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1. Name of the Book
The name universally used in English for this book is "Genesis." This name is a transliteration of the Greek word γένεσις, which constitutes the regular title from of old in the Septuagint and was taken over by Jerome into the Vulgate—Liber Genesis. Luther made a new departure when he substituted in his German Bible the title "The First Book of Moses"—a designation requiring no further commentary. In the Hebrew Bible the book constitutes the first part of the Pentateuch. As a distinct part it so naturally stands out as a unit that there can be no doubt that it was designed to be just such a unit; and so even criticism from its point of view is ready to accept the division of the Pentateuch as a whole into five parts and that the book of Genesis in particular was a part of it at so early a date as at least four centuries before the Christian era. Though no evidence is available, we are inclined to believe that the Jews discerned the fivefold division of the Pentateuch from the time that the work was put into their hands. They are wont to refer to the book by the title of Bereshith, the very first Hebrew word, meaning: "in the beginning."
Genesis contains no statement as to who its author was. Yet we hold very definitely to the conviction that Moses wrote Genesis as well as the rest of the Pentateuch, except Deut. 34. In our day such a position is regarded as so utterly outmoded that we must indicate, at least briefly, what grounds we have for standing thus. Our grounds are those which have satisfied conservative scholarship in the church throughout the ages. Neither is the group of those who still accept these arguments so inconsiderable as critics would have us believe.
The internal evidence of the Pentateuch runs as follows. In Exodus the passages 17:14; 24:4; 34:27, if rightly construed, indicate that Moses wrote more than the specific passages that appear under immediate consideration, in fact, all of Exodus. In like manner the numerous statements of Leviticus to the effect that "the Lord spake unto Moses" ("and unto Aaron"), such as 1:1; 4:1; 6:1, 8, 19, 24; 7:22, 28; 8:1, etc., again, if rightly construed, lead to the same result, in fact, cover Leviticus. For why should the exact nature of the revelation be emphasized, unless it be presupposed that this revelation was immediately conserved in writing in each case? In fact, the assumption that these directions were not committed to writing is most unnatural. The same argument applies to much of what is found in Numbers; but in this book the special portion that came by immediate revelation requires the background of the rest of the historical material of the book. Num. 33:2 is the only passage that refers to the fact that Moses wrote, a statement inserted at this point in order to stamp even what might seem too unimportant to record as traceable to Moses. In Deuteronomy a comparison of the following passages establishes the Mosaic authorship: 1:1; 17:18,19; 27:1-8; 31:9; 31:24. If, then, on the basis of the evidence found in these four books we may very reasonably conclude that they were written by Moses, the conclusion follows very properly that none other than the author of these later four books would have been so suitable as the author for Genesis also. Certainly such a conclusion is far more reasonable than that Genesis—or for that matter the entire Pentateuch—is to be ascribed to another one of these genial Nobodies of whom criticism has a large number in reserve as authors.
We shall not now trace down how the Old Testament in its later books historical as well as prophetic strongly supports the idea of the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch and by implication also of Genesis. The critic, misreading the evidence, misdates all these books, and so the argument means nothing to him. The man who is not affected by critical arguments can find proof more ample than we can here reproduce in the writings of Hengstenberg, Keil, Rupprecht and Moeller.
The support that the New Testament lends to our position is singularly strong and, for that matter, even decisive on the whole issue, at least for him who believes in the plenary inspiration of the Scriptures. It is sufficient in these introductory remarks merely to list the major passages as such, passages that all refer to the Mosaic authorship of the whole or of parts of the Pentateuch. In the Gospels we find: Matt. 8:4; 19:7, 8; 23:2; Mark 1:44; 7:10; 10:3, 4; 12:26; Luke 5:14; 16:29, 31; 20:37; John 3:14; 5:45; 6:32; 7:19; 7:22, 23. Aside from these passages which are from the lips of Christ Himself there are the remarks of the evangelists found Luke 24:27, 44; John 1:17. To the apostles must be ascribed the following words: Acts 3:22; 13:39; 15:1, 5, 21; 26:22; 28:23; Rom. 10:5, 19; 1 Cor. 9:9; 2 Cor. 3:15. To attribute ignorance on matters involved in literary criticism to Christ or to inspired apostles is unwarranted assumption. To class Christ’s attitude as accommodation to prevalent opinion grows out of failure to apprehend the fact that Christ is absolute Truth. Any two or three of the above passages are sufficient, to indicate to him that weighs their evidence that to Christ and to His apostles the Torah (the Pentateuch) was Mosaic.
In answering the question, At what time was Genesis written? we are, of course, entirely in the field of conjecture. It seems highly probable that the bulk, if not practically all of Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers, was written after the fashion of a kind of journal, especially those parts embodying specific words of direction given by God. This would naturally suggest some introductory work like Genesis, which could easily have been written by Moses during the time of the Wilderness Wanderings, which extended over thirty-eight years.
