Episode 53: Introduction to Genesis – In the beginning…
We’re hoping this new series turbocharges your Bible reading! We’re doing little introductions to different books of the Bible to give you a head start on how they are structured and what the main themes are to look out for. And where better to start than Genesis?! Dan and Laurence discuss the first book in the Bible and think about where it all began, but they also find some pointers on where it all might be heading!
We get our big series of Bible Book Introductions underway with a consideration of the first book of the Bible, the book of Genesis. Laurence and Dan first discuss their aims in providing an overview of each book of the Bible, before jumping into a consideration of the context and background.
Introduction to Genesis: Historical background
They instantly recognise that there are some difficulties and controversies that surround Genesis when trying to place within a historical context. There are so many large cosmic events described, from creation to the great flood, but also many simple, ordinary events, such as the depiction of a nomadic lifestyle, that root the book into an ancient culture and time period.
However, Laurence and Dan state their intention to avoid distractions from questions of historical context on the basis that these are not directly addressed in the text. Instead, they aim to determine the overall purpose and message of the book.
This is exemplified in the comparisons and contrasts that can be drawn between Genesis and other ancient literature like the Epic of Gilgamesh, also recounting a great flood. The differences seem intentional and important to identify. The gods in the Babylonian epic want to send a flood because humans have become too noisy, which is in stark contrast with the God in Genesis who is distraught with the extent of violence that humanity has filled the world with. This comparison helps us tune into where the message of Genesis might be – issues of morality and good and evil.
The structure of Genesis
Laurence and Dan turn their attention to how the book is structured. Recognising several sections that are marked by a repeated heading, “these are the generations of…”, they also notice that the book is in two halves.
Chapters 1 to 11 concern large cosmic events, recounting humanity’s rebellions and describing a world in which nations and families are fractured and dysfunctional. From chapter 12 onwards, the story shifts focus into one individual and one family; the family of Abraham, (known initially as Abram).
The key hinge in the book is Genesis 12:1-3:
Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”Genesis 12:1-3
Once the global and cosmic issues of humanity have been aptly described, attention is turned to how God is going to resolve this to bring a blessing to all the broken and fractured families of the earth. That’s the mission of Abraham’s family, the family that becomes the nation of Israel.
Themes in the book of Genesis
However, as Laurence and Dan discuss, the big problems of the world aren’t resolved in Genesis. The patriarch narratives, (Genesis 12-50), are full of difficult situations, bad decisions and dysfunctional family units themselves. And yet, God’s purpose still seems to be progressing, despite the problems with humanity on a global scale and on an individual scale.
The pattern of failure begins in Genesis 2 and 3, where the rebellion of the man and woman becomes representative of the bad choices that humans make all the time. Laurence and Dan notice how this point is made in the New Testament, (e.g. Romans 5:12 and 1 John 2:15-16), drawing on the narratives of Genesis.
More content about the book of Genesis
Laurence and Dan close this introduction to Genesis by pointing out additional content on the Bible Feed website that is connected to the first book of the Bible in some way:
- “Let us make man in our image” – Evidence for the Trinity? – A blog post that brings together many interpretations from commentaries to see whether Genesis 1:26-27 hints at a multi-personal God.
- The meaning of life – wisdom from Ecclesiastes – An episode of the podcast that traces a theme from the book of Ecclesiastes into Genesis 4 and the story of Cain murdering his brother Abel.
- Join the dots: Connecting with God – An earlier episode of the podcast with Becky Lewis as guest who led us through aspects of how Genesis portrays our relationship with other humans and how that can help us connect with God.
Introduction to Genesis – In the beginning…
Dan: Welcome to the Bible Feed Podcast. I’m Dan Weatherall, and today we’re going to be starting something that we hope will be a really good resource for people to help them read and understand through different parts of the Bible. And I’m here with Lawrence Davenport.
Laurence: Hi everybody. How are you doing? I’m looking forward to this series. We plan to take different books of the Bible and to provide an overview and lay out some guides on how to read them, how to study them, how to see them in the context of the Bible as a whole, and also how to take lessons from them in order to guide our own lives as well.
