The first of the sacred books in the Old Testament; so called from the title given to it in the Septuagint, signifying "the book of a generation," or production of all things. Moses is generally admitted to have been the writer of this book; and it is supposed that he penned it after the promulgation of the law. Its authenticity is attested by the most indisputable evidence, and it is cited as an inspired record thirty-three times in the course of the Scriptures. The history related in it comprises a period of about 2,369 years, according to the lowest computation, but according to Dr. Hales, a much larger period. It contains an account of the creation; the primeval state and fall of man; the history of Adam and his descendants, with the progress of religion and the origin of the arts; the genealogies age, and death of the patriarchs until Noah; the general defection and corruption of mankind, the general deluge, and the preservation of Noah and his family in the ark; the history of Noah and his family subsequent to the time of the deluge; the repeopling and division of the earth among the sons of Noah; the building of Babel, the confusion of tongues, and the dispersion of mankind; the lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph. The book of Genesis was written, like the rest of Scripture, "by inspiration of God." Yet many of the facts it records must have been of the facts it records must have been well known among the Jews; the account given by Adam himself may have been verbally transmitted through seven of the patriarchs to Moses, and he may also have had ancient historical writings to consult. The book of Genesis lays the foundation for all the subsequent books of the Bible; and its value in the history of the earth, of man, and of religion, is inestimable.
The five books of Moses were collectively called the Pentateuch, a word of Greek origin meaning "the five-fold book." The Jews called them the Torah, i.e., "the law." It is probable that the division of the Torah into five books proceeded from the Greek translators of the Old Testament. The names by which these several books are generally known are Greek.
The first book of the Pentateuch (q.v.) is called by the Jews Bereshith, i.e., "in the beginning", because this is the first word of the book. It is generally known among Christians by the name of Genesis, i.e., "creation" or "generation," being the name given to it in the LXX. as designating its character, because it gives an account of the origin of all things. It contains, according to the usual computation, the history of about two thousand three hundred and sixty-nine years.
Genesis is divided into two principal parts. The first part (1-11) gives a general history of mankind down to the time of the Dispersion. The second part presents the early history of Israel down to the death and burial of Joseph (12-50).
There are five principal persons brought in succession under our notice in this book, and around these persons the history of the successive periods is grouped, viz., Adam (1-3), Noah (4-9), Abraham (10-25:18), Isaac (25:19-35:29), and Jacob (36-50).
In this book we have several prophecies concerning Christ (Ge 3:15; 12:3; 18:18; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14; 49:10). The author of this book was Moses. Under divine guidance he may indeed have been led to make use of materials already existing in primeval documents, or even of traditions in a trustworthy form that had come down to his time, purifying them from all that was unworthy; but the hand of Moses is clearly seen throughout in its composition.
1. Name, Contents, and Plan.
(origin), the first book of the law or Pentateuch, so called from its title ia the Septuagint, that is, Creation. Its author was Moses. The date of writing was probably during the forty-years wanderings in the wilderness, B.C. 1491-1451. Time. --The book of Genesis covered 2369 years,--from the creation of Adam, A.M 1, to the death of Joseph, A.M. 2369, or B.C. 1635. Character and purpose. --The book of Genesis (with the first chapters of Exodus) describes the steps which led to the establishment of the theocracy. It is a part of the writer's plan to tell us what the divine preparation of the world was in order to show, first, the significance of the call of Abraham, and next, the true nature of the Jewish theocracy. He begins with the creation of the world, because the God who created the world and the God who revealed himself to the fathers is the same God. The book of Genesis has thus a character at once special and universal. Construction. --It is clear that Moses must have derived his knowledge of the events which he records in Genesis either from immediate divine revelation or from oral tradition or written documents. The nature of many of the facts related, and the minuteness of the narration, render it extremely improbable that immediate revelation was the source from whence they were drawn. That his knowledge should have been derived from oral tradition appears morally impossible when we consider the great number of names, ages, dates and minute events which are recorded. The conclusion then, seems fair that he must have obtained his information from written documents coeval, or nearly so, with the events which they recorded, and composed by persons intimately acquainted with the subjects to which they relate. He may have collected these, with additions from authentic tradition or existing monuments under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, into a single book. Certain it is that several of the first chapters of Genesis have the air of being made up of selections from very ancient documents, written by different authors at different periods. The variety which is observable in the names and titles of the Supreme Being is appealed to among the most striking proofs of this fact. This is obvious in the English translation, but still more so in the Hebrew original. In Gen 1 to 2:3, which is really one piece of composition, as the title, v. 4, "These are the generations," shows, the name of the Most High is uniformly Elohim, God. In ch.
to ch. 3, which may be considered the second document, the title is uniformly Yehovah Elohim, Lord God; and in the third, including ch. 4, it is Yehovah, Lord, only; while in ch. 5 it is Elohim, God only, except in v. 29, where a quotation is made, and Yehovah used. It is hardly conceivable that all this should be the result of mere accident. The changes of the name correspond exactly to the changes in the narratives and the titles of the several pieces." Now, do all these accurate quotations," says Professor Stowe, "impair the credit of the Mosaic books, or increase it? Is Marshall's Life of Washington to be regarded as unworthy of credit because it contains copious extracts from Washington's correspondence and literal quotations from important public documents? Is not its value greatly enhanced by this circumstance? The objection is altogether futile. In the common editions of the Bible the Pentateuch occupies about one hundred and fifty pages, of which perhaps ten may be taken up with quotations. This surely is no very large proportion for an historical work extending through so long a period."--Bush. On the supposition that writing was known to Adam, Gen. 1-4, containing the first two of these documents, formed the Bible of Adam's descendants, or the antediluvians. Gen 1 to 11:9, being the sum of these two and the following three, constitutes the Bible of the descendants of Noah. The whole of Genesis may be called the Bible of the posterity of Jacob; and the five Books of the Law were the first Bible of Israel as a nation.--Canon Cook.
GENESIS, a canonical book of the Old Testament, so called from the Greek ???????, genesis, or generation, because it contains an account of the origin of all visible things, and of the genealogy of the first patriarchs. In the Hebrew it is called ??????, which signifies, in the beginning, because it begins with that word. See PENTATEUCH.