The name Genesis is derived from a Greek term meaning “origin” or “beginnings”. The Hebrew title for this book is Bereshith (“In the beginning“), which is the first word in the book.
Since the book of Genesis provides us with an account of things that occurred in the beginning, it is naturally a book of beginnings. The first marriage, the first sin, the first family, the first promise of the gospel, the first sacrifice, the first death, the first nations and the list could go on. Unlike all these things that have a beginning, we are told in the opening verse of the book, “In the beginning God” (Gen. 1:1). This is simply a declaration of His existence thus affirming the fact that He is the eternal and omnipotent Creator.
It is generally agreed that the book of Genesis can be divided into two parts, Primeval History (1-11) and Patriarchal History (12-50).
In this first section (Primeval History), the focus is on four key events – creation (Gen. 1-2), the fall (Gen. 3), the flood (Gen. 6-9) and Babel (Gen. 10-11). God created the universe in the space of six days (Gen. 1:1-31). This act of creation reveals an aspect of His sovereign power and purpose. The pinnacle of His handiwork was the creation of man in His own image (Gen. 1:26). Despite the clear instructions and provision of blessing (Gen. 2:15-17), man rebelled against his Creator and suffered the consequences of the entrance of sin in the world (Gen. 3:14-19). After a period of time, the depravity of mankind increased and the Lord judged the world by means of a flood (Gen. 6-9). After a repopulating of the earth, mankind rebelled again and the Lord dispersed the people thus forming the origin of nations (Gen. 10-11).
In the second section of the book (Patriarchal History), the focus is placed on the beginnings and establishment of the people of Israel. The primary attention is on Abraham and the covenant God makes with him and his descendants (Gen. 12:1-3; 15:18-21). This promises is repeated by the following generations and serves as a reminder of God’s great faithfulness.
The book of Genesis provides us with an understanding as to why the world exists and why it is the way it is today. From the book of Genesis we learn that God is the Creator of all things and for this reason He is to be worshiped and adored. Man has sinned and is in need of redemption. By God’s grace He has provided a “seed” (Gen. 3:15) in which the hope of redemption will be fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
Most scholars generally agree upon the following outline:
I. Primeval History 1-11:26
A. The Creation of the Heavens and the Earth 1:1-2:3
B. The Generations of the Heavens and the Earth 2:4-4:26
C. The Generations of Adam 5:1-6:8
D. The Generations of Noah 6:9-9:29
E. The Generations of the sons of Noah 10:1-11:9
F. The Generations of Shem 11:10-26
II. Patriarchal History 12-50
A. The Generations of Terah 11:27-25:11
B. The Generations of Ishmael 25:12-18
C. The Generations of Isaac 25:19-35:29
D. The Generations of Esau 36:1-37:1
E. The Generations of Jacob 37:2-50:26