Obviously they’re all going to be fairly high level because some of these are huge books. And so we’re only going to be providing an overview and hopefully some tips and tricks things that we’ve come across while studying these books as well.
So this is the first of those episodes and we’re [00:01:00] going to look at an overview of Genesis, fairly unsurprisingly. How we read it and how we understand that book. So maybe we’ll start and I’ll ask you a really tricky question, Dan. Hopefully you get this one right, otherwise, well, it won’t set the context for the series very well. Where in the Bible is Genesis and whereabouts does it fit?
Dan: Yeah, so that’s, that’s fairly easy I think I’ll cope with that one. We’re right at the beginning. Genesis, first book in the Bible, First book of the Old Testament, right at the beginning of the Bible, which is kind of unsurprising really, because Genesis literally means that, doesn’t it? It means origins or beginnings.
I think our name for it comes from the Greek version of the book and the Hebrew name of the book is Berashit, meaning, in the beginning, which is basically the first verse. So Genesis one, verse one. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth. So yeah, we are right at the start of the biblical story in that sense. So it’s going to [00:02:00] set some foundations.
Laurence: And I think within the Jewish Torah they call it, the first book of Moses or something like that as well, I think. So, but we take that name from that opening section that you’ve just explained. So let’s dive into the book a little bit.
Let’s maybe start with some of the historical context and the background of this book. Is it possible with a book about the very beginning of everything to kind of do that easily?
Dan: Yeah, well, we’re going to find as we move to different books, that’s going to be a lot easier to do, to place the book in its context of the time, of history and things like that. But like you say, we are right at the beginning here. We’ve got, you know, the opening verse in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
So it’s going to be very difficult to sort of look back at historical context. At least in terms of the first chapter and the first few early chapters of this book. It also can quite quickly get difficult and maybe even controversial to do this with Genesis [00:03:00] and to try and place it historically or place certain events historically.
And that’s probably unfortunate because we’ve got this book here, this at the start, at the head of the Bible. This collection of material with a message from God to humanity, to humans. And, you know, it’s designed with a message, an important thing. And quite often, there might be lots of questions about its historical accuracy and all that sort of thing, which is really actually difficult to talk about because we’re talking about way back in time.
So we can get side-tracked by it, and I want to try and make sure we don’t get side-tracked by those things. And just try and focus on what we think the text is trying to teach us. And, you know, if the text leads us to considering questions of historical accuracy of various different bits and pieces, then great, we’ll have to deal with it.
But if it doesn’t, then maybe there’s an overarching message, which is a bit more important. But having said that, we’ve got these big [00:04:00] wide ranging events that are quite difficult to place, creation for example, you know, how that’s described and when that was and what that’s about. That’s a big massive, humongous question! You’ve got the flood, Noah’s flood talked about. But then there are these very localized, specific things that are talked about, which paint a picture of early sort of nomadic times, like drawing water from a well, living in tents, you know, with the patriarchs doing that sort of thing. So, those sorts of things ring true from an early nomadic civilization at the times that it’s purporting to be from.
And then of course you’ve got names like Euphrates, the Canaanite, Egypt, Babel or Babylon. They’re really obvious and clear historical references. So there’s a lot in there. Even if we can’t deal with a lot of the maybe difficult questions that we might want to, there’s a lot there which root it in a place and time.
Laurence: The Bible, Genesis doesn’t set itself up as a science book or a [00:05:00] history book. It sets it itself up as a message from God, which is actually rooted in real places and cultures around the Israelites. There seems to be this focus around the Israelites and that’s why you maybe get some of those historical events and you get some of the people and the places and the nations and the cultures. So it’s rooted in that history, but a history that God is using to demonstrate a message, which is, the key thing. So that’s a great piece of advice I think sometimes we can take our own wanting to resolve everything and try and use the Bible to resolve all of those things. But actually let’s use it with what God has purposed it for, which is to describe the beginnings of his purpose.
Dan: Absolutely, yeah, I think that’s really important. You know, one of the big pitfalls is to get distracted, if we’re reading Genesis, so we are trying to, in this podcast, to give some views, some advice on how to read this book, what to get from [00:06:00] it how the best to do that.
