An Overview of the Book of Genesis

Moody Bible Commentary
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Genesis, the first book of the Bible, is full of insight and laden with interpretive questions and controversies. If you want to learn more about various aspects of the book of Genesis, find the section of the following overview that is most helpful for you.

Who Wrote the Book of Genesis?

One of the most controversial questions about the entire Bible, let alone this book, is “Who wrote the Book of Genesis?” Here is an explanation of the different views and some thoughts on them.

The Traditional View

Jewish and Christian traditions consistently affirm that Moses was the writer of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible.

Moses is identified—either explicitly or implicitly—as the writer of the Pentateuch more often than any other writer is identified with any other biblical book(s). Mosaic authorship can be supported with several lines of evidence. (1) The Pentateuch claims this for itself (Ex 17:14; 24:4, 7; 34:27; Nm 33:1-2; Dt 31:9). (2) Other OT books claim Mosaic authorship (see, e.g., Jos 1:7-8; 8:32, 34; 22:5; 23:6; 1Kg 2:3; 2Kg 14:6; 21:8; Ezr 6:18; 2Ch 25:4; Dn 9:11-13; Mal 4:4). (3) Mosaic authorship is also the view of the NT (Mk 12:26; Lk 24:27; Jn 5:46; 2Co 3:15). (4) The details included in the Pentateuch point to an eyewitness author (Ex 15:27; Nm 2:1-31; 11:7-8), not an author writing centuries later. (5) The author was knowledgeable about Egyptian names, words, customs, and geography. Such knowledge indicates a writer from Egypt (Gn 13:10; 16:1-3; 33:18; 41:43), as Moses was, not an author or editor from Israel many centuries later. (6) Above all, the Lord Jesus Christ identified Moses as the author of the Torah. He stated (Jn 7:22) that Moses “gave” the Israelites the account of circumcision (Gn 17), whereas the rite itself was given to and handed down from “the fathers,” that is, the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This shows that the Lord Jesus did indeed recognize Mosaic authorship.

Documentary Hypothesis

The Pentateuch was one of the first portions of the Bible in the post-Enlightenment period to be seriously reexamined by humanist-inclined scholars. The starting point for these scholars’ research was the conviction that the Bible is a purely (or primarily) human literary product, representing a collection of various ancient Near Eastern sources, both historical and mythological, which were collected, systematized, edited, and refashioned over centuries of time.

The application to the Pentateuch (and thus to Genesis) of this less-than-traditional approach was consolidated toward the beginning of the 19th century under the rubric of what has come to be known as the “documentary” or “JEDP” theory of the Pentateuch’s origins. According to this theory the Pentateuch is comprised of at least four different sources (Jahwistic, Elohistic, Deuteronomic, and Priestly), each of which is characterized by certain distinct features and emphases.

The ideological starting point of this view and its attendant methodology is, necessarily, that Moses did not write (or, at the very least, may not have written) the Pentateuch. A review of some of the “proofs” of this assertion illustrates the tenuousness, and even the circular logic through which the data are sifted:

1. The Different Names for God.

In the Torah, different names for God are used in different passages, so advocates of the documentary hypothesis claim that this indicates different sources. For example, God is called Elohim in Gn 1:1–2:3 but called Yahweh Elohim (the Lord God) in Gn 2:4–3:24. This, however, does not derive from two separate sources but rather two distinct emphases. Elohim is the name for God as the Almighty Creator of the universe, while Yahweh is the relational, covenant name for God. It makes sense therefore, that the passage that describes the creation of the world would use Elohim, but the passage that describes the creation of humanity would use His relational name. Moreover, multiple names for God appear in other literature, such as Homer’s epics and the Quran, without requiring different sources.

2. The Presence of Duplications.

In the Torah, there are several accounts that some claim are repetitions of the same event. For example, it is claimed that there are two creation accounts (1:1–2:3; 2:4-25), two covenant accounts (chaps. 15, 17); two banishments of Hagar (chaps. 16, 21); two name changes for Jacob (32:28; 35:10); two times Abraham claims Sarah as his sister, as does Isaac once (12:11-13; 20:11-13; 26:7); two complaints about food resolved by manna and quail (Ex 16:1-21; Nm 11:4-35); and two times water came from the rock (Ex 17:1-7; Nm 20:813). However, several possible reasons exist for these repetitions that do not require multiple sources. These events happened repeatedly, and the author included them for emphasis, or to show patterns of behavior, or to complement one another. In each case, there are good literary reasons for these repetitions.

