Introduction Part 1
July 19, 2020
Dr. Andy Woods
Good Morning, everybody. Let’s open our Bibles to Genesis 1:1. If you need help finding that you might be a lost cause. The title of our message this morning is “The Book of Beginnings” as we start a verse by verse study through the Book of Genesis.
“Why would you take us into the Book of Genesis at this time in our history as a country and as a church?” Well, part of the reason is because I would say all of the issues that we’re wrestling with today are addressed in Genesis 1-11. There’s nothing that speaks more authoritatively to what’s happening today than early Genesis.
Part of me apologizes for doing this because it can come across as academic, and I’m trying to de-academize this as much as I can. (Is that a word?) I do this when I teach any book at the beginning. It’s hard to appreciate that book without understanding the background, so I’m going to try to talk you through 10 background issues today. And I’m really hoping I can finish because it’s a pretty sad thing when your introduction is just an introduction to another introduction.
So, who knows, this might be “Introduction, Part One” for all I know. But let’s see what we can do here. The Book of Genesis. You may know very little about the Book of Genesis, and if that’s true, you’ve come to the right place. Just go to the very beginning of your Bible and you’ll find it.
What is this book about? First of all, the title. Why do we call this the “Book of Genesis”? Who came up with that? It says “Genesis” here at the top of my study Bible. That’s an interesting question because that’s not a Jewish title.
When the Hebrews named books—and this is particularly true for the first five books of your Bible that we call Torah, sometimes called Pentateuch (as in five). The ones whom these books were given to typically named it by the first word in the book. The very first word in the book is BERESHITH, which is translated, “In the beginning.” So that’s what the Hebrews called this book; they just called it “In the beginning.” They never called it the “Book of Genesis.”
Later on in time there came something called the Septuagint. You’ll see it abbreviated with the Roman numerals LXX ,which means “70.” It’s basically a Greek translation of Hebrew Bible. It was completed, really, a couple of hundred years before the life of Christ. And these translators got to Genesis 5:1, which says, “This is the book of the generations of Adam…” And they said, “Okay. Let’s come up with a word that matches “generations,” and they gave it this Greek word GENESEOS.
Then later on the Latin Vulgate came around (which was a Latin translation completed about 400 years after the time of Christ), and they just added the word “book” or “liber” in front of it, “Book of Genesis.” So, our English translators came along and just followed what the LXX and the Vulgate were doing, and they gave it the title, the “Book of Genesis.”
That word “Genesis” really comes from this idea of generations, and it’s not a title that the Hebrews originally called the book. They just called it, “In the Beginning,” but we call it the “Book of Genesis.”
Which raises a second question, “Who wrote this?” God, of course, wrote it. But what human author did He use? If you can figure out what human author wrote this book, you can figure out the date of the book, roughly, and to whom the book was written. Now, up until the 18th century AD—a little over 200 years ago—everybody believed that Moses wrote the Book of Genesis. And there began a movement in the 18th century in Europe, particularly in Germany, called higher criticism, where man thought he was smarter than God—which is a dangerous place to be.
So the higher critics began to look at the Book of Genesis and say, “No, Moses didn’t write this.” And they not only said that concerning the Book of Genesis, they said it concerning the first five books of the Bible. “Moses couldn’t have written those books.”
And they started to do a number on the Book of Isaiah, “Isaiah didn’t write Isaiah. There must’ve been three Isaiahs—two of which were using the pen name ‘Isaiah.’ ” And they started to do a number on the Book of Daniel. They said, “Daniel couldn’t have written the Book of Daniel. Obviously, that was written by someone 400 years later using Daniel’s name.” This became a major movement in Europe, it came into the United States, and it destroyed our mainline seminaries! The denominational seminaries, with very few exceptions, have been inundated and infected with this idea called higher criticism.
In fact, I attended Dallas Theological Seminary. There was another denominational seminary down the street. They called themselves the “ ‘Such and Such’ School of Theology.” We used to say, “Well, that’s the ‘Such and Such School of Mythology’ ” because down the street they really didn’t believe that Moses could have written the Book of Genesis. I was fortunate to go to school that did believe in Mosaic authorship of Genesis.
So, by and large, when you go to a denominational school to study, they just don’t think Moses could’ve written this. “Somebody obviously wrote it much later.” And what developed was what was known in Europe as the “documentary hypothesis.” Now, Julius Wellhausen is a name you should know. He didn’t invent this documentary hypothesis, but he’s the one who crystallized it.
And this is what they began teaching in Germany. They began to teach this in Europe. This is one of the reasons why the churches in Europe started to drift leftward. And it’s one of the reasons why many of our churches are drifting leftward today because they bought into higher criticism. So, Wellhausen taught the idea that Moses did not write the Book of Genesis, but that this is actually the compilation of different documents that were written by documentarians after the time of Moses.