Since all the things recorded in Genesis transpired before Moses’ day by more than four hundred years at the least, the question arises, Did Moses have sources available for compiling the Genesis account as we have it? We cannot deny the possibility that God may have revealed to Moses the entire subject matter of Genesis. On the other hand, since sources were, , no doubt, available and reliable, we see no reason why Moses should not have used all available material and, being guided in his task by the Spirit of inspiration, have produced an essential portion of divine revelation. For it seems highly probable that godly men preserved a reliable record of God’s revelation and dealings with men, and that with most painstaking care. The Creation record was obtainable only by revelation, which revelation would have seemed essential for Adam. This as well as all other truth that was left to him, as well as a record of his own experiences required but few links in the chain of tradition to bring it down to Joseph’s time. For a careful examination of the Biblical genealogies (Gen. 5 and 11) reveals that Adam lived till the time of Lamech; Lamech to the time of Shem; Shem to the time of Jacob; Jacob would, without a doubt, transmit what he knew to Joseph. Since even Abraham already lived in a literary age, and Judah carried a seal (Gen. 38:18), and Joseph was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, it seems utterly impossible that these men should have refrained from committing this valuable and reliable tradition to writing. Such tradition in written form Moses might well have found in his day and made extensive use of, nor would such use conflict with inspiration in as much as later historical books, especially Kings and Chronicles, testify to the abundant use of source materials.
The purpose of Genesis may be formulated thus: the book aims to relate how Israel was selected from among the nations of the world and became God’s chosen people. Since, however, this choice was not made because of the merit or the excellence of Israel’s ancestors but wholly because of God’s unmerited and unmeritable mercy, the book may also be said to be the story of God’s free grace in establishing Israel for Himself as His people.
Two major considerations deserve attention under this head. First, the matter of the state of the purity or the integrity of the Hebrew text. No one in our day errs in the direction of the one possible extreme, namely of venturing to claim that the Hebrew text is in a state of virgin purity, exactly as it appeared in the original manuscripts. But many err in the opposite extreme of considering the Hebrew text to be utterly unreliable and in need of continual correction. Such an attitude is dangerous and ungrounded. Occasional errors may be detected, a few may be surmised. The Jewish marginal corrections, the Keris, may occasionally prove suggestive. But on the whole we have a text which is quite pure and satisfactory. It is not to be tampered with or modified according to the far less reliable Septuagint, the Targums, the Peshitto, or the Samaritan Pentateuch, though occasionally these versions (or transliterations) may contribute a bit of material valuable from the standpoint of textual criticism. The text is, furthermore, not to be modified according to subjective principles, such as critical theories or clever conjectures, which are anything but scientific. Modern critical editions of the Hebrew text, such as Kittel’s Biblia Hebraica, Stuttgart, (1929), contain much misleading material and must apart from the Masoretic text be used with great caution. The traditional Masoretic text is in a good state of preservation and deserves far more confidence than is usually accorded to it. In our Hebrew Bibles we have a very good Hebrew text.
The other matter that may be considered in this connection is the question whether Genesis is a poem and therefore to be considered as Hebrew verse. On the question, which are the poetical books in the Canon, the Jews have always had a very reliable tradition. It would be strange if they themselves should have lost sight of the poetic character of the first one of their sacred writings if it had actually been poetic. The method by which outstanding exponents of this unusual hypothesis, like Sievers, arrived at their conclusions is enough to make anyone suspicious of the idea. This method involves abandoning the first principle of Hebrew poetry (parallelism); it necessitates changes or substitution of the divine name; it includes occasional textual alterations merely for the sake of securing the desired meter; and even then the type of meter which seemingly was discovered is not in evidence as clearly as we are led to believe. Neither the present text nor the original sources, as others claim, were ever cast in verse form, with the exception of such minor portions that bear the earmarks of poetry (4:23, 24; 9:25-27; 49:2-27). But we are perfectly ready to admit that Genesis has many portions of very fine rhythmical prose that rise almost to the level of exalted strains of poetry (cf. 1:27, 28; 12:1-3, and many other passages).
5. Historical Character of the Record
The issue involved briefly stated is: Have we history or legend in Genesis? A notable array of famous scholars can be cited in support of what the great majority of writers on the subject in our day regard as the only tenable view, namely Genesis is legend. From Wellhausen down outstanding names are Gunkel, Jeremias, Driver, Skinner, Procksch, etc., etc. However, we are not impressed by this array of learning, which we must without reservation class as pseudo-science on matters of this sort. Strong dogmatic presuppositions are too definitely displayed by these scholars: miracles are considered as practically impossible; so is plenary inspiration; Israel’s history can rise to no higher levels than the Babylonian or the Egyptian; an arbitrary evolutionary standard is to be employed in measuring historical evidence. Besides, the following facts of Israel’s history are overlooked:
a) the utter dissimilarity of the Genesis record and the legends of the nations (the sober common sense of average Christians has always been able to detect this difference much more clearly than the overtrained scholar, who often loses entirely his sense of perspective);
f) the utter impartiality displayed in recording the history of those who are the patriarchs and the fathers of tribes (12:10 ff; 20:1-18; 26:1-17; 30:1-43; chapter 34; chapter 38). Koenig’s Commentary (p. 80 ff.) gives additional material on this score.
A proper evaluation of the facts enumerated above leads definitely to the conclusion that Genesis gives a sober, accurate, historical account of the events that led to the separation of Israel from among the nations and to her establishment as a new nation with a divinely given destiny. If the other nations of this period are known to have had no records that for accuracy and sound historical pragmatism can begin to compare with the Biblical accounts, that cannot in any wise impugn the singular merit of the latter. Criticism has shown itself singularly weak in the direction of evaluating comparatively the merit of Biblical history. Attempts to cut everything of superior merit found in Israel’s Sacred Writings down to the level of contemporary literature is still the bane of scholarship in the Old Testament field.