3. The Presence of Anachronisms

It is claimed that when the text notes that “the Canaanite was then in the land” (Gn 12:6; 13:7) it reflects authorship at a time long after Moses when the Canaanites no longer were the dominant people in the land. Hence, the author was informing the audience of a prior state of affairs. However, the statements may simply imply that Moses, writing to the generation about to enter the land, sought to remind them that the Canaanites were also there in the days of the patriarchs. Another alleged anachronism is that the ancient city of Laish is called Dan (Gn 14:14), a name only given to that city after the conquest of Canaan (Jos 19:47; Jdg 18:29). However, calling the city Dan in the account of Abraham may be a result of a later scribe, when copying the Torah before the close of the OT canon, updating the city name, so that later generations would be able to identify the city under discussion. Another alleged anachronism is the statement that certain kings reigned in Edom “before any king reigned over the sons of Israel” (Gn 36:31), implying that this was written many years after Moses when there was kingship in Israel. But this could merely be Moses anticipating that Israel would one day have a king (cf. Dt 17:14-20) or even an editorial comment by a later scribe, copying the text before the close of the OT canon, and reflecting that Israel did indeed have kings later.

Clearly, these and other alleged anachronisms are easily resolved by recognizing that later scribes, writing before the close of the OT canon, would bring place names and circumstances up to date so that the readers could better understand the text.

4. The Characterization of Moses

This claim is that the Torah speaks of Moses as if he were a character in the narrative and not the author. For example, in the Torah, Moses is spoken of in the third person. This claim presupposes that the early Israelites were either unacquainted with or literarily too unsophisticated to employ the technique of third-person self-reference. However, this technique is attested in many instances throughout the OT (as in Ezra, Nehemiah, and most of the prophetic books) as well as in the NT and early postbiblical Hebrew literature. Another example is that the Torah reports that Moses “was very humble, more than every human on the face of the earth” (Nm 12:3). It is difficult to picture the humblest man on earth writing these words. However, this is a problem only if the concept of humility is understood as “marked by meekness or modesty,” “low in rank,” or “deferential.” But the Hebrew term ’anav conveys the fundamental idea of “unworthiness,” “needy,” or even “afflicted” (see, e.g., Pss 10:16; 34:3; Is 29:19; 61:1). One other example is that the Torah includes an account of Moses’ death (Dt 34). However, all that this indicates is that Moses did not write the last part of Dt and that God used a later prophet to add these words.

When Was the Book of Genesis Written?

Moses probably wrote the Pentateuch during the Israelites’ 40-year sojourn in the wilderness (c. 1446–1406 BC), completing the literary work shortly before his death (see Dt 33:1). The dating of the Pentateuch is derived from dates mentioned in 1Kg 6:1. There it says that Solomon began construction of the temple in “the fourth year” of his reign, approximately 967/966 BC, also stating that it was 480 years after the exodus. This would make the date of the exodus 1447/1446 BC. With a 40-year wilderness wandering, the date of the Pentateuch’s completion would be approximately 1406 BC.

Additionally, the text of the Pentateuch was copied repeatedly between the time of composition by Moses and the close of the Hebrew canon (in approximately 400 BC). As such, these scribes frequently included inspired updates, making historical comments, changing the names of cities to more contemporary names, and even adding sections, such as the account of the death of Moses, likely added by Ezra or one of his contemporaries (see comments on Dt 34:1-12).

What Is the Purpose of the Book of Genesis?

Genesis, like the rest of the Pentateuch, is both a sophisticated piece of literature as well as a thematically and theologically multilayered revelation. It therefore has not just one but several purposes.

As expressed by Christ, quoting from Dt 6:5, the greatest commandment requires a person’s all-consuming love for God (Mt 22:37). Fulfilling this commandment occurs when one loves other humans, those who are made in God’s image. Jesus then quoted from Lv 19:18 the complementary commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” These commandments are really two sides of the same coin, and in fulfilling the first, a person fulfills the other. And in effect he is fulfilling “the whole Law and the Prophets” (Mt 22:40), a first-century Jewish way of referring to the entire Scriptures. Thus, the purpose of Scripture (including Genesis) is to direct people toward worshiping and loving God.

