Lesson 5 of6
In Progress

Theological Themes in Genesis


Blessing is pervasive in Genesis. It is a gift of God, usually mediated through creaturely agents, which empowers recipients, both elect and non-elect, to experience and bring forth life, goodness, and well-being.


Covenant in Genesis is basically divine promise. It refers to both universal promises to Noah and all creatures and specific promises to the elect family of Abraham. God thereby assumes obligations to remain forever committed to the world and to this family, with attendant blessings. For the book of Genesis, God gives promises and will be faithful to them through thick and thin.


Creation is most fundamentally the activity of God in bringing the cosmos into being and includes both originating and continuing creative activity. Creation also includes the activity of creatures (human and nonhuman) in and through which God works to create in ever new ways.


God “elects” or chooses creatures in and through which God will work in the world. The special election of Abraham (and his descendants) is for the sake of “all the families of the earth” (Genesis 12:3). This initially exclusive divine move is for the sake of a maximally inclusive end.


God is the primary character in the book of Genesis. Virtually every characteristic of God that is found in the Old Testament is present here (an exception is forgiveness, at least explicitly). God is seen to be present and active, among both chosen and nonchosen peoples, from the beginning of the book and throughout. God’s work is always seen as purposive, directed toward objectives that are in the best interests of individuals and peoples involved, indeed the entire creation.

Goodness and sinfulness 

Human beings are created good and responsible creatures in the image of God. This reality continues (Psalm 8) even though they have chosen to violate the relationship with God and sin becomes an inevitable dimension of their life, with ill effects on all creatures.

Image of God 

Human beings are created both in the image of God, the Creator, and to be the image of God in the life of the world. The image of God, whatever its roots in royal imagery, has here been universalized, indeed democratized, so that all humanity–male and female and with no regard to race or class–belongs to this sphere. All interhuman hierarchical understandings are thereby set aside (see also Psalm 8).

The image of the God of the flood story 

The images of God in the flood story are striking: God expresses sorrow and regret; judges reluctantly; goes beyond justice and determines to save some (including animals); commits to the future of a less than perfect world; is open to change in view of the divine experience with the world; and promises never to destroy the earth again.


Judgment may be defined as the divinely mediated consequences of sin. Initially in Genesis, sin and judgment come to a climax in the flood. In the wake of this disaster, God promises never to allow for such an extensive judgment again (Genesis 8:21; 9:8-17), though more proximate judgments on sin continue apace (for example, Sodom and Gomorrah, Genesis 18:16-19:29). It is wise not to refer to such judgments as punishments; rather, they refer to the natural consequences of sin that are integral to God’s creational moral order, an order that God continues to mediate.


God is a relational God, present and active in the world, who enters into a relationship with a world that is created as an interrelated entity. The relationship between God and world is a living and dynamic reality, more comprehensive than covenant, within which both parties are affected by the realities of genuine interrelatedness over time.


Righteousness has two different, though related, understandings in Genesis. On the one hand, it refers to being in a right relationship with God (so, for example, Abraham is righteous, Gensis 15:6). On the other hand, it refers to the actions of those in such a relationship who in acting do justice to the relationship with God in which they stand (so Abraham’s descendants, Genesis 18:19).