The Bible–especially the Old Testament–is often charged with being a violent, outdated book that depicts a hateful, disgusting God.
Genesis is one of the books that is often charged with contributing to this understanding. However, those who want to promote this caricature of the Bible are missing two important facts. The first is Jesus. He is the key to understanding Scripture–a main point of this series. The second important fact is a proper understanding of Genesis. (I realize that can be a circular argument, but I’m fine making it.) Genesis–understood in light of Jesus–will shed much light on the rest of the Bible. Failure to understand Genesis before jumping elsewhere is like trying to make sense of your favorite novel by starting fifteen chapters in (it’s still possible to understand this way, but you’ll be missing a lot of important context).
Today’s post exists to help make sense of some of the more senseless passages of Genesis–and in so doing shed light on the rest of the Bible as well. Granted, this post will be a wide-angle lens, trying to take the majority of Genesis in one sitting (if you have questions about specific passages, please make use of the contact page).
Genesis is likely the oldest book of the Bible. It was assuredly penned by Moses, though it admittedly went through some minor editing as the years went on (cf. Genesis 14:14’s reference to Dan, who wasn’t born yet in the chronological story timeline, and wouldn’t have had a town in Canaan by the time Moses died). When it comes to Moses himself as the author of Genesis through Deuteronomy, I was forever convinced of this view as a result of my 2022 Bible-reading plan–the heavy intertextuality between these five books was nowhere near as heavy throughout the rest of the Bible.
The book of Genesis tells a complete story (sort of), from Genesis 1-50, though for the purposes of this blog, I want to split Genesis into two posts: Genesis 1-11 and Genesis 12-50.
The book can be broken down into the following outline (the bold is the focus of this post):
- Creation (1-2)
- The Fall into Sin and Death (3-5)
- Re-creation, part 1 (6-9)
- Spread of Mankind (10-11)
- Re-creation, part 2 (12-50)
- Abraham (12-25)
- Isaac (26)
- Jacob (27-36)
- Joseph (37-50)
The thesis statement of Genesis 12-50 can be found in Genesis 12:2-3, where God promises Abram (hereafter referred to by his later name Abraham): “I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, I will curse those who treat you with contempt, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Or, in my own words:
God Himself will bring blessings and curses on the world as a result of Abraham’s offspring.
This theme can be traced through each subsection of Genesis 12-50, though it is worth noting that the heaviest emphasis is on blessing (Genesis 19 and 34 being the primary exceptions).
God promised that “all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (12:3). This connects to the thesis statement of Genesis 1-11 because following the thesis statement verse, God promises the land to Abraham’s seed (cf. 12:7), which is a direct reference to the woman’s seed in 3:15; additionally, the purpose of the woman’s seed is the destruction of the serpent, which would inadvertently lead to blessing on humanity; God is telling Abraham that this seed will be traced through his descendants. It is also worth pointing out that if not for the scattering of the nations in Genesis 11, then it wouldn’t have been clear that the promise to Abraham’s seed was for the whole world.
What we see in these chapters is Abraham following God, disobeying God, trusting God, and people benefiting or suffering as a result. Abraham’s lies regarding Sarah (Genesis 13 and 20) resulted in suffering for others. Abraham’s failure to persevere longer in prayer in Genesis 18 led to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, though admittedly to blessing (life) for Lot–and the world in a very roundabout way (see below). Abraham’s obeying Sarah in Genesis 16 has led to strife in the Middle East for the past 4,000 years. But Abraham’s obedient trusting in God also resulted in the birth of Isaac, an initial fulfillment of the promised seed.
Isaac’s narrative is short (I lump Genesis 27 with Jacob’s story). If you’re interested in an explanation for this, check out this post. But much like his father, we see the same thing. When he trusts God, blessings result; when he fails, people suffer (Abimelech in 26:1-11).
Jacob’s narrative is more of the same and ultimately sets up the Joseph story, where we see a seed of Abraham blessing the world. Joseph went through innumerable trials, but he trusted God despite them and saved the world from a destructive famine as a result.
Which leads us to Jesus. He is all over this narrative, though admittedly more concealed than He is in the New Testament.
Jesus is the true seed of Abraham through whom all peoples on earth will eventually be eternally blessed–a lot more than just by receiving grain during a famine. Jesus is represented by the ram that was offered in the place of Isaac (Genesis 21). Jesus is the one who called down fire on Sodom and Gomorrah from God (Genesis 19:24). Jesus is the one who met a wandering woman at a well, just like wandering Jacob met Rachel at a well (Genesis 29; cf. John 4). Jesus is the one who wrestled with Jacob (Genesis 32). Jesus is the one who reconciles brothers (Genesis 33). Jesus is the one who will destroy sexual abusers one day (Genesis 34). Jesus fulfills Joseph’s story in so many ways that time would fail me to draw them all out (e.g., the pit, his age, savior of the world). Jesus is the descendant of Judah, which is why the scepter would never depart from there (Genesis 49:10).
Additionally, both of the crazy sex stories in Genesis (Lot and his daughters  and Judah and his daughter-in-law ) ultimately exist to show the genealogy of Jesus. Lot’s daughter was the mother of Moab, through whom Ruth would eventually come–the great-grandmother of King David (cf. Ruth 4:21-22). Judah’s daughter-in-law gave birth to Perez, who was the ancestor of Boaz–Ruth’s husband (cf. Ruth 4:18-22). God works through even the grossest situations to accomplish His perfect plan–the arrival of Jesus Christ on the scene to save us all from a multitude of immoral vices.
I hope you can see just how Christ-centered the primary narrative of Genesis is, through this brief blog post.
But more than that, I hope you place your faith in Him. The truth is no one is too far gone for His love and grace and mercy. But God can’t stand sin–Genesis 19 and 34–so a life change is required as a result of believing in Him. To remain the same is to betray that you’ve not truly believed in Him.
Repent and believe today!
In this with you.
Soli Deo Gloria
Thanks for reading.