The secondary purposes of Genesis are reflected in (1) 1:1–11:9, a record not simply of early human history, but more specifically of humanity’s overarching depravity and therefore their need for a saving Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth according to the NT writers; and in (2) 11:1050:26, which is a record not simply of Israel’s patriarchal history, but specifically of the path through which humanity’s need for the Messiah can be met.

Other purposes show humanity’s need for the Messiah by (1) establishing that humanity was not meant for sin (1:1–2:25); (2) showing how sin entered the world; (3) highlighting the negative consequences of sin; and (4) emphasizing that sin is an ongoing problem endemic to human nature, which people are incapable of resolving apart from God. In the larger part of Genesis, the path by which this need would be met becomes the focus—specifically, God’s work in laying the foundation for that nation through which Jesus would come. The Abrahamic covenant (12:1-3) consists of three essential elements: a defined location (the land of Israel 12:1); a distinct people (12:2); and an authoritative moral standard (12:3). The rest of Genesis shows how these three elements were realized and refined, so that “in the fullness of time” (Gl 4:4) would come the one through whom man’s need is fully met, “Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Mt 1:1).

What Does the Book of Genesis Say About Jesus?

For the Christian who affirms the inspiration of Scripture and its divine authorship there can be no question that Genesis—as every part of the Hebrew Bible—has much to say about the Messiah. This was affirmed by Jesus Himself, who, when appearing unrecognized to those two disciples on the road to Emmaus, “explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures” beginning “with Moses and with all the prophets” (Lk 24:27). Christ may have begun with Genesis, the first book of “Moses” (here intended as a metonymy for the Pentateuch).

The Christology of Genesis accordingly may be divided into two general categories: direct Christology and indirect Christology. Direct Christology comprises those passages in which direct verbal reference (i.e., a predictive utterance) is made to the person and work of the Messiah, such as Gn 3:15 on the Messiah’s victory over Satan. Also belonging to this category is the culminating Abrahamic promise in 12:3 of blessing for “all the families of the earth” (this “blessing” being salvation in Abraham’s seed, Christ), as well as Jacob’s statement in 49:10, in which he referred to a future ruler to come from Judah, to whom “shall be the obedience of the peoples.”

To the category of indirect Christology belong those symbolic portents of the person and work of Christ otherwise described in the NT by the term “type” (typos) or “shadow” (skia) (both terms are applied to the temple and its sacrificial ritual in Heb 8:5). Among those indirect representations of Christ and His work in Genesis are Adam, “a type of Him who was to come” (Rm 5:14), and Isaac, whom Abraham “received . . . back as a type” (Heb 11:19).

A third category is by far the most extensive, though it does not pertain to Christology proper. “Christology,” whether direct or indirect, concerns the person and work of Christ, which began with His incarnation by conception in Mary. In Genesis, however, as throughout the OT, the Son of God appears (usually in the form of a man) in various situations that are not connected to his future role as Christ. These preincarnational appearances of the Son, otherwise termed “theophanies” (meaning “appearances of God”), or more precisely “Christophanies” (i.e., “appearances of the Christ”), are of great significance. That the many appearances of God throughout the OT are indeed always appearances of the Son is made clear by John’s pointed statement at the beginning of his gospel (Jn 1:18), that “no one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” John’s point is that the triune God is made known to man— whether in the past, present, or future—always and only by the manifestation of the Son.

What Are Some Patterns and Themes in the Book of Genesis?

Genesis, by virtue not only of its place in the canon but also in the timeline of biblical and revelatory history, is filled with events and concepts that are intended both logically and theologically to be viewed as patterns, or paradigms. These paradigms are for understanding those same or similar events and concepts whenever they appear later on, both in Scripture as well as in history generally. In this vein Paul wrote that some of the experiences that befell Israel “happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction” (1Co 10:11). By studying the details of the biblical record, in other words, one can better understand the details and patterns of behavior, both positive and negative, divine and human, as seen time and time again in both biblical and post-biblical history, within Israel as well as within the church. The following are some of the significant patterns and concepts established in Genesis.


