Name of Book: Genesis
Number of Book: OT 1
Chapters in Book: 50
Themes & Imagery: Direct male lineage and curse of barrenness on women; covenants with God, and divine destruction; wandering, spreading and prosperity of chosen people; endogamy (marrying cousins, refusal to marry Canaanites) and multiple marriage; violence and competition between siblings; decrease in lifespans; lying about identity (especially claims of wife actually being sister); importance of naming and renaming.
Synopsis: The first book of the Old Testament covers events from the creation of the world through to the death of Joseph (great-grandson of Abraham), as follows: The creation of the world in six days, of all manner animals and of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden; their expulsion from the garden; the birth of Cain, his killing of his brother Abel, and his descendents; the birth of Seth, Adam’s third son, and his descendents down to Noah and beyond; the Flood and the scattering of Babel. Journey of Abram (later Abraham), his wife Sarai (later Sarah) and nephew Lot from Haran via Egypt to Canaan; Lot’s move to Sodom in Jordan, capture during the war in Siddim, and rescue by Abram; Abram’s sons Ishmael by the maid Hagar and Isaac by the ninety-year-old Sarah. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the escape of Lot, and his seduction by his daughters. Abraham’s test, the ordered sacrifice of Isaac; Isaac’s marriage to his cousin’s daughter Rebekah, and the birth of their twins Esau and Jacob (later Israel); Jacob’s deceit of blind Isaac, dream of the ladder of heaven, marriage to cousins Leah and Rachel and children by them and their maids. Defilement of Jacob’s daughter Dinah, and the revenge of her brothers; the enslavement of Jacob’s youngest son Joseph by his brothers, his interpretation of dreams for the Pharaoh of Egypt, his management of the famine and reunion with his family.
Personal Response: A lot more happens in “Genesis” than I expected, and I was surprised to find that, apart from the story of Moses, virtually every pre-Jesus story I knew from the Bible happens in this one book. I was surprised at the brief treatment of the story of Adam and Eve and the fall from Eden, which I had expected to take up most of the book, and certain other episodes were passed over more quickly than I had expected. The catalogues of generations, and the tendency to repeat speeches almost verbatim in passing on a message, reminded me of Homer, and makes me wonder about the oral traditions behind these books; the focus on the naming of places, which I imagine has a more powerful effect in the original Hebrew where the meanings of words would be more transparent, also speaks to an interesting focus on providing (geographical) aetiologies. I had also expected, perhaps anachronistically, more of what I would call “moral exemplarity”, examples of admirable behaviour amongst the earliest of God’s chosen people and devout followers, good deeds rewarded and bad punished; in this context, the story of Jacob was particularly surprising and even disturbing.
Favourite Part: Explanation of the rainbow as a token of the covenant against another deluge. Also the story of Joseph and his interpretation of dreams, but that might just be because I already knew it from the musical…
My Top Five Lines & Passages:
Creation of Eve, chapter 2 verses 23-25:
23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man.
24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.
The ‘death’ (???) of Enoch in the list of the generations following Adam and preceding the Flood, chapter 5 verse 24:
24 And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.
God promising progeny to Abram / Abraham despite his barren wife, chapter 13 verses 14-17:
14 And the Lord said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward:
15 For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever.
16 And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered.
17 Arise, walk through the land in the length and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee.
Pharaoh giving power to Joseph after the latter interprets his dreams, chapter 41 verses 39-41:
39 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath shewed these all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art:
40 Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thee.
41 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt.
Joseph forgiving his brothers, chapter 45 verses 5-7:
5 Now therefore not be grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that he sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life.
6 For these two years hath the famine been in the land: and yet there are five years, in the which there shall neither be earing nor harvest.
7 And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance.