The Book of Genesis at a Glance

This morning, I attempted to do something that’s, well, far more difficult than it sounds.  I tried to preach through the entire book of Genesis in a single sermon; I tried to unpack the meta-narrative.  It doesn’t sound easy, and it is far less easy than it sounds.  I’ve heard a few preachers do similar things (i.e. Mark Dever, Jack Hughes, Rick Holland…all men I’m definitely not) and I want to have some variety in the pulpit, so after preaching systematically through Jonah I figured I’d change my approach and go for some “big picture” stuff.

Here’s my “Jetting through Genesis” notes for anyone who’s interested in big pictures:

  • Genesis 1:1-2:3 explain how everything that is came to exist.
    • Genesis lays out, in historical narrative, the 6 days of creation.
    • After this, the narrative structure of Genesis changes to a series of accounts, the first of which starts in 2:4
  • Genesis contains 10 stories of “generations” (Hbr – toledot); i.e stories that explain “this is what became of…”
    • Gen 2:4 – Generations of the heavens and earth
      • This passage explains “what became of” God’s good creation.
        • This is not a second creation story, but rather explains what happened to the “generations” of the heavens & earth; i.e. the first family.
      • In Genesis 2, God made Adam and Eve.
      • In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve rebelled against God and were cast out of the garden.
        • Not only do they get thrown out, but God curses both mankind and the entire earth because of their rebellion.
          • This also introduces the key theme of judgment.
        • In Genesis 3:15, we have the promise of the seedof Eve, the one who will strike the serpent in the head.
          • This introduces the key theme of promise.
          • The themes of judgment and promise run throughout the rest of the 9 stories.
      • In Genesis 4, we see the first murder and then watch as humanitie’s wickedness grows at a startling pace.
    • Gen. 5:1 – Generations of Adam
      • This passage explains “what became of” the descendants of Adam.
      • Ten generations mentioned, with basically nothing said until Noah.
      • Here we see God zooming in on Noah.
        • In Genesis 5, we see judgment in the repetition of death.  We see  death + death + death etc.
        • In Genesis 5, we see promise in 5:29 when Noah is named “comfort” because Lamech thought that Noah would bring his family comfort in their labor and painful work caused by the cursed ground.
      • In Genesis 6:5, we learn how wicked mankind had become; that “every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time
        • We see God promising to bring judgment in Genesis 6:7.
    • Gen 6:9 – Generations of Noah
      • This passage explains “what became of” Noah
      • In Genesis 6:13, God says “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth.” (judgment)
      • In Genesis 6:18, God says “But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you.” (promise)
      • In Genesis 7, God judges the entire earth for the sinfulness of mankind.
      • In Genesis 8 God remembers Noah, and in Genesis 8:20-9:17 God makes two promisesto Noah:
        • Never again will he curse the ground.
        • Never again will he kill all living creatures in a flood.
      • In Genesis 9:18-27, Ham and his son Canaan are cursed for sinning against Noah, but Shem is blessed and Japheth is blessed under Shem.
        • Again, we see judgment and promise.
    • Gen 10:1 – Generations of the sons of Noah
      • This passage explains “what became of” the descendants of Noah.
      • In Genesis 10, we see what becomes of the sons of Japheth, Ham and Shem.
        • Japheth’s sons become the settlers of the area north of Israel, i.e. Turkey, Russia, Greece, Germany, Spain and beyond.  It is most likely that the natives of North and South America are originally Japhethites.
          • The sons of Japheth don’t play a major role in the biblical narrative.
        • Ham’s sons become the Egyptians (Mizraim), the Ethopians (Cush), Libya (Put), and the Canaanites (Hittites, Jebusites, Amorites, etc.)
        • Shem’s sons include Eber, from whom came the “Hebrews”
      • In Genesis 11 we see judgment coming as we learn about the tower of Babel, and we see the promise to Eve coming as we learn about the descendants of Shem and Eber.
    • Gen 11:10 – Generations of Shem
      • This passage explains “what became of” the descendants of Shem.
      • Here we see a quick overview of what became of the descendants of Shem.
      • Ten generations mentioned, with basically nothing said until Terah.
        • In Genesis 11, we see judgment in the repetition of death and the ever-shortening life spans of mankind.
        • In Genesis 11, we see promise in 11 as we see Shem’s line becoming the focus for the book of Genesis, knowing that the promised blessing of Shem in Genesis 9:26-27 is coming.
    • Gen 11:27 – Generations of Terah
      • This passage explains “what became of” the descendants of Terah.
        • In Genesis 12, 13, 15, and 17 we see God’s promises to Abram:
          • Land (12:1, 7; 13:14-18; 15:18-19; 17:8)
          • Great nation (12:2; 15:5; 17:4-6)
          • Personal Blessing (12:2)
          • Global Blessing (12:3)
          • Enslavement and deliverance for his children (15:13-14)
          • Covenant of fidelity (17:7)
          • A son by Sarah (17:16)
        • In Genesis 12:6 and 13:18, Abraham builds altars to the Lord and begins reclaiming Canaan for the worship of God, preparing the promised land.
        • In Genesis 18 & 19, we again see God’s brutal judgment against sin, but we also see the promise of salvation for any righteous people found in Sodom and Gomorrah.
        • In Genesis 21, Isaac is born according to the promise, and in Genesis 22 God tests Abraham to see if Abraham believes his promises, which God reaffirms in Genesis 22:15-18 after Abraham obeys the Lord.
        • In Genesis 23:19, Abraham buys an expensive field in Canaan and buries Sarah in the land of Canaan, and in Genesis 25:9-10 Abraham is buried there too.
          • The promise  of the land is fulfilled in a tiny part here; Sarah inherits the land, though after her death.
    • Gen 25:12 – Generations of Ishmael
      • This passage explains “what became of” the descendants of Ishmael.
      • The promiseof Genesis 16:11-12 is fulfilled in Genesis 25:12-16.
        • Ishmael’s descendants lived in hostility towards the descendants of Isaac.
    • Gen 25:19 – Generations of Isaac
      • This passage explains “what became of” the descendants of Isaac.
      • God confirms Abraham’s promise to Isaac in Genesis 26:2-5.
      • Isaac passes the promise on to Jacob in Genesis 27:28-29, and God confirmed the promiseof land, a nation, personal and global blessing in Genesis 28:13-15.
        • We see Isaac buying a field in Canaan in Genesis 33:19-20 and we see the promise of the land fulfilled in another tiny part here.  Again, Isaac inherits the land (like Sarah and Abraham), though after his death.
        • Also, in chapters 29-33, we see Isaac partially receiving the promised blessings as he cares for Laban’s flocks and encounters his brother, Esau.
      • We see judgment in Genesis 34, where Issac’s sons, Simeon and Levi, slay and ransack the Shechemites and are later forfeited from their inheritance and blessing because of their violence (Genesis 49:5-7).
        • We also see judgment in Genesis 35:22 where Reuben sleeps with Isaac’s concubine and is later forfeited from his inheritance and blessing because of it (Genesis 49:3-4)
    • Gen 36:1 – Generations of Esau
      • This passage explains “what became of” the descendants of Esau.
      • Again, the camera pans over the descendants of Esau, to contrast with what God was doing with the sons of Isaac.
      • Genesis 36:31 gives a hint at the coming promise; the sons of Isaac will reign over them.
    • Gen 37:2 – Generations of Jacob
      • This passage explains “what became of” the descendants of Jacob.
      • In Genesis 37, we have two promises that God gives to Joseph:
        • 37:7, 9 – He would reign over his brothers and they would bow down to him.
      • All throughout Genesis 38-41, we see how Joseph is sold into slavery and then rises into power in Egypt.
      • In Genesis 41:56-57, we see part of the promiseof blessing to all nations being fulfilled as all the countries came to Egypt to buy food.
        • In Genesis 42:6 Joseph’s brothers also come to Egypt to by grain, and bow down before him and God’s promise comes to pass.
        • Then, in Genesis 42:21, Joesph’s brothers thought that God was judging them for the death of their brother.
      • In Genesis 45:1-8, Joseph tells his brother how God has sent him ahead to provide deliverance from the famine; God is keeping his promise to bless the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
      • In Genesis 46:2-4 God confirmed his promise to Jacob.
      • In Genesis 47, Joseph fulfilled the promise to be a blessing to those who bless you, under his management, Egypt acquired all the surrounding land and all the surrounding money of everyone!
      • When Jacob was about to die, he blessed all his sons and promised a ruler that would come from Judah  who would rule the world(Gen. 49:10).
      • In Genesis 50:12-13, Joseph and his brothers buried Jacob in the field that Abraham bought, thus fulfilling the promise of the land in a tiny part. Again, Jacob inherited the land, thought after his death.
      • Genesis ends “Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” 25 And Joseph made the sons of Israel swear an oath and said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place. So Joseph died at the age of a hundred and ten. And after they embalmed him, he was placed in a coffin in Egypt.” (Genesis 50:24-26).
        • Joseph died mindful of God’s promise of the land, waiting for God to keep his promise.