This became known as the JEDP theory. J stands for Yahwist, E stands for Elohist, D stands for the Deuteronomist, and the P stands for the Priestly code. Basically what they think is, “Moses could not have written this. So, this book, in essence, was put together by people long after the time who were examining the record, and they came up with these four different documents.”
In other words, “When you see a Yahweh section, that was not written by Moses; that was written by someone named J. When you see an Elohim section, that was not written by Moses; that was written by someone much later known as the Elohist. When you see things you read about in the Book of Deuteronomy, that was not written by Moses; that was written by the D source, the Deuteronomist. Then, when you read things in the Book of Leviticus about the priest, that was not written by Moses; that was written by P, or someone called the Priestly code. So, the Book of Genesis is the compilation of these authors who put the thing together, fooling everybody that Moses wrote it. But we all know Moses didn’t write it; documentarians stitched the thing together long after the true Moses had died.”
You say, “Who cares? Why do you have to tell me about this?” Here’s the deal: your kids are being taught this; your grandchildren are being taught this. If they watch the History Channel, Mysteries of the Bible, and A&E, they will come on there and just act like it’s crazy to think that Moses wrote the Book of Genesis and the Pentateuch (the Torah). In fact, if you don’t understand this, you’ll enroll at a seminary thinking you’re going to study God’s Word; when you’re sitting under people who have long dismissed God’s Word, long dismissed the idea of Mosaic authorship.
So, the idea of Mosaic authorship actually becomes a very big deal. It doesn’t surprise me that Satan would attack the Book of Genesis as he has done because we’ll show you today that the rest of the Bible depends on the Book of Genesis. If you don’t have the Book of Genesis, you don’t have the rest of the Bible. Beginning in the 18th century there has been an unwithering attack on the Book of Genesis—not the least of which is this idea that Moses could not have written it.
Why do people think that? Let me just give you some reasons. People say, “You know, there was no writing in the time of Moses.” Moses, as I’ll show you, wrote about 1446 BC. “We know the archaeological record; there was no such thing as writing back then. So, Moses could not have written it.”
They say, “Look, there are different names for God here. Chapter 1 uses the name “Elohim” for God. Chapter 2 uses the word “Yahweh” for God. I mean, why would the same author switch the names for God? Those could not have been written by the same author. Those are two different sources.”
“Look at the different writing styles. Boy! You go through this book and one chapter reads one way and another chapter reads a different way. Look at all of the different styles; this was obviously put together by different writers. And look at the editorial insertions. For example, notice Genesis 36:31 which says, ‘Now these are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom before any king reigned over the sons of Israel.’ How could Moses, all the way back in the 15th century, know anything about the kings of Israel? So, obviously, Moses could not have written this; this was long before Israel got a king.”
“And notice how monotheistic this book is.” (Monotheism means there is one God.) “We all know that the pagans back then didn’t believe in one God; they believed in many gods. And the idea of one God is a later evolutionary development.”
These are the things that began to percolate in Europe. Wellhausen capsulized this theory, and now many, many people simply don’t believe that Moses could have written this. And I’m here to tell you that I think Moses did write the Book of Genesis! You say, “How do you know that?” Well, first of all, that’s what the Jews thought. All the Jews—up until higher criticism—believed Moses was the ultimate writer. That’s what the early church believed—up until the 18th century AD.
As you go into the book itself, it assumes that Moses is the writer. For example, notice what Numbers 33:1-2a says, “These are the journeys of the sons of Israel, by which they came out from the land of Egypt by their armies under the leadership of Moses and Aaron. Moses [that’s the writer] recorded their starting places according to their journeys…” It says it right there: “Moses recorded…”
Now, the Wellhausen hypothesis says, “Ah, that’s not true!” So, you have a decision: you can either believe what it says, or you can believe the scholars. Beyond that—yes, there are differences in writing styles. But you know what? When I write a love letter to my wife, I hope the writing style is a little different than when I write a term paper for school. I mean, if that’s not true, you might need marital counseling at some point because we write differently depending on the circumstances. And that’s what’s happening in this book. There’s no reason to say, “Different writing styles makes it different writers.”
There’s also a great unity in this book. Everybody talks about the differences, but there’s a great unity that binds the whole thing together. And as you read through this, it gives you the impression that the guy who wrote it was actually there. For example, notice Exodus 15:27. It says, “Then they came to Elim where there were twelve springs of water and seventy date palms, and they camped there beside the waters.” Does that sound like someone writing several hundred years afterwards? It reads to me like the guy who was there writing this was experiencing the same thing that’s described in the setting.
The writer understands an awful lot about Egyptian geography. Look at Genesis 13:10. It says, “Lot lifted up his eyes and saw all the valley of the Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere—this was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah—like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt as you go to Zoar.” So, the writer here is comparing the geography to Egyptian geography. That would fit Moses pretty well, wouldn’t it? Since he was there—in Egypt—when the events of the Exodus transpired.