Blessing is the bestowal or experiencing of something favorable, whether material or immaterial. Considering the blessings at the outset of the two thematic sections of Genesis (e.g., in chaps. 1 and 12), readers can see that blessing has to do with the expansion of life. The expansion of spiritual life, however, was inhibited by Adam’s sin. Therefore, though all men possess a “living soul” (Gn 2:7), the full and “expanded” life of that soul is realized only when reconnected to the divine by grace through faith (Eph 2:8). Thus “blessing” is the expansion, that is, the full realization, of spiritual life that God intended when He established the path of man’s redemption in His initial expression of the Abrahamic promise— that in Abraham’s seed “all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Gn 12:3; cf. 22:18; Gl 3:16-17.).


Genesis 3 not only tells of the past event of humanity’s first encounter with temptation, but it also gives a present paradigm by which to understand the process of temptation. Though the forms of temptation may change over time, the fundamental lure of every temptation remains the same—specifically, as delineated in Gn 3:6, the lure will be to improperly “satisfy” one or more of the following three “needs” fundamental to humanity: our physical need (“good for food”), our intellectual-emotional need (“pleasing to the eye”), and our spiritual need (“desirable for gaining wisdom”). These three “needs” or “categories” encompass all temptation in the world a person in any place or time will ever face. The apostle John affirmed this in 1Jn 2:16, and Jesus experienced victory over the same three categories of temptation (Lk 4:1-13).


The typical understanding of death as the “cessation” or “termination of life” contrasts with the overall biblical data on this topic. God told Adam that “in the day that you eat from it [the tree of the knowledge of good and evil] you will surely die” (Gn 2:17). Of course when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, they did not cease to live physically. The fundamental idea of death is not cessation, but separation. In death the soul is separated from the body, and for the unredeemed, from God.

God’s Paternal Mercy

God responded to the first sin not with anger but with gentle patience and loving mercy. Knowing what they had done, “the Lord God” entered into the garden, in the form of a man, “walking” among the trees (3:8). He asked gentle, leading questions intended to draw the first couple out of the dark seclusion prompted by their awareness of having sinned and into the light of confession to their Father. After they confessed, God chastised them and forgave them. This shows how He will respond to the sins of all those who are likewise His children.


After responding to the first sin with gentleness and merciful chastisement, God undertook a profound act of forgiveness which clearly set the pattern for the way in which all future sin is to be properly forgiven. In Gn 3:21, three indispensable elements of the atonement process (e.g., forgiveness conclusively realized on a divine level) are presented. (1) Atonement requires a blood sacrifice (cf. Heb 9:22: “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness”). (2) Providing the sacrifice is ultimately God’s work alone (the subject of both the verbs “made” and “clothed” is God alone). (3) God’s work of atonement, once achieved, is durable (e.g., permanent) as born out by the clear contrast between the fig leaves with which the couple attempted to cover their shame and the leather garments (animal skins) God applied. For more details on this, see the comments on 3:21.

Human Depravity

Gn 3:22–4:26 describes three consequences of the fall epitomizing characteristics of the overall human experience—both throughout the Bible as well as in human history generally, up to the present day. These three are (1) exile for disobedience (as would later happen to Israel for disobedience to the Torah (3:22-24), indicating communal depravity; (2) first-degree murder (4:1-18), expressing personal depravity; and (3) wrongful execution (4:19-26), signifying legal depravity.

God’s Grace in Election

In Gn 2, immediately after creating Adam, and before Adam did or said anything (hence underscoring the absence of merit), God proceeded to “set him at rest” (lit., v. 15), an expression that throughout the Bible denotes the granting of spiritual rest, through faith and God’s grace (cf. Ps 95:11; Heb 4:1-11). In Gn 12:1-3 God chose Abram to be both the recipient of personal blessing (material and spiritual) as well as the means through whom that same blessing will be extended to “all the families of the earth” (v. 3). Nothing that Abram did or said prior to God’s choosing him indicates he merited that choice.

The Days of Creation

Few other interpretive issues in Genesis have received more attention or been more debated in modern times than the meaning of “day” in Gn 1 and its consequent bearing on the chronology and nature of the creative process described therein. Several facts need to be noted regarding the “days” of creation.

