Genesis Inspires Faith, Hope and Courage
During the month of June, Jehovah’s Witnesses will begin a study of the Bible book of Genesis. For some time this stirring account will be considered in their weekly Theocratic Ministry School. As an aid to understanding, this article is now published, and we trust that it will answer questions you may have regarding Genesis, a truly absorbing, faith-building portion of the Holy Scriptures.
JEHOVAH is pleased only with those exercising implicit faith in him. And they surely have reason to trust him, for he is “the God who gives hope” and his grand promises never fail. True, as they await their fulfillment, hardship and trial may be encountered. But all who ‘wait for Jehovah’ can have undying courage because he always safeguards those serving him faithfully.—Romans 15:13; Psalm 31:23, 24; Hebrews 11:6.
All of this is well demonstrated in the Bible book of Genesis. Written by Moses in the wilderness of Sinai in 1513 B.C.E., this valued portion of God’s Word inspires faith, hope and courage.
The Book in Brief
Reaching back billions of years, Genesis opens with the words: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”—things celestial and terrestrial. The earth is prepared for human habitation, and finally mankind stands before the Creator in perfection. Although Paradise is lost because of sin, Jehovah gives hope by foretelling a “seed” that would bruise the serpent’s head. In faith, righteous Abel offers an acceptable sacrifice to God but suffers death at his brother’s hand as the first martyred witness of Jehovah.—Genesis 1:1–4:26.
Enoch ‘walks with God,’ acting in harmony with the divine will. But conditions deteriorate as disobedient angelic ‘sons of God’ take women as wives and produce the Nephilim. Yet, with faith, hope and courage, Noah builds the ark, warns of the impending Deluge and ultimately escapes its devastation with his family. The pre-Flood world gone, mankind enters a new era. But in time Babel’s tower builders seek to make a name for themselves, only to be thwarted when Jehovah confuses their language and scatters them earth wide.—Genesis 5:1–11:9.
Acting in faith as God directs, Abram leaves Ur of the Chaldeans and becomes a tent dweller in a land Jehovah promises to give him and his descendants. Divine action is taken against the wicked inhabitants of Sodom and nearby cities. In time a promise of God is fulfilled in the birth of Isaac. However, years later Abraham is greatly tested when Jehovah instructs him to offer this son as a sacrifice. Stopped by an angel, the aging patriarch does not have to carry out this act. But now there is no doubt that he is a man of faith, and he is assured that by means of his seed all nations will bless themselves. The death of Abraham’s beloved wife Sarah brings sorrow, but he can look ahead with assured hope in the resurrection.—Genesis 11:10–23:20; Hebrews 11:8-19.
Through his servant, Abraham arranges for Isaac’s marriage to Rebekah, a woman having faith in Jehovah. In time she gives birth to the twins Esau and Jacob. Esau despises the birthright and sells it to Jacob, who later receives his father’s blessing. Jacob flees to Paddan-aram, where he marries Leah and Rachel and tends the flocks of their father, Laban, for some 20 years before departing with his family. Later, Jacob grapples with an angel, is blessed and has his name changed to Israel. As a man of faith having an assured hope, Israel continues to dwell as an alien in Canaan, the land of promise.—Genesis 24:1–37:1.
Jealousy moves Jacob’s sons to sell their brother Joseph as a slave. In Egypt, Joseph’s faithful and courageous adherence to God’s high moral standards results in his imprisonment. But in time he is brought forth from prison to interpret, with Jehovah’s help, Pharaoh’s dreams that foretell seven years of plenty followed by seven of famine. He is made Egypt’s food administrator. Joseph’s brothers seek food in Egypt but do not recognize him. He tests them first, then finally reveals his true identity. Faithful Jacob is reunited with his long-lost son, and the patriarch’s family is settled in the fertile land of Goshen. On his deathbed Jacob blesses his sons and is moved to foretell that the scepter and the commander’s staff will not depart from Judah until the coming of Shiloh—a prophecy that gives sure hope of great blessings in centuries to come. Jacob’s remains are taken to Canaan for burial, and when Joseph dies at the age of 110 his body is embalmed, one day to be transported to the Promised Land.—Genesis 37:2–50:26; Exodus 13:19.
By reading Genesis carefully you will derive great benefit from this stirring account of faith, hope and courage. In doing this, however, you may have questions. Some of those queries may be answered as we take a closer look at the Bible’s opening book.
The Pre-Flood World
●1:26—How was man made in the image and likeness of God?
God’s form is unknown to man. (Deuteronomy 4:15-20) But man was made in Jehovah’s image and likeness in that he was created with such attributes of God as justice, wisdom, power and love. (Deuteronomy 32:4; Job 12:13; Isaiah 40:26; 1 John 4:8) Since these qualities are also possessed by God’s Son, the Word, Jehovah appropriately said to him: “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness.”—John 1:1-3, 14.
●4:17—Where did Cain get his wife?
Adam “became father to sons and daughters.” (Genesis 5:4) So Cain took one of his sisters as a wife. Later, God’s Law to the Israelites did not permit the marriage of a fleshly brother and sister.—Leviticus 18:9.
●6:6—In what sense did Jehovah ‘feel regrets’ that he had made men?
Here the Hebrew word translated “felt regrets” pertains to a change of attitude or intention. Jehovah is perfect and therefore did not make a mistake in creating man. But He did have a change of mental attitude as regards the wicked pre-Flood generation. God turned from the attitude of Creator of humans to that of a destroyer of them because of his displeasure over their wickedness. Jehovah was sorry that the wickedness of man called for a great destruction of life, but he was obliged to act in order to uphold his righteous standards. The fact that he preserved some humans shows that his regrets were confined to those who had gone bad in word and deed.—2 Peter 2:5, 9.
