The book of Genesis is a book of beginnings that takes us back before the dawn of our first parents - Adam and Eve. Here, we see the Spirit of God “hovering” over His creation with the express purpose of bringing it to light and life. His thoughts toward us even then were for redemption, as scripture says that we have been chosen in Him before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4, 1 Peter 1:20, Romans 8:29). King David also writes in the fortieth Psalm, “Many, O Lord my God, are Your wonderful works which You have done; and Your thoughts which are toward us cannot be recounted to You in order; If I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered.”

Genesis has also been called the watershed of all scripture, where the major doctrines and themes of scripture are compared to great rivers, ever deepening and broadening as they flow - the rivers having their common source in the book of beginnings. As the mighty oak is in the acorn, so all of scripture is in the seed of Genesis.

Layout of the book of Genesis
Two main sections*:

Chapters 1-11, four outstanding events declaring God’s sovereign authority:
Creation - God’s eternal priority
The Fall - God’s moral authority
The Flood - God’s judicial severity
The Tower of Babel - God’s governmental supremacy (determining the course of human events)

These events demonstrate that man is not capable of governing himself to achieve peace with God or with one another.

Chapters 12-50, four outstanding people declaring God’s sovereign election or choice:
Abraham - Supernatural Call
Isaac - Supernatural Birth
Jacob - Supernatural Care and Provision
Joseph - Supernatural Direction and Control
The Lord’s election and care for these people demonstrates that He is capable of accomplishing a plan of redeeming man back to Himself in spite of man’s character flaws and weakness of flesh.

These outstanding characteristics of the book of Genesis demonstrate God’s sovereignty in exercising His authority over the earth and in electing certain people to be used in completing His plan of redemption.

* “Explore the Book” by J. Sidlow Baxter


CREATION - God’s eternal priority. That creation is something that has always been on God’s heart is evident from scriptures such as Colossians 1:16 “All things were created through Him (Jesus Christ) and for Him.” His creation is intended to reflect His own glory and wisdom. We, as His creation, are intended to be an expression of Himself - His character, beauty, power, wisdom, and His love. Also Proverbs 8:22-23 and 29-31. Here, the Lord speaks of wisdom in the form of a person, a master craftsman in the process of creation. It speaks of God’s creative wisdom as rejoicing in the creation of the inhabited earth and delighting in the creation of the sons of men. “...Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.” Ephesians 1:4. “...Who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own (sovereign) purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.” 2 Timothy 1:9.

THE FALL - Demonstrating God’s moral authority. God and God alone is the One who sets the standard for determining whether something is right or wrong. The fall also demonstrates the nature of God’s wisdom in setting up a restriction in the garden and permitting Adam and Eve to be tempted regarding that restriction. The only restriction was not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This made Adam and Eve vulnerable to temptation and the serpent used that very restriction to draw them both into sin. God was not surprised by the serpent’s temptation nor was He unprepared to deal with the fall, for scripture speaks of Christ’s sacrifice as God’s redemptive plan from before the foundation of the earth (2 Timothy 1:9, 1 Peter 1:20, Revelation 13:8). God’s overall plan for man has always been far above what Adam and Eve had initially in the garden. They walked with God; we shall be glorified with Him. They were given an earthly home and dominion; we shall be seated with Him in the heavenlies having a place with God above even the angels (1 Corinthians 6:3 and Hebrews 2:5-8). They had a paradise on this earth; we look forward to the New Heavens and the New Earth (Isaiah 66:22, Hebrews 13:14, Revelation ch. 21 and 22). The purpose of our redemption is not to restore us back to the Garden of Eden but to glorify us with Christ as sons of God. We do not look backward to renewal but forward to resurrection and a new creation. God’s wisdom displayed in the garden is similar to His wisdom revealed in the giving of the Law. The Law was introduced to us in order to bring our sin nature to the surface and to help us realize that salvation apart from the free gift of God’s grace is impossible (Romans 11:32-33 and Galatians 3:19-22).

