by Paul. (Acts 7:2-16; Heb. 11:8-22) At Galatians 3:16, 29 we learn that Jesus Christ and his associate body members are the spiritual seed of Abraham. Thus attention is called to the fulfillment of God’s promise made to Abraham, almost two thousand years previously, that ‘all nations of the earth would certainly bless themselves by means of his seed.’ (Gen. 22:17, 18; compare Genesis 3:15.) Truly, the Genesis record concerning the Abrahamic promise forms the basis for understanding much that follows in the Bible.
Genesis chapters 11 through 19 includes events involving Lot’s family and Sodom and Gomorrah. Jesus warned against being like Lot’s wife, who lost her life because of her disobedience in looking behind on doomed Sodom, and foretold that just as it was in the days of Lot, so it would be in the days of the Son of man. (Luke 17:28-32) In confirmation of Genesis, both Peter and Jude commented on the depravity of Sodom, and Jesus also referred to it as a wicked city, but classed cities that rejected his message of the Kingdom as even more reprehensible.—Luke 10:12; 2 Pet. 2:6; Jude 7.
Abraham’s son Isaac continued faithful and obedient, even as did his father, and Isaac’s son Jacob did likewise. Jacob truly appreciated sacred things, as in his showing concern to obtain the birthright and in his wrestling all night with an angel to get a blessing, reference to which is also made at Hosea 12:3. On his deathbed Jacob also gave a most remarkable prophecy regarding his sons. (Gen. 49:1-28) But we are warned not to be like Esau, Jacob’s brother, who did not appreciate sacred things.—Heb. 12:16; Gen. 25:34.
Of Jacob’s twelve sons, Judah and Joseph were outstanding. Judah ‘proved himself superior among his brothers.’ (1 Chron. 5:2) Through Judah, Shiloh the Messiah was to come and, sure enough, Jesus Christ was born in that tribe. Jesus is termed the “Lion that is of the tribe of Judah.”—Rev. 5:5; Gen. 49:10.
Genesis chapters 37 through 50 shows Joseph to have been blameless in every respect. Though sold into slavery, he kept his integrity toward his God Jehovah. As a result, he was blessed to the extent of becoming the prime minister of the world power of Egypt and the savior of its people, as well as of his father’s family.—Acts 7:9-14.
GENESIS SETS THE PATTERN
Truly the book of Genesis furnishes us the basis for ever so much that is recorded in the rest of the Bible. Not only that, but it also sets the pattern for the rest of God’s Word as being a revelation of his will and purpose for humankind. Genesis also establishes the Bible pattern in being true as regards human nature, in being marked with candor and in revealing God’s attributes or qualities.
Genesis 1:26-28 makes known Jehovah God’s purpose regarding the earth and man—for man to be fruitful, fill the earth, subdue it and exercise dominion over its other creatures. The Lord’s Model Prayer and the prophecy at Revelation 21:4—about there being no more death, neither sorrow, crying or pain—assure us that someday God’s will and purpose for earth and man will be fully realized. Genesis 3:15 gives the first Messianic prophecy, that the spiritual seed of the woman, namely, the Christ, would bruise the head of the serpent, Satan the Devil, reference to which is made at Romans 16:20. Genesis 22:15-18 reveals Abraham’s role in connection with that seed, even as noted above.
The book of Genesis, with regard to human nature, also tells how Satan got at Adam through Eve, first deceiving her. Unprincipled men likewise use women to ensnare their victims, even as the Philistines used Delilah to trap Samson. (Judg. 16:4-21) God spoke of Adam as dominating his wife. And through the centuries, how unjustly have many men followed Adam in dominating their wives! Also true to fallen human nature is Cain’s murderous jealousy of Abel, as well as that of the brothers of Joseph, because of his being favored by his father Jacob.
In further revealing fallen human nature, Genesis tells of the weaknesses of God’s servants: Noah’s getting drunk; Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn son, ‘defiling his father’s couch’ by having relations with one of Jacob’s concubines; the murderous cruelty of Simeon and Levi, two other sons of Jacob, who wiped out the males of a whole clan because one of them ravished their sister. In passing, let it be noted that this candor found in Genesis refutes the claims of critics that early writers attributed imaginary fine qualities to their personalities!—Gen. 49:3-7.
In particular does the book of Genesis set the pattern for the Bible books that follow by revealing to us Jehovah God’s matchless qualities and how he rewards those who serve him and follow a course of uprightness. Certainly in telling of his creating all things seen and unseen it testifies to the Creator’s love as the Life-Giver, his infinite wisdom and his almighty power. God’s commissioning Adam to fill the earth, subdue it and rule over earth’s animal creation was also an expression of His love toward Adam and his offspring to come. Jehovah’s prohibition placed on the fruit of a certain tree called attention to his wisdom and justice. Only by meeting such a test of obedience could Adam show that he appreciated all his blessings.
When Adam and Eve rebelled, God’s justice came into play as well as his consistency by sentencing them to death. Yet, by letting them live on the outside of the Garden of Eden, God extended mercy to their yet unborn offspring, giving them an opportunity for life.
When earth became corrupt, due to angelic sons of God coming down to earth and marrying the daughters of men, God displayed power—cleansing the earth by means of the Deluge. But again, in mercy, he spared Noah and his family and representative kinds of all the animals. God’s justice is also seen in his decreeing, after the Flood, the death sentence for human murderers. In another display of his mercy God provided for Lot and his daughters when He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.
God’s qualities of justice, wisdom and love are also made prominent in the way he dealt with the patriarchs. We read of Abraham, and later of Isaac, that they died “old and satisfied.” (Gen. 25:8; 35:29) What a rewarding life Jacob led with his large flocks and large family, and how mightily Joseph was rewarded by Jehovah God for his integrity-keeping!
There is no question about it. The book of Genesis provides the basis for so much that is recorded in the succeeding sixty-five books of the Bible. It also sets the pattern for them by being a revelation of God’s will and purpose for humankind.
Truly of Genesis, even as of the rest of the Sacred Scriptures, it can be said that it “is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness, that the man of God may be fully competent, completely equipped for every good work.”—2 Tim. 3:16, 17.
For answers to the usual objections raised to what appears in Genesis chapters 1 through 11, see Did Man Get Here by Evolution or by Creation? and Is the Bible Really the Word of God?
One of America’s leading geologists, Wallace Pratt, stated: “If I as a geologist were called upon to explain briefly our modern ideas of the origin of the earth and the development of life on it to a simple, pastoral people, such as the tribes to whom the Book of Genesis was addressed, I could hardly do better than follow rather closely much of the language of the first chapter of Genesis.” Commenting on the six “days,” he asked, “Are we not assured, indeed, that with the Creator, ‘a day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as a day?’”—The Lamp, Fall 1971, Vol. 53, No. 3.