You know one of the easy pitfalls to make with reading Genesis is to get really distracted by lots of these peripheral details. Like where was the Tower of Babel, you know, what sort of tower was it? What sort of building was it? You know, when did people start farming? Or where was the flood? What was the extent of the flood? And, how did the flood cover the earth if scientifically the amount of water wouldn’t allow it. I don’t even know if that’s right, but can you see what I mean there? There’s all sorts of questions we can easily get distracted with.
But I think it’s quite clear when you read it through, that it’s not designed to answer those sorts of questions, which, which can make us feel a little bit Oh, that’s a shame, sometimes. But actually there’s a lot more important questions it’s answering.
Laurence: Yeah, but not giving those answers is pointing us to go and look for what God really wants us to, to gain from Genesis, you know, you’ve talked about some of those events, those big global events, and that’s really nice the way that you, you kind of put the global events against the kind of the small day to day [00:07:00] events that it describes. But those global events also seem to appear in other records as well. So the Epic of Gilgamesh, for instance, talks about a flood. So how do we take material like that? And how do we use that when we’re studying Genesis?
Dan: Yeah, that’s a good question. And again, we could spend ages on that which we won’t do. I think it was really fashionable when things like those ancient documents were first discovered to sort of say, Oh, here we go, look, here’s an ancient myth that shows that Genesis was an ancient myth. That was the first kind of response.
I think actually the better way of looking at this and the most fruitful and sensitive way of looking at the comparisons there are between Genesis and the Babylonian and Sumerian accounts of creation and, and the flood and things like that. The best way is to look at the differences. So yeah, there’s lots of similarities, but actually when you take, for example, the accounts of the flood in Gilgamesh The Gods of Babylon are [00:08:00] upset with humanity so much because they’re noisy. They’ve created them to be their servants and now they’re really noisy, so they’re going to wipe them out.
We put that alongside Genesis and the flood that’s described in Genesis, and it’s a God that’s really interested in sin, in morality, and is disappointed in immorality and violence. And it’s a God that wants to destroy wickedness. And when there’s humans fighting against humans he’s really upset by it.
It’s not, he’s not affected by the noise of noisy, smelly humans, like they are in, in Babylon. So that helps us just to see how there’s a message here that is important and profound. We can sort of start to see those differences and see what Genesis is concentrating on.
I think that might help steer us away from the really technical questions that we could argue for ages and go around in circles about when actually there’s an overarching message that throughout this book and throughout the rest of the Bible as well.
Laurence: That’s really interesting [00:09:00] that, within the biblical record you get an overarching sense of love from God and wanting man to succeed, and there’s a succession of failures and problems that kind of present themselves and, and that’s what God’s interested in. So thank you.
So let’s move on then from that to, if we were to start to study this or you open a book and it’s a pretty, pretty big book how do you then start to think about the structure of this book.
Dan: Yeah. So we’ve got 50 chapters in this book. So yeah, it takes a long time to read it through. And it’s not just a straightforward narrative. It’s not just a single story. There’s actually you know, the chapter divisions are, are much later. They’re useful for us, so we can go to the right part, the book that we’re looking for.
But actually there’s markers in Genesis, like there are in many of the books within the text itself, that show the structure, show the layout of the text. So for example, there’s this word generations or sometimes, other versions will say the [00:10:00] account, this is the account of, or these are the generations of, and you know, that comes up a few times.
First time it does is in chapter two, verse four. These are the generations of the heavens and the earth, when they were created. Then it crops up chapter five verse one. This is the book of the generations of Adam when God created a man. A little bit different there. Genesis 6:9, These are the generations of Noah, and you can sort of flick right through Chapter 10. These are the generations of the sons of Noah. And there’s more and more as you go through. I think there’s I think there’s 10 sections. If you play around a little bit with the way it’s shown, but you’ve got about 10 sections here when you, when you break it down in that way.
