Bible Overview

This session was taught at the Christ Church Manchester School of Theology on Saturday 29th February 2020. The CCM School of Theology was set up to serve local churches in Manchester and beyond.

Topic: Genesis

In this session, we look at the book of Genesis.

Speaker: Andrew Bunt

Andrew is a staff member at Kings Church Eastbourne, an author and a regular speaker on various theology topics. 





The Key Details

Authorship (1)

• Genesis is formally anonymous, and the author is never explicitly identified in the rest of Scripture, but the Pentateuch/Torah (i.e. Gen-Deut) is regularly linked with Moses (e.g. 2 Chron. 25:4; Ezra 6:18; Neh.
13:1; Mk. 12:26; Lk. 24:27).
• Vast majority of Jews and Christians have agreed that Moses is the (primary) author of Genesis. ‘Primary’ because there are some small indications of later updating (e.g. Gen. 14:14 mentions the place Dan, but name not changed from Laish to Dan until Judg. 18:29).
• Biblical scholarship has challenged this view over past 300 years. Many scholars believe that the Pentateuch is a composite work of multiple sources, written and compiled long after the events narrated. View known as the Documentary Hypothesis (famous for the proposed sources JEDP). Still has some weight in scholarship, but slowly unravelling.
• Documentary Hypothesis is weak. Only one possible explanation of available evidence with no firm proof and lots of problems.
• On balance, best understanding of authorship of Genesis (and Pentateuch) is that it is:
– The work of a single author, quite possibly Moses.
– The author made use of existing sources (cf. Num. 21:14).
– The book probably underwent some minor, later editing (e.g. Gen. 14:14; 36:61).

Genre & Purpose

• Isolating the genre and purpose of a text help us to know how to read it well.
• Genesis presents itself as history. Form and continuity into Exodus and beyond support this.
• Need to understand genre of history. More like a portrait than a video recording. Account is shaped by perspective and purpose of author. Inevitably selective but still seeking to communicate about the past.
• Genesis is theological history. What has happened in the past with main emphasis on God’s involvement and perspective.
• Knowing the purpose of a biblical book helps guide our interpretation. Purpose has to be discerned from genre, details of text, and what is known of the context of composition.
• Focus of Genesis is on God, his interaction with humanity, and his promises to humanity and then to Abraham and his descendants. Suggests the purpose is to reveal truth about God and his dealings with
• If written by Moses in time of wilderness wanderings, purpose would be to give the Israelites a sense of where they have come from, what God is like, and why he has rescued them.
• Suggests Genesis is not primarily intended to give us a comprehensive historical account and not primarily about moralistic lessons.

(1) For accessible introductions to the discussion see Tremper Longman III, How to Read Genesis (IVP/Paternoster, 2005), pp.43-58 or Derick Kidner, Genesis: An Introduction and Commentary, TOTC 1 (IVP, 1967), pp. 17-28. For a more detailed treatment, see Longman and Dillard, An Introduction to the Old Testament, 2nd edn. (Apollos, 2007), pp.40-51.

Reading Genesis Well

What is Biblical Narrative?

• Biblical narrative is: A selective record of a series of events that uses shared conventions to convey the author’s communicative intention in an engaging manner. (2)

• Selective record: Every narrative is selective. Authors select the elements which will best serve their purpose(s).
• Shared conventions: Narratives are told using conventions which are assumed to be understood by both the author and readers. We have to work to recognise these conventions.
• Communicative intention: Authors are intending to communicate through their narratives. Reading narrative well means learning to discern what the author wants us to learn from their writing.
• Engaging manner: Authors want their readers to want to read their narratives. Biblical narrative can seem less engaging to us because we are used to different narrative conventions.

How to Read Biblical Narrative

• As with all Bible reading, reading biblical narrative well means asking two questions:
– What was the author seeking to communicate to the original readers?
– What impact should that make on us today and how should we respond?
• Some compare biblical narrative to a modern movie: a succession of scenes which together make up the story. We need to learn to read both the scenes and the strings of scenes well.
– Reading the scenes well: Many of the individual scenes will have a specific meaning and message.
– Read the strings of scenes: Scenes are placed and joined together to communicate a bigger message.

