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Genesis (Hebrew: בראשית, Greek: Γένεσις, having the meanings of "birth", "creation", "cause", "beginning", "source" and "origin") is the first book of the Torah, the first book of the Tanakh and also the first book of the Christian Old Testament. As Jewish tradition considers it to have been written by Moses, it is sometimes also called The First Book of Moses.

In Hebrew, it is called בראשית (B'reshit or Bərêšîth),<ref>Hebrew word #7225 in Strong's</ref> after the first word of the text in Hebrew (meaning "in the beginning"). This is in line with the pattern of naming the other four books of the Pentateuch.


[edit] Introduction

Genesis begins by describing God's creation of this beautiful world, Adam and Eve and their banishment from the Garden of Eden, the story of Cain and Abel, and the story of Noah and the great flood.

Chapter twelve begins with the call of Abram (later Abraham) and his then barren wife Sarai (later Sarah) from Ur (probably in Babylonia) to Canaan (Palestine). It contains the record of Abraham's acceptance by God, and of God's promise to him that through his seed all people on earth would be blessed (22:3). The book records the doings of his son Isaac, and grandsons, Esau and Jacob (known as Israel), as well as their families. It ends with Jacob's descendants, the Israelites, in Egypt, in favour with the Pharaoh.

Genesis contains the historical presupposition and basis of the national religious ideas and institutions of Israel, and serves as an introduction to its history, laws, and customs. It is the composition of a writer (or set of writers, see documentary hypothesis), who has recounted the traditions of the Israelites, combining them into a uniform work, while preserving the textual and formal peculiarities incident to their difference in origin and mode of transmission.

[edit] Summary

[edit] The Creation

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters."<ref>This is the reading found in most Christian translations; however, the Hebrew is less clear-cut, and while modern Jewish translations of these verses into English follow the Christian convention, others have tranlated them as: "In the beginning of God's creation of heaven and earth, the earth was without form and empty..." or even: "In the beginning of God's creation....when the earth was without form and empty....God said, 'Let there be light." [1].</ref>

On the first day God creates the universe, then light and dark, day and night; on the second the "firmament" separating "the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament;" on the third, the waters under the firmament are gathered into one place, and "God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas," and on the same day God creates "plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, upon the earth." On the fourth day God creates the sun, moon and stars, and sets them in the firmament; on the fifth day, fish and birds; and on the sixth, "the beasts of the earth according to their kinds."

"Then God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." God commands his human creation to "be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth."<ref>Genesis 1. The Revised Standard Version has been used throughout. God's creation at this stage, and indeed until the time of Noah), is vegetarian: "I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food." Each day of the creation story ends with the words, "And God saw that it was good." There are two exceptions to this: at Genesis 1:31, the end of the sixth day, God reviews his entire creation, and, the text says, "it was very good." The other exception is at Genesis 1:23, the first creation of living things (fish and birds), which concludes without any "He saw it was good" formula.</ref>

On the Sabbath (or seventh) day God rests from the task of creation: "So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all his work which he had done in creation."<ref>Genesis 2.</ref>

[edit] Adam and Eve

God<ref>The word used for "God" throughout Genesis 1 and up to this point in Genesis 2 (Gen.2:4) is Elohim; for the remainder of Gen.2 and 3 the Hebrew is "Adonoi Elohim", usually translated as "LORD God".</ref> forms a man<ref>For most of Genesis 2 the Hebrew equates to "a man", "the man"; it is not until Genesis 3, at approximately the point where he names "the woman" Eve, that "Adam" is used as a proper name.</ref> "of dust from the ground,"<ref>Hebrew Adamah, earth, and Adam, man. Both are related to adom, red, and dam blood.</ref> and breathes into the man's nostrils, "and man became a living being." God sets the man in the Garden of Eden, to watch over it, and permits him to eat of all the fruit within it, except that of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, "for in the day that you eat of it you shall die."<ref>The flow of the narrative is broken between verses 9 and 14 by a description of the geography of Eden and the surrounding area: a river flows out of it and divides into four, and these four water the lands round about.</ref>

God decides that "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him." God therefore creates "every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name...but for the man there was not found a helper fit for him." And so God causes the man to sleep, and creates a woman from one of the man's ribs, and the man awakes and names his companion Woman, "because she was taken out of Man."<ref>Ishah, woman, and ish, man</ref> "Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh." Genesis 2 concludes with the famous description of the first man and woman in their state of primal innocence: "And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed."

