“A Summary/Review of Genesis 1-12″

Posted on June 21, 2009. Filed under: Genesis: Answers to Life's Crucial Questions |

Redeemer Church Sunday School

“A Summary/Review of Genesis 1-12″

Bryan E. Walker


Read: Gen.1:1—5, 26-2:3, 7-9, 15-25; 3:1-24; 4:1-10; 5:5, 24; 6:5-18,22; 8:20-9:17, 25-27; 11:1-9; 12:1-3, 4-9


Introduction: In looking at what to do our last time together for the summer, I thought of just continuing in ch.13, maybe even finishing the chapter. But that really is a bit of an awkward place to end the semester. So after thinking and praying it this week I think perhaps the best thing we could do is a summary lesson of Gen. 1-12, reviewing what we have covered in this class the last 18 months. And, while I do have a lot of material here I can cover, I think it best to allow a lot of time for you to discuss the text and ask questions. So I will lecture if I have to, but otherwise I will try to just guide your discussion. I do not want to get bogged down in any one area so I will try to move us along so that we cover all the chapters.


How we will operate then, is that we will read the key texts and discuss the important doctrines and issues we get from those texts, making it relevant for today. We can also bring up how each of the texts relate to other portions of Genesis, the Pentateuch, and the rest of the Bible.


  1. I.                   Creation Genesis 1-2
    1. A.     Creation of the Universe Gen.1:1
      1. 1.      “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”  QQ: what is the point of this verse? What does it tell us? What is its significance today? How does it confront our culture? Why do people prefer a Godless universe? Are there any other notable scripture passages that speak of creation or that are related to this verse?

Here is the most profound statement in all of Scripture. It posits that there was a beginning point for the universe. This verse is reviled and hated by the world even though the “Big Bang” theory and logic both support it. Science says the universe had a beginning but they cannot tell us why it began or what the purpose of the beginning was. John Sailhamer, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol.2, Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 1990 writes (pp.19f): “These seven words are the foundation of all that is to follow in the Bible. The purpose of the statement is threefold: to identify the Creator, to explain the origin of the world, and to tie the work of God in the past to the work of God in the future…The proper context for understanding 1:1, in other words, is the whole of the book of Genesis and the Pentateuch.”


Wenham, p.10 “In its present setting Gen.1:1-2:3 serves as a splendid introduction to the book of Genesis as a whole. It declares that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is no mere localized or tribal deity, but the sovereign LORD of the whole earth. The apparently petty and insignificant family stories that occupy the bulk of the book are in fact of cosmic consequence, for God has chosen these men so that through them all the nations of the earth should be blessed.”


Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, chapters 1-17, NICOT series, Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, 1990 writes (p.103ff), “…no small controversy among biblical scholars has swirled around both the translation and the meaning of the verse…”

The first word is bereshith and can be considered to be in the absolute state, functioning independently of any other word. This makes verse 1 to be a separate and complete sentence, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” But some consider the word to be in the construct state thus making the clause subordinate and you get this: “When God began to create the heavens and the earth- the earth being without form and void- God said…”


The significance of this difference is huge! In the first translation, God creates everything; in the second, God and pre-existent chaos matter both exist prior to creation. This makes some matter or chaos co-eternal with God. Scholars do have good grounds for the former translation however. Look at Isaiah 46:9-10. The word for beginning is used again and in the absolute state, thus making a link with the use of the word in Gen.1:1 using the same basic idea. Hamilton says that all the ancient translations of this verse make the word an absolute and the clause independent. This then points us to the doctrine of creation ex nihilo, creation out of nothing. Translating it this way also fulfills the numerical sequence I have already brought out, placing 7 words in the opening sentence.


Sailhamer, in Genesis Unbound, Multnomah Books, Sisters Oregon, 1996 writes about this opening word bereshith (p38) and says that the word is used in Scripture to refer to an extended, indeterminate period of time, not a specific moment. P.39 “It was common in ancient Israel to begin counting the years of a king’s reign from the first of the year- that is, the first day of the month of Nisan. If the king assumed office prior to that day, as was frequently the case, the time which preceded  the first of the year was not reckoned as part of his reign. That time was called “the beginning” (reshith). In a few biblical cases “the beginning” of a king’s reign amounted to several years. According to Jeremiah 28:1, for example, the “beginning” of King Zedekiah’s reign included events which happened four years after he had assumed the throne. In this case the NIV translated the word “beginning” simply as ‘early in the reign of Zedekiah”. P.41 “The author could have used a Hebrew word for “beginning” similar to the English word ‘start’ or ‘initial point’. Had he used one of those words, we would have to translate Gen. 1:1 something like this: ‘the first thing God did was to create the universe.’


The bottom line then, with the first word in Scripture is that “in the beginning” could mean a long period of time, including billions of years. It is just an open ended word that means an undetermined length of time. It could refer to the creation week of 7 days. It is undetermined. Many other scholars, though, will disagree with Sailhamer and say that the beginning refers directly to the 7 days of creation. We will spend more time on this in a later lesson when we look at what Genesis has to say about the age of the universe, when was creation, etc.