Reading Scenes Well

• Plot – Trace the development of the story. Where does the tension rise to a climax? This is often significant. How is the tension resolved?
– Gen. 6:5-8 – Introduction to flood story. Human hearts have become completely evil, so God decides to wipe out humanity, animals and birds. Point of major tension! 6:8 ‘But Noah found favour in the eyes of the Lord’. Helps us see that whole flood story is about God’s favour – grace – in salvation.

• Speech – Directly quoted speech is often important for revealing what the narrative is about. Look especially for first speech in a narrative and for the key speech of the key character at the key moment. – E.g. Gen. 45:4-8 – Climactic moment as Joseph reveals his identity to his brothers. Speech reveals a key message of the whole Joseph narrative: ‘God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God’. Also, Joseph’s (almost) final words in 50:20, ‘You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring about that many people should be kept alive’.

• Repetition – Words, phrases and ideas that are repeated are often important and can be a guide to the meaning of the narrative.
– E.g. Gen 23 – Narrative of Sarah’s death. Repetition of ‘Hittite’, ‘bury’, and ‘burying place’. Shows that focus of narrative is not on Sarah’s death but the land link. She must be buried in the promised land.

(2) Peter T. Vogt, Interpreting the Pentateuch: An Exegetical Handbook, Handbooks for Old Testament Exegesis (Kregel, 2009), p.48.

• Narrator’s comments – Sometimes the narrator makes it very clear what the story is about through a direct statement. At other times, the narrator is more subtle but still tells us what is going on. – E.g. Gen. 22:1 ‘After these things God tested Abraham…’.
• Explicit and Implicit – Sometimes the point of a narrative is made explicit (e.g. by a narrator’s comment). At other times it is implicit and has to be discerned. This requires think about expectations and understanding of original readers. Still needs to be evidence in text. – E.g. Gen. 11:1-9 – Never stated explicitly that the desire to not be dispersed (11:4) was wrong but implied through contrast with ‘multiply and fill the earth’ (1:28) and in God’s response (‘the LORD dispersed them’, 11:8 and 11:9).

Reading Strings of Scenes Well

• Plot – How do the plots of the individual scenes contribute towards a bigger plot across the whole? Where are the threads that connect the scenes? – E.g. Gen. 12-22 – Abraham stories. Theme of offspring and having a son is central throughout. Clearly hugely important. Why is this?

• Repetition – Are there words, phrases or themes repeated across multiple stories? – E.g. Gen. 3-11 – Theme of death. Gen. 3: Warned that death is result of disobedience to God. Gen. 4: First murderers (Cain and Lamech); Gen. 5: ‘and he died’ x 8; Gen. 6-8: Death of everyone apart from those in ark; Gen. 9: God’s promise to never again to kill everyone by a flood. Death clearly a huge problem. How will it be solved?

How Not To Read Biblical Narrative

• As allegories with hidden meanings – Biblical narratives are not codes where characters and items represent different people. Their original meaning must have been (largely) intelligible to the original readers.
• As morality tales – Biblical narratives are rarely designed to teach a moral lesson. They will sometimes illustrate moral points made explicit elsewhere, but unless made explicit (e.g. in a narrator’s comment) this is not the message of the narrative. The narratives are primary about what God was doing.
• As pick-and-mix – Tempting to fixate on an element which reminds us of something and make the narrative about that, ignoring the rest of the details. Good reading of the text should be able to accomodate all the details.
• As stories about us – Biblical narratives are not about us. Their messages can be relevant to us, but the stories are not designed to tell us about ourselves (e.g. ‘the Babel story shows us we shouldn’t build
skyscrapers’ or ‘I’m meant to be like Joseph, so the known world is saved through me’). We’re not meant to find ourselves in the story.