[edit] The Fall

The serpent tells the woman that she will not die if she eats the fruit of the tree: "When you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."<ref>Genesis 3</ref> So the woman eats, and gives to the man who also eats. "Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons." The man and woman hide themselves from God, the man blaming the woman for giving him the fruit, and the woman blaming the serpent. God curses the serpent, "upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life;" the woman he punishes with pain in childbirth, and with subordination to man: "your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you;" and Adam<ref>This (Gen.3:17) is the point at which Adam is first used as a proper name.</ref> he punishes with a life of toil: "In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground." The man names his wife Eve,<ref>Hebrew Havva, "life".</ref> "because she was the mother of all living."

"Behold," says God, "the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil." God expels the couple from Eden, "lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever;" the gate of Eden is sealed by cherubim and a flaming sword "to guard the way to the tree of life."

[edit] Cain and Abel

Adam and Eve have two sons, Cain and Abel, the first a tiller of the ground, the second a keeper of sheep.<ref>Genesis 4</ref> Both bring offerings to God, but God accepts only Abel's, "the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions." Cain murders his brother, and, asked by God what has become of Abel, replies, "Am I my brother's keeper?" God then curses Cain: "When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength; you shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth." Cain fears that whoever meets him will kill him, but God places a mark on Cain, with the promise that "if any slays Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold." Cain settles in the land of Nod,<ref>Literally, "in the land of Wandering".</ref> "away from the presence of the Lord," where he "knew his wife."

Note: the stories of Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel also appear in the Qur'an (see Similarities between the Bible and the Qur'an).

[edit] Descendants of Cain and the Generations of Adam

Genesis 4:16-24 lists and briefly describes Cain's descendants: Enoch, Irad, Mehujael, Methushael, and Lamech. Lamech is also described as saying: "I have slain a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me. If Cain is avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy-sevenfold." The remaining verses of Genesis 4 (Genesis 4:25-25)describe the birth of Seth to Adam and Eve. Genesis 5,<ref>Genesis 5</ref> beginning with the words: "This is the book of the generations of Adam," briefly recapitulates the Creation of man, and enumerates Adam's descendants through the line of Seth: Enosh, Kennan, Mahalalel, Jared, Enoch, (of whom it is said that he "walked with God...for God took him"),<ref>The meaning of this phrase at Genesis 5:24 was the subject of much discussion in later Jewish tradition, being taken by many medieval commentators to mean that Enoch did not die.</ref> Methuselah, Lamech and Noah. All the ante-diluvian Patriarchs are notable for their extreme longevity, with Methuselah living 969 years. The list ends with the birth of Noah's sons, from whom all humanity would be descended (see Noah and the Great Flood, below).

From Adam to Noah Adam- Seth- Enosh- Kenan- Mahalalel- Jared- Enoch- Methuselah- Lamech- Noah


[edit] The Nephilim and Gibborrim

The "sons of God" bear children by the daughters of men; God limits the human lifespan to 120 years (the biblical "four score years and ten"); "The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men that were of old, the men of renown."

[edit] Noah and the Great Flood

Angered by the violence of mankind, God determines to destroy His creation. He selects Noah,<ref>Hebrew "Rest": Noah's father Lamech gives this name to his son saying, "Out of the ground which the LORD has cursed this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the toil of our hands." (Gen.5:29)</ref> "a righteous man, blameless in his generation," and commands him to build an Ark, and to take on it his family and representatives of the animals.<ref>Genesis 5</ref> God destroys the world with a cataclysmic Flood,<ref>Genesis 7</ref> and enters into a covenant with Noah and his descendants, the entire human race, promising never again to destroy mankind in this way.<ref>Genesis 8 The details of the covenant are: God forbids the eating of flesh with blood, "that is, its life," still in it (the origin of the Jewish pratice of ritual slaughter), and forbids murder (and institutes the death penalty for muderers); in return, God promises never again to visit a deluge upon all the world, and places the first rainbow in the clouds as a sign of the covenant.</ref>

Noah plants a vineyard, drinks wine, and falls into a drunken sleep. Ham, son of Noah, sees his father naked and informs his brothers Shem and Japheth; Shem and Japheth then cover their father. When Noah awakes he places a curse on Ham's son Canaan, saying that he and all his descendents shall henceforce be slaves to Shem and Japheth and their descendents.<ref>Genesis 9</ref>

Note: the story of Noah also appears in the Qur'an (see Similarities between the Bible and the Qur'an).

[edit] The Table of Nations

The Table of Nations reviews "the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth", a total of seventy names, "and from these the nations spread abroad on the earth after the flood."<ref>Genesis 10</ref>

[edit] The Tower of Babel

The peoples of the earth decide to build "a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens" in the land of Shinar, "lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth."<ref>Genesis 11</ref> God fears the ambition of mankind: "This is only the beginning of what they will do; and nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us<ref>The use of the pronoun "us" has been the cause of much debate: modern biblical scholars generally agree that it is a remnant of an original polythestic myth on which the Babel story is based, while the more traditional reading is that God is speaking to the angels, or using a royal plural.</ref> go down, and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another's speech." And so mankind was scattered over the face of the earth, and the city "was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth."<ref>The text creates a false etymological connection between Hebrew "Balal," confusion, and the city of Babylon, Akkadian "Bab-ilu", "Gate of (the) God", known in Hebrew as Babel.</ref>

[edit] Abraham

Genesis 11 reviews the descendants of Shem to the generation of Terah, who leaves Ur of the Chaldees with his son Abram,<ref>Hebrew ab, "father", plus ram, "exaulted": usually translated as "The (divine) father is exaulted".</ref> Abram's wife Sarai, and his grandson Lot, the son of Abram's brother Haran, towards the land of Canaan. They settle in the city of Haran, where Terah dies and after which Abraham became the head of the clan..<ref>Genesis 11.</ref> God commands 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 curses you I will curse; and by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves." So Abram and his people and flocks journey to the land of Canaan, where God appears to Abram and says, "To your descendants I will give this land.<ref>Genesis 12.</ref>

Abram is forced by famine to go into Egypt, where Pharoah takes possession of his wife, the beautiful Sarai, whom Abram has misrepresented as his sister. God strikes the king and his house with plagues, so that he returns Sarai and expels Abram and all his people from Egypt.<ref>Genesis 12.</ref>

Abram returns to Canaan, and separates from Lot in order to put an end to disputes about pasturage. He gives Lot the valley of the Jordan, as far as Sodom, whose people "were wicked, great sinners against the LORD." To Abram God says, "Lift up your eyes, and look ... for all the land which you see I will give to you and to your descendants for ever. I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your descendants also can be counted. Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you."<ref>Genesis 13.</ref>

Lot is taken prisoner during a war between the King of Shinar<ref>An inexact location, but roughly equivalent to the lands of the Tigris and Euphrates.</ref> and the King of Sodom and their allies, "four kings against five." Abram rescues Lot and is blessed by Melchizedek, king of Salem (the future Jerusalem) and "priest of God Most High". Abram refuses the King of Sodom's offer of the spoils of victory, saying: "I have sworn to the Lord God Most High, maker of heaven and earth, that I would not take a thread or a sandal-thong or anything that is yours, lest you should say, `I have made Abram rich.'"<ref>Genesis 14.</ref>

God appears again to Abram, and a new covenant is made, God promising that Abram's descendants shall be as numerous as the stars in the heavens, that they shall suffer oppression in a foreign land for four hundred years, but that they shall inherit the land "from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates."<ref>Genesis 15. The "river of Egypt", traditionally identified not with the Nile but with Wadi el Arish in the Sinai, and the Euphrates, represent the supposed bounds of Israel at its height under Solomon.</ref>

Sarai, being childless, tells Abram to take his Egyptian handmaiden, Hagar, as wife. Hagar falls pregnant with Ishmael,<ref>Hebrew Yishmael, "God will hear".</ref> and God appears to her to promise that the child will be "a wild ass of a man, his hand against every man and every man's hand against him," whose descendants "cannot be numbered."<ref>Genesis 16.</ref>

God again appears to Abram: he repeats the promise of a numerous progeny and the possession of the land of Canaan, and Abram's name is changed to "Abraham"<ref>The name Abraham has no meaning in Hebrew. It is traditionally supposed to signify Abhamon, "Father of Multitudes".</ref> and that of Sarai to "Sarah"; and circumcision of all males is instituted as an eternal sign of the covenant. Abraham asks of God that Ishmael "might live in Thy sight," but God replies that Sarah will bear a son, who will be named Isaac,<ref>Hebrew Yitzhak, "he laughed," sometimes rendered as "he rejoiced" - three explanations of the name are given, the first in this chapter where Abraham laughs when told that Sarah will bear a son.</ref> and that it is with Isaac and his descendants that the covenant will be established. "As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I will bless him and make him fruitful and multiply him exceedingly; he shall be the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. But I will establish my covenant with Isaac."<ref>Genesis 17.</ref>

God appears again to Abraham. Three strangers<ref>Often translated as "angels", but the Hebrew refers to men.</ref> appear, and Abraham receives hospitably. God tells him that Sarah will shortly bear a son, and Sarah, overhearing, laughs: "After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?"<ref>The second explanation of the name Isaac - in the first, at chapter 17, it is Abraham who laughs.</ref> Questioned, Sarah denies her laughter. God tells Abraham that he will punish Sodom, "because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave." The strangers then depart, but Abraham protests that it is not just "to slay the righteous with the wicked," and asks if the whole city can be spared if even ten righteous men are found there. God replies: "For the sake of ten I will not destroy it."<ref>Genesis 18. Abraham's intercession on behalf of the people of Sodom is the foundation of the important Jewish tradition of righteousness.</ref>

The two<ref>Genesis 18 describes three messengers, Genesis 19 two. The traditional gloss is that God was one of the three who came to Abraham, and stayed with him while the other two went on to Sodom.</ref> messengers are hospitably received by Lot. The men of Sodom surround the house and demand to have sexual relations with the strangers; Lot offers up his two virginal daughters in place of the messengers, but the men refuse. Lot and his family are led out of Sodom, and Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed by fire-and-brimstone; but Lot's wife, looking back, is turned to a pillar of salt. Lot's daughters, fearing that they will not find husbands and that their line (Lot's line) will die out, make their father drunk and lie with him; their children become the ancestors of the Moabites and Ammonites.<ref>Genesis 19.</ref>

Note: the story of Lot and Sodom and Gomorrah also appears in the Qur'an (see Similarities between the Bible and the Qur'an).

Abimelech,<ref>Literally, "father-king", apparently a title.</ref> the king of Gerar, takes Sarah for himself, having been told by Abraham that she is his sister. God visits a curse of barrenness upon Abimelech and his household,<ref>Possibly Abimelech is also cursed with a disease: see Genesis 20:17, "God healed Abimelech, and also healed his wife and female slaves so that they bore children."</ref> and warns the king that Sarah is Abraham's wife, not his sister. Abimelech restores Sarah to Abraham, loads them both with gifts, and sends them away.<ref>Genesis 20.</ref>

[edit] Isaac

Sarah gives birth to Isaac, saying, "God has made laughter for me, everyone who hears will laugh over me." At Sarah's insistence Ishmael and his mother Hagar are driven out into the wilderness. Near to death, an angel speaks to Hagar and promises that God will not forget them, but will make of Ishmael a great nation; "Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the skin with water, ... And God was with the lad, and he grew up..." Abraham enters into a covenant with Abimelech, who confirms his right to the well of Beer-sheba.<ref>Genesis 21.</ref>

The story of Isaac also appears in the Qur'an (see Similarities between the Bible and the Qur'an).

God puts Abraham to the test by demanding the sacrifice of Isaac. Abraham obeys; but, as he is about to lay the knife upon his son, God restrains him, promising him numberless descendants.<ref>Genesis 22.</ref> On the death of Sarah, Abraham purchases Machpelah for a family tomb<ref>Genesis 23.</ref> and sends his servant to Mesopotamia, Nahor's home, to find among his relations a wife for Isaac; and Rebekah, Nahor's granddaughter, is chosen.<ref>Genesis 24.</ref> Other children are born to Abraham by another wife, Keturah, among whose descendants are the Midianites; and he dies in a prosperous old age and is buried in his tomb at Hebron. <ref>Genesis 25.</ref>

Note: the story of the sacrifice also appears in the Qur'an (see Similarities between the Bible and the Qur'an).

[edit] Jacob

Rebekah is barren, but Isaac prays to God and she gives birth to the twins Esau,<ref>Hebrew Esav, "made" or "completed".</ref> and Jacob.<ref>Hebrew Yaakov, "He will follow," from a root meaning "heel" - he was born second, holding Esau's heel.</ref> While the twins were still in the womb God predicted that the two would be forever divided, and that the elder would serve the younger; and so it comes about that Esau the hunter sells his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of red porridge, and "therefore his name was called Edom."<ref>Edom, literally "red". Genesis 25.</ref>

Isaac represents Rebekah as his sister before Abimalech, king of Gerar. Abimalech learns of the deception and is angered. Isaac is fortunate in all his undertakings in that country, especially in digging wells; his prosperity excites the jealousy of Abimalech, who sends him away; but the king sees that Isaac is blessed by God and makes a covenant with him at the well of Beer-sheba.<ref>Genesis 26.</ref>

Jacob deceives his father Isaac and obtains the blessing of prosperity<ref>"May God give you of the dew of heaven, and of the fatness of the earth, and plenty of grain and wine. 29: Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may your mother's sons bow down to you. Cursed be every one who curses you, and blessed be every one who blesses you!" (Genesis 27:28-29)</ref> which should have been Esau's; fearing Esau's anger he flees to Haran, the home of his mother's brother.<ref>Genesis 27.</ref> Isaac, fearing that Jacob will marry a woman who is not of his own people, sends him to Haran to seek a wife from the family of his wife's brother. Jacob falls asleep on a stone and dreams of a ladder stretching from Heaven to Earth and thronged with angels, and God promises him prosperity and many descendants; and when he awakes Jacob sets the stone as a pillar<ref>Traditionally the place where this pillar is erected is identified as the site of the Holy of Holies within the Jewish Temple at Jerusalem.</ref> and names the place Bethel.<ref>Genesis 28. The name Bethel in Hebrew and related West Semitic languages means "House of El;" in later Jewish tradition the name was taken to mean "House of God."</ref>

Jacob hires himself to Laban on condition that, after having served for seven years as a herdsman, he shall marry the younger daughter, Rachel, with whom he is in love. At the end of this period Laban gives him the elder daughter, Leah, explaining that it is the custom to marry the elder before the younger; Jacob serves another seven years for Rachel, and has sons by his two wives and their two handmaidens, the ancestors of the tribes of Israel. Jacob then works another six years, deceiving Laban to increase his flocks at his uncle's expense, and gains great wealth in sheep, goats, camels, donkeys and slave-girls.

Jacob flees with his family and flocks from Laban because of his "shady business deals"; Laban pursues and catches him, but God warns Laban not to harm Jacob, and they are recociled.<ref>Genesis 31.</ref> On approaching his home he is in fear of Esau, to whom he sends presents under the care of his servants, and then sends his wives and children away. "And Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day."<ref>Literally, "a stranger," traditionally interpreted as an angel or as God.</ref> Neither Jacob nor the stranger can prevail, but the man touches Jacob's thigh and puts it out of joint, and pleads to be released before daybreak, but Jacob refuses to release the being until he agrees to give a blessing; the stranger then announces to Jacob that he shall bear the name "Israel", "for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed." <ref>Hebrew Yisrael, "He will struggle with God"; but the second part of the quoted verse can be translated as: "for you have become great (sar) before God and men," implying that "Israel" means "He will be great (sar) before God."</ref> and is freed. "The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his thigh."<ref>Genesis 32.</ref>

The meeting with Esau proves friendly, and the brothers are reconciled: "to see your face is like seeing the face of God", is Jacob's greeting. The brothers part, and Jacob settles near the city of Shechem.<ref>Genesis 33.</ref> Jacob's daughter Dinah goes out, and "Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land, saw her, he seized her and lay with her and humbled her".<ref>This passage is traditionally taken to mean that Shechem raped rather than seduced Dinah, but the text is not conclusive.</ref> Shechem asks Jacob for Dinah's hand in marriage, but the sons of Jacob deceive the men of Shechem and slaughter them and take captive their wives and children and loot the city. Jacob is angered that his sons have brought upon him the enmity of the Canaanites, but his sons say, "Should he treat our sister as a harlot?"<ref>Genesis 34.</ref>

Jacob goes up to Bethel; there "God said to him, Your name is Jacob; no longer shall your name be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name. So his name was called Israel"; and Jacob sets up a stone pillar at the place, and names it Bethel. He goes up to his father Isaac at Hebron, and there Isaac dies, "and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him."<ref>Genesis 35.</ref>

Genesis 37 is the Generations of Esau, describing the tribes and rulers of Edom, the nation of Esau.<ref>Genesis 37.</ref>

Jacob's son Judah takes a Canaanite wife and has two sons, Er and Onan; Er dies, and his widow Tamar, disguised as a prositute, tricks Judah into having a child by her (Er's brother Onan, who should have fathered the child, refused).

[edit] Joseph

Jacob makes a coat of many colours<ref>Hebrew Kethoneth passim This is traditionally translated as "coat of many colours", but can also mean long sleeves, or embroidered. Whatever translation is chosen, it means a royal garment.</ref> for his favourite son, Joseph. Joseph's jealous brothers sell him to some Ishmaelites and show Jacob the coat, dipped in goat's blood, as proof that Joseph is dead. Meanwhile the Midianites<ref>The merchants are described first as Ishmaelites and later as Midianites. There have been many attempts to reconcile the discrepancy.</ref> sell Joseph to Potiphar,the captain of Pharoah's guard,<ref>Genesis 37.</ref> butPotiphar's wife, unable to seduce Joseph, accuses him falsely and he is cast into prison.<ref>Genesis 39.</ref> Here he correctly interprets the dreams of two of his fellow prisoners, the king's butler and baker.<ref>Genesis 40.</ref> Joseph next interprets the dream of Pharoah, of seven fat cattle and seven lean cattle, as meaning seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine, and advises Pharoah to store grain during the good years. He is appointed second in the kingdom, and, in the ensuing famine, "all the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain, because the famine was severe over all the earth."<ref>Genesis 41.</ref>

Jacob sends his sons to Egypt to buy grain. The brothers appear before Joseph, who recognizes them, but does not reveal himself. After having proved them on this and on a second journey, and they having shown themselves so fearful and penitent that Judah even offers himself as a slave, Joseph reveals his identity, forgives his brothers the wrong they did him, and promises to settle in Egypt both them and his father<ref>Genesis 42-45</ref> Jacob brings his whole family to Egypt, where Pharaoh assigns to them the land of Goshen.<ref>Genesis 46-47</ref> Jacob receives Joseph's sons Ephraim and Manasseh among his own sons,<ref>Genesis 48</ref> then calls his sons to his bedside and reveals their future to them.<ref>Genesis 49</ref> Jacob dies and is interred in the family tomb at Machpelah (Hebron). Joseph lives to see his great-grandchildren, and on his death-bed he exhorts his brethren, if God should remember them and lead them out of the country, to take his bones with them. The book ends with Joseph's remains being "put in a coffin in Egypt."<ref>Genesis 50. The Book of Joshua describes the later burial of Joseph's bones in Shechem following the Exodus from Egypt.</ref>

[edit] Authorship and date

Image:Genesis on egg cropped.jpg
Bereshit aleph, or the first chapter of Genesis, written on an egg, in the Israel Museum.

The text of Genesis makes no claim about authorship; the traditional Jewish, and later Christian, belief was that the book was dictated in its entirety by God to Moses on Mount Sinai. For a number of reasons, this view is no longer accepted by biblical scholars, who instead accept the proposal known as the documentary hypothesis which postulates a redactor, possibly Ezra (5th century BC), compiling from earlier sources. Scholarly debate instead addresses the question whether these earlier sources included a post-exilic production (i.e., post-dating 583 BC), or a product of the Kingdom of Judah under Josiah (7th century BC), or whether some elements might even date back to the United Monarchy (10th century BC) (see dating the Bible).

The existence of the full text of Genesis is ascertained for the 3rd century BC when it was translated into Greek (the Septuagint). The oldest known manuscripts of the Masoretic text of Genesis are the Aleppo Codex (dated to ca. 920) and the Westminster Leningrad Codex (dated to 1008). There are also fragments of the (unvocalized) Genesis text preserved in some Dead Sea scrolls (1st century BC or AD).