Mankind Enters a New Era
●8:11—If the trees were ruined by the Flood, where did the dove get the olive leaf?
Undoubtedly the Flood waters did adversely affect many trees. However, the olive is quite a hardy tree. So an olive tree might have remained alive under water for some months during the Deluge. With the abating of the Flood waters, an olive tree that had been submerged would again be on dry ground and could put forth leaves, one of which could easily be obtained by the dove. On the other hand, the olive leaf carried to Noah by the dove could have been taken from a fairly young sprout that had come up after the Flood waters had abated.
●9:24, 25—Why did Noah curse Canaan when Ham was the offender?
Very likely Canaan was guilty of some abuse or perversion against the person of his grandfather Noah, and Ham witnessed this without interfering. Instead, Noah’s son Ham appears to have spread the story, whereas Shem and Japheth acted to cover their father. Therefore, they were blessed, the likely perpetrator Canaan was cursed, and the bystander and talebearer Ham suffered through the shame brought upon his offspring. Although the Scriptures do not provide all the details, the important point is that Jehovah caused Noah to utter the prophecy and God brought about its fulfillment when the Canaanites who were not destroyed by the Israelites were put under servitude to those descendants of Shem.—Joshua 9:23; 1 Kings 9:21.
●10:25—How was the earth “divided” in the days of Peleg?
Peleg lived from 2269 to 2030 B.C.E. His name meant “division,” and if he was given that name at birth, it was prophetic of a notable division that occurred during his lifetime. It was then that “the earth [or, “earth’s population”] was divided.” The Bible record indicates that it was “in his days” that Jehovah caused a great division by confusing the language of Babel’s builders and ‘scattering them over all the surface of the earth.’—Genesis 11:9; see also 10:1, 6, 8-10; 11:10-17.
Patriarchs With Abiding Faith
●15:13—How was the foretold 400-year affliction of Abram’s offspring fulfilled?
This period of affliction ran from 1913 to 1513 B.C.E. When Abraham’s son Isaac was weaned at about 5 years of age in 1913 B.C.E., his half brother Ishmael (then about 19 years old) ‘poked fun’ at him. The seriousness of this mocking of Abraham’s heir is clear from Sarah’s reaction and Jehovah’s approval of her insistence that Hagar and her son Ishmael be sent away. (Genesis 21:8-14; Galatians 4:29) This 400-year period of affliction ended with the deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage in 1513 B.C.E.
●19:30-38—Did Jehovah condone Lot’s getting drunk and fathering sons by his two daughters?
Jehovah condones neither incest nor drunkenness. (Leviticus 18:6, 7, 29; 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10) Moreover, Abraham’s nephew Lot deplored the “lawless deeds” of Sodom’s inhabitants and evidently grieved over the wrong conduct in which he himself got involved, for the Examiner of hearts viewed him as “righteous.” (2 Peter 2:8) The very fact that Lot’s daughters got him intoxicated suggests that they realized he would not consent to having sexual relations with them while he was sober. But as aliens in the land, his daughters felt that this was the only way to prevent the extinction of Lot’s family. The account is in the Bible not to arouse erotic thoughts but to reveal the relationship of the Moabites and the Ammonites to Abraham’s descendants, the Israelites.
●28:12, 13—What was the significance of Jacob’s dream involving a “ladder”?
This “ladder” (which may have looked like a rising flight of stones) indicated that there is communication between earth and heaven. It showed that angels minister between Jehovah and humans having his approval.—Compare John 1:51.
●31:19—What were the teraphim that Rachel stole from Laban?
The teraphim were family gods or idols. Archaeological findings in Mesopotamia indicate that possession of such images had a bearing on who would receive the family inheritance. Possibly Rachel had this in mind and reasoned that she was justified in taking the teraphim because of her father Laban’s deceptive dealings with her husband Jacob. (Genesis 31:14-16) But there is no indication that Jacob ever tried to use the teraphim to gain the family inheritance. At the latest, these idols were disposed of when Jacob buried all the foreign gods turned over to him by his household.—Genesis 35:1-4.
●44:5—Did Joseph actually use a cup to read omens?
Joseph was determined to test his brothers, who did not recognize him. So he commanded his servant to fill their bags with food, place each one’s money in the mouth of his bag and put Joseph’s silver cup in the mouth of Benjamin’s bag. In all of this, Joseph was representing himself as an administrator of a pagan land. Hence, the cup and what was said about it evidently were part of a subterfuge. As a faithful worshiper of Jehovah, Joseph did not really use the cup to read omens, even as Benjamin did not actually steal it.
●49:10—Is there a difference between a scepter and a commander’s staff?
Yes. A scepter is a baton carried by a ruler as a symbol of royal authority. The commander’s staff is a long rod serving as a token of power to command. Jacob’s reference to both of them evidently indicated that significant authority and power would reside with the tribe of Judah until the coming of Shiloh. This descendant of Judah is Jesus Christ, the one upon whom Jehovah has bestowed heavenly rulership. Christ holds royal authority and possesses the power to command.—Psalm 2:8, 9; Isaiah 55:4; Daniel 7:13, 14.
Basis for Faith, Hope and Courage
Genesis clearly gives us a basis for faith, hope and courage. It inspires faith in Jehovah and hope in the promised “seed” of blessing. (Genesis 3:15; 22:18) This book also helps us to face the future with courage, as did early witnesses of Jehovah.
Those servants of God were “reaching out for a better place, . . . one belonging to heaven,” and Jehovah “has made a city ready for them.” (Hebrews 11:15, 16) As they looked ahead to the Kingdom arrangement, may we, too, place our confidence in it. And, like those witnesses of Jehovah, may we have true faith, hope and courage.
[Pictures on page 23]
Jacob and Esau
Abraham and Isaac
Cain and Abel