Lesson 1 of6
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Summary of Genesis

Genesis is a book about beginnings. It moves from the morning of the world to the ordering of families and nations to the birthing of the fathers and mothers of Israel. The ancestral stories begin with Abraham and Sarah and continue with Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Leah/Rachel, and the sons of Jacob, focusing on Joseph. While God was there “in the beginning,” Genesis also testifies to the beginnings of God’s activity in the world. It is a new day for God, too. And, given the divine commitment to the creation, God will never be the same again.

SO WHAT?

God creates a good and imaginative world, but does not leave it to cope on its own. God remains present and active, even in the wake of human sin, choosing to work creatively in and through creatures, especially the chosen family, toward divinely established goals of salvation and new creation.

WHERE DO I FIND IT?

Genesis is the first book of the Bible and is included as the first of five books called the Pentateuch.

WHO WROTE IT?

Traditionally, Moses has been considered the author of the Pentateuch and hence Genesis. Over the course of half a millennium, at least since the Reformation, the question of authorship has been seen to be more complex. Genesis is now usually understood to be the product of a long growth of development in which many authors and editors have had an important role.

WHEN WAS IT WRITTEN?

Genesis came into being over the course of more than five hundred years, being completed sometime during or shortly after the Babylonian exile (587-538 B.C.E.).

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

Genesis 1-11 portrays the beginnings of the world, including creation, the fall into sin, and the flood and aftermath. Genesis 12-50 tells the story of Israel’s ancestors, especially regarding the promises conveyed by God to them.

HOW DO I READ IT?

Take especially into account the type of literature contained in the book. Recall that this literature centers on God’s promises. Note the ways in which the stories depict Israel’s ancestors as dysfunctional families and, at the same time, how God is able to work in and through them on behalf of the divine purposes.

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