One of the reasons that we believe Moses wrote this book is because he was given an outstanding education. You read about it in Acts 7:22. It says, “Moses was educated in all the learning of the Egyptians, and he was a man of power in words and deeds.” God sovereignly worked in Moses’ life to give him an education in Pharaoh’s palace that was different than what he would’ve received as a common Hebrew slave.
You remember the story. In the Book of Exodus they were coming to kill all male Hebrew babies, and the mother of Moses just set baby Moses out there adrift on the river. Remember that? Book of Exodus. And it just so happened that Moses—in his little flotilla—whatever we want to call it—happened to come across the daughter of Pharaoh. Remember that? And she took Moses in.
Now, do you think it was an accident that things happened that way? That was the sovereignty of God because God was putting Moses into the Egyptian palace to receive an education that he would not have received as a Hebrew slave. Because God had a purpose for Moses, which was to write Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Moses had that educational background. So, you put all of these things together and there’s no reason why Moses could not have written the Book of Genesis.
Beyond that, these guys talk about the J source, the E source, the D source, the P source. “Can I examine those documents? Take a look at them?” “Oh, we don’t have them.” “Oh! This is a whole thing that you made up then, and I can’t examine the evidence.” “Well, the evidence is bound to come in. And when it comes in, we’re going to see these four sources.”
So, it’s like dealing with an evolutionist. I mean, they go on and on about the missing link—how there’s this link between man and monkeys. You say, “Can I take a look at the missing link? And they give you a tooth of an extinct pig! Then they draw all this artistry of what it’s going to look like when they discover the missing link. See? And that’s what you have happening here with the JEDP theory. We don’t have the documents that supposedly this all came from.
Beyond that, is it really true that there was no writing in the time of Moses? They have discovered something called the Code of Hammurabi. The Code of Hammurabi is a legal code that predates the Law of Moses by 400 years. You see, had they, in the higher critical institutions in Europe in the 18th century, known what we know today about archaeology, the JEDP theory would’ve never seen the light of day. I studied under some very good Old Testament scholars, and I remember them saying, “Had they known what we know today, the whole thing would’ve never gotten off the ground.”
And yet, people today just parrot the findings of higher criticism. “Yeah, but there are different names for God: Elohim is used in chapter 1; Yahweh is used in chapter 2.” Well, that’s because God’s name reflects different realities for people. “Elohim” is His power. That would fit chapter 1 very well—wouldn’t it?—because He’s the Creator of the heavens and the earth. “Yahweh” is more His relational name. That would fit chapter 2 very well because the focus of chapter 2 is really on the creation of man and woman and how God wants a relationship with us. So, switching from one name to the next doesn’t mean a different source at all.
God has many names. A different name of God is used simply to highlight how that name has a direct bearing on what’s happening in that chapter. “Yeah, but what about all of these editorial insertions? I mean, Deuteronomy 34 talks about how Moses died. Now, how could Moses talk about his own death?” Well, there is a very simple answer to that: Joshua could’ve added a little bit here or there after the fact—after the death of Moses, after Moses had completed the bulk of the work.
“Yeah, but this book is monotheistic. And we all know that, based on evolution, everything started off polytheistic.” Do you know that for sure? That’s pure assumption! So, when you actually begin to look at this very carefully and to scrutinize this very carefully, there is no reason to believe in the JEDP theory—different sources compiled this from different documents long after the fact, centuries after Moses had died. We believe that Moses actually wrote this.
In fact, I could show you passages in the New Testament. I don’t have time to get into it, but in the New Testament many times Jesus will say, quoting Torah (or quoting Pentateuch), “Have you not read what Moses said?” Would you not agree that Jesus is a pretty good guy to agree with at the end of the day? I mean, Jesus knew absolutely nothing about the JEDP theory. So I give you this not to bore you with a bunch of academic gobbledygook, but I want you to understand the battle that’s going on for the hearts and minds of people—particularly the young—particularly seminarians—many of which are engulfed in JEDP theory and have never really heard the other side.
We believe Moses is the author of Genesis, and Exodus, and Leviticus, and Numbers, and Deuteronomy. And then he died. It’s hard to write a book after you’re dead. And Joshua came along and said, “Oh, let me add a little bit here to how he died.” I mean, it really isn’t as complicated as everybody makes it out to be.
Now, having said that, we also believe that Moses used different sources. This is not like the Book of Revelation where John received a vision on the island of Patmos, and he wrote down exactly what he saw and what he heard. We believe Moses, for the most part, is relying upon sources. Now, how do we know that? Notice Genesis 2:4. “This is the account…” Ah, there is an existing account! “This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made earth and heaven.”