The Core Story of Genesis

Overall Structure

• Best split into three parts:
– Genesis 1-11 – Primeval History – Origins and early history of the world.
– Genesis 12-36 – Patriarchal Narratives – Origins and early history of the chosen people.
– Genesis 37-50 – Joseph Story – Preservation of the chosen people.

The Primeval History

Genesis 1-3: Creation and Fall
• Genesis 1:1-2:3 form a prologue to Genesis. Primary purpose is to introduce key characters and setting.

Few key points:
• God – Only God. Creator of all. Powerful, creating simply through speaking. Creation is his dwelling place.
• Humans – Pinnacle. ‘Let us make…’ Created in God’s image. Called to subdue and have dominion.
• Goodness of creation – ‘And God saw that it was good’ (1:4, 12, 18, 21, 25), ‘very good’ (v.31).
• Sabbath as goal – Humans are pinnacle of creation, but ultimate goal is sabbath rest (2:1-3). God’s purpose in creation was that we would enjoy life with him in the world he had created. Bible story is about returning to this rest (cf. Exod. 20:8-11; 31:12-17; Deut. 5:12-15; Ps. 95:6-11; Heb. 3:12-4:11).
• Genesis 2:4-25 gives the intimate, up-close version, focussed on the creation of humanity.
• The garden as God’s dwelling place – Eden is the place where God dwells. In the tabernacle/temple, the Holy of Holies is modelled on Eden.
• Humans dwelling with God – Humans designed to live in relationship with God. Narrative ends by affirming this relationship in the observation that the man and woman were naked and unashamed.
• Genesis 3 explains how God’s good creation, and plan for humans to dwell with him, is shattered by human rebellion. Traditionally called the Fall.
• The serpent – Not told who the serpent is (though see Rom. 16:23; Rev. 12:9) or where he comes from. Strategy is to cause the humans to question whether God and his way really are good.
• Sin – Eating the fruit is sin because it goes against the parameters established in creation. Heart of their rebellion, as all sin, is belief that something better is available outside of what God says is best. Ultimately
about whose word can be trusted.
• Results of sin – Immediately visible. Humans now feel shame over nakedness (3:7), hide from God (3:8), and are in opposition to each other (3:12). Immediate and far reaching consequences. Theme of Genesis.
• Judgement on sin – God has to judge, as he had warned (2:17). Long speech pronouncing judgements on serpent (3:14-15), the woman (3:16), and the man (3:17-19). Most seriously, man and woman are expelled from the garden and guards placed to stop them returning (3:23-24). This is the ultimate fulfilment of the death threatened (2:17), they are taken away from the tree of life and the true source of life, God.
• Glimmers of grace – Yet there are the first signs of God’s grace. Adam names his wife ‘the mother of all living’, a statement of faith that humanity will continue and death doesn’t have the final say (3:20). God
provides garments to cover their nakedness (3:21).
• The promised seed – In pronouncing judgement on the serpent God promises: ‘I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel’ (3:15). Antagonism between those on God’s side and those on the side of evil begins, but there is a promise of evil’s destruction. As move on in Genesis, now waiting to see who this seed is.

Genesis 4-11: Primeval History
• The Primeval History further shows the results of sin, God’s judgement of sin, but also the glimmers of grace, all the while tracing the line of the promised seed.
• Genesis 4 – Cain and Abel – Next story is the first murder. Sin is spreading. Yet God is gracious to Cain; though he is sent further away from God (4:16), God puts a mark on him to protect him from those who might seek to kill him (4:15).
• Lamech – Cain’s family line is recorded in 4:17-24. Ends with Lamech who kills a man and a child but is confident of his own safety (4:23-24). Continuation and worsening of Cain’s actions.
• Seth – Seth is born to Adam and Eve and presented as a substitute for Abel. His birth is linked to people calling on ‘the name of the LORD’ (4:26). Cain has sided with evil. Could Seth be the promised serpent
• Genesis 5 is a genealogy of Adam through Seth. Emphasises the results of sin (repetition of ‘and he died’). Shows that the line of the godly seed is going through Seth. Genealogy leads up to Noah. His father hopes he will bring relief from the curse on the ground (5:29). Is Noah the promised serpent crusher?
• Genesis 6-9 – 6:1-4 The Sons of God and Daughters of Man – Very difficult verses. Could be part of scene setting for the evil which led to the flood. Identity of those involved debated:

Cainites and Sethites Angels and Humans
Sons of God Sethites Angels
Daughters of Man Cainites Humans
Evidence Genealogy of Seth links him back
to Adam and identifies Adam as
passing on ‘image of God’ (cf. Lk.
3:28). Cain’s genealogy doesn’t
link him to God (4:17).
‘Sons of God’ usually refers to
angelic beings (e.g. Job 1:6; Ps.
29:1; Jude 6). More serious
action. Nephilim and/or ‘mighty
men’ could be offspring.
Nature of Sin Mixing of ungodly line of Cain
with godly line of Seth.
Transgressing of creational
boundary between angelic and
human world.
  • 6:5-8:19 – Noah and the Flood – Problem of sin has continued to get worse, so God decides to wipe out humans and animals (but not fish!). Noah finds favour (‘grace’) in the eyes of the LORD (6:8). Noah builds ark following God’s commands. Ark could be another tabernacle/temple picture. Ultimately the salvation is an act of God: God initiates, God gives instructions asking for a response of faith, God shuts and seals the door (7:16), God remembers Noah and the animals and ends the flood (8:1).
  • 8:20-9:17 – Covenant with Noah – Noah burns an offering in response to which God promises never again to kill every living creature. God puts his bow in the cloud, hanging up his weapon, pointing it at himself as a sign of his promise. After the de-creation of the flood, this is the start of a new creation. God repeats the original creation mandate given in Gen. 1 (9:1, 7). Is Noah the serpent crusher? Will it all be ok now?
  • 9:18-29 – Noah and his Sons – An odd and unclear scene. Noah gets drunk and lies naked in his tent. Ham sees Noah and tells his brothers who cover Noah without seeing him naked. When Noah finds this out, he is angry with Ham. Not clear why (for seeing him naked? for what he said to his brothers?). Leads Noah to pronounce judgement on the son of Ham – Canaan (Why Canaan, not Ham?) – and blessing on Shem and Japheth. The line of the promised seed is shown to go through Shem.

• Genesis 10-11 – 10:1-32 – The Table of Nations – A genealogy of Noah’s sons, showing how the world was repopulated through them. The dispersion of these nations is explained by the following story. Note that Shem is highlighted through different wording (‘To Shem also’ rather than ‘The sons of Shem’, 10:21).
• 11:1-9 – The Tower of Babel – People decide to build a city and a tower. A direct rebellion against God. Purpose is to avoid being dispersed which was part of the mandate in 1:28. Also want the tower to reach up to heaven – attempt to transgress into God’s space. God mocks their attempts by ‘coming down’ to see it. In judgement he gives them different languages and disperses them, directly thwarting their aim. Note also attempt is to make a name for themselves. This will be important in the call of Abram.
• 11:10-26 – Genealogy of Shem – Shem, the line of the promised seed, singled out for a genealogy.
• 11:27-32 – The Family of Abraham – Transition into the Patriarchal Narratives. We are introduced to Terah, his son Abraham and other family members. They start a journey for Babylon in the east to Canaan in the West but stop at Haran in the north.