THE FLOOD - God’s judicial severity. “Talk no more so very proudly; let no arrogance come from your mouth, for the Lord is the God of knowledge, and by Him actions are weighed” (1 Samuel 2:3). “For we know Him who said, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ And again, ‘The Lord will judge His people.’ It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:30-31). Our God is a God of love and mercy, but He is also a God of Justice. As holy, righteous, and unchangeable, He cannot ignore open rebellion against His moral law and perfect character. Our salvation is free but it is not cheap. All of the righteous demands of justice and judgment fell on the person of Jesus Christ as He bore our sins on the cross. Therefore, as scripture says, “Consider the goodness and severity of God”, goodness, mercy, and grace toward those who believe and the severity of judgment toward those who don’t. He gives space and time for repentance, but if no repentance is shown, judgment falls. (see Revelation 2:20-23).

THE TOWER OF BABEL - God’s governmental supremacy, determining the course of human events. “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and authorities that exist are appointed by God” Romans 13:1. “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes” Proverbs 21:1. Nations and governments cannot alter the plans of God. In fact, nations which reject His very existence unknowingly accomplish His purposes. Consider the detailed prophecies found in the book of Daniel concerning the four great world-ruling empires: Babylon, Media-Persian, Grecian, and Roman. Each empire in its turn became less and less godly, yet they all existed by godly design. As they were foreknown by God, they were also predestined to accomplish a certain purpose.
These four great events of Genesis chapters 1 through 11 demonstrate that man is not capable of governing himself to achieve peace with God or with one another. As we have discovered four major attributes of God in this section of Genesis dealing with the fall of man, we will discover four major ways God deals with people to draw them back to Himself in the next section.


As there are four prominent events in the first section of Genesis: Creation, The Fall, The Flood, and the Tower of Babel, there are four prominent people in the second section, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. As the first section, Ch. 1-11, describes the sin and failure of man, the second, ch. 12-50, reveals God’s gracious response to redeem man from the penalty and power of sin. As we study the lives of these four men, it will become clear that it’s not their search to find God that is in view, but rather it is of God’s sovereign call on their lives to draw them to Himself for their benefit and ours. God demonstrates to us, through each of the four men, something of the nature of God’s call on our lives. Each one gives us a life-size portrait of the four major stages of development in our walk with God:

ABRAHAM - Life of faith
ISAAC - Life of sonship
JACOB - Life of service and the flesh versus the spirit conflict
JOSEPH - Life of suffering and glory

Abraham - The life of faith begins with a call from God. Faith requires a communication from God, (Romans 10:14-17). If there is no call and no promise, there can be no real faith exercised (wishful thinking perhaps, but not saving faith). In Genesis ch. 12, God spoke to Abram (High Father), later called Abraham (Father of a Multitude), and told him to get out of the country he was familiar with and to go to a land that He would show him. Abraham also received a promise that he would be blessed of God and that through him, eventually all the families of the earth would be blessed. Notice that the call on Abraham’s life required that he actually do something with it. He was called to leave his country and his kindred, and his obedience demonstrated the genuineness of his faith. As James put it, “Faith without works (or obedience) is dead,” James 2:17,26.

Abraham was also called to believe in something he couldn’t see. He was directed to live in a land he’d never seen before, and he was given a promise which would take more than a lifetime to fulfill. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1. “... We do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal,” 2 Corinthians 4:18. Even after Abraham entered the land of promise, there was a time when it did not appear very pleasing to the eye (Gen 12:10). What appears to be lush and pleasant may later prove to be a source of much distress and heartache. Abraham’s nephew Lot chose to live in Sodom because of its appearance (Gen 13:10-13).

Abraham also experienced a time of testing in his faith. There was a delay of 25 years from the time he received the promise of becoming the father of a great nation to the birth of Isaac, the only son by his wife Sarah. There appears to be two major reasons God has us wait for the fulfillment of His promises, (1) to increase and perfect (become more mature in and know more about) our hope in eternal, heavenly promises (Romans 8:18-25), and (2) to demonstrate that the fulfillment of promise can only be accomplished by the power of God. In Galatians Ch. 4:21-31, Paul compared the attempt at righteousness through trying to keep the law with the accomplishment of our righteousness by faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. He compares the two using Abraham’s son Ishmael (what Abraham could accomplish in his flesh) and his son Isaac, born supernaturally (what only God was able to accomplish by His Spirit).