  • That the Bible is a literary and theological work does not preclude its being scientifically accurate.
  • The words of the biblical text in describing the creative process are to be understood in a manner consistent with the use of those words (both in meaning as well as syntax) attested elsewhere in the OT.
  • Where the meaning of the biblical text runs (or seems to run) contrary to the theories or conclusions of contemporary science, precedence should be given to the biblical text.

When considering the “days” of creation in a manner consistent with these principles, the inevitable conclusion is that these days are to be understood as “24-hour” days. While acknowledging that the term “day” (yom) may signify an indeterminate period of time, such as in the expression “day of the Lord,” or in Gn 2:4, where yom does indeed appear as a period of time (in that case, the six days of creation are called a “day”), it seems likely that yom in Gn 1 refers to a 24-hour day for the following five reasons:

Reason #1: Morning and Evening

Each of the six days of creation is specifically defined by the terms “evening” and “morning,” both of which are consistently employed throughout the OT to denote those two parts of a literal (“24-hour”) day (e.g. Ex 16:8; 18:13). The few exceptions are in poetic passages, which Gn 1 is not.

Reason #2: Immediate and Complete

The immediate and complete creation of the various parts of the world is consistent with the immediate and complete creation of man and woman. The creation of humans is not presented as a gradual process, nor were they created as children whose physical and intellectual capacities still needed to develop. Adam and Eve were created as physically and mentally mature individuals with a fully developed capacity to physically and intellectually enjoy the home into which they were placed. Given that the world was created specifically for humanity (cf. Gn 1:28), there would be no reason for God to draw out its creation over billions of years. The modern scientific consensus of what constitutes evidence of “age” is founded on a presuppositional analysis of the geologic data that precludes the testimony of Scripture. It is just as logically valid for Christians to view these geologic and other such data as evidence of maturity rather than of age. Just as God immediately created man with the full and mature capacity to enjoy his world, so too did He immediately create that world at a full and mature state to be enjoyed.

Reason #3: Day/Number Coupling

The coupling of the word “day” (yom) with an ordinal number (e.g., “second day,” “third day,” etc.) is consistently employed throughout the history of the Hebrew Bible as the conventional way to designate a literal day in a literal seven-day week (e.g. Gn 7:4; 17:12).

Reason #4: The Sabbath

The fourth of the Ten Commandments logically implies that all six days of creation, as well as the seventh (Sabbath) day of rest, were literal 24-hour days. In Ex 20:9-11 the Israelites were told to work for “six days” and rest on “the seventh day” in commemoration of God having done precisely the same thing. He worked for “six days” and rested on “the seventh day.” Also, the verbal expression “the Lord “rested” in Ex 20:11 is a completed action/past tense verb, which disallows the notion, sometimes put forth by “day-age” proponents, that the seventh day (and hence the previous six) was/is an “age,” and that in fact we are still in it (for then God would still be resting).

Reason #5: Genealogical Requirements

An “age” of time for each day is irreconcilable with the specific genealogy of Adam and his descendants presented in Gn 5. According to that genealogy Adam’s third son, Seth, was begotten when Adam was 130 years old. In other words, no more than 130 years (hardly an “age”!) had passed from Adam’s creation early on the sixth day to a point well after the seventh day when Seth was begotten. The genealogy in chap. 5 cannot be dismissed as “abridged,” since (a) this runs counter to the references to each person’s age when he “became the father of ” his son, and (b) the expression “he became the father of,” which is used throughout this genealogy, is always used in connection with one’s immediate children (i.e., the generation immediately following the father).

What Is the Background of the Book of Genesis?

Genesis is volume one of a five-part work known as the Pentateuch in English and the Torah (law) in Hebrew. Despite the division into five parts, the Torah was intended to be read as a single book by one author. The Hebrew Bible always views it as one book (Jos 1:8; 23:6; 2Ch 25:4; 35:12; Ezr 6:18; Neh 13:1) as does the NT (e.g. Mk 12:26) and the Apocrypha (Ecclesiasticus, Prologue; The Letter of Aristeas 15). As such, Genesis functions as a prologue to the entire Pentateuch.

Structurally, the opening of Genesis focuses on an extended period of time, covering all of primeval history in just 11 chapters, followed by the patriarchal history of Israel, covering four generations in 39 chapters. Following the emphasis of the author (the law of proportion), Genesis should be viewed more as the book of the beginnings of Israel rather than the beginning of the world.

