Genesis is the first book of Moses but was not titled as such until later. When the Old Testament (written in Hebrew) was translated into Greek in 285-247 BC, by 72 Jewish priests in Alexandria, each book was identified by its first Hebrew word. The Hebrew title of the book was "In the Beginning," which was translated to “Genesis” or “Origins.” The Hebrew title was "In the Beginning." Genesis is the book of origins, for it describes the beginning of:
the purpose of humanity and creation,
the dominion of humanity,
the plan of redemption,
the redemptive promises,
the redemptive patriarchs,
the redemptive people,
Genesis has 50 chapters, 1,533 verses, and 32,267 words and is the seventh largest book in the Old Testament.
Genesis tells of the beginning of so many things. This first book of Scripture is careful to spend the first 11 chapters tracing the emergence of the earth from creation through to the fall, then out from under near-extinction because of the fall.
Genesis includes the near-destruction of humanity in three different instances, in fact: first, during the fall of man through Adam and Eve; second, in the days of Noah; and third, at the pompous building of the tower of Babel.
The rest of the book outlines the beginning and birth of a people of God who are to go beyond redemption into the ultimate plan of Yahweh, which involves their living with Him in the way He had originally designed for the world. Genesis tells the part of this God-story in seed form.
Genesis shows clearly that humans cannot save themselves, and neither can humans fulfill their God-endowed destiny without Him. God's grace is needed, liberation is necessary, new birth indispensable, and following Yahweh as the central figure of life essential.
Ten Divisions of the Generations in Genesis
To capture the woven theme of God’s creating generations of people for His glory, the book of Genesis is divided into ten generations:
Genesis 2:4 The generations of the heavens and the earth
Genesis 5:1 The generations of Adam
Genesis 6:9 The generations of Noah
Genesis 10:1 The generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth
Genesis 11:10 The generations of Shem
Genesis 11:27 The generations of Terah
Genesis 25:12 The generations of Ishmael
Genesis 25:19 The generations of Isaac
Genesis 36:1, 9 The generations of Esau (that is, Edom)
Genesis 37:2 The generations of Jacob
While the author does not identify himself in Genesis, Jesus identified Moses as at least the editor of Genesis (John 5:46).
Genesis ends some three centuries before Moses was born; both the Old Testament (Exodus 17:14; Numbers 33:2; Joshua 8:31; 1 Kings 2:3; 2 Kings 14:6; Ezra 6:18; Nehemiah 13:1; Daniel 9:11, 13; Malachi 4:4) and the New Testament (Matthew. 8:4; Mark 12:26; Luke 16:29; 24:27, 44; John 5:46; 7:22; Acts 15:1; Romans 10:19; 1 Corinthians 9:9; 2 Corinthians 3:15) ascribe the book to Moses. Certainly the book was edited and redacted in Babylon by Jewish scholars like Ezra, not for revising nor adding to the text, but for establishing the text we have today.
Lastly, it should be added that, while Moses was not present for the history of Genesis, he would have learned the story through oral tradition, as passed down from Abraham’s sons and ultimately the sons of Israel. Further, while Abraham was not present for the early part of Genesis, Melchizedek would have been an essential resource for the story of creation to the birth of Abraham (Genesis 14; Hebrews 5). One can almost hear this ancient king-priest of Jerusalem teaching the Psalm of Creation, the first chapter of Genesis, to Abraham.
It is important to know who wrote the book of Genesis. If we know Moses wrote the book, then we know he wrote it to prepare the children of Israel to enter into the promised land. Moses is not just filling in history; he is filling in the history essential for the children of Israel to live victoriously and faithfully in the land God was giving them. The book obviously stresses Yahweh as the Center of life and existence.
Genesis begins with safe living in Eden and moves through a series of men who played parts in different sins, with varied outcomes. By the end of the book, we find the sons of Jacob dwelling safely in Egypt, saved from a worldwide famine.
The main lessons from Genesis are "Yahweh is with" and "Yahweh has chosen," not based on good behavior but on His gracious love and choosing.
The key message: no matter what happens, God's love will not change toward His people, nor will God's plan.
The book is about the beginning of God's faithfulness, a narrative that the entire Bible will confirm and reveal more vividly. Yahweh began as a Promise-Keeper in Genesis and never changes.
The Creation 1-2
The Fall 3-5
The Flood 6-9
The Tower of Babel 10-11