We may at this point take issue with the claim commonly raised in our day that Genesis, as to its contents, as well as other older Biblical books falls in the category of poetry rather than history. Apparently, they who take this position are reluctant about claiming that such books are legendary in character. That would seem derogatory to their distinctive character. Yet they would prefer not to be bound to accept the Creation account, the record of the Fall, and the like as literal history. Then these ancient tales would be a grand poetic conception, involving a deeper view of truth yet allowing for a great variety of interpretations such as may be suited to the fancy of the individual. We are utterly out of sympathy with such an attitude; for it does not conform to the facts of the case. Nothing in the book warrants such an approach. It is rather a straightforward, strictly historical account, rising, indeed, to heights of poetic beauty of expression in the Creation account, in the Flood story, in the record of Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac, in Judah’s plea before Joseph, and the like. But the writer uses no more of figurative language than any gifted historian might, who merely adorns a strictly .literal account with the ordinary run of current figures of speech, grammatical and rhetorical.
The various other types of construction put particularly upon the patriarchal stories, like the tribal or ethnological theory; the astral myth theory; the purely mythical theory, and the like are evaluated at the beginning of the patriarchal record (Gen. 12).
Rather closely tied up with the question of history is that of chronology. The prevailing attitude on questions of chronology is to discard the Biblical data and to accept as authoritative the far more difficult and uncertain Babylonian and Egyptian systems of reckoning, as they are computed in our day. Barton, Archaeology and the Bible, (Philadelphia, 1937), p. 56-61, gives the beginner a good idea how these computations are made and how far back they reach with a fair measure of accuracy. But it must be said with emphasis that the Biblical chronology excels all others in completeness, simplicity and accuracy; and, though, indeed, there are unsolved chronological problems, the Biblical chronology deserves our fullest confidence also for the pre-Mosaic age and for the earliest history of mankind. Michell, The Historical Truth of the Bible, (London, 1926) shows excellently how Babylonian and Egyptian chronology, rightly construed, agrees with the Biblical system of chronology.
Unfortunately, in the field of the Mosaic writings negative literary criticism—higher literary criticism so called—has wrought incalculable confusion and still is the bane of fruitful investigations in this field. Therefore it behooves us, first of all, very briefly to summarize the critical position in reference to Genesis or, for that matter, in reference to the entire Pentateuch. This summary is designed primarily for non-theologians and, therefore, makes no claim to completeness.
Critics speak with much assurance, as though the proof for their position were unassailable, of the various sources that have been worked into the Pentateuch as we now have it; and they assure us that this composite work was finally compiled by an editor—commonly called Redactor (R)—after the time of the Exile perhaps as late as 400 B. C. The four major documents that have been worked into the Pentateuch are not only occasionally discernible in the work as a whole, but the cord has, as it were, been unravelled, and the four strands that compose it are laid before us side by side. The names given to these four documents or their authors are: (a) the Elohistic document, written by the Elohist—abbreviated designation E—; ( b) the Jahvistic or Yahwistic document—described as J; (c) the Priestly document or P; and (d) the Deuteronomic document—or D. Some critics consider E, J, D, and P as persons, others regard them as literary schools.
The reasons advanced for the separation of the whole into four major documents are again mainly four. First and foremost to this day the use of the divine names is a mark of authorship. Thus: the Jahvist (or Yahwist) uses the divine name Jehovah or Yahweh almost exclusively; the Elohist uses Elohim, the common name for God in the Hebrew; the Priestly writer also prefers Elohim; the Deuteronomist is marked by other characteristics. Secondly, each of these writers is said to have developed a vocabulary which is distinctly his own. However, in the case of J and E this is not as prominent a feature as in reference to P and D. Thirdly, certain types of subject matter are found quite regularly in certain of these original documents: J likes narratives whose scenes are laid in Judah; E prefers those that played in the territory of the Northern Kingdom; P deals with matters of legislation; and D is hortatory in his treatment of all he presents. Lastly, the style of these four presents quite naturally four different aspects: "J excels in picturesque ‘objectivity’ of description"; "E, on the other hand, frequently strikes a vein of subjective feeling, especially of pathos"; P is precise and formal; D is the orator. It must be admitted that an imposing array of arguments confronts us here. Certainly, an immense amount of labour has been expended on these studies. Many of the issues involved are of a so highly technical nature as to confuse the layman, especially when Hebrew terms multiply, that he believes the issues must be left to professional theologians and is all too ready to follow their guidance if they adopt, as is often the case, a tone of utter finality.
First of all, on the matter of the use of the divine names, are we not taking a higher and more reasonable ground if we assume that they were used primarily according to their specific meaning and not merely because the writer in question knew only the one or tried to reflect a period where only the one was known, or was addicted to the stylistic peculiarity of the use of the one rather than the other? A good parallel on the New Testament level is the fine distinction observed by all the writers between the personal name "Jesus" and the official title "the Christ." Surely, if the one or the other had used the one of these names exclusively, it would have been a failure to appreciate deeper and vital issues. So on the Old Testament level "Elohim" is the generic name for God from the root which signifies "to fear" or "reverence." Therefore Elohim is the divine being whose power and attributes inspire mortals with due fear. "Jehovah," more correctly written "Yahweh," signifies the Abiding, Changeless, and Eternal One, and therefore describes God as the one true to His covenant relationship in reference to His people. When the writer desires to express the thought that the one or the other aspect of the divine character was especially displayed in a certain event, he uses the name appropriate to this purpose. That does not say that the other aspect of the divine character was not in evidence at all. In fact, we might in some instances even have been inclined, but for the author’s suggestive use of the divine name, to think the other of the two characteristics predominated. In the following exposition of Genesis we hope we have demonstrated the fine propriety that from this point of view is discernible in the use of the divine names according to their sense.
