Grace Presbyterian Church, Montclair, New Jersey

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Bible Study

The Book of Genesis

An interactive Bible study led by Pastor Paul Leggett

Genesis 1, 2:1-4: “In the Beginning” · January 7, 2009

The book of Genesis is the first book of the Bible. It literally means “beginning.” The account of creation is not only a description. It is also a definition of what life is and how it should be lived. Most scholars believe there are two accounts of creation which have been placed at the beginning of the Bible. The first goes from chapter 1:1-2:4a.

The Genesis account is not intended to be a scientific picture of creation since modern science was unknown at the time it was written. Nonetheless, there are some scientists who have commented on the ways it does follow what we know from science. However, as noted above, the purpose of this account is to define creation in terms of the activity of God and the role and nature of human beings.

In many ways this opening is part of a prologue to the main story of the book which focuses not on creation but on redemption, the salvation of fallen humanity through God’s calling of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It is the theme of redemption that ultimately defines life for us in the twenty-first century.

Genesis 2:4-25, 3:1-24: “Creation and Fall” · January 21, 2009

We come now to the second scene of creation in Genesis. Here we have the origin of human beings in their relation to God, to the world, to the animals and, ultimately, to the problem of good and evil. This section begins with a word which has the same root as the opening word in the Babylonian creation account. We also have similar motifs from other ancient literature like the Gilgamesh Epic. Yet the world view of the biblical writers could not be more different from the mythical outlook of these earlier sources. It is important to note the differences because they give us an important insight into the essential contrast between the Word of God and the wisdom of the world (I Corinthians 1:20-23). This passage answers two essential questions: where did we as human beings come from, and why is there suffering and evil in God’s “very good” world (Genesis 1:31)?

Genesis 4, 5, 6:1-10: “Chaos, Judgment and Mercy” · February 4, 2009

Once Adam and Eve are expelled from Eden, the events of human history become dominated by sin. Yet in all these tragic events, God’s mercy shines through, as it did after the fall with God’s promise of the woman’s offspring (Genesis 3:15) and God’s clothing Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21).  Nonetheless, as human history continues, we encounter the first murder, cosmic rebellion including both celestial beings (‘sons of God,” Genesis 6:4) and humans, and a degenerating into complete evil (Genesis 6:5). We reach the depths of a situation where God sees the wickedness of humans everywhere and reaches the point where he decides to destroy not only the humans he had made in his own image (Genesis 1:27), but the animal kingdom as well (Genesis 6:7). In the midst of this chaos, we encounter a remarkable exception, Noah, who is “a righteous man, blameless in his generation” (Genesis 6:9).

Genesis 6:11-9:29: “Judgment and New Life” · February 18, 2009

The story of Noah continues with the utter corruption and violence of the earth. God carries out his threat to destroy the creation he has made (Genesis 6:7). A cosmic flood is sent as God’s judgment upon the earth (the flood actually begins with the “fountains of the great deep” bursting open, Genesis 7:11).  We learn that Noah, having found favor with the Lord (Genesis 6:8), obeys God continually. Noah and his family are gathered safely into the ark and saved from the earth’s destruction. The account of Noah is referred to throughout the Scriptures as an example of both God’s judgment and gracious salvation (Isaiah 54:9; Matthew 24:36-39; Hebrews 11:7; I Peter 3:18-22). Noah is a symbol of God’s salvation but he himself is not that salvation nor is he ultimately a savior. Even after the flood, the human condition is not improved. Noah becomes drunk. One of his sons defiles him. God nonetheless has established an everlasting covenant that never again shall a flood destroy the world (Genesis 9:11). Noah is the guarantee that human history will continue. More importantly, God’s plan of salvation will continue to unfold.

Genesis 10-11: “God's Continuing Plan” · March 4, 2009

Chapters ten and eleven of Genesis conclude what is referred to as the prehistory of the Bible. These eleven chapters give an explanation of who God is, who humans are and what sin is. It is important, I believe, to see these passages in the context of the Babylonian Captivity of Israel which took place during the sixth century B.C.  As we’ve seen, the writing down of the inspired Word of God regarding the origin of all things is also a commentary on the false beliefs of the Babylonians. The children of Israel had to teach and pass on the truth of God in the midst of a culture that was very alien to them.

Genesis 12-14: “The Coming of Abraham” · March 18, 2009

God’s actual plan of salvation begins with the call of Abraham. At this point in the account he is still Abram. His new name will be the sign of this change in status as is also the case with his wife who goes from Sarai to Sarah. God’s promises of a special people and a special land are immediately threatened by human ignorance and faithlessness. Yet this will be the essence of the Biblical story of salvation. God remains faithful even in the face of human failure (II Timothy 2:13).

Genesis 15-17: “God's Covenant with Abraham” · April 1, 2009

In these next chapters, God establishes his covenant with Abraham.  These chapters refer to prevailing patterns of the ancient world which are understandably foreign to us.  What is most crucial is that God makes a promise to Abraham that is everlasting. Abraham’s only response is to believe, trusting in God’s promise. In this extremely crucial section, we have the definition of humanity’s right relationship to God, trusting in God’s promises. However, human impatience cannot wait for God’s fulfillment. Sarah and Abraham try to fulfill the promise on their own with tragic results. God’s promises may seem unbelievable but they are nonetheless certain.

Genesis 18-20: “What Were You Thinking Of?” · April 15, 2009

This next section of Genesis focuses on a sharp contrast between God’s promises and human depravity. God reiterates his promise to Abraham and Sarah that they will have a son. Sarah follows Abraham’s example in laughing at the idea. These chapters also include God’s judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah as well as human attempts at solutions to pressing problems. The human attempts fail, often disastrously. God, however, continues to intervene to carry out his plan and purpose.