Isaac - The life of sonship. In Isaac, we see a life of surrender and quiet obedience to God where there is great contentment and very little conflict. We see him living by the wells of water (Gen 26), and having the abundant blessing of God on his life (Gen 26:12-16). The source of his contentment stems from his quiet trust in God. In his young adult life, he submitted to his father Abraham’s hand on one of the mountains of the region of Moriah in what appeared to be the time of his sacrificial death (Gen Ch 22). He could have resisted when his father began to bind him, but his attitude was one of quiet surrender. His surrendered heart bore the fruit of peaceful contentment all the days of his life. We can have the same blessed peace and assurance that Isaac had as we completely surrender to our heavenly Father. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God...You have received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba Father’. The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Romans 8:14-16).

Jacob - The life of service plus the flesh versus the spirit conflict. Once the life of faith is entered into and the Holy Spirit assures us that we are children of God, our service to Him becomes important for growth and development. As we begin to serve, and deal closely with other people, we often experience behavior and emotions that are contrary to God’s character. Jacob was one whose very nature at birth seemed to run contrary to the ways of Abraham and Isaac before him. Even his name means “schemer and supplanter.” His tendency was to resort to his own schemes and plans rather than to patiently wait for, and place his trust in, a word from the Lord. Jacob and Esau were twins born to Isaac and Rebekah, and scripture records the Lord’s choice of Jacob over Esau when He said, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.” A woman once told the famous Baptist pastor C.H. Spurgeon that she couldn’t understand why God would say that He hated Esau. Spurgeon replied, “Madame, my problem is not why God hated Esau, but why He loved Jacob!”

Jacob’s life demonstrates three main features in God’s dealings with man. (1) God’s sovereign election, not based upon our earning it but on God having mercy (Romans 9:6-24). Salvation depends on the power and the mercy of God, not on the abilities or the will of man. “For by grace (the unmerited favor of God) you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9). (2) God’s watchful care over our lives even when we impatiently or deceitfully take matters into our own hands. God met Jacob in Bethel (Ch. 28:1O-22) after he tricked his father into believing that he was Esau (Ch 27). God did not approve of such methods, but neither did He forsake Jacob because of his character flaws. The Lord smoothed out those flaws later in Jacob’s life as he faced some deceptive practices himself at the hands of his uncle Laban (Ch 29:15-3O), and also from his own sons (Ch 37:29-34). But God’s watchful care remained upon Jacob to bring him through to a blessed fulfillment of His promise (Ch 46). (3) God’s power in taking a man who is dominated by his flesh and eventually producing a man controlled by God’s Spirit. In Ch. 32, Jacob wrestles with the Angel and his name is changed from Jacob (schemer and supplanter) to Israel (let God rule, or God rules). The rest of Jacob’s life is a testimony of how the Lord broke down his self-will that he might learn to surrender to God’s will and be truly blessed in the freedom of God’s provision for his life. See a similar wrestling which takes place in Romans Ch 7. The Apostle Paul comes to an end of Himself that he might rest in the power of God to change his inward nature.

Joseph - The life of suffering and glory. Joseph is an exceptional character in scripture. Nothing is mentioned of his having any character flaw or moral defect, yet he suffers deeply and unjustly but is also glorified greatly. His life, more than any other single character in scripture, typifies the life of Jesus Christ. We will study his life in greater detail in the type teaching section of our study in Genesis. The main point that Joseph’s life has to teach us is that God’s promises to us of heavenly glory and authority will be accomplished in spite of all the powers of hell and earth combined to prevent it. Joseph was given a promise from God that he would rule over his brothers, and even over his parents (Ch. 37). This infuriated his brothers and they did everything they could to silence Joseph forever. They even got some further assistance from the Egyptians when Joseph was unjustly accused and thrown into prison (Ch. 39). But God’s purposes and plans eventually began to miraculously unfold until everything God had initially promised him came true.

Scripture instructs us to be prepared for rejection and rough treatment from the world. “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” 2 Timothy 3:12. “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). Seeing God’s purposes and ultimate blessing accomplished in Joseph’s life and in the lives of so many others, we begin to have the confidence of the apostle Paul when he wrote, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation or distress , or persecution, or famine, nakedness, peril, or sword? As it is written, ‘For Your sake, we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’ Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Romans 8:35-37).



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