This approach of ours to the problem of the use of the divine names is by no means in conflict with Exod. 6:3: "I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob as God Almighty; but by My name Jehovah I was not known to them." For, in the first place, of course, "name" according to the Hebrew significance of shem means about as much as "character." The statement, however, though made absolutely, is meant relatively, as are many other statements in Scripture (Hos. 6:6; Matt. 5:34; 1 John 3:9 by way of example). The revelation of God’s Yahweh-character given to the patriarchs is so far below the revelation of the same character that is about to be displayed in the Exodus that by comparison one would say that now this character is first really being manifested. The critics had better not press the literal meaning of this passage (Exod. 6:3) too much, for then it becomes a sharp two-edged sword. For when they use it to prove that there was an earlier period where Elohim was used and not Yahweh, this passage is having a new element foisted upon it by them. Exodus 6:3 does not set Elohim and Yahweh in contrast but ’El Shadday (God Almighty) and Yahweh, a thought which the critical position cannot use at all, in fact, a very embarrassing thought. It militates directly against the earlier use of Elohim.
The seemingly formidable argument from vocabulary, separate and distinct vocabularies for the four source documents—especially where long lists of words appear used only in the one document—this argument we say loses its imposing character when we discern on what ground it is built. Leaving J and E aside because the argument carries little convincing weight under this head, we notice what happens in the case of P and D. Everything of a priestly legislative character is primarily assigned to P as well as everything that is presented after a more or less formal pattern like Gen. 1 as well as summaries. From these portions primarily deductions are made as to P’s vocabulary. Naturally quite a substantial list results. Then other passages in the Pentateuch that use these distinctive terms are stamped as coming from P, whenever possible. Note how in the last analysis in legislative portions like Leviticus, where matters of priestly interest certainly predominate, a distinctive vocabulary has to be used and can very readily be listed. The fact of the matter really is not that a different writer is at work but that the same writer is dealing with an entirely different subject. No man can write a law book with the vocabulary of a book on history. From another point of view the argument practically amounts to this that one man could not write E or J and also P, because one man could not write both history and law. In like manner D’s style, which is supposed to involve "a long development of the art of public oratory," covers the major part of the book of Deuteronomy as well as of later books whenever they contain in hortatory passages after the manner of Deuteronomy. One can quite readily build up a separate vocabulary out of such sections. In the final analysis this is tantamount to saying that Moses could not have written such admonitions and exhortations as well as laws and history. The critics operate on the assumption that such flexibility of style is beyond the range of the capabilities of one man.
The other peculiarities that these major sources are supposed to display are most readily understood on the following assumption: take any longer work and divide it up into four portions on the basis of an approach that groups kindred things together, and the resultant four parts will naturally each have something distinctive.
There are other failings that mark the critical approach to the problem. The argument in a circle is, for example, employed frequently. We shall draw attention to quite a number of instances in the course of the following exposition. Passages having a certain type of vocabulary are assumed to belong to one source; when that type of vocabulary is discovered, the proof that there is such a source is treated as complete. Again, when added details appear that were not indicated at the commencement of a narrative, these added details, though they are merely supplementary to the original statements, are construed as being at variance with the original, and so evidence for the existence of two or more separate sources is manufactured, whereas, in reality, other sides of the matter are merely coming to the surface, as every unbiased reader can readily detect.
Again and again the critical approach gives evidence of being guided by purely subjective opinion instead of by valid logical proof. The critic expected that the writer would proceed to follow up a certain approach by a certain type of statement—at least the critic would have followed up by such a statement. The author’s failure to offer what the critic expected is supposed to constitute sufficient proof that the case in point is an instance where two documents have been welded together rather crudely. Equally common is the critical practice of conjecturing how the Hebrew text may originally have read, especially if the Hebrew text offers material conflicting with the critical theories, and the Septuagint happens to disagree more or less with the Hebrew. Strangely, in such cases the conjectures as to the original form of the text always offer support to the critical position.
Analogous to the above point is this: when the different aspects of a case are presented, critics quite regularly fail to discern the deeper harmony that prevails in spite of the surface disagreement. So very frequently, after one motive for a deed has been indicated, the mention of a second motive is treated as proof of a divergent approach by a different writer, as though life were always so simple a thing, as to allow for the operation of but one motive at a time, instead of the complex thing that it is, where motives, counter-motives, and subsidiary motives run crisscross through one another.
Of the failings of the critical approach perhaps the greatest of all is the failure to evaluate rightly the attitude and the words of Christ and His apostles in reference to books like those of Moses. As Christ treated Moses’ writings so should we. His clear words attributing them to Moses dare not be ignored. This is not treating the Old Testament without regard for the distinction between the Old and the New Testament. This is following the excellent Reformation principle: "Interpret Scripture by Scripture"; and a sounder principle cannot be found. Critics dismiss the Saviour’s attitude with a shrug of the shoulder.
