As I read through Genesis, as part of my 2018 reading plan, I tried to assume I didn’t know how the grand narrative of the Bible would end. I tried to carry as few biases and preconceived notions with me as possible. Though it’s important to attempt to do just that, I’m not sure any of us can truly do that. Regardless, here are seven things I observed as I read:
Please note, I am not including any chapter and verse references because I don’t want you to cheat. Don’t read this list as seven propositions that can be proved by one or two verses. Read this post and then go read the whole book of Genesis for yourself (preferably in one sitting). See if your observations are in harmony with these.
- “Be fruitful and multiply” isn’t a command, but a blessing. Fertility is a “blessing theme” throughout the book.
- The earth/ground is one of the leading characters in the story.
- God not only promised to not repeat the flood, He first promised never to curse the ground or strike down all the animals again because of man’s sin.
- The patriarchs seemed to believe their immortality would be achieved through their offspring. Each patriarch had the hope of “living on” through the life of his sons.
- With few exceptions, there doesn’t seem to be any real reason to think the characters of the story ought to be imitated. The “good guys” are often as foolish and wicked as the “bad guys.” So it can’t be read as a collection of moral parables.
- The story has its climax in Joseph. You might think the story was about him, except that at the end of the story he dies with an anticipation of God’s promises yet to be fulfilled.
- Burial is important to God’s people. Not just as a cultural practice, it would seem, but as a way of anticipating the promises of God yet to be fulfilled.
There are certainly other things I could say about Genesis, but these are seven things I either never noticed before or could not articulate until now.
It’s Not About How to Go to Heaven
The primary thought I have is this: Genesis is supposed to be the introduction to a grand narrative, unfolding among the Israelite people for centuries, until it finally culminates in the coming of Jesus. If that is true, then we have to let Genesis set the stage in its own way. We have to let it tell us what kind of a story the Bible is going to be.
The typical Christian seems to believe the Bible is simply an instruction manual for how to go to heaven when they die. But that doesn’t seem to be the story Genesis is introducing. There’s nothing in there about going to heaven when we die. There is even very little instruction. If you gave someone a Bible with the impression they were supposed to treat this book as a set of instructions for how to go to heaven when they die, they would likely be very confused before they even finished the first of the 66 books.
What Story is Being Introduced?
Rather, it seems to me, the story that is being introduced is one in which a good God created a good world. He set mankind up as the earth’s royal overseers and caretakers. They betrayed God’s trust and were condemned to live as exiles. But rather than destroying them, God sympathized with their weakness and set in motion a plan to restore and bless them through the offspring of a man named Abraham.
As it turns out, this offspring of Abraham will be much like Joseph. He will be destined for greatness even from childhood. He will resist temptation. He will be betrayed by his brothers. Though innocent of any crime, He will be condemned, but will be vindicated and raised up alive. He will be crowned with power and authority. He will save both Israel and the Gentiles from death. He will bless and forgive those who betrayed Him.
And greatest of all, Abraham’s family will literally be raised from the dead through Him. In this way, God will break the curse of sin and death, reconciling all the things of heaven and earth. And the hope of the patriarchs, who believed they would live on through their offspring, will literally come to fruition in the Messiah.
That’s the story Genesis is setting up. And to me, it makes all the difference in the world.
I love you and God loves you,