Look at Genesis 5:1, “This is the book of the generations of Adam.” Now, there’s a Hebrew word that’s used here; I’ll explain a little bit more about it in a second; in Hebrew it’s TOLEDOTH. Basically, what it means is an existing account. In other words, “This is what happened to such and such.”
The reality of the situation is that Jewish history did not start with Moses. Jewish history started with a man named Abraham (Genesis 12), and Jacob made his way from Canaan to Egypt (Genesis 46). And we believe that Jacob brought with him from Canaan to Egypt all of these existing accounts. In other words, there was a Bible before there was a Bible—a pre-Bible—a pre-Mosaic Bible.
What Moses did, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, as the primary author, as the primary compiler, is that he took all of these existing records—existing accounts—and the Holy Spirit used his education in a supernatural way. The Holy Spirit guided him, and he stitched it all together in what we call the Book of Genesis.
So, the Book of Genesis is not the kind of thing where Moses received a direct vision from God. He certainly received direct encounters from God, as recorded in his own book. But he is relying upon sources. And that’s not a problem because that’s how the Gospel of Luke is set up. You know, Luke was not one of the original eyewitnesses to the ministry of Christ. So, how did Luke put the whole thing together that we call the Gospel of Luke?
When we look at Luke 1:1-4, he tells us that he relied upon sources. He says, “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.”
There were all kinds of eyewitness records floating around at that time concerning the life of Christ that Luke relied upon. What we believe, though, is that the Holy Spirit used Luke supernaturally to put the whole thing together, relying upon sources. Luke is the primary author. That’s exactly what’s happening in the Book of Genesis.
And I think there are hints in the book of sources that Moses is relying upon from Jewish history because it keeps using this expression TOLEDOTH, “These are the records of; these are the generations of, etc.” So, don’t be bothered by the fact that Moses used sources as long as we can identify Moses as the primary author and compiler. The problem is when people say, “Moses had nothing to do with this.” Then it becomes a problem.
So, if Moses is indeed the author of the Book of Genesis—and we believe he is—that allows us to come up with a date for the Book of Genesis. Just put this in your memory bank for now because I’ll defend it later. The Exodus event happened, we believe, in 1446 BC. And if that is indeed the date of the Exodus, we can basically figure out when Moses lived, and we can figure out when Moses put all of this material together. The nice thing about Moses is, first of all, he lived to the ripe old age of 120. Secondly, his life is neatly divided into three parts of 40 years each. 40×3 is what? 120.
By the way, on the slide are the different phases of Moses’ life. You’ll see the Scriptures there where it says that this happened for 40 years, then the next section happened for 40 years, and the section after that happened for 40 years.
What was happening in the first 40 years of his life? He was being prepared through his natural training. This is where he received his tremendous education. It is where it looked like his life was in jeopardy, so he was set adrift on the Nile. And it just so happened that his flotilla came up to where Pharaoh’s daughter was, and she took him in and gave him the all the benefits of the palace of Egypt—including a tremendous education which he wouldn’t have had as a Hebrew slave. And that’s how he spent the first 40 years of his life—age 1 to age 40—roughly 1526 to 1486 BC.
But just because the man has an education doesn’t mean he has any spiritual training. You see this in a lot of seminarians; they know Greek, they know Hebrew, and there’s nothing scarier than a 20-year-old who knows Greek and Hebrew. It’s like what Howard Hendricks used to tell us upon graduation. Everybody’s got their degree; they’re all puffed up and wearing their graduation garb. At Dallas Seminary he would give some remarks to the graduates, and this is what he would say, “Gentleman, you’re pathetic! You’re completely and totally pathetic because it’s going to take decades now for life experience to catch up with your education.”
And that’s where Moses was for the first 40 years of his life. He didn’t know anything about trusting God, waiting upon God, depending upon God, relying upon God. Because when he saw an Egyptian abusing a Hebrew, what did Moses do? He killed the Egyptian! He understood that he was the deliverer of the Hebrew race, but he tried to fix things under his own power. So God says, “Okay, now it’s time for phase two in your life.”
Phase two is age 40 to age 80—from 1486 right up to the time of the Exodus, roughly 1446. God put him into a desert situation—on the backside of a desert—and he was left there just to do the menial work of shepherding. Moses thought he was a hotshot by the time he hit age 40. God says, “The problem is, you know you’re a hot shot. So, let Me empty you of your pride for 40 years.” So that’s what he’s doing from age 40 to age 80, to the point where, when God finally calls him at age 80 to deliver Israel, he just says, “I am completely unworthy of doing anything for the Lord!” That wasn’t the same guy who murdered the Egyptian 40 years earlier! God taught him that on the backside of a desert.
