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The Big Book–Cover to Cover: Genesis

Howard Hendricks (many of you know him as the Prof) challenged me to take on a new and challenging subject every year, and that’s sort of where this new series comes from.

Over the years, verse-by-verse has been my love and I think it’s lacking in churches today, but after doing this for 40 years, one thing that’s struck me is that people don’t seem to know the big picture anymore.

How do we re-engage with an overview of what the Bible is about?

We study it as a whole.

Join us for The Big Book–Cover to Cover: a teaching series on the entire Bible, book by book, beginning today in Genesis:

A note about the series The Big Book Cover to Cover: Why?

Over the years, verse-by-verse has been my love and I think it’s lacking [in churches today], but after doing this for 40 years, one thing that’s struck me is that people don’t seem to know the big picture anymore.

There’s still exposition involved in this series, but not what I’ve been doing.

There will be a large number of resources mentioned in the series and listed in our show notes. I want listeners to walk away with an understanding of the big picture of each book.  To do an overview of The Big Book gives value to each book and to their overarching themes.

Acts 2:42: “They devoted themselves daily to…” apostolic teaching.

The apostolic teaching in our day is the scripture and we are to devote ourselves daily to it.

We want to be grounded in a foundation of the scripture (Ephesians 4:11-12), and it wouldn’t hurt us to do an overview.

Churches are loosening their mooring in the Bible more and more. They’re talking about personality assessments and social justice and global issues, and there is value in those things. But I am concerned when we’re more concerned about personality assessments and social justice than we are about the Bible.

How do we re-engage with an overview of what the Bible is about?


Title and structure:

Don’t miss when you read Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning, God-”

God is the subject of Genesis chapter 1. He’s the subject of the first verse of the first book of the Bible. He’s mentioned 31 times in 35 verses.

Hebrew: “In the beginning” is b’reishit, or bereishit ( בְּרֵאשִׁית) and we say “Genesis.”

Genesis is a complicated word.

The septuagint (abbreviated lxx) was a greek translation of the Bible, including the OT. The Greeks had to make choices in transliteration because there weren’t words that translated from Hebrew to Greek directly.

There’s a word in the old testament: toledot (Hebrew: תּוֹלְדָה, sometimes “toledoth” or “toldot”) that means “generations.” This word was rendered by the Greeks in the septuagint “Genesis” and that word becomes “beginning” for us in English. The words that title your books aren’t often right out of the book and this is an example of where the Greek language took over.

The toledot occurs 11 (technically 12 times) in the old testament and is rendered as “account” or “generation” depending on your translation.

Genesis is the account, the toledot, of the heavens and the earth, of Adam, of Abraham–each of these forms a framework like a literary flag, the way chapter titles and outlines give us a framework for a book.

Toledot is the way the author of Genesis outlined the book. The narrative will say, “Let me give you the account of such and such” and then it will give the backstory and account, and then begin the next one: “This is what happened, let me tell you about it.”

Dr. Allen Ross was a Hebrew professor of mine. One of the hardest and best of my life. He’s written on the pentateuch and multi-volume sets on psalms. His intent was to write for people with a 12th-grade reading level. On the toledot, he writes:

“This organization is complex, well ordered, and significant. Each section “narrows” the storyline, i.e., we move from Noah to the a more narrow Shem…”

Allen P. Ross, “Genesis,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 24.

There are many other implications in this structure. The dominant role of the toledot becomes the blessing and cursing motif: If you do this I’ll bless you, if you don’t I’ll bring the curses of Egypt upon you.

What’s the first promise in scripture? Everything in the garden’s yours, but don’t eat from this one tree. If you do that, you’re going to die.

It’s this if-then, blessing-and-curse motif. That pattern is throughout the whole Bible: If you obey the law, I’m going to protect you. If you don’t, you’re going to be in trouble. And Israel, just like you and me, can’t follow the simplest parts of the law, so this toledot will go back and forth as a dominant role.

4 Events & 4 People

A simpler way of looking at the Genesis is the 4 Events and 4 People: Creation, Fall, Flood, Nations; Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.

  • Creation – Genesis 1:1-2:25
  • Fall – Genesis 3:1-5:32
  • Flood – Genesis 6:1-9:29
  • Nations – Genesis 10:1-11:9
  • Abraham – Genesis 11:10-25:8
  • Isaac – Genesis 25:19-26:35
  • Jacob – Genesis 27:1-36:43
  • Joseph – Genesis 37:1-50:26

Each of the four events are crucial to the toledot motifs.

What happened to creation? They violated the command, then came the fall. They didn’t do what He said after the fall, so He sent the flood. They didn’t do what He said after the Flood – they tried to build a tower to God and it resulted in babble (another transliterated word from Hebrew to English) and dispersed the nations.

And since the diaspora, man has an innate desire to know where he came from. Where did you come from? You came from babble – from a dispersion of people that were trying to become–one not what God told them to do.

The Table of Nations (Genesis chapter 10), which is a boring list of names, is very important in biblical Salvation history, because this is how God is continuing to redeem His broken, sinful people.

Fast forward to the Book of Acts where believers were waiting in Jerusalem for the Spirit to come to them and then they were to go to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth. Did they do it? No, they’re still camped out in Jerusalem – so what does Jesus do? He persecutes His own church to disperse them.

Diaspora – διασπορά – He scattered them like seed.

The persecution of Christians in Jerusalem drives them out to go to the ends of the earth.

If you understand what He’s doing from a structural point of view, the Table of Nations is a brilliant piece of literature.

The 4 People: The Patriarchs, the Fathers of Faith.

Abraham, the friend of God. The Abrahamic covenant is critical to understanding God’s salvation plan after the fall of man.