Unfortunately, it is impossible to treat the Old Testament in an expository way without taking the major features of the critical approach into consideration, especially since these critical findings have been popularized and appear on the shelves of public libraries, as does Dummelow’s One Volume Commentary. Surely, the main errors of criticism should be shown in order to combat the evil at its source. Those who do not stand in need of the aid that a refutation may offer or are not impressed by the critical claims may, of course, leave those paragraphs that deal with critical matters aside. We have sought to let this apologetic material occupy a place of very inferior importance. Hardly five per cent of the total deals with critical problems.
We shall leave aside all the very able constructive works that orthodox teachers of the church have provided under this head: the works of Haevernick, Hengstenberg, Keil, Rupprecht, and Moeller. These men have ably refuted all critical contentions; only the critics fail to discern that they have been answered. Those who would specialize on these matters will find most ample treatment of the subject in the works of these men. We for our part prefer in this exposition to follow the course of showing in our own way the beautiful and the consistent harmony of the individual accounts, a harmony which is in itself the strongest index of single rather than of composite authorship. Occasional critical questions naturally come in for their share of attention. Our treatment will show that we have drawn upon the above mentioned Old Testament scholars, a fact that we have acknowledged wherever feasible. It will also appear that much can be learned from the more recent Eduard Koenig, though in a number of cases his works must be used with caution.
Of course, the book naturally is divided into two halves: the first (chapters 1-11) dealing with the general history of mankind; the second (chapters 12-50) with the special history of God’s people. Going into greater detail, we could devise many other subdivisions. However, the author himself has provided an outline indicated by special headings, for he uses the heading ’elleh toledôth, "these are the generations" (A. V.) =" this is the story," ten times and actually treats under this heading the story indicated by the heading, as of Adam, 5:1-6:8, etc. This is more than a formal division. If the inferior elements receive but scant consideration, viz. Shem, Ishmael, and Esau, in some cases, in fact, only about seven verses, that merely indicates that there are things of minor as well as of major importance to be treated in a work such as this. If the author provides an outline and clearly indicates what it is, why reject it and try to devise a better one especially in an inspired book? In the following outline we have merely shown the subdivisions of the ten toledôth or the Ten "Histories."
Introduction—the Creation Account.
- The First History—that of Heaven and Earth (2:4-4:26).
- Supplementary details of the Creation count (2:4-25).
- The Temptation and the Fall (chapter 3).
- The Early Development of the Sinful Human Race (chapter 4).
- The History of Adam (5:1-6:8).
- The Separate Development of the Godly (chapter 5).
- The Commingling of the Two Races (6:1-8).
- The History of Noah (6:9-9:29).
- Noah’s Piety (6:9-12).
- How Noah was preserved (6:13-9:17).
- The Future of the Races of Mankind Foretold (9:18-29).
- The History of the Sons of Noah (10:1-21:9).
- The Sons of Japheth (10:1-5).
- The Sons of Ham (10:6-20).
- The Sons of Shem (10:21-31).
- The Tower of Babel, or The Confusion of Tongues (11:1-9).
- History of Shem (11 :10-26).
- The History of Terah (11:27-25:11).
- The Life of Terah (11:27-32).
- The Life of Abraham (12:1-25:11).
- The Call of Abraham and the Exodus from Haran (12:1-9).
- A trip to Egypt during a Famine (12:10-21).
- Separation from Lot (13:1-18).
- The Defeat of the Kings by Abraham (14:1-24).
- God’s Covenant with Abraham (15:1-21).
- The Birth of Ishmael (16:1-16).
- The Covenant Sealed by New Names and by Circumcision (17:1-27).
- The Manifestation of Yahweh at Mamre (18:1-33).
- Guilt and Destruction of Sodom (19:1-38). Sequel: Lot’s Degeneration.
- Abraham and Sarah at Gerar (chapter 20).
- Birth of Isaac and Expulsion of Ishmael (21:1-21).
- Abraham’s Covenant with Abimelech at Beersheba (21:22-34).
- The Sacrifice of Isaac (22:1-19).
- Nahor’s Descendants (Rebekah) (22:20-24).
- Death and Burial of Sarah (23:1-20).
- Isaac’s Marriage (16:1-67).
- Abraham’s Second Marriage and His Death (25:1-11).
- The History of Ishmael (25:12-13).
- The History of Isaac (25:19-35:29).
- Birth and Early History of the Twin Brothers (25:19-34).
- Various Scenes from Isaac’s Life (chapter 26).
- Isaac blesses Jacob (27:1-45).
- Jacob’s Dismissal from Home and His First Vision (27:46-28:22).
- Jacob’s Double Marriage (29:1-30).
- Jacob’s Children and His Increasing Wealth (29:31-30:43).
- Jacob’s Flight from Laban; their Treaty (31:1-54).
- Preparations for Meeting Esau (31:55-32:32).
- Reconciliation with Esau; Settling in Canaan (33:1-20).
- The Outrage on Dinah Avenged by her Brothers (chapter 34).
- The Last Events of Isaac’s History (35:1-29).
- The History of Esau (chapter 36).
- History of Jacob (37:2-50:26).
- Joseph Sold into Egypt (37:2-36).
- The Danger that Threatened Jacob’s Sons (chapter 38).
- Joseph’s Imprisonment because of his Steadfastness (chapter 39).
