“GENESIS” means “origin,” or “birth.” This is a fitting name for a book that relates how the universe came into being, how the earth was prepared for human habitation, and how man came to reside upon it. Moses wrote this book in the wilderness of Sinai, possibly completing it in 1513 B.C.E.
The book of Genesis tells us about the world before the Flood, what happened as the post-Flood era began, and how Jehovah God dealt with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. This article will consider highlights from Genesis 1:1–11:9, basically up to the time when Jehovah began dealing with the patriarch Abraham.
The opening words of Genesis, “in the beginning,” reach back billions of years into the past. The events of the six creative “days,” or time periods of special creative works, are described as they would have appeared to a human observer had he been present on the earth. By the end of the sixth day, God created man. Although Paradise is soon lost because of man’s disobedience, Jehovah gives hope. The very first prophecy of the Bible speaks of a “seed” who will undo the effects of sin and bruise Satan in the head.
During the following 16 centuries, Satan succeeds in turning aside from God all humans except a few faithful ones, such as Abel, Enoch, and Noah. For example, Cain murders his righteous brother Abel. “A start [is] made of calling on the name of Jehovah,” apparently in a profane way. Reflecting the violent spirit of the day, Lamech composes a poem about how he killed a young man, allegedly in self-defense. Conditions deteriorate as disobedient angelic sons of God take women as wives and produce violent giants called Nephilim. Yet, faithful Noah builds the ark, courageously warns others of the impending Deluge, and escapes its devastation with his family.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
1:16—How could God produce light on the first day if the luminaries were not made until the fourth day? The Hebrew word rendered “make” in Ge 1 verse 16 is not the same as the word for “create” used in Genesis 1:1, 21, 27 chapter 1, verses 1, 21, and 27. “The heavens” that included the luminaries were created long before the “first day” even began. But their light did not reach the surface of the earth. On the first day, “there came to be light” because diffused light penetrated the cloud layers and became visible on the earth. The rotating earth thus began to have alternating day and night. (Genesis 1:1-3, 5) The sources of that light still remained invisible from the earth. During the fourth creative period, however, a notable change took place. The sun, the moon, and the stars were now made “to shine upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:17) “God proceeded to make” them in that they could now be seen from the earth.
3:17—In what way was the ground cursed, and for how long? The curse pronounced on the ground meant that cultivating it would now become very difficult. The effects of the cursed ground, with its thorns and thistles, were so keenly felt by Adam’s descendants that Noah’s father, Lamech, spoke of “the pain of our hands resulting from the ground which Jehovah has cursed.” (Genesis 5:29) After the Flood, Jehovah blessed Noah and his sons, stating His purpose that they fill the earth. (Genesis 9:1) God’s curse on the ground was apparently lifted.—Genesis 13:10.
4:15—How did Jehovah “set up a sign for Cain”? The Bible does not say that a sign or a mark was placed on Cain’s person in any way. The sign likely consisted of a solemn decree that was known and observed by others and that was intended to prevent his being killed out of revenge.
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 or perhaps one of his nieces as a wife. Later, God’s Law to the Israelites did not permit the marriage of a fleshly brother and sister.—Leviticus 18:9.
5:24—In what way did God ‘take Enoch’? Enoch was apparently in mortal danger, but God did not allow him to suffer at the hands of his enemies. “Enoch was transferred so as not to see death,” wrote the apostle Paul. (Hebrews 11:5) This does not mean that God took him to heaven, where he kept on living. Jesus was the first one to ascend to heaven. (John 3:13; Hebrews 6:19, 20) Enoch’s being “transferred so as not to see death” may mean that God put him in a prophetic trance and then terminated his life while he was in that state. Under such circumstances, Enoch did not suffer, or “see death,” at the hands of his enemies.
6:6—In what sense can it be said that Jehovah “felt regrets” that he had made man? 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. However, he did have a change of mental attitude as regards the wicked pre-Flood generation. God turned from the attitude of the Creator of humans to that of a destroyer of them because of his displeasure with their wickedness. The fact that he preserved some humans shows that his regrets were confined to those who had become wicked.—2 Peter 2:5, 9.
7:2—What was used as a basis for making a distinction between clean and unclean animals? The basis of distinction evidently pertained to the use of sacrifices in worship and not to what could and could not be eaten. Animal flesh was not a part of man’s diet prior to the Flood. The designations “clean” and “unclean” for food came into existence only with the Mosaic Law, and they ended when it was abolished. (Acts 10:9-16; Ephesians 2:15) Apparently, Noah knew what was suitable for sacrifice in the worship of Jehovah. As soon as he left the ark, he “began to build an altar to Jehovah and to take some of all the clean beasts and of all the clean flying creatures and to offer burnt offerings upon the altar.”—Genesis 8:20.