Main Ideas From Genesis

–          This is history.

  • The whole structure of the book is that of historical narrative, starting with the real history of chapter 1 and going all the way through the book.
  • Many would claim that the real history starts in chapter 3, or 5, or 11, or somewhere, but the toledot formula starts in 2:4 and continues on throughout the entire book.  If one would argue that the real history starts in 2:4 they may try, but I don’t know any pro-evolution folks that would like to defend the global flood or the tower of Babel (with all the accompanying historical and theological ramifications that are irreconcilable with methodological naturalism in either of those fields) in the secular academy, just to pick one of many problems with the “selective history” idea.  Just going with the Hebrew text, there’s no reason to suspect that Genesis 1:1-2:3 is any less historical narrative than 2:4-50:26.

–          God judges sin

  • Adam
  • Noah
  • Babel
  • Ham
  • Canaan (Gen. 15:16)
  • Sodom & Gomorrah
  • Rueben, Simeon and Levi

–          God is a promise maker

  • God promises to make Israel a great nation
  • God promises Israel the land of Canaan
  • God promises blessing to Israel and the world

–          God is a promise keeper

  • Genesis closes with Israel surviving a massive famine and flourishing.
  • Genesis closes with the Abraham, Isaac and Jacob being buried in the land.
  • Genesis closes with Joseph being vice-regent in the most powerful nation in the world!


1. Because this book is history, we can actually understand it.  It’s not a metaphor for something that we may or may not be able to figure out; it’s real people doing real things in real places.

2. Because God judged sin in the past on a global and capital scale, we have precedent to believe that he will do so in the future.  God will judge the wicked and because of that, all people need to respond accordingly.

3. Because God is a promise maker, we can have faith that’s neither blind nor ambiguous.  No Christian should “just have faith”, but rather all Christians should have faith in God’s promises.  If you’re not believing that God can and will do what he actually says he can and will do, you only have faith in what you think God should do…that’s called “idolatry”.

4. Because God is a promise keeper, we can trust God’s promises; the promise maker is trustworthy.  Because God kept his promises for and to Israel, I know that I God will keep his promises for and to me.

Until Next Time,

Lyndon “The Armchair Toledotalogian” Unger


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