Additionally, Genesis uses the Hebrew word toledoth (commonly translated as “generations”) as a structural marker. Although some have mistakenly thought of this word as a summary of the previous material, rather it functions as a forward marker. Hence, the phrase “these are the generations of . . .” (KJV; “this is the account of . . .” NASB) would best be paraphrased, “this is what became of. . . .” Thus, after the opening account of creation (1:1–2:3) and beginning in 2:4, the author stated 10 times, “this is what became of” the heavens and the earth (2:4), Adam (5:1), Noah (6:9), the sons of Noah (10:1), Shem (11:10), Terah (11:27), Ishmael (25:12), Isaac (25:19), Esau (36:1, 9), Jacob (37:2). In each case, the text proceeds with the story of what follows. So for example, the Abraham narrative follows the statement “this is what became of Terah” (11:27–25:11), the Jacob story comes after “this is what became of Isaac” (25:19–35:29), and the Joseph narrative follows “this is what became of Jacob” (37:2–50:26).

The first three chapters of Genesis introduce all the major concepts that are developed in the rest of the Bible: God’s nature, man’s purpose, the divine image, divine mercy, divine grace, temptation, human depravity, atonement, blessing, the future Messiah, etc. Thus more commentary space is devoted here on these three chapters. Where these concepts and paradigms appear later, therefore, readers should refer back to the more substantive comments in these opening chapters.

What Is the Outline of the Book of Genesis?

What all happens in the book of Genesis? How do all of the events relate to one another, and what events are really within broader themes of the whole book? Here is one possible way to outline the first book of the Bible.