But this word, bereshith, has another dimension that we need to examine right now, and that is that the word inherently also points to an end point, the end of time. To the Hebrews  the concept of beginning includes the concept of an end. Thus this verse has an eschatological theme built in. For the Hebrews, time and history were not endless cycles of repetition; that is how other ancient peoples thought, but not the Hebrews. They had a unique linear view of history and time. If there is a beginning there will be a conclusion. Thus the author, Moses, establishes right away that God has a plan and purpose; God starts it so God will end it. Look at Isaiah 65:17 and Rev. 21:1 and 22. (read Sailhamer p.44)


God- Elohim– This is the plural form of El and is the name of the God of creation. The most curious thing about this name for God is that in the Heb. it is a plural. God refers to himself in the plural. According to Mathews, p.127f, Elohim is a general word for deity along with El or Eloah and can be used for pagan gods as well. As to why the name is in the plural, Mathews says we cannot be certain but it would be too strong to say that this word means that the Trinity was taught in the OT.  He believes it is a literary convention to portray special reverence to God. “it is fair to say, however, that the creation account … implies that there is a plurality within God….The regular appearance of Elohim in 1:1-2:3 rather than Yahweh is due to the theological emphasis of the section. Creation extols God’s transcendence and the power of his spoken word; thus Elohim is preferred, whereas Yahweh commonly is associated with the particular covenant agreement between God and Israel… The general name Elohim is appropriate for the creation account’s universal framework and in effect repudiates the cosmogonies of the pagan world, where the origins and biography of their ‘gods’ are paramount.”


In the beginning God created- bara– “is used in the Old Testament consistently in reference to a new activity. It forms a sound play with the previous ‘in the beginning’ where the three initial letters are the same…The striking feature of the word is that its subject is always God. It therefore conveys the idea of a special activity accomplished only by deity that results in newness or a renewing. Also bara always refers to the product created and does not refer to the material of which it is made. For these reasons commentators have traditionally interpreted the verb as a technical term for creatio ex nihilo….In doing so it is often contrasted with the verb asa, meaning to make or do, which may have as its subject human activity (as well as divine). In particular asa is used where ‘making’ involves existing materials.”  Mathews, p.128.


However, bara and asa are used so much together in Genesis 1-2 that you cannot make a case for creatio ex nihilo just from this word alone. Vs.1:3 makes a better case for that when God simply speaks light into existence. Then when we see John 1:1-3 the idea gets further reinforcement.


Bara, created, occurs most frequently in the book of Isaiah where God is contrasting himself with the false gods and idols. Isa. 40:26; 42:5; 43:1,7,15. Bara as a new thing in delivering his people see 43:15-19; 48:6-8. Mathews says, p.129, “God then begins history at creation but continues to create history through his sovereign lordship among the nations. Since God is Creator of all that exists, he is antecedent to it, distinct from it, while yet intimately involved with it. According to ancient near-eastern lore, gods abounded in heaven, and deities were the forces of land and sea. The ancient myths did not adequately distinguish between the creator and the creature, but Israel declares that the universe is no more than a creature. In Israel’s view there was no divine heaven or earth. It was this view that freed the heavens and the earth from superstition and provided an ideological basis for the emergence of modern science.”


  1. B.     1:26-2:3 Creation of Man
    1. 1.      v.26 “Let us make man”- God referring to himself in the plural: us…our…our. QQ: What do you make of that? Does it teach the Trinity?
    2. 2.      “make man in our image.” QQ: In what ways are we in the image of God? How does the world view the special creation of man? What are the effects of evolutionary thought? Given the world’s view of man, what ethical issues come about that would conflict with the biblical worldview?
    3. 3.      “And let them have dominion…” QQ: What is dominion? How is this denied by our world today? Radical environmentalism and animal rights movement and unrestrained pollution and poor use of the natural resources.
    4. 4.      “and behold it was very good” QQ:
    5. 5.      “So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work…” QQ: What is the significance of the Sabbath? Should Christians observe the Sabbath on the first day of the week and why? How does our culture treat the Sabbath principle?
    6. 6.      Vs. 15 “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” QQ: What is the biblical view of work? What extremes does our society go to  in regards to work?
    7. 7.      Vs.19 “God formed every beast…and brought them to the man to see what he would call them” QQ: Is this the beginning of science? Should Christians be involved in science?
    8. 8.      Vs. 21-25 QQ: What are the differences between biblical manhood, womanhood, sex and marriage and the world’s views?


  1. II.                Gen.3-9 Sin and its Consequences
    1. A.     The Fall, Gen.3
      1. 1.      vs.1 “the serpent” QQ: Where did evil come from? How can Christianity answer the problem of evil? How does the world answer the problem of evil?
      2. 2.      vs. 6 “she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her and he ate.”  QQ: how do perfect people sin? What is the value of the doctrine of original sin today?
    2. B.     The Spread of Sin Gen 4-6
      1. 1.      4:1-10 QQ: what is the cause of the problem between Cain and Abel?
      2. 2.      How did Lamech multiply sin in ch.4?
      3. 3.      Ch.5 What is the consequence for sin that is repeated over and over in this chapter? How does our society deal with death and how is it different from the biblical view?
      4. 4.      What is God’s evaluation of man in Gen. 6:5-6? Is this just? Why does the world complain of this?


