WordWise: A Weekly Encounter with Scripture

Genesis 1-11

We are New Testament people who are often ignorant about the roots of our faith found in the Old Testament, especially in the first chapters of Genesis.

Right Beliefs from Wrong Passages: It is not uncommon for us to quote passages from the first eleven chapters of Genesis in a way that is inconsistent with or contradictory to the orginial intention of a passage. The most common misquotes are from the two creation stories.

Understanding the Pentateuch

The Pentateuch is the Greek name for the "five books" of what the ancient Hebrews called the Torah. Torah, however, more properly means instruction. For the Hebrews the Torah was interpreted less as a law code and more as a set of principles which could and should be applied to every area of life and which was binding on all who wished to be known as Jews.

Understanding Genesis

Genesis, often viewed as an epic drama, is the first of the five books called the Pentateuch. The Jews considered it as one book. The book derives its name from the Hebrew word bereshith (pronounced ba ra sheeth). In English we translate it "in the beginning." The name Genesis comes from the Septuagint (LXX). The Septuagint is a Greek translation of the OT Hebrew made in the Intertestamental Period.

Only One God: Genesis 1.1-2.3

Into the ancient world of polytheism (belief in the existence of many gods or divine beings) God called his people to be monotheistic (believing only in him). When they were delivered from their bondage in polytheistic Egypt and journeyed toward polytheistic Canaan, he began the long process of training them to relate to him and not to all the other gods, which were at hand.

Freedom: The Creation of Mankind: Genesis 2.4-25

The first section (1.1-2.3) of Genesis demonstrated that God was the creator of the universe and he alone is God. It was a fatal blow against polytheism. In the section (2.4-25) before us, the author turns his attention to the creation of humankind. First, we are instructed about the creation of man (2.4-7). Then, we are told about the Garden of Eden (2.8-17). Finally, we witness the creation of woman (18-24).

Bondage: The Fall of Humankind Gen. 3.1-24, Part 1

This section is a continuation of the story, which begins at the beginning of Genesis 2. Man and woman have been placed in the garden by God and given freedom within limits. Genesis 3 tells the dreaded story of their fall from the presence of God.

Bondage: The Fall of Humankind Gen. 3.1-24, Part 2

The concluding verses of Genesis 3 include the consequences of choice (3.14.19); a new name and a new covering (3.20-21); and expelled from the garden (3.22-24).

The Fruit of the Fall (Murder) Gen. 4.1-26

The story of Genesis now turns to reality outside of Eden. It is the story of the spread of society.

Coming to Grips with Genealogies: Gen. 4.17-5.32

Those who read Scripture usually do not consider the genealogies the most exciting parts to read. For the most part they are read once, if that, and then discarded in future readings.

Sons of God and Daughters of Men: Gen. 6.1-8

At the beginning of Genesis, humankind tried to become like God and sinned in the garden. Humankind cannot become immortal. In this passage the very opposite happens. Divine beings lower themselves to the level of humans and God again intervenes.

The Flood: Gen. 6.9-7.24

By the generation of Noah, human evil had reached despair. Moral pollution was so great that the limits of divine tolerance had been reached.

A New Beginning: Gen. 8.1-9.17

The story now shifts. The rain has stopped. The ground is becoming dry. The section that we are covering tells us the story of the covenant that God made with Noah

The Cursing of Canaan: Gen. 9.18-10.32

This story is clearly independent from the Flood narrative. It takes years for a newly planted vine to give a grape harvest. In addition to the three sons' names, we are informed that Noah now has a grandson who is named Canaan (Gen. 9.18). In the first section (Gen. 9.20-28) the storyteller narrates a tale about Noah and his nakedness. In chapter 10, we have the table of nations (Gen. 10.1-32)

The Tower of Babel: Gen. 11.1-26

We come to the end of the first major section in Genesis 1-11. The world as a whole, the way which the narrator begins chapter 11, has been described in detail in chapter 10. The world had but one language and a common speech. This is strange in that in chapter 10 we find three occasions that the descendants of Noah were divided on the basis of their respective languages (Gen. 10.5,20,31).

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Indicates Recommended

Reader Friendly Resources

Derek Kidner

RecommendedThe Message of Genesis 1-11
The Message of
Genesis 1-11

David Atkinson

RecommendedGenesis: A Commentary
Genesis: A Commentary
Bruce Waltke

RecommendedGenesis: New International Biblical Commentary. Old Testament Series, 1
John E. Hartley

Encountering the
Book of Genesis

Bill T. Arnold

Genesis: The Communicator's Commentary
The Communicator's
Commentary: Genesis

D. Stuart Briscoe

More Technical

Genesis: An Introduction with Commentary
Genesis: A New
Translation With Commentary
(Anchor Bible Series)

Ephraim A. Speiser (Editor)

Creation and Fall
Creation and Fall: A Theological Exposition of Genesis 1-3 (Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Vol 3)
Dietrich Bonhoeffer


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