An Outline of Genesis

  1. Primeval History: Establishing the Need for Redemption (1:1–11:26)
    1. Perfect Creation: The Absence of Sin (1:1–2:25)
      1. An Overview of Perfection (1:2–2:3)
        1. Inanimate Perfection (1:1-19)
        2. Animate (Animal) Perfection (1:20-25)
        3. Human Perfection (1:26–2:3)
      2. A Close-Up on the Human Ideal (2:4-25)
        1. The Ideal Creation of Man (2:4-7)
        2. The Ideal Place of Man (2:8-14)
        3. The Ideal Responsibility of Man (2:15-25)
      3. Fallen Humanity: The Advent of Sin (3:1-21)
        1. The Lead-up to Sin (3:1-6)
          1. Step One: Wrongly Recalling God’s Word (3:1-3)
          2. Step Two: Wrongly Assessing God’s Purpose (3:4-5)
          3. Step Three: Wrongly Approving What Seems “Good” (3:6)
        2. Humanity’s Response to Sin (3:7-8)
          1. Conviction (3:7a)
          2. Division from Each Other (3:7b)
          3. Division from God (3:8)
        3. God’s Response to Sin (3:9-21)
          1. Gentle Confrontation (3:9-13)
          2. Merciful Chastisement (3:14-20)
          3. Gracious Forgiveness (3:21)
        4. Dire Consequences: The Aftermath of Sin (3:22–4:26)
          1. Exile: The Communal Aftermath of Sin (3:22-24)
            1. The Problem (3:22)
            2. God’s Gracious Solution (3:23)
            3. The “Eastward” Paradigm (3:24)
          2. Murder: The Personal Aftermath of Sin (4:1-22)
            1. The Priority of Heart Attitude (4:1-8)
            2. God’s Mercy, Again (4:9-12)
            3. Cain’s Repentance and God’s Grace (4:13-22)
          3. Injustice: The Legal Aftermath of Sin (4:23-26)
            1. Injustice as a Result of Ignoring God’s Example (4:23-24)
            2. Injustice Not Preclusive of God’s Blessing (4:25)
            3. Injustice as a Catalyst for Turning People to God (4:26)
          4. Fallen World: The Attachment of Sin (5:1–11:26)
            1. Break in the Prosecution: God’s Blessing Despite Depravity (5:1–6:8)
              1. Hope of Redemption (5:1-32)
              2. God’s Gracious “Cap” on Depravity (6:1-4)
              3. Measure of True “Spirituality” (6:5-8)
            2. The Flood: Humanity’s Chance to “Come Clean” of Depravity (6:9–9:29)
              1. Prelude: A Righteous Remnant in a Depraved World (6:9-10)
              2. Corruption of the Land (6:11-12)
              3. God’s Covenant with Noah (6:13-20)
              4. God’s Provision for Life (6:21-22)
              5. Entering the Ark (7:1-9)
              6. Prevailing of the Flood (7:10-24)
              7. Subsiding of the Flood (8:1-14)
              8. Exiting the Ark (8:15-22)
              9. God’s Provision for Life (9:1-7)
              10. God’s Covenant with Noah and All Life (9:8-17)
              11. Corruption of the Land (9:18-19)
              12. Postlude: A Righteous Remnant in a Depraved World (9:20-29)
            3. The Depth of Depravity in Post-Flood Humanity (10:1–11:26)
              1. Setting the Stage for Universal Rebellion (10:1-32)
              2. Rebellion Expressed: The Rise and Fall of Universal Human Pride (11:1-9)
              3. Transition to Pardon (11:10-26)
            4. Patriarchal History: Delineating the Path of Redemption (11:27–50:26)
              1. Descendants of Terah: God Making His Own Name for Man (11:27–25:11)
                1. The Abrahamic Covenant: God’s Promise for Israel and the Nations (11:27–12:20)
                  1. God’s Sovereign Choice: Abram’s Passivity (11:27-32)
                  2. God’s Gracious Promises: Resetting Abram’s Direction (12:1-9)
                  3. God’s Unshakable Hold: Abram’s Deep Depravity (12:10-20)
                2. Living in the Land: God’s Affirmation of the Covenant (13:1–14:24)
                  1. Affirming Abram’s Right to the Land (13:1-18)
                  2. Affirming Abram’s Might and Prosperity (14:1-16)
                  3. Affirming Abram’s Blessing and Status (14:17-24)
                3. Ratifying the Covenant: God’s Compromise with Weak Faith (15:1-21)
                  1. Answering Abram’s Doubt about the Son (15:1-5)
                  2. Affirming Abram’s Imperfect Faith (15:6)
                  3. Answering Abram’s Doubt About the Land (15:7-21)
                4. Doubting God: The Fall Reprised (16:1-16)
                  1. The Temptation (16:1-4a)
                  2. The Human Consequences (16:4b-6)
                  3. The Divine Response (16:7-16)
                5. Circumcision: The Sign of the Covenant (17:1-16)
                  1. The Effected Covenant as the Basis of the Rite (17:1-8)
                  2. Content of the Rite (17:9-16)
                  3. Abram’s Response to the Rite (17:17-27)
                6. An Expression of Divine Fellowship (18:1-33)
                  1. God Affirming His Empathy with Abraham (18:1-8)
                  2. God Affirming His Grace toward Abraham (18:9-15)
                  3. God Affirming His Justice to Abraham (18:16-33)
                7. A Paradigm of Corporate Judgment (19:1-29)
                  1. Cause of Judgment (19:1-11)
                  2. Distinction of Judgment (19:12-22)
                  3. Purpose of Judgment (19:23-29)
                8. Persistence of Sin (19:30–20:18)
                  1. Struggles of Lot’s Household (19:30-38)
                  2. Struggles of Abraham’s Household (20:1-16)