[edit] Christian views

There are numerous references to Genesis in the New Testament. These references assume an authoritative nature for Genesis. While none of these references explicitly state an author for Genesis there are several places which attribute the books of the law (Torah) to Moses (Mark 12:19, 26; Luke 24:27).

The author of the gospel of John uses language similar to that in Genesis 1 when personifying the speech of God as the eternal Logos (Greek: λογος "reason", "word", "speech"), that is the origin of all things "with God", and "was God", and "became flesh and tabernacled among us". Many Christians interpret this as an example of apostolic teaching of the doctrine of the Trinity and the deity of Christ; it is primarily on the strength of John's testimony that Christians ascribe personality to the creative speech of God, and identify that personality with Jesus (Hebrews 1:2,3, Colossians 1:16,17 are among other Biblical sources for the belief).

[edit] Islamic views

Many of the stories from Genesis are retold in the Qur'an, with frequent variations. The general tendency of the Qur'an is to emphasise the moral stature of the Prophets; stories such as the drunkeness of Lot therefore find no place in it. While Islam accepts the Torah in principle, the view of Islamic scholarship is that the revelation given to earlier times had become corrupted, and that the only valid text is that revealed by Allah to His Prophet Mohammed.

[edit] Main themes

  • God created the world. God has called all objects and living beings into existence by his word.
  • The universe when created was, in the judgment of God, good. Genesis expresses an optimistic satisfaction and pleasure in the world.
  • God as a personal being, referred to in anthropomorphic and anthropopathic terms. God may appear and speak to mankind.
  • Genesis gives no philosophically rigorous definition of God; its description is a practical and historical one. God is treated exclusively with reference to his dealings with the world and with man.
  • Humankind is the crown of Creation, and has been made in God's image.
  • All people are descended from Adam and Eve; this expresses the unity of the whole human race.
  • The Earth possesses for man a certain moral grandeur; man must include God's creatures in the respect that it demands in general, by not exploiting them for his own selfish uses.
  • God is presented as being the sole creator of nature, and as existing outside of it and beyond it.
  • Some historians believe Genesis to be a more recent example of monotheistic belief than Zoroastrianism, interpreting the commandment "have no other gods before me" as an artifact of early henotheism among the Jews -- i.e., as evidence that the Hebrews were not to worship the gods of other peoples, but only their own tribal god. On the other hand, Genesis, in its present form, purports to give a record of beliefs prior to any surviving religious texts, describing the worship of other gods and local deities as a gradual development among the nations, who departed from original monotheism.
  • God created an eternal, unbreakable covenant with all mankind at the time of Noah; this is known as the Noachide covenant. This universal concern with all mankind is paralleled by a second covenant made to the descendants of Abraham in particular, through his son Isaac, in which their descendants will be chosen to have a special destiny.
  • The Jewish people are chosen to be in a special covenant with God; God says to Abraham "I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless them that bless you, and curse him that curses you; and in you shall all families of the earth be blessed". God often repeats the promise that Abraham's descendants shall be as numerous as the stars in heaven and as the sand on the seashore.

The article on Biblical cosmology discusses the Bible's view of the cosmos, much of which derives from descriptions in Genesis.

[edit] Biblical literalism

[edit] Literal versus allegorical interpretations

Genesis begins with a creation narrative, or narratives. Because a literal reading of Genesis can be seen to conflict with widely accepted scientific theories such as the Big Bang and common descent, many believers view the creation narratives presented in Genesis as an allegory; however the non-literal view of creation did not begin with Charles Darwin, but rather predated him by hundreds of years<ref name="augustine">Template:Cite journal</ref>.

Those who believe that the first eleven chapters are literal argue that the style of writing shares a literary style with other biblical writing often considered to be historical in nature and the text nowhere indicates that it is meant as anything other than a literal account <ref name="origins">Template:Cite journal</ref>. Such analyses, along with a strong tradition of Biblical inerrancy, has led a significant number of religious individuals and organisations to reject man's theoretical accounts of the origin of life and the universe in favour of Young-Earth creationism or YEC. Those holding to the view of YEC, use the Genesis account of creation to provide alternative explanations to those of modern science on subjects including the origin of the universe, life and humankind.