- Interpretation of the Prisoners’ Dreams by Joseph (chapter 40).
- Joseph’s Exaltation (chapter 41).
- The First Journey of Joseph’s Brethren to Egypt without Benjamin (chapter 42).
- The Second Journey to Egypt with Benjamin (chapter 43).
- The Test Successfully Met by Joseph’s Brethren (chapter 44).
- Joseph Revealed to his Brethren; The Family Summoned to Egypt (chapter 45).
- The Temporary Emigration of Israel to Egypt (chapter 46).
- Israel Established in Goshen; Egyptian Famine Measures (47:1-26).
- Jacob’s Preparations for his End (47:27-49:32).
- Jacob’s Death and Burial (50:1-14).
- Conclusion of Joseph’s History (50:15-26).
8. Mode of Interpretation
There are several modes of interpretation current in our day that deserve to be stigmatized as inadequate and unsatisfactory. Some still prefer to allegorize portions of Scripture rejecting the literal sense and seeking a hidden spiritual meaning, although hardly any would venture to follow this procedure exclusively and consistently. In rejecting this type of interpretation we do not question the validity of the interpretation that sees types of Christ in outstanding Old Testament characters especially where the New Testament suggests such a use. Much more common in our day is the fault of attempting to press Old Testament Scritures down to the level of the sacred writing of the heathen, making them to be works patterned particularly after Babylonian source material. This type of interpretation includes what for want of a better name must be described as "debunking"—interpretation that speaks irreverently of venerable Old Testament characters, imputes the lowest possible motives to them, and so utterly fails to understand their ofttimes great and heroic faith. This approach often attempts nothing less than to discredit these sacred Scriptures as unworthy of use by the New Testament church—an approach common in Germany at the present. Of course, there still is need of reminding that sound interpretation dare not disregard the difference between the Old and New Testament levels of revelation. Good exegetes, even up to the Reformation age, failed to reckon with the fact that the unchanging truth was revealed with ever increasing clearness and fulness, a revelation culminating in Christ Jesus. The fuller revelation of a later age was at times imputed to an earlier word that did not as yet embody the fuller expression. Of course, we do not for a moment imply any such thing as man’s progressive achievement. Our principle of interpretation is to unfold the fulness of revealed truth by careful examination of the grammatical statement as well as of the historical circumstances of the inspired text in dependence upon the Spirit of revelation, who alone is able to lead us into all truth.
9. Value and Importance of Genesis
In a general way it would be correct to say that this book is singular in its kind, for it offers the only correct and satisfactory information that we possess concerning prehistoric times and the Urgeschichte ("history of the primitive ages"). It goes back beyond the reach of available historical sources and offers not mythical suppositions, not poetical fancies, not vague suggestions, but a positive record of things as they actually transpired and, at the same time, of matters of infinite moment for all mankind.
But more specifically, all this material relative to prehistoric times and the Urgeschichte really provides the most substantial and even fundamental theological concepts. The major theological concepts are incomplete and leave much to be desired, if the content that Genesis offers should be subtracted. Before God can be known as Saviour, He must be understood as the Creator of humankind and of the world. Just what manner of Father and Creator He is we find displayed in the two Creation chapters, Genesis 1 and 2. In like manner no adequate and correct conception of man is possible without a knowledge of the essentials concerning his creation, his original state, the image of God, and the like. Again, the problem of sin will constitute much more of a problem if the origin of sin, that is to say, the Fall into sin be not understood. With that fact correctly apprehended, we achieve a correct estimate of the degree of depravity that is characteristic of fallen men. Without the promise of ultimate victory through the Seed of the Woman all further revelations concerning the salvation to come must stand minus an adequate base upon which they can successfully build. In other words, certain vital questions in reference to the type of revelation that mankind needs find a satisfactory answer in Genesis and nowhere else.
Concerning some of these matters the legends and the traditions of mankind offer a bit of material, most of which is distorted by error; some of which, in the elements of truth that it contains, is too weak to be of any actual value. An illustration of the extent to which this material is available is the vague report current among the ancients that there once had been a Golden Age. The unreliability of such material is demonstrated by the utter absence of any tradition concerning a Fall into sin.
Disregarding the material relation to matters theological, we find that Genesis also provides the much needed foundations for all history. The vague surmises as to man’s past prior historic times all stand corrected by the story of the beginnings of the human race in Adam, or by the story of the second beginning in Noah. Equally important are the very valid data concerning the unity of the human race as provided basically in Genesis 1 and in greater detail in chapter 10, incomplete though this latter chapter may be in regard to a few matters. So, too, the question as to the origin of the multiplicity of languages is disposed of by the account concerning the confusion of tongues. Similarly, the singular position of Israel among the nations, a challenge to every historian, finds an adequate explanation in the Call of Abraham. Of course, from that point onward Genesis no longer records general history but only the history of the Kingdom of God.
If at this point we append a summary of certain of the better known cosmogonies, or at least of those which have a certain affinity with the Biblical account, anyone can judge for himself whether the Biblical account in any sense seems to be a derivative.