And there’s been loads of theories about this, it’s a patchwork book, you know, different people writing and putting it together, which may or may not be true. It doesn’t really matter to start thinking about that. The important thing is that we’ve got something that has been put together, assembled with specific sections that help us take chunks one by one as [00:11:00] as we go through. Um, And I think paying attention to that structure as well as other structures, that really helps us to deal with each isolated story and then see how that relates to the other stories throughout the book.
Laurence: yeah the way I’ve described it to people before is if you were to write a document, for work, you wouldn’t, like Genesis, and you take Genesis and you took all of the chapter numbers out, and you’d just have a block of text like that, your boss wouldn’t be particularly happy with that, so you’d need to have some way of delineating sections. And so God has kind of put these punctuation marks in, the generations of Noah the generations of Shem, Abram, Ishmael, Isaac, et cetera. So you’ve got the ability to navigate your way through the sections of the document. So yeah is there any other ways that we could look at the structure?
Dan: Yeah, so, they’re helpful and I think hopefully, we’ll see one way in which they’re a little bit helpful and to understand the message in a moment. But as well as this, there [00:12:00] seems to be sort of two halves in this book as well. And they’re very imbalanced halves. They’re not strictly half and half.
You get chapters one to eleven, which is probably the more difficult section of the book, which is very much, way back when, far away in the shrouds of history and in the mists of time. Where you’ve got these big things like creation, like a flood like scattering of people and languages and, and it seems to be that what’s being described there or what the important message throughout those chapters, throughout the generation sections that are in chapters 1 to 11, is that this is about humanity. This is about, this is a global focus, This is a focus on the human race.
And like we’ve seen when we’ve looked at that very quick comparison between the flood and the epic of Gilgamesh, this is God thinking or explaining the nature of humanity and what’s happening. And it’s basically a catalog of stories [00:13:00] about humanity’s rebellions, humanity’s evil and wickedness and, and what God’s going to do with that and God’s judgment and God’s attempts to, to bring it to a certain point where he can redeem humanity and, and save humanity. So we get things like, the origins of nations, the origins of different people groups and things like that. Big family trees that explain, you know, where Egypt comes from, where Babylon comes from, and, you know, all those sorts of things. So we’re talking very global in these first 11 chapters.
Laurence: Yeah, so we’ve got like the prefix and the tone setting of the overall setting for Genesis. So, like you say, you’ve got these key themes which are introduced. And really just to summarize it, it’s about setting the scene for humanity and their relationship with God is what you, what kind of setting up here.
Laurence: So what’s the other part then about.
Dan: Well towards the end of that section, you’ve [00:14:00] got chapter 10, which is called the Table of Nations sometimes. It’s basically the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham and Japheth and talks about all these different places, their sons and their offspring. And these are all place names. These are all, like I said, Egypt and Canaan and Kush and Nineveh and Sidon and Sodom and Gomorrah and it’s sort of explaining the, the division of humanity and the fact that there’s disunity. And then chapter 11 really highlights that with the story of the Tower of Babel and the fact that they can no longer speak to each other in the same language, and they don’t understand each other.
There’s basically a complete fracturing of humanity. So then that kind of ends Chapter 11, and the reason why there’s a big section division here, or you know, why the book is in two halves is because suddenly we now focus on just one family, and it’s the family of Genesis 11:27, “These are the generations of Tera, Tera fathered Abram” and, and of course it then focuses on Abram who becomes Abraham, which most people [00:15:00] will, will know of, and, and heard of Abraham, the founding father, as it were of Israel, The patriarch of Israel, the nation of Israel, so it focuses on him.
And then Genesis chapter 12, the first three verses seem to be this hinge or this real key point in the book. So let’s just read that, Genesis 12 verses one to three and you can sort of see how God is recognizing the global problem as it were, the whole overarching problem of humanity. And then he’s going to deal with it now through Abram.
Laurence: So yeah. Genesis 12 versus one to three from the ESV.