Genesis 12-36: The Patriarchal Narratives

• Genesis 12:1-25:11 – Abraham
• Genesis 12 – 12:1-9 – The Call of Abraham – God calls Abraham to leave home and family for a land which God will show him. God makes promises to Abraham:
– A great nation – Implying descendants and land.
– Blessing – For Abraham (including a great name – cf. 11:4) and for the world through Abraham.
• These promises underpin the rest of Genesis. For each narrative we can ask ‘How is this about the promises or a threat to the promises?’
• 12:10-20 – Famine and Egypt – First threat: famine, so go to Egypt. Second threat: Egyptians killing Abraham to get Sarah. Therefore claim she is Abraham’s sister. Logic not fully clear. Evidence of lack of faith.
• Genesis 13-15 – Focus on the land promise.
• 13:1-18 – Abraham and Lot Separate – Not room for both Abraham and his nephew, Lot. Agree to separate. Lot is a sort of threat – has to be removed to give Abraham sole claim on land. With Lot moved, God promises the whole land to Abraham.
• 14:1-24 – Abraham Defeats Kings – When Lot gets captured during an invasion of the land, Abraham rescues him by defeating kings of the land. Is this how the land promise will be fulfilled? It seems not, but it does make Abraham worry about the land.
• 15:1-20 – Covenant About the Land – Abraham worried about lack of a son. God promises a son. Abraham worried about whether he will possess the land. God reaffirms the promise and gives a vision of a covenant confirmation ceremony to confirm the promise.
• Genesis 16-18:15 – Focus on the descendants promise.
• 16:1-16 – Hagar and Ishmael – Worried that she is not producing children, Sarah gives Abraham her servant Hagar who bears Ishmael to Abraham. Sarah soon becomes jealous. Hagar and Ishmael sent away,
but God cares for them and brings them back.
• 17:1-14 – Covenant of Circumcision – God reaffirms promise of descendants and calls for Abraham and males with him to be circumcised. Mark on the reproductive organ. Name change from Abram (‘exalted
father’) to Abraham (‘father of a multitude’).
• 17:15-18:15 – Promise of Isaac – God promises, first to Abraham, then to Sarah, that they will have a son within a year.
• Genesis 18:16-19:38 – Focus on blessing to others – Lot and the Destruction of Sodom – Abraham intercedes for Sodom, leading to the rescue of Lot. Example of Abraham being a blessing to others.

Genesis 20-22 – Focus on promise of a son.

• 20:1-18 – In Gerar with Abimelech – Another threat: possibility that Sarah might be taken by a local ruler. Would make paternity of promised child unclear. Claim that Sarah is Abraham’s sister again. Treaty in
21:22-34 about asserting rights to the land through the well at Beersheba.
• 21:1-21 – Birth of Isaac; Competition of Ishmael – Promised son is born. Hostility between Ishmael and Isaac. God tells Abraham to send Ishmael and Hagar away to avoid competition in his thinking. God protects and promises good to Ishmael.
• 22:1-24 – The Testing of Abraham – Abraham commanded to sacrifice Isaac. Narrator is clear that this was a test (v.1). Does Abraham believe to the extent that he would sacrifice the promised child? When it is proved that he does, God reaffirms the covenant with an oath.
• Genesis 23-25:18 – Focus on transition from Abraham to Isaac.
• 23:1-20 – Burial of Sarah – Sarah dies. Focus of narrative is on acquiring a cave to bury Sarah. Shows importance on the land and is the first true foothold in the promised land for Abraham.