Genesis 21-22: “God’s Impossible Command” · May 6, 2009

These next two chapters continue the story of Abraham. We have the birth of Isaac, the child of promise. We get a picture of Abraham’s life in “the land of the Philistines” (Genesis 21:34). More than this, however, we have the single most dramatic episode in the entire Book of Genesis when Abraham is commanded by God to sacrifice his own son. This appears to contradict every thing God has said up to this point.

Genesis 23-24: “Divine Promises in Ordinary Life” · May 20, 2009

In these chapters, God’s promises continue to unfold. We are now no longer looking only at Abraham, but at his descendants who continue the journey which Abraham began (Genesis 12:1-4). This journey includes life, death, love and marriage.

Genesis 25-26: “Deception and Promise” · June 3, 2009

The story of the community of faith continues now with Isaac following the death of Abraham. Isaac and Rebekah give birth to Jacob and Esau whose conflict foreshadows future struggles among God’s chosen people.

Genesis 27-28: “The Covenant Recalled: God’s Faithfulness and Human Deceit” · September 16, 2009

These next two chapters record one of the most pivotal events in Old Testament history. Jacob, encouraged by his mother, deceives his father and cheats his brother out of his inheritance. Yet, in spite of this, God’s covenant is reaffirmed for Jacob. God’s promises both contradict and overpower human failings. Jacob in this passage receives the special promise, “Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go … (Genesis 28:15).”

Genesis 29-30: “Jacob Meets His Match” · October 7, 2009

We continue now with the story of Jacob and of his two wives, Leah and Rachel. Even more significantly we have the birth of his twelve sons who will represent the twelve tribes of Israel. Like the previous story of Jacob and Esau, this one is full of human deception and intrigue. Yet we are moving closer to the promise of the Messiah (Genesis 3:15). It is out of human brokenness, not human righteousness, that Christ will come.

Genesis 31-33: “God and the gods” · October 21, 2009

Jacob now faces a major new direction in his life. God commands him to return to his homeland with, again, the promise that God will be with him (Genesis 31:3). Jacob leaves with his family without Laban’s blessing. Rachel steals the “household gods.” This leads to a major conflict with Laban which is then only the precursor to a much greater conflict in which Jacob learns that Esau, the brother he betrayed, is coming to meet him. The biggest challenge however is a night in which Jacob wrestles with an unknown divine being. He later learns that this figure is God. His name is changed to Israel. Indeed his whole life is changed.

Genesis 33-35: “Reconciliation and Revenge” · November 4, 2009

In these chapters, we come to the end of a major section of the Jacob story. We see how Jacob comes back to his homeland with his extended family. Before that can happen, Jacob has to face his brother, Esau, with surprising results. We also continue to see the darker side of life reflected in the revenge exacted by Jacob’s sons. Finally, we witness both the death of Rachel and the birth of the Jacob’s twelfth son, Benjamin, who will be the ancestor of the apostle Paul.

Genesis 36-38: “Dreams and Nightmares” · November 18, 2009

These next three chapters all deal with different groups and situations. We read about the descendents of Esau, Joseph and his brothers and then learn of Judah’s family. The three accounts seem hardly connected. However in different ways they are all part of the developing history of Israel. The story of Joseph will become the dominant story of the remainder of Genesis.

Genesis 39-41: “Joseph, Prime Minister of Egypt” · December 2, 2009

When we last left Joseph, he had barely escaped death at the hands of his treacherous brothers and was sold into slavery to Potiphar, a captain of Pharaoh’s guard. The critical thing we are told is that, ”the Lord was with Joseph and he became a successful man (Genesis 39:2).” This hardly happens overnight. Joseph first has to fend off the seductive advances of Potiphar’s wife and be sent into prison. Yet, astoundingly, God, in ways we could never imagine, not only delivers Joseph but places him in the highest rank of Egypt’s society. This only sets the stage for many amazing things to follow.

Genesis 42-44: “The Fateful Reunion” · January 6, 2010

A dramatic chain of events is set in motion with the spread of the famine which ends chapter 41. The famine has penetrated to Canaan. Judah sends his sons to Egypt to buy food. Here they encounter their long lost brother, Joseph. It has been twenty years since the ten brothers have seen him. While he recognizes them, they have no idea who he is. Joseph sees the fulfillment of his dream that his brothers would bow down before him. More than this, he puts them to a test to see if they will do to his full brother, Benjamin, what they did to him. It is in this context that Judah steps forward, and in a scene which foreshadows Jesus sacrificing himself for us, offers to sacrifice himself for Benjamin.

Genesis 45-47: “Israel in Egypt” · January 20, 2010

We come now to the climax of the Joseph story. Joseph can no longer contain himself (45:1) and reveals his true identity to his brothers. This is a prefiguring of the Gospel. Joseph to all intent and purpose has been raised from the dead in the sense that the brothers and father assumed he was dead. Throughout this section we have language which prefigures the response to the resurrection in the New Testament. Just as Jesus brings us into the Kingdom of God Joseph brings his family into the kingdom of Egypt. Joseph emerges in the crisis of the famine as the savior of the world. Genesis then takes us from creation to resurrection, both introducing and summarizing the theme of the whole Bible.

Genesis 48-50: “Blessing and Prophecy” · February 3, 2010

We come now to the conclusion of Genesis. We will see that the whole book is in fact a foretelling of the entire Bible. We have seen the great themes of creation, the fall, the calling of an elect people (in ways that mystify us as sinful human beings), the continuing conflict between righteous and sinful behavior even on the part of God’s chosen people and the themes of redemption and reconciliation. In the last chapter we are reminded of God’s overarching providence. While we are free to make our own choices, God determines the final outcome of all things.

All Study Outlines for
The Book of Genesis


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