You see, a lot of you are in situations related to employment where you’re not getting ahead; you’re just doing the same menial, routine thing over and over again. “I know I’m destined for better things than this!” The problem is, God has to put you into that situation so you can recognize your need to depend upon Him. Or else you’re just pathetic—you’re a person with a great education but don’t know how to wait on the Lord. So that’s what Moses is doing in the middle section of his life.
Now, finally, at age 80, God says, “Okay, let’s get real. Now I’m going to start using you.” And God used him more productively in the final 40 years of his life——age 80 to age 120—1446 to 1406—and look at what God did through this man when he finally hit age 80 to age 120. He led the children of Israel through the Exodus, he wrote the Law, he led the children of Israel through the wilderness wanderings and preservation. And it’s during that time period that he wrote the Book of Genesis, the Book of Exodus, the Book of Leviticus, the Book of Numbers, and the Book of Deuteronomy.
See, there’s a lot of people out there who say, “Well, you know, I’m a seasoned saint. And, gee-whiz, I’ve lived a good life. I guess I can sit, soak, and sour.” I mean, most people at age 80 are ready to just kick back and spend their life watching cable TV—or whatever. God called Moses into ministry at age 80! At age 80 God says, “Now let’s get going because you’ve been emptied of pride.”
See, our society—which worships youth and beauty—tells people, “You’re a certain age; it’s time for you to kind of disappear.” When the reality of the situation is, that’s when God is getting ready to use somebody! I mean, when did John received his revelation? When he was a young pup? Not at all! He was about 90 years old!
Study the Book of Daniel! When did Daniel receive his greatest revelations from God? Around that age—about age 80. And that’s what’s happening here with Moses. So, if Moses wrote it—and we believe he did—we have the parameters of Moses’ life. So, Moses wrote the Book of Genesis—along with the rest of the books of Torah—in the final 40 years of his life. And we can date it about 1445 (the year after the Exodus) up until about 1405 when Moses died.
And if Moses wrote it at that time, who was he writing to, exactly? He was writing to the nation of Israel that had just come out of the Exodus. He is preparing them for the Canaan conquest because they’re going to move from Sinai into Canaan. And Moses is getting them ready for that conquest. What you have to understand about Israel at that time is they had been slaves in Egypt for 400 years! Think about that. I mean, the United States of America has only been in existence for what? 240 years, roughly, give or take.
They had been enslaved 400 years! They have been brainwashed by the Egyptian pharaohs, and now they were free. And what do you think they understood about Israeli and Hebrew history and where they came from? Nothing! Because a nation that does not know where it came from does not know what? Where it’s going.
Now, when you understand that, then you understand why all of the communists and all of the Marxists want to cancel culture in the United States. They want to say that everything is racist, topple the statues, vandalize the Lincoln Memorial—which never made sense to me because I thought Lincoln freed the slaves. But let’s not let facts get in the way of our ideology.
They want to start everything as if the culture never existed. Why would they do that? Because a nation that does not know where it came from does not know where it’s going! And they can fit it into whatever view they want the United States to take on—in this case it’s typically Marxism, or socialism, or something like that. History becomes a big deal!
The nation of Israel could have never done what God called them to do, in terms of the conquest, if they didn’t know who they were as a distinct people! So, God prepared Moses to record all of this information to give Israel a perspective on who she is as a unique and called nation of God with a destiny and actually a covenant with God Himself called the Abrahamic Covenant.
Where did Moses get this knowledge? It was the records that Jacob, in Genesis 46, brought with him to Egypt. And I believe Moses had access to these records. Finally, at age 80 to 120, God says, “One other thing we’re going to do before you die. I want you to record these first five books of the Bible so these people that you’re writing to know exactly what their future is and know exactly what their destiny is. So Moses wrote this, relying on records, from 1446 to about 1405. And he is preparing the nation of Israel for their future, which is their conquest of Canaan.
One of the things to try to figure out, as we look at item number three, is the structure of the book. This is 50 chapters. Some of you have voiced a lot of concern about that, “We’re never going to finish! The Rapture is going to occur first! We’re never going to get done!” And you know what? You’re probably right about that.
But we’re looking at 50 chapters here. How would you synthesize this? How would you outline this? If you’re teaching this to your grandchildren, how would you do that, exactly? Well, you try to look for a structural clue that can organize the book for you, and one of them we’ve already gone over. It’s the repetition of, “And these are the generations of…” He says in Genesis 2:4, “This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made earth and heaven.” That’s the Hebrew word TOLEDOTH, meaning, “This is what became of such and such.” These are records from Canaan brought to Egypt by Jacob.
Look at Genesis 5:1. You see the same clue. What does it say there? “This is the book of the generations of Adam.” Look at Genesis 6:9. What does it say there? Here is another clue; look at this. “These are the records of the generations of Noah.” Look at Genesis10:1; we see another clue. In Hebrew it’s very clear: it’s just TOLEDOTH repeated. It says, “Now these are the records of the generations of Shem, Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah…” You’ll see the same thing concerning the generations of Shem in Genesis 11:10.