The most famous of the non-biblical cosmogonies is the Babylonian or the so-called "Chaldean Genesis," which created such a stir at the time of its publication in 1876 after it had been unearthed as a part of the library of Ashurbanipal at Nineveh by George Smith in 1873. The several tablets on which the account is written are in a fairly good state of preservation. The story begins with an account that is a theogony—an account of the origin of the gods—in itself already an indication of a far inferior level. The true God did not come into being by a certain process, nor were there originally several deities. Now of these various deities one stood out as particularly aggressive and ferocious, the unsubdued Tiâmat—again a decidedly inferior point of view. For the struggle that impended Tiâmat, the old mother of gods, enlists as many of the old gods as she can and a whole crew of horrid monsters. The resulting conflict for supremacy (note the low moral level even among gods) is a truly titanic struggle in which the forces of the opposition are led by the great Babylonian deity Marduk. Marduk proves himself the stronger. He prevails over Tiâmat, cleaves her into two montrous halves, the upper of which he fixes in place as the heavens, in which in turn he fixes the heavenly bodies; and the lower of which halves, on the other hand, he sets in place as the earth. Then he compounds material of his own blood for the creation of man, the chief purpose of whose creation is "that the service of the gods may be established." This account of creation is so pronouncedly different from the Biblical account that the points of difference completely overshadow the incidental points of resemblance. To speak of a "striking resemblance between the two cosmogonies" certainly is a partisan overstatement of the case; and to go on to say that "the cosmogony of Genesis 1 rests on a conception of the process of creation fundamentally identical with that of the Enuma elis (the opening words of the Chaldean Genesis) tablets" is simply a distortion of the truth.
Of the Phoenician cosmogony it is sufficient to remark that it contains the idea of the world-egg, hatched out to produce the world. Analogous to this from this point of view is the Indian conception. The uncreated Lord appeared in chaos. The next step was to render this world visible by means of the five elements, by shining forth in brightest light and dispelling darkness. Into the water, which he creates first, he lays a germ cell. This becomes a gleaming egg in which Brahma is found, the source principle. A protracted period of hatching brings him to light. Aside from fantastic and confused elements it may well be that even this cosmogony carries within it certain echoes of the Genesis account which are all but forgotten.
The Parsee Genesis, appearing in a late book of the Bundehest, has at least this sequence of created things: 1. heaven, 2. water, 3. earth, 4. planets, 5. animals, 6. man. Nothing is said concerning the creation of light. The partial correspondence with the account of the Bible is obvious. But since this is a late book, this correspondence may have resulted from an acquaintance with the Biblical record.
Still more nearly parallel to the Biblical account is the cosmogony attributed to the Etruscans by the writer Suidas, who lived in the tenth century A. D. For the sequence runs thus: 1. heaven and earth, 2. firmament, 3. sea and water, 4. sun and moon, 5. souls of animals, 6. man. To the six items six periods of a thousand years each are assigned. Yet the influence of the Bible record is so very likely in the case of a writer of the tenth century of the Christian era that there is great likelihood that the writer’s Christian ideas will have led him to find these successive items, which another might not even have noticed in the same material. Or else the ancient Etruscan tradition had absorbed a high percentage of Biblical thought on matters such as these.
One would expect the Persian cosmogony to be radically different and in conformity with the principles of dualism. In the Avesta time and light and darkness are uncreated. These constitute the true spiritual world. They are eternal because Mazda, the god of light, is himself eternal.
Hesiod informs us how the Greeks conceived of the origin of things. First there existed Chaos; thereupon the earth; next Tartarus; then Eros (Love), the most beautiful of the deathless gods. Out of Chaos night is born. The earth begets the heavens; then the ocean comes into being. After these Saturn, father of gods, existed. The rest of the pantheon follow him.
To the Egyptians several views on the origin of the earth are to be attributed. Some regarded the god Ptah as the craftsman who built the world. Others held that it was the goddess Neith who wove its fabric. The fundamental principle from which all things take their origin was thought to be water, for in it were fancied to be the male and the female germs of life. Even the great god Ra was supposed to have sprung from it, though others believed that he had been hatched out of an egg.
We may well say that these cosmogonies are the best available outside the Genesis account. A man does not need any supernatural enlightenment to discern that not one of all these can compare even remotely with the scriptural account for depth of thought, simplicity, propriety and beauty. All the others disappoint us by their incompleteness, or by their confusion, or by their lack of sequence, or as being the embodiment of some deep-seated error. Their conception of God is most unsatisfactory and unworthy. Or if they rise to a higher level, we have reason for believing that the better element is traceable to the Bible as the source.
Delitzsch, Franz, Commentar ueber die Genesis, Leipzig: Doerffling and Franke, 1872.
Dillmann, August, Die Genesis, Leipzig: S. Hirzel, 4. edition. 1882.
Dods, Marcus, The Expositor’s Bible (Genesis), New York: George II. Doran Co. No date.
Gunkel, IIerman, Handkommentar zum Alten Testament, W. Nowak, editor. Goettingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht. 1901.
Jamieson, Robert, A Commentary Critical and Explanatory, (Jamieson, Fausset and Brown). New York: George II. Doran. No date.
Keil, C. F., Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament (Genesis), (Keil and Delitzsch), Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark. 1875.
Koenig, Eduard, Die Genesis, Guetersioh: Bertelsmann. 1919.
Lange, J. P., Bibelwerk (Genesis), Bielefeld: Velhagen und Klasing. 1864.
Luther, Martin, Saemtliche Schriften (Genesis), St. Louis, Mo. Concordia Publishing House. 1881. (2 vol.)
Procksch, Otto, Kommentar zum Alten Testament (Genesis), Ernst Sellin, editor. Leipzig: Deichert. 1913.