7:11—Where did the water causing the global Flood come from? During the second creative period, or “day,” when the earth’s atmospheric “expanse” was formed, there were waters “beneath the expanse” and waters “above the expanse.” (Genesis 1:6, 7) The waters “beneath” were those already on earth. The waters “above” were huge quantities of moisture suspended high above the earth, forming a “vast watery deep.” These waters fell upon the earth in Noah’s day.
Lessons for Us:
1:26. Being made in God’s image, humans have the capacity to reflect godly attributes. Surely we should try to cultivate such qualities as love, mercy, kindness, goodness, and patience, reflecting the One who made us.
2:22-24. Marriage is God’s arrangement. The marriage bond is permanent and sacred, with the husband serving as head of the family.
3:1-5,16-23. Happiness is dependent on our recognizing Jehovah’s sovereignty in our personal life.
4:3-7. Jehovah was pleased with Abel’s offering because he was a righteous man of faith. (Hebrews 11:4) On the other hand, as his actions indicated, Cain lacked faith. His works were wicked, marked by jealousy, hatred, and murder. (1 John 3:12) Moreover, he probably gave little more than superficial thought to his offering and merely went through the motions of presenting it. Should not our sacrifices of praise to Jehovah be wholehearted and accompanied by a proper attitude and right conduct?
6:22. Although it took many years to build the ark, Noah did just what God had commanded. Noah and his family were therefore preserved through the Deluge. Jehovah speaks to us through his written Word and gives direction through his organization. It is to our benefit to listen and obey.
7:21-24. Jehovah does not destroy the righteous along with the wicked.
With the pre-Flood world gone, mankind enters a new era. Humans are granted permission to eat meat but with the command to abstain from blood. Jehovah authorizes the death penalty for murder and establishes the rainbow covenant, promising never to bring another Deluge. Noah’s three sons become the progenitors of the entire human race, but his great-grandson Nimrod becomes “a mighty hunter in opposition to Jehovah.” Rather than spreading out to populate the earth, men decide to build a city named Babel and a tower to make a celebrated name for themselves. Their intentions are thwarted when Jehovah confuses their language and scatters them earth wide.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
8:11—If the trees were ruined by the Flood, where did the dove get the olive leaf? There are two possibilities. Since the olive is quite a hardy tree, it might have remained alive under water for some months during the Deluge. With the abating of the floodwaters, an olive tree that had been submerged would again be on dry ground and could put forth leaves. The olive leaf carried to Noah by the dove could also have been taken from a fairly young sprout that came up after the floodwaters had abated.
9:20-25—Why did Noah curse Canaan? Very likely Canaan was guilty of some abuse or perversion against his grandfather Noah. Though Canaan’s father, Ham, witnessed this, he did not interfere but appears to have spread the story. However, Noah’s other two sons, Shem and Japheth, acted to cover their father. They were blessed for this reason, but Canaan was cursed, and Ham suffered as a result of the shame brought upon his offspring.
10:25—How was the earth “divided” in the days of Peleg? Peleg lived from 2269 to 2030 B.C.E. 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) Thus, “the earth [or, the earth’s population] was divided” in the days of Peleg.
Lessons for Us:
9:1;11:9. No human scheme or effort can thwart Jehovah’s purpose.
10:1-32. The two records of genealogy surrounding the account of the Flood—chapters 5 and 10—connect the entire human race with the first man, Adam, through Noah’s three sons. Assyrians, Chaldeans, Hebrews, Syrians, and some Arabian tribes, are descendants of Shem. Ethiopians, Egyptians, Canaanites, and some African and Arabian tribes descended from Ham. Indo-Europeans are descendants of Japheth. All humans are related, and all are born equal before God. (Acts 17:26) This truth must affect how we view and treat others.
God’s Word Can Exert Power
The first part of the book of Genesis contains the only accurate account of early human history. In these pages, we gain insight into God’s purpose for putting man on the earth. How reassuring to see that no human efforts, like those of Nimrod, can prevent its fulfillment!
As you do the weekly Bible reading in preparation for the Theocratic Ministry School, considering what is stated under the section “Scriptural Questions Answered” will help you to understand some of the difficult Scriptural passages. The comments under “Lessons for Us” will show you how you can benefit from the Bible reading for the week. When appropriate, they can also provide the basis for a local needs part on the Service Meeting. Jehovah’s Word is indeed alive and can exert power in our lives.—Hebrews 4:12.