Chapter 1: The world is not enough In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1 The bible opens with the account of God creating the universe. Genesis Chapter 1 is majestic and even poetic in its language. Yet striking still is its structure and orderliness. At each stage of creation, we find the same formula of:
God creating by his word (“God said…”), Creation in obedience to his word (“Let there be…”); and God’s purpose for his creation (“God saw that it was good.”)
God is always the central figure in Genesis 1 as Creator and Ruler. Day 1: Light and darkness Day 2: Sea and sky Day 3: Earth
Day 4: Great lights (day and night) Day 5: Fish and birds Day 6: Land animals
However, when God creates man there is a break in the formula. 26
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:26-27 Man is made in God’s own image. He is like creation in that he is made. But he is unlike the rest of creation; God gives him dominion over the earth. Notice also that the creation of man is simultaneously the creation of two distinct genders: “male and female he created them.” The account of creation closes with the seventh day. 1
Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. 2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. Genesis 2:1-3 There is no eighth day. Creation finds its purpose in God’s rest. He rests from his work; we are called to join him in his rest. The New Testament will later use this as a picture of eternal life (Hebrews 4:3-4).
Themes: God, Creation, Humanity, Rest
Chapter 2: When two become one The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Genesis 2:18 The account now zooms in on one man – the first man, Adam – put in the garden of Eden to work and to take care of it. This is paradise. There is an abundance of life, blessing and beauty. Adam is given authority over all creatures. He names all the livestock, birds and beasts. Yet, Adam is alone. No suitable helper is found among the creatures. So, God creates woman. 21
So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. Genesis 2:21-22 This is the account of the first marriage. God gives the woman to Adam. He is to leave his father and mother and be united to his wife. This is also the context for sex. They will become one flesh. Sex is given by God to be enjoyed between a man and a woman within marriage.
Themes: Worship, Gender and roles, Marriage and sex 2
Chapter 3: Who wants to live forever? And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel. Genesis 3:15 Everything falls apart in chapter 3. Creation is turned upside down. Man rebels against God. God responds in judgement. Death enters the world. The man and the woman are sent away from God’s presence. Yet in the midst of this we find God’s promise of salvation. Here we find the first announcement of the gospel – the promise of the son who will crush the serpent’s head and bring an end to the curse of death. The temptation. The serpent is introduced as one of the creatures made by God. It tempts the woman by questioning God’s word, “Did God really say?” God’s judgement, “You will not surely die,” and God’s goodness, “For God knows... you will be like God.” The reversal of creation. The woman takes some of the fruit, eats it, and gives some to Adam. Their eyes are opened and they see their shame. Both the man and the woman hide from God’s presence. The order of creation has been reversed: the serpent deceives the woman; the woman leads the man, and the man blames God. This is the bible’s definition of sin. It is rebellion against God. It is the denial of God’s word and the rejection of God’s loving rule over our lives. But here we also see the bible’s definition of death. It is God’s rejection of us. The man and the woman are cast out of the garden, barred from entering it again. Death is separation from God. The man and woman are now also in rebellion against one another. This is marital strife. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you. Genesis 3:16 God’s judgement results in creation rebelling against man. Work becomes toil. Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. Genesis 3:17 Still, in the midst of judgement, God promises an end to death. Oddly enough, this promise comes from God to the serpent. It is the promise that the woman’s offspring (or seed) will one day destroy the serpent. At the same time, the serpent will strike this son born of a woman. It is the promise of Jesus – who came as a man to take our punishment of death in order to defeat the power of death (Hebrews 2:14).
Themes: Sin, Death, Gospel 3
Chapter 4: Despicable me Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is more than I can bear. Genesis 4:13 This is life outside paradise; outside the rule of God. Chapter 4 follows the story of Cain, the first son of Adam and Eve, and the first murderer. Cain’s sin is motivated by envy, pride and hatred of his own brother, Abel. Still, Chapter 4 is not just about one man’s sin. Instead, it records the growth of sin and pride in all of humanity. We see the advancement in civilization, technology, economics, innovation and even culture. Yet by the end of chapter, we meet Lamech – seven generations down from Adam and a descendant of Cain – who kills a man, and justifies his right and might in taking another life. There are signs of hope as Eve gives birth to another son, Seth and men begin to “call on the name of the LORD.” It is the sign of repentance and renewed trust in God’s promise.
Chapter 5: Another one bites the dust He named him Noah and said, “He will comfort us in the labour and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the LORD has cursed.” Genesis 5:29 We have the first genealogy here in Chapter 5, beginning with Adam, then Seth, and their descendants. At each stage, we are told, for each descendant:
The name of one chosen son How many other sons and daughters he had The age he died
The pattern breaks in the seventh generation with Enoch. Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away. Genesis 5:24 Enoch doesn’t die. He is the exception. Though his son Methuselah lives to a ripe old age of 969 years, he dies. And so do all subsequent generations. The pattern continues. The genealogy reminds us of God’s curse of death affecting every man. At the same time, it traces the hope of God’s salvation in every generation. Each one looks forward to the son who will free humanity from the curse. This is the hope a man named Lamech has for his son, Noah. Perhaps he will be the one.
Chapter 6: Rebooting Earth 5
The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. 6 The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. Genesis 6:5-6 Man’s increase in dominion over the earth only results in the increase of his wickedness. God therefore decides to bring judgement upon all men, but also upon all of creation – animals, creatures and birds – by sending a flood. What is amazing to read is God’s motivation for doing so. He is grieved to his heart. Our sin so affects God that he expresses regret in creating mankind. But Noah found favour in the eyes of the LORD. Genesis 6:8 This is the first occurrence of the Hebrew word for “grace”. Grace means undeserved generosity. God graciously decides to save one man, Noah, and his family. God warns Noah of the impending flood and instructs him to build an ark, giving detailed plans of its materials and specifications. His wife and three sons, and their wives, are to enter the ark, together with “two of all living creatures, male and female.” And the centre of God’s grace towards Noah is his covenant. This is God’s promise that he will save. 17
I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. 18 But I will establish my covenant with you... Genesis 6:17-18 This covenant is ultimately fulfilled in the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, as Peter later writes: God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 3:20-21