Depending on your view of young v. old earth, the time span began c. 4000 BC if you hold to the former. The time span from Abraham to Joseph covers some 286 years.

Genesis is the account of the origins of mankind and the universe. Ruptured by the choice of sin, man rebelled against God’s word, hurling mankind into the fall, the consequences which plague not only mankind, but all the creative system God designed.

Allen Ross writes:

Most of the books of the Bible draw on the contents of Genesis in one way or another. Apart from this, however, Genesis’ subject matter and the unembellished way in which it is written have captivated the minds of biblical scholars for ages.
As with biblical truth in general, this book has been a stumbling block for many who have approached it with preconceived notions or anti-supernatural biases. But for those who recognize it as the Word of God, whom they seek to serve, Genesis is a source of comfort and edification. And by them, the questions and difficulties of the book are approached differently. – Ross, 15

Derek Kidner, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries: Genesis https://www.ivpress.com/genesis

“No work that is known to us from the Ancient Near-East is remotely comparable in scope–to say nothing less of measurable qualities–with the book of Genesis.”

Look at all the ancient literature, nothing comes close to the literary work of Genesis.

The book falls into two unequal parts and the second begins with the emergence of Abram in ch. 11-12.

  1. God’s orderly creation to its climax in man as a responsible and blessed being.
  2. The disintegrating work of sin to the great anti-climax of the corrupt world of the flood and the second folly in babble.

Abram, landless and childless, is made to learn that the great promise is the loadstar of his life.

The promise is what it’s all about.

No matter my experience, do I trust the promise of God?

Do I believe Him?

Genesis, in various ways, is almost nearer to the NT than the old.

Some of its topics are barely heard again until the implications are echoed in the gospels:

Institution of marriage, fall of man, jealousy of cain, the judgement of the flood, the imputed righteousness of the believer–if you haven’t studied this, when you study Romans and the doctrine of imputation, this is a big doctrine. It goes back to Genesis with Abram: Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.

Paul will spend chapters talking about imputed righteousness.


There’s all kinds of theories about who wrote the book of Genesis.

The most common theory is that Moses wrote the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) AKA the Torah.

The corpus of literature that the ancient Jew looked at as The Bible is the Pentateuch.

I believe Moses wrote it but there are many theories that disagree.

What the OT says about Moses and what the NT says about who may have written these books:

Exodus 17:14, Numbers 33:2, Joshua 1:7, 1 Kings 2:3, Ezra 6:18

The first record we have that Moses wrote is the 10 commandments. Likely, there were copies of the tablets, one resided in the Arc of the Covenant.

New Testament comments: Mark 12:26, Acts 7:22, 1 Corinthians 9:9

We have OT and NT convergence to say that the Pentateuch was written by Moses.

Too often people view the ancients as Cro-Magnon cave dwellers who climbed their way to intelligence rather than men and women made in the image of God.

I’ve long argued that Adam and Eve were the two most intelligent people on the planet. They were made in God’s image and with Him before the fall.

Adam, uniquely, made in the image of God existed sinless, albeit for a short time, of his 930 years on the earth. For hundreds of years, scholars have attempted to construct how the document–in particular the Pentateuch–came into being.

Multiple authorship, myth, stories borrowed from neighboring people groups, in an endless array of theories. While many view Genesis, and in particular, miraculous or “unbelievable” stories as myth, Christians are confronted with much more than their critics. I.e., how do you read and understand the Scripture?

Stonebridge Bible Church Statement of Faith:

Preamble: The teaching and foundation of Stonebridge Bible Church is based on the Scripture. This “Statement of Faith” reflects doctrines that are essential to understand, teach, and practice God’s Word. We approach the interpretation of Bible (hermeneutics) through a normal, grammatical, literal, historic, and theological lens.

  • Normal -understanding the words of Bible in their common usage unless otherwise indicated by the context.
  • Grammatical -using the recognized rules of grammar in interpretation.
  • Literal -understanding the meaning of Bible in its ordinary sense unless the context requires a figurative interpretation.
  • Historical -understanding the words of Bible in the context in which they were written.
  • Theological –a consistent consideration of the whole of Bible when drawing theological positions.


God’s law to man

Man failed at the very beginning. God knew Adam and Eve would fall, and this is God’s law to man.

Genesis is the beginning of the Pentateuch, the beginning of the Torah, the beginning of the Law. Moving from 2000-some years of history, Exodus will tie back to the Abrahamic Covenant –God’s promises to Abraham and to the nation of Israel.

Genesis 50:24 (300 years after the promise Jospeh still believed God’s word) -> Exodus 2:24

God’s choice of Israel

Genesis confirms God’s choice of Israel. The history and theology of Israel is firmly rooted because of His choice. Period. When Israel recalls her patriarchal lineage to Abraham, Isaac, andJacob, she is only recalling God’s choice, God’s established lineage.

God’s Promise to Israel

Throughout Israel’s checkered history, God’s promises do not waver. Israel failed numerous times. They became a great nation, yet they will not remain in Egypt. Their future is in a promised land yet acquired. And the record of Scripture–complete with man’s innumerable sinful failures–tirelessly reveals His promises will be fulfilled in His time.

If the story of Abraham is true, the story of your life is true.

His law has been given to you and me. He chose you and He’s made promises that are irrevocable.

Genesis is the beginning story of God’s redemptive plan for when man fails again and again and again.

That ought to encourage us.

Have a Biblical or theological question? Ask Dr. E! Call us at 615-281-9694 and leave a voicemail with your question or email question@michaelincontext.com. Michael will answer it on an upcoming Ask Dr. E episode!

Michael Easley

About Michael Easley

Michael is husband to one, dad to four, and host of Michael Easley inContext.

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