Genesis 1-11: Its Foundational Nature, Context, and Special Relevance for Israel

Genesis 1-11 is the introduction to the rest of the Bible.  In its original context, when it was first given in the Book of the Law, Genesis 1-11 introduced the nation Israel to their place in the world.

When Moses received the Law, he substantially had the materials we know as Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.  Advocates of the “documentary hypothesis of the Pentateuch” notwithstanding, Scripture, including the very words of Jesus, attributes authorship of the first five books of the Bible to Moses (Matt 8:4, 19:7-8; Mark 7:10, 12:26; Luke 24:27, 44; John 5:46-47, 7:19; Acts 6:14, 13:39, 15:5; 1 Cor 9:9; 2 Cor 3:15; Heb 10:28).

The exodus of Israel from Egypt marked a huge turning point in their history (chronicled in the book of Exodus).  They began as a people because of a miraculous fulfilled promise of a son to Abraham and Sarah.  They multiplied to become a large number of people.   God rescued them from slavery in Egypt, and would bring them to the land he promised Abraham.

When God raised up Moses, his chosen prophet and leader, He gave Moses instructions to pass on to the nation.  They needed to know their history and background in order to prepare for the challenges of going in to a new land.  When one reads Genesis 1-11 with the knowledge of Moses’ authorship and the timing of Israel receiving the book, it helps one see some particular angles of relevance.

Israel was coming from Egypt and heading into Canaan.  Both places were inhabited by people with polytheistic religions with many immoral and wicked practices.  Genesis presents the creation of the world by ONE sovereign, almighty, all-wise God, who is before and who reigns over all of the things He created, and who sets the standards by which we live and the grounds on which we approach Him.

Genesis is an inspired history that, among other things:

  • presents one God, not many gods (chapter 1).
  • shows us the character of God.  He is active; omnipotent; wise; good; merciful; involved; authoritative; righteous; patient, and more.
  • presents man as the special creation of God, made in His image, to carry out His commands (1:26-28).
  • reveals God as the Creator and rightful Definer of the parameters of marriage and sexual activity (2:24-25).
  • gives man a pattern for a work week with a day of rest, recognized in the Ten Commandments (cf. chapter 1 with Exod 20:11).
  • shows the origin and effects of sin, which is disobedience to God that resulted in much human suffering and in death itself (chapter 3).
  • shows that failure to live in submission to God’s rule results in banishment (chapter 3).  It happened to Adam and Eve (placed in and then expelled from a garden they didn’t make) and it would happen to Israel if they did not keep God’s commands as they went to Canaan (Deut 28).
  • reveals the inability of man to cover his own sin and the need for a God who takes initiative, promises to defeat our enemy, promises a Savior, and who covers our sin through the death of an innocent victim (all in chapter 3, and ultimately fulfilled in Jesus).
  • shows God is pleased by faith in Him (Chapter 4).
  • shows the blessing of walking with God and calling on Him (Chapter 4-5).
  • demonstrates the propensity of mankind to forget the true God (Chapter 5).
  • reveals mankind is universally sinful and deserves universal judgment (the Flood, chapters 6-9).
  • shows Canaan was cursed (chapter 9).  Good for them to know that as they’re going into Canaan land to conquer!
  • shows nations and languages originated from God’s judgment on man’s pride at Babel (chapters 10-11).
  • shows that Abram (Abraham) had a definite historical connection that could be traced back to the first man, Adam. (Genealogies in chapter 5, 11).
  • demonstrates that Israel and all other nations and people came from the same human background, as far as Adam/Eve and Noah/his wife were concerned, but Noah’s descendants became the ancestors of more specific people groups.  Yet all these are made in God’s image.

These points were especially pertinent to the nation as they were about to conquer a culture that distorted and perverted many of these ideas.  The content of Genesis 1-11 (the history of the world up to the time of Abraham) calls into question those who claim Genesis was written far later than the days of Moses.  The truth of Genesis was truth the people needed to know and heed as they obeyed God’s commands and took the Promised Land.