Skinner, John, International Critical Commentary (Genesis), Driver, et al, editors. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. 1925.
Strack, Hermann L., Kurzgefasster Kommentar (Genesis), Strack and Zoeckler, editors. Muenchen: C. H. Beck. 1905.
Vilmar, August Fr. C., Collegium Biblicum (Genesis), Christian Mueller, editor. Guetersloh: Bertelsmann. 1881.
Whitelaw Thomas, The Pulpit Commentary (Genesis), H. D. M. Spence, editor. London: Kegan Paul, Trench and Co. 1882.
References to these commentaries have been made exclusively by the author’s name, as Delitzsch. Quotations appear, of course, under the verse that is being treated. Consequently, reference to pages was consistently omitted.
As to the position taken by these commentaries, works such as those of Dillmann, Dods, Strack may be classed as moderately critical. Gunkel, Procksch and Skinner belong into the class of the extremely critical. Delitzsch finally yielded to the blandishments of the critical approach and accepted at least the source theory in its major features but still put the critical work into the category of secondary importance. Jamieson disregards critical issues. Keri, seconded in many a case by Lange, did very substantial work in the direction of establishing the validity of the conservative approach. Whitelaw works in a similar spirit. Luther’s comments naturally have a very different purpose but are still to be read with profit. Koenig does the most constructive work among modern writers, but unfortunately, he yielded to the source theory, though even in this his position is moderate.
Buhl, Frants, Gesenius’ Handwoerterbuch ueber das alte Testament; Leipzig: F. C. W. Vogel. 1905.
Brown, Driver, Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (based on Gesenius). New York: Houghton Mifflin Co. 1907 .
Koenig, Eduard, Woerterbuch zum Alten Testament. Leipzig: Dieterich. 1922. (2. and 3. edition.)
Holy Bible, Revised Version, American Standard Edition. 1901.
King James Version.
Luther’s German Bible.
Smith, J. M. Powis, The Old Testament, An American Translation (Genesis by Theophile J. Meek). Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1927.
Rahlfs, Alfred, Septuaginta. Stuttgart: Privilegierte Wuertembergische Bibelanstalt. 1935.
Onkelos, Targum, New York: Hebrew Publishing Co. No date.
D. Other Helps copiously used
Bailey and Kent, History of the Hebrew Commonwealth (revised edition). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. 1935.
Barton, George A., Archaeology and the Bible (seventh edition). Philadelphia: American Sunday School Union. 1937.
Edersheim, Alfred, Bible History (The World before the Flood. Vol. I). New York: Fleming H. Revell Co.
Hengstenberg, Ernst Wilhelm, Beitraege zur Einleitungins Alte Testament (Die Authentie des Pentateuches), Berlin: Oehmigke. 1836.
Hengstenberg, E. W., Die Buecher Moses und Aegypten, Berlin: Oehmigke. 1841.
Hengstenberg, E. W., Christologie des Alten Testaments, Berlin: Oehmigke. 1854.
Hengstenberg, E. W., Geschichte des Reiches Gotresunter dem Alten Bunde. Berlin: Schlawitz. 1869.
Hofmann, J. C. K., Weissagung und Erfuellung. Noerdlingen: Beck. 1841.
Jeremias, Alfred, Das Alte Testament im Lichtedes Alten Orients. Leipzig: Hinrichs. 1904.
Kittel, Rud., Biblia Hebraica (Genesis), Stuttgart: Priv. Wuert. Bibelanstalt. 1929.
Koenig, Eduard, Geschichte der Alttestamentlichen Religion. Guetersloh: Bertelsmann. 1912.
Koenig, E., Geschichte des Reiehes Gottes. Berlin: Warneck. 1908.
Koenig, E., Die Messianischen Weissagungen desAlten Testaments. Stuttgart: Belser. 1923.
Koenig, E., Theologie des Alten Testaments. Stuttgart: Belser. 1922.
Michell, G. B., The Historical Truth of the Bible. (Part I. The Comparative International History of the Old Testament) London: Marshall Bros. 1925.
Moeller, Wilhelm, Biblische Theologie des AIten Testaments, etc. Zwickau: Herrmann.
Oehler, Gust. Fr., Theologie des Alten Testaments, Stuttgart: Steinkopf. 1882.
Gesenius, Wilhelm, Hebraeische Grammatik (revised by E. Kautzsch). 27. ed. Leipzig: Vogel. 1902.
Koenig, Eduard, Lehrgebaeude der Hebraeischen Sprache. (Part II. Syntax.) Leipzig: Hinrichs. 1897.
F. Abbreviations of the titles of the above workscommonly used
A. V. King James Version.
A. R. V. American Standard Edition of the Revised Version.
B. D. B. Gesenius’ Lexicon by Brown, Driver, Briggs.
B. T. Moeller’s Biblische Theologie.
G. A. T. Koenig’s Geschichte der Alttestamentlichen Religion.
G. K. Gesenius’ Grammatik rev. by Kautzsch.
G. R. G. Koenig’s Geschichte des Reiches Gottes.
K. C. Koenig’s Kommentar on Genesis.
K. S. Koenig’s Syntax.
K. W. Koenig’s Woerterbuch.
T. A. T. (K,) Koenig’s Theologie des Alten Testaments.
T. A. T. (0.) Oehler’s Theologie des AltenTestaments.
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