Now the Lord said to Abram. go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you and I will make of you a great nation and I will bless you and make your name great so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those that bless you and [00:16:00] him who dishonors you. I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
Dan: Yeah, there we go. So it is all about, you know, this, so far up to now, it’s been about fractured families and fractured nations and division and rebellion and violence. And now God is saying, Look, I’m going to call this person out. I’m going to take him from his own family and his own nation, and I’m basically going to start redeeming all the different families of the earth with this one man and the nation that comes from this one man, and in him, all the families of the earth are going to be blessed. So God wants to redeem humanity. And it’s the story now of how is he going to do that? And he starts with this one man, Abram, and the blessing and the promises that that given to him. So this is the key turning point.
The rest of the book is now all those stories about people drawing water from wells and someone going off to find a wife for you know, one of the sons of Abraham. And you know, all [00:17:00] these really little day to day sort of nomadic ancient stories of the patriarchs and it’s completely changed from the global setting to, let’s look at this little family living however many thousand years ago and living out their lives and what happens to them.
And God gives some incredible promises to them. And through this little family, there’s going to be blessings to the whole world. So, you know, God’s really setting himself up to a huge task there. And then the rest of the book, which is the majority of Genesis is about this family.
And it plays out where actually things aren’t as rosy. There’s lots of difficulty and you can spend a long time looking at it and working out whether you agree with whether Abraham, Isaac and Jacob did the right things at different points. Those patriarchs, and it goes all the way through to Joseph as well and, and the brothers of Joseph. And you, you think of, well, what the brothers of Joseph did to him, is just an epitome of the kind of dysfunctional [00:18:00] nature of some of this family. There’s some really dubious situations and it’s not there to sort of pinpoint blame or work out who was right, who was wrong, who was more faithful, who wasn’t faithful. It’s not really the point. It’s teaching us, it’s introducing us to the way God is going to bring about his purpose. It’s through this family, but this family is also part of that broken humanity. They’re part of that as well. and yet God’s purpose is going to rumble on, it’s going to keep going, it’s going to still develop all the way through even when you think it’s not going to.
Laurence: Yeah. And interestingly we don’t get a full resolution to that at the end of Genesis. It’s not like we get introduced to Abram in chapter 12 and these promises, and by the end of Genesis, everything’s fixed and happiness. The whole book ends, doesn’t it, with the death of Jacob and Joseph and these bones, which are then taken, collected up. So we end up, don’t we, with essentially a description of the bones of [00:19:00] Jacob coming out of Egypt. It doesn’t seem like there’s a resolution at the end of Genesis of this predicament that’s kind of introduced.
Dan: Yeah. And of course we’ve just read Genesis 12, haven’t we? Where God says, leave this place, where he was in Mesopotamia, and go to the land that I will show you. And of course, that wasn’t Egypt, you know, as you read through it, that’s a different part of the world.
That’s, you know, the land of Canaan, the Canaanite territory. So, it ends up with them all in Egypt, in the wrong place. With Joseph and his bones in a sarcophagus effectively, and him saying, Look, please take me back. Please take my bones back to the place where we should be. You know, that’s the promise he asks them to make.
So, yeah, it absolutely doesn’t resolve. And I suppose if it did resolve itself, we might not have many other books of the Bible to consider , but it really, you know, it really sets you up with this situation where you’ve got, okay, a portrait of the whole of humanity where there’s rebellion, after rebellion, there’s violence, there’s fracturing, [00:20:00] there’s disunity.
What’s God going to do about it? Well, he’s going to make all the families of the Earth be blessed in this one little family. This family is having all the ups and downs and struggles. You know, there’s even, moments where the one son, the chosen son of Abram is going to be sacrificed, Isaac. What’s going to happen to God’s plan then? There’s a moment where Joseph gets chucked in a pit and his brothers are going to kill him, or sell him off. You know, what’s going to happen to God’s purpose then? They’re now in Egypt, they’re on good terms with the Pharaoh at the time, but what’s going to happen to them?
Are they just going to become Egyptians and lose that role, that vocation, that office that they’ve got to try and bring people to God? That’s effectively the thing that’s going to happen. And all the while when you think it’s all going to go wrong, God’s purpose actually does continue.