                  3. God’s Faithfulness and Grace in Sanctification (20:17-18)
                9. Sovereignty of God in Blessing (21:1-34)
                  1. God’s Sovereignty in Blessing Abraham and Sarah (21:1-8)
                  2. God’s Sovereignty in Blessing Hagar and Sarah (21:9-21)
                  3. God’s Sovereignty in Blessing Abimelech and His People (21:22-34)
                10. The Pinnacle of Abraham’s Faith (22:1-19)
                  1. God’s Call to Faith (22:1-2)
                  2. Abraham’s Expression of Faith (22:3-9)
                  3. The Angel’s Affirmation of Faith (22:10-19)
                11. Family Matters (22:20–23:20)
                  1. Keeping Up with the Relatives (22:20-24)
                  2. Mourning Sarah (23:1-2)
                  3. Purchasing the Family Burial Plot (23:3-20)
                12. Finding Rebekah in Mesopotamia (24:1-67)
                  1. Abraham’s Petition (24:1-9)
                  2. God’s Answer (24:10-49)
                  3. The People’s Response (24:50-67)
                13. Transferring the Torch to Isaac (25:1-11)
                  1. Abraham’s Affirmation of Isaac (25:1-6)
                  2. Isaac and Ishmael’s Burial of Abraham (25:7-10)
                  3. God’s Affirmation of Isaac (25:11)
                14. Descendants of Ishmael: A Locus of Conflict with God’s People (25:12-18)
                15. Descendants of Isaac: Learning to Wait on God (25:19–35:29)
                  1. Jacob and Esau: The Sons of Isaac (25:19-34)
                    1. Barrenness of Rebekah (25:19-21a)
                    2. Birth of Jacob and Esau (25:21b-26)
                    3. Sale of Esau’s Birthright (25:27-34)
                  2. Isaac: Struggles of a Patriarch (26:1-33)
                    1. Struggling to Trust in God’s Promises: Isaac Lies about Rebekah (26:1-17)
                    2. Struggling to Live with Sinful Men: Isaac Quarrels with the Men of Gerar (26:18-25)
                    3. Struggling to Recognize the Sovereignty of God: Isaac Makes a Covenant with Abimelech (26:26-33)
                  3. Jacob: Successor of Isaac (26:34–35:29)
                    1. In the Land: Striving with Esau (26:34–28:9)
                      • Prologue: Esau Marries Foreign Women (26:34-35)
                      • Body: Jacob Strives for a Blessing (27:1–28:5)
                      • Epilogue: Esau Marries Foreign Women (28:6-9)
                    2. Outside the Land: Striving with Laban (28:10–31:55)
                      • Jacob’s Journey (28:10-22)
                      • Jacob’s Marriages (29:1-30)
                      • Jacob’s Children (29:31–30:24)
                      • Jacob’s Prosperity (30:25-43)
                      • Jacob’s Flight (31:1–32:2)
                    3. Return to the Land: Striving Resolved with People and God (32:3–35:29)
                      • The Restoration of Jacob and Esau (32:3–33:20)
                        • Jacob’s Fear of Esau (32:3-23)
                        • Jacob’s Fight with God (32:24-32)
                        • Jacob’s Restoration with Esau (33:1-17)
                        • Jacob’s Restoration to the Land (33:18-20)
                      • The Rape of Dinah (34:1-31)
                      • The Close of the Jacob Story (35:1-29)
                    4. Descendants of Esau: Another Locus of Conflict with God’s People (36:1–37:1)
                    5. Descendants of Jacob: God’s Providence over Joseph and Israel (37:2–50:26)
                      1. Joseph in the Pit (37:2–40:23)
                        1. Joseph Is Sold into Slavery by His Brothers (37:2-36)
                        2. Judah Receives a Male Heir by Deception (38:1-30)
                        3. Joseph Is Falsely Accused by Potiphar’s Wife (39:1-23)
                        4. Joseph Is Forgotten by the Cupbearer (40:1-23)
                      2. Joseph as Prime Minister (41:1–50:26)
                        1. Joseph Becomes Prime Minister (41:1-57)
                        2. Joseph Tests His Brothers (42:1–44:34)
                          • The Conscience Test (42:1-38)
                          • The Character Test (43:1-34)
                          • The Compassion Test (44:1-34)
                        3. Joseph Reconciles with His Brothers (45:1-28)
                        4. Joseph Cares for All Egypt (46:1–47:26)
                          • Joseph Provides for the Family of Israel (46:1–47:12)
                          • Joseph Provides for the People of Egypt (47:13-19)
                          • Joseph Provides for Pharaoh (47:20-26)
                        5. Joseph Receives the Blessing for His Sons (47:27–48:22)
                        6. Jacob Blesses the Twelve Tribes (49:1-33)
                        7. Joseph Believes God to the End (50:1-26)

What do you think of the outline? How might you outline it differently?

Genesis, the first book of the Bible, is also considered by many to be one of the most complex. There is certainly a lot going on in the book of Genesis. For more detail, check out The Moody Bible Commentary.

For Further Reading:

The Moody Bible Commentary

by Michael A. Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham

Imagine having a team of 30 Moody Bible Institute professors helping you study the Bible. Now you can with this in-depth, user-friendly,...

book cover for The Moody Bible Commentary