• 24:1-67 – Isaac and Rebekah – To ensure the safety of the promised line, Isaac’s wife must come from Abraham’s people, not from the Canaanites. Long narrative is to stress importance of this and evidence of
God’s control over the situation.
• 25:1-18 – Abraham’s Death and Descendants – Other children of Abraham listed, but they are sent away (eastward) from Isaac. Isaac alone is the child of promise. Abraham dies and is buried with Sarah – he
ends up securely in the land. Account of Ishmael’s descendants shows God’s faithfulness to his promises.
• Genesis 25:19-36:43 – Isaac and Jacob
• Genesis 25:19-34 – Jacob to Receive the Promise – Rebekah is at first barren (for 20 years) – more children of promise. Isaac and Rebekah have twins – Jacob and Esau – who fight even in the womb. Rebekah is told they will be two nations and the younger (Jacob) will serve the older (Esau). The promise is going to Jacob. This is confirmed when a hungry Esau sells his birthright to Jacob.
• Genesis 26 – Isaac, Abimelech and Blessing – When famine hits again, God repeats to Isaac the promises made to Abraham and Isaac moves to Gerar when he claims Rebekah is his sister. God protects Isaac and Rebekah and blesses them such that they are asked to leave because they are seen as a threat.
• Genesis 27 – Isaac Blesses Jacob – Isaac plans to bless Esau, but Rebekah and Jacob deceive Isaac so that the blessing actually goes to Jacob, in fulfilment of the promise before they were born and of Esau’s
selling his birthright.
• Genesis 28 – Jacob Goes to Laban – Isaac sends Jacob to his family in Paddan-aram to find a wife. Preserving the promised line by not marrying a Canaanite woman. Isaac blesses Jacob with the covenant
promises. On the journey Jacob has the ladder vision and God reaffirms the covenant promises to Jacob and promises to be with him even while he is out of the land.
• Genesis 29 – Jacob Marries Leah and Rachel – Because of Laban’s trickery, Jacob works seven years to marry Leah and an additional seven years to marry Rachel.
• Genesis 30 – Jacob’s Children & Prosperity – Leah and Rachel get in a competition to produce children for Jacob. They involve their servants Bilhah and Zilpah too. Eleven of the twelve sons of Jacob are born. Promise of a multitude is slowly beginning to materialise. When Laban tries to trick Jacob out of his dues for his work, God undermines Laban’s plans. Evidence that Jacob is the one under God’s blessing.
• Genesis 31-33 – God Protects Jacob from Laban and Esau – Jacob makes a run for it from Laban. On the journey, Jacob wrestles with God and God blesses him. Evidence of God’s continued presence with Jacob and his blessing on him as he returns to the land.
• Genesis 34 – The Defiling of Dinah – Shechem, a Hivite, defiles Dinah, Jacob’s daughter. In response, Simeon and Levi trick the Shechemites getting them all the men to be circumcised before then attacking them to avenge their sister. Could be about preserving the purity of the promised line.
• Genesis 35 – God again blesses Jacob and reaffirms the covenant promises. Second mention (first in 32:28) of change in name from Jacob (‘he takes by the heal’ or ‘he cheats’) to Israel (debated, but perhaps ‘he strives with God’ or ‘God strives’). Rachel gives birth to Benjamin and dies. Isaac dies.
• Genesis 36 – Record of Esau’s descendants, showing God’s faithfulness even to the non-chosen parts of the family.