And that’s probably something that keeps cropping up. So we’ve got, when, when you think back to the first chapter actually, of Genesis. So, we haven’t looked at that at all other than the first verse. It’s a huge topic to look at this chapter on itself, but this way of [00:21:00] describing God’s ultimate creative act. You know, the fact that he’s the origin and the source of all this world. So this is a creation that we live in rather than some sort of random, chance place. And how it’s described in lots of different ways, but the pinnacle of it is, is God making humanity, which is what the focus of the book is about.
And he says in verse 26: God said, Let us make man in our image after our likeness. Verse 27, God created man in his own image, in the image of God. He created him, male and female, he created them. And so God’s intention is for humans to be like God in the sense of… Well, that’s a good question… actually, I think he goes on to explain it because he says: Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock, and later on be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea. He’s basically sort of inviting them to share in his rulership effectively.
You’ve [00:22:00] got to rule with kindness and compassion that I have, you’ve got to rule with benevolence like I do. You’ve got to act like I am, be in God’s image, God’s representative, look after this world, this creation, and look after each other and rule with love in the same way I have. And like we’ve said, like we’ve kept on saying there’s a global story of the rebellion to that and how it breaks down. And then there’s the local patriarchal story of how that is up and down and tricky to keep to, but God’s purpose in bringing people back around to that plan is, is still going on. But yeah, you get that in the two halves I think.
Laurence: So what we’ve kind of identified there, I think is the major theme of Genesis. It’s that the origins we’re talking about, how God wants this creation to reflect him and that human beings have failed in that and that that’s demonstrated through sin, violence, rebellion, et cetera. And how then if you double click on the global view, you [00:23:00] get Israel. And then within Israel we start to see this focus on God’s way of redeeming and bringing things back.
Are there any other themes or any, any other sort of deeper themes that we need to, to take from this?
Dan: Yeah, I suppose if we take that one another level just to think back to how this works out or how the theme is developed a bit more. You get, of course the typical rebellion or the fall narrative as it’s often talked about in Genesis two and three, where the man and the woman, Adam and Eve are made, given a task. They’re in a garden, they have a task to keep it and maintain it, and also to not eat of a particular tree. And then they rebelled, they choose to sin effectively. So that’s like the key origin narrative of humanity and sin and rebellion.
They’re choosing to decide what’s good for themselves and what isn’t evil. You know, God’s called what’s good and God knows what’s evil, but they sort of choose to do it themselves and their own way. And this is where I think those little generation markers come into play because[00:24:00] although the stories are different when you sort of strip them bare of all the peripheral details, you start to realize they’re all very similar in the sense of there are, you know, God knows what’s best for us, for people, and people choose to do something their own way, and they choose to take something that’s not their own. They choose to do something that they shouldn’t, they’ve been asked not to do. And then there’s violence and then there’s mistrust and there’s broken relationships that follow those sorts of things.
Even just for example, there’s this really peculiar situation isn’t there after the flood event where Noah has a vineyard, makes wine, gets drunk, and then there’s this really difficult to understand passage where it talks about one of the sons of Noah uncovering his nakedness in the tent.
And there’s all sorts of possible connotations about what that might mean and whether or not that’s a sort of Hebraism for other activity that’s going on. But you know, they were in a vineyard, not the garden, but it, it’s a similar idea. You can start to [00:25:00] hear an echo of Adam and Eve in the garden now Noah and the sons in his family in this vineyard, and then something being taken that shouldn’t have been, something done that shouldn’t have been.
And then there’s this broken family relationship and curse that’s the result of that and you start to see section by section, the same sorts of things play out. There’s, you know, there’s sections in the life of Abraham that deal with difficult situations like that that result in broken families.
So the point is, you know, yes, globally as the Adam and Eve story plays out globally, humanity is repeating this all and over and over again. You know, on a national level, on a global level, on an individual level. We’re all choosing in our lives day by day to do something that we shouldn’t be doing.
And it results in violence or brokenness or mistrust or unhealthy situations that harm us all and make us all miserable and upset. And it’s this cycle, you know, day by day we’re repeating Adam and Eve’s sin all the time. They’ve become this emblem of what we are like and, and who we are [00:26:00] like.