“Now these are the records of the generations of Terah…”(Genesis 11:27). Terah is Abraham’s daddy. “Now these are the records of the generations of Ishmael…” (Genesis 25:12). “Now these are the records of the generations of Isaac…” (Genesis 25:19). “Now these are the records of the generations of Esau…” (Genesis 36:1). “These are the records of the generations of Jacob,” (Genesis 37:2). What do we have here, as Moses is giving us these different sources? He’s giving us an outline. So, that’s how you outline the book! When it says, “these are the generations of,” it typically looks forward to the content that is to follow. So, it’s a self-contained, self-imposed outline—11 parts—just by paying attention to the expression, “And these are the generations of …”
Now, that’s a lot of stuff, isn’t it? So, let me give you an easier outline. What I gave you first is a literary outline. What I give you here is a thematic outline, tracing things by theme. The Book of Genesis has two parts to it: Genesis 1-11, the beginning of the human race; Genesis 12-50, the beginning of the Hebrew race. Pretty easy, right?
Each part—number one and then number two—has four sections. Part one—four sections. Part two—four sections. So, how does this work?
Part one: the beginning of the human race (Genesis 1-11). It has four events. What are they? Creation (Genesis 1-2), the Fall (Genesis 3-5). Well, why do I have to know about the Fall? Because if you don’t understand the Fall, you don’t see your need for the Savior. And it was Israel’s purpose to bring the Savior into the world. Now, slaves for 400 years wouldn’t know anything about that, had it not been for the work through Moses. And the nation of Israel would’ve just wandered around, not knowing her destiny, not knowing her future. Fall is followed by flood (Genesis 6-9). Flood is followed by national dispersion, Tower of Babel, (Genesis 10-11). So, part one is four parts.
Part two: the beginning of the Hebrew race (Genesis 12-50). That has four parts too. Number one: God’s dealings with a man named Abraham, originally Abram. His daddy was Terah. He was called out of idolatry from Ur of the Chaldeans, and he was told to walk by faith because God, through his lineage, was going to make a nation in and through him. So, God does that with the patriarch Abraham (Genesis 12:1-25:11).
That is the beginning of the nation of Israel. And that’s where the nation of Israel receives something from God that no nation has ever received from God, which is a covenant coming from God to man. I mean, even the United States hasn’t received something like that! “Well, wait a minute, Pastor. I remember on the 4th of July you were talking about the Mayflower Compact and the expansion of Christianity in the Mayflower Compact.” Watch this very carefully: that was our covenant to God. That’s not what the nation of Israel has as God’s dealing with Abraham. It’s not Abraham making a promise to God; it’s God making a promise to Abraham. No other nation has had such a thing.
And this is one of the reasons you can try all you want to blot out Israel; she will always exist until God fulfills His purpose in and through her because of that covenant. That covenant is passed down from Abraham to Isaac (Genesis 25:12-Genesis 26:35). And then it’s passed down from Isaac to Jacob (Genesis 27-Genesis 36). Now we have a problem because Israel is in Canaan and she self-destructing.
Why is Israel self-destructing? Because of the corruption of the Canaanite culture. So God says, “I’ve got to get you, Israel, out of here! And, by the way, I’ve got to set the stage to perform the greatest act of redemptive history (other than the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ which comes much later). The greatest act of redemptive history prior to Christ is the Exodus.
“And in order for Me to accomplish the Exodus, I have to show My power to a nation who is holding you in captivity—Egypt. So because you’re going to self-destruct being here in Canaan, and because I want to glorify My name through the Exodus, I have got to get you out of Canaan and into Egypt.” And if you understand that, you understand what the Joseph story is about (Genesis 37-50).
Joseph, through Providence, is betrayed by his brothers, left for dead, and rises eventually to second in command in all of Egypt. In Genesis 46 the nation of Israel comes from Canaan to Egypt to receive grain in the midst of famine. And what did they bring with them? All of those records that later fell into Moses’ hand. And all of that could not have been accomplished had God not providentially worked through this 17-year-old who rose to second in command in Egypt at age 30, named Joseph.
And at the end of the book, what does Joseph say? One of my favorite verses in the whole Bible is Genesis 50:20. What does he say at the end of the book to his brothers? “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…”
“Yes, you betrayed me and left me for dead because you were jealous over my coat of many colors, but the fact of the matter is, God providentially used all of these difficulties to get you out of Canaan to Egypt so you could receive grain in the midst of famine…so you can get out of a destructive environment where you would’ve morally collapsed…so I can set the stage for the Exodus.” And if God hadn’t worked through Joseph, that wouldn’t have happened.