There are also growing number of Christians and Jews who argue that the beginning ‎of ‎Genesis is not an account of the physical creation of the world; but, in keeping with ‎how they think ‎ancient Hebrews would have viewed this text, believe it is an account of God's ‎‎dissemination of order on a physical plane that was there before the narrative begins. ‎‎Some even decry any attempt as inaccurate that interprets the text as anything other than a bestowment of ‎‎order on the physical universe. Saint Augustine took this view in The Literal Meaning of Genesis, but strongly rejected the suggestion that it represented an allegory; he took, instead, the position that in the Bible, "light" is continually used to mean order, enlightenment, or a higher plane of existence, and that similarly, "day" means an indeterminate interval of time defined by some central paradigm, as in the expression "dawn of a new day". From this point of view, he could reject as irrelevant the question of what was meant by the first three "days of Creation", when the sun and moon were not created until the fourth day, in favor of a "literal" interpretation that the universe was created all at once and then progressed from chaos through a "day when light was created", with light meaning understanding, order, etc. rather than electromagnetic radiation, followed by "a day when heaven was created", etc.[2]

[edit] Use of the literal reading to date creation

Based on the genealogies in Genesis and later parts of the Bible, both religious Jews and Christians have independently worked backwards to estimate the time of the Creation of the world. This approach suggests Creation was around the beginning of the 4th millennium BC. This dating is based on an entirely literal reading of the creation account: that the six days in which God created the heavens and the earth were 24-hour days, that Adam, Eve, and the Garden of Eden existed, and that a complete trace of events from Creation to a historically verifiable date is listed in the Biblical account. The most famous, and most often quoted is the Anglican Bishop James Ussher's calculation stating that the earth was created on the evening preceding October 23rd at dusk in the year 4004 BC at 9:00 AM.

Many scholars have questioned the accuracy of the historical account, and the use of such a retracing of the events presented in Genesis to date human history on earth has been rejected by the great majority of historians and archaeologists. Furthermore, independent scientific evidence from fields as diverse as cosmology, geology and biology is entirely incompatible with the timeline described in Genesis (e.g. the age of the Earth is estimated as more than 4 billion years). This subject is further discussed in The Bible and history and Young Earth creationism.

[edit] See also

[edit] References


[edit] Further reading

  • Umberto Cassuto, From Adam to Noah. Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1978. ISBN 965223480X (A scholarly Jewish commentary.)
  • Umberto Cassuto, From Noah to Abraham. Eisenbrauns, 1984. ISBN 9652235407 (A scholarly Jewish commentary.)
  • Isaac M. Kikawada & Arthur Quinn, Before Abraham was – The Unity of Genesis 1-11. Nashville, Tenn., 1985. (A challenge to the Documentary Hypothesis.)
  • Nehama Leibowitz, New Studies in Bereshit, Genesis. Jerusalem: Hemed Press, 1995. (A scholarly Jewish commentary employing traditional sources.)
  • Henry M. Morris, The Genesis Record: A Scientific and Devotional Commentary on the Book of Beginnings. Baker Books, 1981. ISBN 0801060044 (A creationist Christian commentary.)
  • Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI), In the Beginning. Edinburgh, 1995. (A Catholic understanding of the story of Creation and Fall.)
  • Jean-Marc Rouvière, Brèves méditations sur la création du monde. L'Harmattan Paris, 2006.
  • Nahum M. Sarna, Understanding Genesis. New York: Schocken Press, 1966. (A scholarly Jewish treatment, strong on historical perspective.)
  • Nahum M. Sarna, The JPS Torah Commentary: Genesis. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1989. (A maintream Jewish commentary.)
  • E. A. Speiser, Genesis, The Anchor Bible. Volume 1. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, 1964. (A translation with scholarly commentary and philological notes by a noted Semitic scholar. The series is written for laypeople and specialists alike.)
  • Bruce Vawter, On Genesis: A New Reading. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Co., 1977. (An introduction to Genesis by a fine Catholic scholar. Genesis was Vawter's hobby.)
  • Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg, The Beginning of Desire: Reflections on Genesis. New York: Doubleday, 1995. (A scholarly Jewish commentary employing traditional sources.)

[edit] External links

Online versions and translations of Genesis:

[edit] See also

[edit] Other Sites

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