Introduction to Genesis


Author, Date, and Recipients

Traditionally, Moses is considered to have been the author of Genesis and the rest of the Pentateuch (see Num. 33:2; Deut. 31:24; John 5:46). Of course, Moses lived much later than the events of Genesis. Presum­ably, stories were passed down about those earlier events, and Moses brought them all together.

The first audience would have been the Israelites Moses led through the wilderness. For readers today, Genesis is an essential introduction to the rest of the Bible. It is rightly called the book of beginnings.


The theme of Genesis is creation, sin, and re-creation. God made the world very good, but first cursed it and then destroyed it in the flood because of man’s disobedience. The new world after the flood was also spoiled by human sin (ch. 11). God chose Abraham for a special purpose. Through his family, all nations would be blessed (12:1–3). God’s purpose will eventually be fulfilled through Abraham’s descendants (ch. 49).

Key Themes

  1. The Lord God commissions human beings to be his representatives on earth. They are to take care of the earth and govern the other creatures (1:1–2:25).
  2. Instead of acting as God’s representatives on earth, the first man and woman—Adam and Eve—listen to the serpent and follow his advice. Their disobedience has devastating results for all mankind and for the entire created world (3:1–24; 6:5–6).
  3. God graciously announces that Eve’s offspring will free humanity from the serpent’s control (3:15). Genesis then begins tracing the history of one family that will become the people of Israel. This family has a special relationship with God and will become a source of blessing to fallen humanity (12:1–3).
  4. As a result of Adam’s disobedience, his unique relationship with the ground degenerates, resulting in hard work and later in flood and famine. But the special family descending from Adam also brings relief from the difficulties (3:17–19; 5:29; 50:19–21).
  5. While Eve’s punishment centers on pain in bearing children (3:16), women play an essential role in continuing the unique family line. With God’s help, even barrenness is overcome (11:30; 21:1–7; 25:21; 38:1–30).
  6. The corruption of human nature causes families to be torn apart (4:1–16; 13:5–8; 25:22–23; 27:41–45; 37:2–35). Although Genesis shows the reality of family conflicts, individual members of the chosen family can also help resolve those conflicts (13:8–11; 33:1–11; 45:1–28; 50:15–21).
  7. The wicked are exiled from Eden and scattered throughout the earth (3:22–24; 4:12–16; 11:9), but God is kind to his chosen people and promises them a land of their own (12:1–2, 7; 15:7–21; 28:13–14; 50:24).
  8. God is prepared to destroy almost the entire human race because of its corruption (6:7, 11–12; 18:17–33), but he still wants his world to be populated by righteous people (1:28; 9:1; 15:1–5; 35:11).


  1. Primeval History (1:1–11:26)
    1. God’s creation and ordering of heaven and earth (1:1–2:3)
    2. Earth’s first people (2:4–4:26)
    3. Adam’s descendants (5:1–6:8)
    4. Noah’s descendants (6:9–9:29)
    5. The descendants of Noah’s sons (10:1–11:9)
    6. Shem’s descendants (11:10–26)
  2. Patriarchal History (11:27–50:26)
    1. Terah’s descendants (11:27–25:18)
    2. Isaac’s descendants (25:19–37:1)
    3. Jacob’s descendants (37:2–50:26)

The Near East at the Time of Genesis

c. 2000 B.C.

The book of Genesis describes events in the ancient Near East from the beginnings of civilization to the relocation of Jacob’s (Israel’s) family in Egypt. The stories of Genesis are set among some of the oldest nations in the world, including Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, and Elam.

The Near East at the Time of Genesis