See, here’s the deal, folks. God’s going to get His work done. But sometimes the ride in the process can be a bit bumpy. Amen? I mean, Joseph had no idea what was happening when he was 17. By age 30—hindsight is 20/20—he figured it out, and that’s where the Book of Genesis ends. It sets the stage for the Exodus.
So it’s very easy to understand the Book of Genesis. Part one—the beginning of the human race—four events. Part two—the beginning of the Hebrew race—four people. And those people are Abraham, to whom the covenant was given, passed on to Isaac and Jacob, and then God’s providential work through Joseph.
If you understand the big picture like this, when somebody says, “Open your Bible to Genesis 38,” or “Open your Bible to Genesis 26,” you may not understand everything that’s happening in that chapter, but you’ll say, “Oh, that fits here. Oh, that fits there,” and you’ll have a rack, if you will, to hang your coat on.
One of the problems with modern day Bible study is that you can spend so much time studying the veins on the leaves of the tree that you forget what the forest looks like! And what I’m giving you here is the forest—this is big picture stuff! I mean, this is like an injury I had in my basketball days where I couldn’t practice with the team and the coach said, “Okay, just get out of here. Go to the top of the bleachers and just watch practice.” Now, when I watched the team play from up there—wow!—that’s what the whole thing’s supposed to look like. Because when I’m playing, I’m just focused on my position. But how does my position fit the whole? How do you know that unless you get injured and God sends you up into the cheap seats? See, what we’re given here is the big picture! If you don’t see the big picture, you’re just lost in the trees; you’re lost in the forest. So, there’s actually a way to outline this particular book.
Now let’s talk about the setting of the book. What is happening in the setting of this particular book? Let’s talk about geography. Genesis 1-11 occurs in a place called the Fertile Crescent, Mesopotamia. “Meso” in Greek means between; “potamia” means rivers. What two rivers would those be? The Euphrates and the Tigris.
I don’t know how much the flood altered the topography of the ancient world, but the best we can tell is that’s most likely where the Garden of Eden was. It is where the Tower of Babel was erected. And if you tracked with us in our studies in the Book of Revelation, chapter 17 and 18, it’s where human history is going to end—in the Fertile Crescent, Mesopotamia, modern-day Iraq. Any anthropologist, if they are a Bible believer or not, will tell you that the Fertile Crescent is where life began. That’s where Genesis 1-11 happens.
But then God says in Genesis 12-36, “I’m going to start a new nation.” Because the rest of the nations of the earth had all been corrupted—particularly by the Tower of Babel and the spread of the mother-child cult into every culture. So God says, “To pull this off, I’ve got a create a new nation.” And that’s what the calling of Abram, whose name later became Abraham, is all about.
“I want you to separate yourself from this area, Mesopotamia.” In particular, Abram was dwelling in Ur of the Chaldeans. “I want you to walk by faith, and I’m not even going to tell you where I’m taking you! Because through you is going to come something special: a Messiah Who I predicted would come all the way back in Eden after the Fall, Genesis 3:15.”
Joshua 24:2 says, “Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘From ancient times your fathers lived beyond the River, namely, Terah [Abram’s daddy], the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, and they served other gods. Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River, and led him through all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his descendants and gave him Isaac.”
When God called Abram, he was a rank, idolatrous pagan. He was caught up in all of the false worship system that characterized those negatively impacted by the Tower of Babel. And God says, “I’m going to call you, and I’m going to separate you. And through you, the Messiah—through a special nation—is coming to the earth. And, by the way, all of the books of the Bible that we have today—starting with Moses 600 years later—are going to come through the Jewish nation. And, by the way, the Kingdom is going to come through the Jewish nation!” So, the calling of Abram then becomes a big deal!
“How could God call a guy who was idolatrous?” Well, look at your own life. I mean, were you perfect when God set His affections on you and began to deal with you? Was I perfect? God never calls the qualified; He qualifies the called. God doesn’t use perfect people because there aren’t any. God uses crooked sticks to draw straight lines—and praise the Lord for that, or none of us would be used. Because Abram had this purpose of begetting this nation that would export God’s redemptive purposes to the earth.
So, once you hit chapter 12, Abram is called up out of Ur of the Chaldeans, walking by faith. Then he comes back down into the promised land. And the problem is, over the course of time, the nation of Israel started to self-destruct. Why? Because the Canaanites were a wicked people.
That’s why you have stories in here about Sodom and Gomorrah. Most likely they were located to the south of the Dead Sea. You have stories about the rape of Dinah. It’s all about paganism in the culture affecting God’s people. So God says, “You’ve been in this land long enough. I’ve got to get you out!”
And He took them out through his dealings with a 17-year-old named Joseph. He got them out of that land, prepped them for the Exodus 400 years later, and then God began to work through Moses to lead them out in the Exodus, take them to Mount Sinai to receive the Law, and then they just had an 11 days journey from Sinai into the promised land. And they quit trusting God! Doesn’t that sound like us?