So that’s probably a deeper theme of something to look out for, to see the, the recurring patterns that come through that start off in Genesis two and three, and then keep repeating throughout. So, you know that’s something that I think is a really good thing to follow up.
Laurence: So we’ve spoken a lot about that theme, about the globalization of that theme then in a family, and then taking example for ourselves as well. So let’s move on to another section then. Let’s talk about how we deal with Genesis in the context of other parts of the Bible.
So how do we look at this book and, and use it within the context of either the books around it or the rest of scripture? So first of all, it’s quite easy to deal with it in context with Exodus, because literally the thing I was talking about, which was the bones of uh, Joseph the narrative continues straight into Exodus, and you have the Exodus story. The exit from Egypt. the wandering [00:27:00] in the wilderness. So you can see, can’t you, that there’s a narrative link where the people set off, but there’s connections with a whole load of other books in the Bible. It almost sets like a foundation for themes which are then plucked out and kind of used elsewhere in the Bible.
You know, whenever you’re looking at a book, look at the beginning and the end of the book and see whether there’s common themes. And if you look at Revelation, you see so much of the key, either artifacts or events kind of reflected in some kind of symmetry with the things that happen in Genesis.
So you have a tree of life. You have no more sun. You see the people living as a reflection of God. So we have these things book ended, Genesis and Revelation. So it’s a very worthy study actually looking at the links between Revelation and Genesis.
Dan: Mm, Yeah, that picture in Revelation is really good, isn’t it? How it draws on the early chapters of Genesis and [00:28:00] that there is so much, I mean, being the first book of the Bible you know, everything else can very easily draw on imagery in this book. And it really does. So, maybe the thing to do here is just to point out couple of examples in the New Testament where the things we’ve looked at, like the rebellion of the man and the woman, Adam and Eve, and how that becomes a pattern of humanity, a way of explaining what we are like.
That is emphasized in some of these New Testament passages. So for example, Roman’s five, so one of one of Paul’s letters where he writes in verse 12. Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, so death spread to all men because all sinned.
So I’m diving right into a big complicated book, a complicated sentence, no doubt of Paul’s, but just think very high level for a moment. He’s [00:29:00] talking about the fact that you know, just like that one man who sinned and died, well, death is spreading to all men, to all people because all sinned. So you can see that comparison that’s been drawn, you know, we all sin, we are all like Adam, and we’re all, in that sense, we all re-enact that story all the time.
And there’s that passage in James that talks about temptation. Where temptation comes from within and then it develops and conceives and gives birth to, to sin. And there’s this really graphic description of sin coming from within. The same way that Eve looked at this fruit and decided herself to go for it when she considered it.
There’s, there’s another one in First John, in 1 John 2:15-16, that talks about this: Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions. Is not from the father, but is from [00:30:00] the world.
That’s a really interesting way of describing, you know, things that are bad, basically, things in the world, they’re not of Christ. There’s those three categories and whether or not you can map them directly onto the verse in Genesis. You know, I think you probably can, and just the way of the way of describing it just is really reminiscent of, of what happened when it says Genesis 3:6: when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was a delight to the eyes and the tree was to be desired to make one wise. She took of its fruit and ate.
And there’s that threefold description of what went through her mind. And I think John is picking up that idea there that all these things that around us that tempt us away from following Jesus and from following his example, they’re things that might look good to us. The desire of the eyes, the desire of the flesh, they might make us feel good. And pride in possessions they might make us think we’ve got a good status. And that is a neat summary of [00:31:00] all the difficult things that could distract us and take us away, which I think really again, emphasizes this fact that what happens in Genesis two and three is this pattern for all of us that, that we go through.
So that’s from the writings of Paul, we briefly mentioned James and there’s John there as well. So, you know, three different parts of the New Testament that, pick up on this, you know.
What we didn’t look at in Genesis three is the root of the solution that God brings which is in this really enigmatic verse, isn’t it? About the offspring of a woman crushing a serpent’s head, and it effectively becomes this symbol that there’s going to be a Messiah, a saviour figure who’s going to destroy this. And the imagery of that reappears so many times, doesn’t it? Of the Messiah saviour figure crushing a serpent and, you know, overcoming the problem within, which James talks about, the temptations that are common to us all. So, yeah, there’s loads we could go through.