Genesis 37-50: The Joseph Story

• Genesis 37 – Joseph in Canaan – Joseph, the favoured son of Jacob, has dreams which represent his brothers and his father and mother bowing down to him. His brothers grow to resent him and so sell him to some Ishmaelites who in turn sell him to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, in Egypt.
• Genesis 38 – Judah and Tamar – A narrative break focussed on Joseph’s brother Judah. When Judah’s daughter-in-law finds herself a childless widow and Judah fails to provide her with a child through his son,
Tamar tricks Judah into fathering a child for her through pretending to be a prostitute. When Judah later realises what he has done, he is remorseful. Of the twins born as a result, one (Perez) will stand in the family line of David (1 Chron. 2:1-5) and Jesus (Matt. 1:3). The story adds a pause creating dramatic tension in the Joseph narrative and shows a possible reason for Judah’s transformation (compare Gen. 37:26-27 and 43:8-9, 44:32-34).
• Genesis 39-41 – Joseph in Egypt – Joseph does well and is given a senior position in Potiphar’s house, but Potiphar’s wife falsely accuses him of seeking to seduce her, and so Potiphar throws Joseph into prison (Gen. 39). In prison, Joseph interprets the dreams of two servants of Pharaoh (Gen. 40), and when one (two years!) later recommends Joseph to Pharaoh as an interpreter for his dreams, Joseph is able to warn Pharaoh of a coming famine and recommend a rationing system. Pharaoh is so impressed that he makes Joseph a governor, responsible for administrating the system (Gen. 41).
• Genesis 42-45 – Joseph and his Brothers – The famine was also affecting Jacob’s family in Canaan, and so he sent his sons, apart from Benjamin, to buy food in Egypt. Unrecognised by the brothers, Joseph insists on seeing Benjamin to prove the group are not spies. Simeon is imprisoned in Egypt until they return (Gen. 42). At first, Jacob prefers to leave Simeon in Egypt rather than risk losing Benjamin, but when they
run out of food, he agrees that Benjamin can go. Judah makes himself responsible for the safe return of Benjamin (Gen. 43). On the second visit, Joseph tests his brothers by planting his cup in Benjamin’s sack. Will they just sacrifice another favoured brother, or will they stand up for him? This time, the brothers show they have changed, and Judah offers himself in place of Benjamin (Gen. 44). Seeing they have changed, Joseph reveals his identity and invites his brothers and father to settle in Egypt (Gen. 45).
• Genesis 46-47 – Jacob and Joseph in Egypt – Jacob and his household come to Egypt. Seventy of his family settle in Egypt – the start of the promised numerous people (Gen. 46). Joseph provides for his family and the people of Egypt and the wider world throughout the famine (Gen. 47).
• Genesis 48-50 – Blessings and Deaths – As Jacob nears death, he pronounces important blessings and curses:
– Blessing on Joseph (Gen. 48) – Jacob adopts Joseph’s sons – Ephraim and Manasseh – as his own. They take Joseph’s place in the line-up of Jacob’s sons, the future tribes of Israel, and so Joseph has a double portion. Jacob gives the primary blessing to Ephraim, the second-born, a common theme in Genesis. Jacob also gives Joseph the one portion of land he has in Canaan.
– Blessing and curses on Jacob’s sons (Gen. 49) – Before his death, Jacob speaks curses and blessing on his sons:
▪ Reuben is denied the right of the firstborn because he had slept with Bilhah, his father’s concubine (Gen. 35:22).
▪ Simeon and Levi are cursed to be scattered among the tribes because of their actions against the Shechemites (Gen. 34).
▪ Judah is promised leadership and victory. To his line will come royal power and all peoples will be obedient to him. This is fulfilled in the royal line of David, culminating in Jesus.
▪ The rest of the brothers are given positive blessings, but nothing as significant as that given to Judah. An extended blessing is given to Joseph.

– Deaths of Jacob and Joseph – Jacob dies and is buried back in Canaan. Joseph dies, and his bones are kept to be carried when the people leave Egypt in the Exodus (cf. Exod. 13:19).

• The overall message – Providence and promise:
– Providence – Two key verses (45:7; 50:20) stress that though the brothers intended evil through their actions, God intended good. The good was the continuation of the promised line.
– Promise – Continuation and start of fulfilment of God’s promises is seen throughout:
▪ Promised line is preserved when famine threatened to cut it off.
▪ Abraham’s descendants are blessed (39:3, 21) and bring blessing to others and the nations (Gen. 39:5; 41:56-57; 47:7, 10).
▪ Joseph is the first in the promised line to be given royal authority. Promises to Judah about future royal line modelled on Joseph.
▪ In Egypt, promise of fruitfulness and multiplication starts to be fulfilled (Gen. 47:27).


Recommended Resources

On How To Read Genesis

Tremper Longman III, How to Read Genesis (Paternoster, 2005) Peter T. Vogt,

Interpreting the Pentateuch (Kregel, 2009) Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart,

How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, 3rd edn (Zondervan, 2003)


David Atkinson, The Message of Genesis 1-11, The Bible Speaks Today (IVP, 1990)
Joyce G. Baldwin, The Message of Genesis 12-50, The Bible Speaks Today (IVP, 1986)
Andrew E. Steinmann, Genesis: An Introduction and Commentary, TOTC (IVP, 2008)
John H. Walton, Genesis, NIVAC (Zondervan, 2001)
Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis Chapters 1-17, NICOT (Eerdmans, 1990)
Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis Chapters 18-50, NICOT (Eerdmans, 1995)

Other Resources

Andrew Wilson, ‘Genesis’, THINK 2016 (conference recordings):
Stephen G. Dempster, Dominion and Dynasty: A Theology of the Hebrew Bible, NSBT (Apollos, 2003)





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