  1. III.              God’s Grace To Sinners
    1. A.     Grace in the Garden
      1. 1.      Gen. 3:15 QQ: What is the significance of this text?
      2. 2.      Gen. 3:21 QQ: Did God execute them immediately? What is the symbolism of covering them with animal skins?
      3. 3.      Gen. 3:22ff QQ: Why did God ban them from the Tree of Life and remove them from the Garden? Where does the Tree of Life appear again? Rev.22:2
    2. B.     Grace Between the Garden and the Flood
      1. 1.      Gen. 4:3-5 Is the worship of Abel and Cain a sign of God’s grace?
      2. 2.      Gen. 4:15 Is God’s sparing of Cain a sign of Grace?
      3. 3.      Gen.4:23 The godly line continues through Seth.
      4. 4.      Gen.5:22 What is the sign of grace in this verse?
      5. 5.      Gen. 6:8 How is Noah a sign of God’s grace?
      6. 6.      Gen. 6:22 What is Noah’s response to God’s grace?
      7. 7.      Gen.7:17 How does this verse explain God’s grace?
      8. 8.      Gen. 8:1 What does this verse say about the character of God?
      9. 9.      What are the major theological differences between the biblical accounts of creation and the Flood and the pagan Mesopotamian creation accounts?

10.  In Gen. 9 what is the sign of the covenant with Noah?


  1. IV.              God’s Grace After the Flood
    1. A.     From Noah to Terah
      1. 1.      In Gen. 9:20ff what is the major theological point that Moses is making with the story of Noah’s drunkenness and ham’s indiscretion?
      2. 2.      In Gen.10:6-20 is the genealogy of Ham. What is the significance of listing names like Egypt, Canaan, Babel, Assyria, Nineveh, the Philistines, Amorites, Jebusites?
      3. 3.      In Gen. 11:1-9 is the Tower of Babel story. What is the theological significance of their efforts? In what New Testament story do we see a reversal of this episode?
      4. 4.      In Gen. 11:27ff whom do we meet and where are they from? What is the significance of their geography, coming from Ur and heading towards Canaan?
    2. B.     Abraham
      1. 1.      In Gen. 11:27-12:4 what disadvantages do Abram face in light of God’s covenant?
      2. 2.      How does the covenant in 12:1-3 relate to the promise God made in Gen. 3:15?
      3. 3.      What are the two key elements of the promise to Abram? Land and descendants.
      4. 4.      In Gen. 12:10-20 what is the key threat to the promise of God? What does this story teach us about the Christian life?




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5 Responses to ““A Summary/Review of Genesis 1-12″”

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Gen 1:26 cannot refer to the trinity because the writer of Genesis (an early Israelite Jew) wasn’t a trinitarian.

David, I would say that Gen. 1:26 does not, by itself, TEACH the concept of the Trinity. You are correct in that Moses was not a trinitarian. However, in interpreting the Old through the New, we can see that God is in fact always existing as a Triune God and that these passages in Genesis, though not TEACHING the Trinity support the New Testament doctrine of the Trinity.

But how would an Israelite living in ancient Israel know that there God is triune by reading Genesis or any other writings from the OT? What I’m getting at is you have to read the trinity into the OT in order to see it there. Therefore, an Israelite reading Genesis would never see the trinity in these OT texts. Don’t one of the hermanutical rules state that a text has to make sense to the primary audience as well as any secondary audience? The primary audience that the writer of Genesis had in mind were his fellow Jews – not a group of people called christians thousands of years in the future. That’s why Gen 1:26 cannot be used to support the trinity. If the primary audience never saw that, then any secondary audience is just reading into the text something that’s not really there.

It is a standard, historical, orthodox hermeneutical principle to interpret the OT through the NT. “The New in the Old contained, the Old in the New explained” Granted, the beginning place of interpreting the OT is “what did it mean to the people it was originally written for”. But, the NT completes and fulfills the OT. We must interpret the OT through the lens of Christ, his person and work. This is substantially different from “reading something into the text.”
For example, to whom is the prophecy in Gen. 3:15 referring? It is referring to Jesus. But, according to you, if I understand you 9not trying to put words in your mouth here) since Moses and Israel at their time did not know of Jesus, it cannot refer to Jesus.
This would pretty much X out all prophecies, all types, and generally make the OT useless for doctrinal teaching.
Again, I am not saying that Gen.1:26 TEACHES the Trinity, but rather, supports the doctrine of the Trinity when interpreted through the NT doctrine of the Trinity. Similarly the distinction between “God” in 1:1 and the “Spirit of God” in 1:2.
Even the very name used for God in Genesis 1 is Elohim, the plural form for El, God, when seen in light of NT teaching helps to undergird the doctrine of the Trinity.
By the way, thank you for a serious legitimate question! You have encouraged me.


You said: Granted, the beginning place of interpreting the OT is “what did it mean to the people it was originally written for”.

Exactly! So what would Gen 1:26 say to an ancient Israelite? But it’s okay, we don’t need to continue this . Thank you for engaging me in a great conversation!

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