I’m sure you’d think of many more as well, Lawrence.
Laurence: Yeah. And I’m just reflecting on that [00:32:00] image of the crushing of the head of the serpent, that figure is so early in Genesis. It’s like, and we’ve only just kind of seen that first instance of man’s failure that fall narrative that we read.
And already God is saying, look, here is a structure that you need to think of throughout the rest of scripture as a formula for how God is going to put in place this, this purpose of redemption. And you’ve picked out examples there in the New Testament which are essentially just linking directly back into the roots, into Genesis.
The problem still exists. The problem is still there, but that little description of God resolving it is being outworked. And by the time you’re reading James and Romans, you know, the Messiah has come and the work has happened and like we’re a lot further down the path. So you see, you know, the beginnings or the origins, the Genesis of the overall story arc of the Bible being kind of projected forward.
And then we’ve [00:33:00] already talked about in Revelation, we start talking about a new creation. We’ve got the creation described in Genesis and the new creation, which is then described in Revelation, which reflects this state where men and women are not failing as Adam and Eve did, but they are actually reflecting the glory of God.
Dan: Mmm, no doubt. There’s so much more that we could have looked through, but I think taking a step back and just having that high level overview can just help to set the parameters for what the book’s about, I think, and help to avoid, and I’m speaking of myself here, help me to avoid getting distracted and bogged down in all those other things we, we thought about right at the start. And actually focus on what the text is trying to draw us to. So hope, hopefully that’s been useful.
Laurence: That’s great Dan thank you. That’s a great takeaway tip for approaching the book, seeing it in the overall context. But then also in terms of as you are reading it, to track the development of this nation Israel throughout, throughout the rest of [00:34:00] scripture. So it starts, doesn’t it, here in Genesis and we can see that there’s this development of a family. Just track how that develops through Genesis, but then out into the rest of the Bible and kind of why is that important and what is associated with that.
It’s not just the fact that this is a random family. This is a family that’s been selected for the progression of God’s purpose. And then maybe the third thing is that we’re looking at this book, which is rooted, thousands of years ago in a completely strange and weird culture that we have no reference in our own lives to. So don’t necessarily, like you say, get bogged down in the weirdness of that, but step back from it and kind of understand what is it trying to tell us.
Okay. So, we have some other material that we’ve put together related to this, haven’t we Dan? So maybe we could talk a bit a bit about that.
Dan: Yeah, It’d be nice on these book overviews that we do just to sort of stop for a couple minutes at the end and just think actually in the 50 [00:35:00] plus episodes we’ve already recorded, as well as blogs on the website. There’s lots of things that we’ve already touched on this book, so there’s, there’s probably a mountain of material for Genesis because it’s so interconnected with the rest of the Bible, like we’ve said, and it’s such a seed bed for ideas and imagery.
But just a few little things that listeners might be interested in. There’s a blog on the website, which is biblefeed.org about Genesis 1:26, which I quoted earlier in this episode, and whether or not that is teaching the Trinity, whether or not that is describing a multi-personal God where it says, let us make man in our image. That’s always a tricky question or something that people turn to in that verse. So there’s a blog on that runs through the various commentaries about that verse.
We did an episode quite a long time now called The Meaning of Life. It’s based on Ecclesiastes, which we’ll get to that at some point, but it drew on the Cain and Abel story from the early chapters of Genesis. So there’s a little bit in there.
A while back, Becky Lewis did an episode for us called Connecting with God, and [00:36:00] that was very much on the ideas rooted in Genesis one and men and women being in the image of God. So, I’m sure you can probably remember a few as well, maybe that root themselves back into some of the concepts in Genesis.
Laurence: Excellent. And I’m sure we’ll put that material as well in the description of the podcast. Dan, thank you very much for going through this first of our series of book overviews covering Genesis. Thank you to listeners as well and please remember to go to biblefeed.org, our website if you want to look at any of the other material that we have created.
Please also follow us on Biblefeedonline, on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. And thank you very much for listening.