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Book Review: Knowable Word by Peter Krol

kwPeter Krol, Knowable Word (Cruciform Press, 2014)
available for Kindle and in paperback, 120 pp.

Reviewed by Doug Smith

When I was a child, I had an unusual fixation with instruction manuals.  I actually enjoyed reading about how to use a toy, game, or electronic device.  There was just something about reading a description of how something was supposed to work, and figuring out how to understand the description, comparing it to what I was doing, and seeing if I could apply what I just read that I found satisfying, especially if I got a better result than what I had previously achieved.

I can’t think of any higher compliment about Knowable Word than that it is a good instruction manual that is enjoyable to read and easy to use.  Three attributes that distinguish Peter Krol’s book from other books on hermeneutics, or how to interpret and study the Bible, are its brevity, clarity, and practicality.

Knowable Word is a brief, quick on-ramp into the world of Bible study.  There are plenty of tomes on Biblical interpretation.  There are books about an abundance of introductory matters about Bible study that never actually get one into the Bible study.  Some of these books are hundreds of pages, but Krol’s is only 120.  Its length makes it possible to read in a couple of hours.  Reading it in a single sitting can help the reader more easily get the whole picture of what the author is saying, and get to work putting the book into practice.

Knowable Word is a clear book.  Its clarity is achieved by its focused vision to present a method of Bible study that is faithful to Scripture, easy to remember, and easy to apply.  The three step method?  Observe.  Interpret.  Apply.  Krol grounds this traditional “OIA” method in Scripture, showing how Jesus used this methodology to point out things to His hearers (Matt. 21:42-44).  He also shows how it works in normal human communication, as we see something, consider its meaning, and then choose a response based on what we have seen and interpreted.  Krol also gives an overarching vision of the Bible as a book that points us to Christ.  He takes us to Luke 24 to show us how Jesus viewed Scripture as pointing to Himself, and challenges us to look for themes that relate to the suffering and death of the Messiah, the need for repentance and forgiveness of sin, and the proclamation of the good news to all nations (Luke 24:46-47).

Krol’s writing style is direct and straightforward.  He does not get bogged down with a myriad of alternative views of scholarly theories, but focuses on explaining the OIA method in a simple manner.

The author primarily limits his examples of Bible study methods to Genesis 1, which he takes on its own terms, rather than importing ideas foreign to the text to shape his interpretation  This approach remains consistent throughout the book.  We do not have to constantly change gears to other types of literature as we are learning the method.

Krol gives clarity by way of contrast.  He argues that familiarity is our biggest enemy to observing what Scripture actually says, since we are not as active to observe that which we believe we already know.  Presuming that we understand something is an obstacle to discovering the right interpretation.  The inertia in our lives makes it difficult to want to budge and dig into the hard work of application, which leads to change.

Knowable Word is a practical book.  Krol quickly and clearly shows us how to put our Bible study into practice.  He focuses both on our internal beliefs and character as well as our outward actions toward others.  Examples from his own life, as he applies his study of Genesis 1 to his own aversion to home improvement projects, are illuminating and give good suggestions for us to think about when applying the Scripture.  The book also provides exercises and access to printable worksheets for working through the phases of observation, interpretation, and application, with suggestions of the things we need to look for and consider.

Krol’s book is a great instruction manual for reading the Bible.  It doesn’t go on forever, but gives you the basics so you can jump right in and start studying.  It doesn’t over-complicate things, but is clear in its instruction.  It’s practical, and you can immediately see the usefulness of the method Krol explains.  Knowable Word is thorough and clear enough that you can read it once and remember its gist as you put its principles to work.  Yet, it is a good reference to go back to when needing to remind yourself how you can dig deeper.

Knowable Word is a helpful resource that can introduce readers to basic Bible study methods they can learn “in five minutes” and master “over a lifetime,” as Krol states in chapter 1.  I plan to use this book to help others of all ages learn how to study the Bible for themselves, in hopes that they will better know Jesus and pass this method on to others as well.

The book also has a website with resources here.

DISCLAIMER: I received a free eBook of this title from Cruciform Press in exchange for an honest review.

The book is available for $5.99 for Kindle and $8.99 for paperback.