“God does this, God does this, God does this, but God can’t handle this!” This is the value, by the way, of keeping a journal or a diary because you can look back and say, “God saved me here and God protected me here. Why can’t He help me today?” And that’s what they forgot. They looked into the promised land. You know the story.
In Numbers 13 and 14 they saw giants in the land. So, God says, “I’m done with this generation (including Moses, who never entered). I’ll work with your kids. Joshua and Caleb can come too as seasoned saints because they believed Me. The rest of y’all—as we say in Texas, ‘all y’all’—you just wander around out here until you’re all dead.” God then begins to work with the next generation.
That’s why, when you’re reading the Book of Numbers, there are two censuses there. And it’s not easy reading. Chapter 1 is one census; you get another one in chapter 26. Why two censuses? Why do we need two? Because God is working with the second generation after the first generation who had seen all of the signs and wonders dropped the ball.
Chapters 1-11, Fertile Crescent. Chapters 12-36, the geography goes from Ur as Abram is walking by faith in the promised land for the first time. Chapters 37-50, you’re going to get out of the promised land because I’ve got to set the stage for the Exodus. And that’s where His work with Joseph happened. So, the trajectory is from Ur into the promised land. And the Book of Genesis ends with the nation of Israel in Egypt in a place called Goshen where it keeps saying over and over again that they were protected from the polytheism of Egypt.
God had to incubate and insulate them for 400 years to protect them from pagan influences that were destroying them in Canaan, that could have destroyed them in Egypt, and that’s where they became slaves for 400 years. Because there arose a Pharaoh who did not know Joseph or the things that God had done for Israel. That’s the beginning of the Book of Exodus where the enslavement happens. And the enslavement becomes necessary because God wants to glorify Himself through the Exodus, which is the greatest act of redemptive history—other than the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. So that’s how the geography works in the Book of Genesis.
“Well, pastor, I want to know how old the earth is.” And I bet you do! “I want to know where to put my Big Bang. I mean, where are we going to put the Big Bang?” Listen to me very carefully, folks: you are going to get your Big Bang. You will get your Big Bang, but you’ve got to come back next week to hear about it. Because if I get into this—don’t egg me on, either—we would never get out of here.
This is just wonderful history that we’re looking at. We’ll do “Introduction, Part Two” next week. And the following week we’ll do the verse by verse study of the Book of Genesis. I hope you’re excited about this; God has gone to great lengths to reveal this history to us. Why? Because in the year 2020 He knew He wanted to get the gospel to you! God did all of this so that the gospel could come through the Jewish race to you! And foolish is the person who says, “Well, I can do without Jesus. I can do without Yeshua.” You’re ignoring the pains that the Creator has taken to reveal the gospel to you.
What is the gospel? The gospel ultimately is the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. It’s the good news. It’s called good news because Jesus did everything in our place. And He simply asks us, at the point of salvation, not to trust in ourselves and our good works but to trust in what He has accomplished for us. That’s why Jesus said in His final words, dying on the cross, John 19:30, “It is finished.” He didn’t say, “It’s about 75% done; now you go out and be a good person.” I mean, all of this history is pointing to what Jesus would do through His complete sacrifice for us. And He says, “I have just one condition for a human to meet: you trust in what I have done. Not that you memorize facts about Me, but you place your personal trust in Me.”
By the way, God says, “I don’t have any grandkids.” You can’t live off your parent’s faith or your grandparent’s faith. You’ve got to have your own faith in Christ and your own walk with God, and that starts with understanding the gospel and then trusting in the gospel and believing the gospel. You can actually trust in the gospel right now as I’m speaking in the quietness of your own mind, heart, and thoughts as the Spirit places people under conviction.
That’s one of the reasons that the Spirit has been sent into the world: to convict men and women of sin, righteousness, and judgment. No amount of human oratory can convince you of this; it’s something that God has to do. And some of you within the sound of my voice are probably under that conviction. Our exhortation is to respond to that convicting ministry. God convicts you because He loves you, and He wants to have a relationship with you. But what good is all of it if we ignore the conviction? We have to trust in what He has done. Conviction is a good thing; now follow through.
It’s not something you have to walk an aisle to do, join a church to do, give money to do. It’s a private matter between you and God where you come under conviction; you respond by trusting in what Jesus has done—and that’s what saves you. What we’re learning here is the foundation for that, beginning in the Book of Genesis.
If it’s something you need more explanation on, I’m available after the service to talk. But we would encourage anybody to just do that right now; trust in the promises of the gospel just where they’re seated. Shall we pray?
“Lord, we’re grateful for history. We’re grateful for the beginning. I just pray that You’ll be with us as we go through this material. Help us not to go through the Book of Genesis; help the Book of Genesis to go through us.
We’ll be careful to give You all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name.” And God’s people said, “Amen.”