The Old Testament as a whole chronicles the history of the nation of Israel. This nation does not emerge as an entity, though, until the Book of Exodus, when God appears to the twelve tribes at Sinai. Genesis, then, is the prologue to the history of Israel. Chapter 1-11 tell about the creation and earliest history of all humankind, and chapter 12-50 describe God’s working within the chosen family of Abraham, from whom Israel descended.
Within the theological narratives of Genesis 1-11 are several brief comments that reflect the advancing civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt. There are conflicts between hunters and shepherds and between shepherds and farmers. Humans develop technology and craftsmanship and establish the first cities. Chapter 11 describes humanity’s technical skill (and vaulting ambition) in its account of a tower, or ziggurat, in the plains of Shinar (Mesopotamia). As in the Mesopotamian and Egyptian writings, there are stories of creation and of a worldwide flood.
Genesis, along with the book of Exodus through Deuteronomy, has traditionally been attributed to Moses. Many of us retain this view today, but some others, nothing abrupt changes in vocabulary and style and certain perspectives that appear to come from a later time, argue that the book contains several sources and traditions, some much older than others. In either case, whether written entirely by Moses or composed from 900 – 400 B.C. of various ancient strands, the book of Genesis is a recounting of Israel’s origins by one who knew that all this was leading to God’s choice of Israel as a “treasured possession … out of all nations” (Ex 19:5)
*Genesis 1:1 – 4:26.
Evg. Koffi J. Bessan