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Browsing the Bible: Genesis

Nigel Bovey gives chapter and verse on each book of the Scriptures

Those engaging in the controversy are in danger of missing the point

THE first book of the Bible, Genesis, is about origins and beginnings. It starts big. The opening chapter is an account of the creation of the world, climaxing in the creation of humankind.

In some quarters there is controversy about the passage’s relationship to con­temporary scientific knowledge. But those engaging in the controversy are in danger of missing the point. This chapter is not a scientific paper. Its purpose is not to describe the ‘how’ of creation, but to point out that there is a ‘who’ behind creation. It says that creation has a Creator.

God considered that everything he had made was ‘very good’ (1:31), but, through the story of Adam and Eve, the book’s third chapter narrates the introduction of sin into the world and the fall of humankind. Arguments over the historicity of the couple and the existence of a talking serpent again miss the point. The story’s punchline is that humankind has fallen short of what God intended it to be.

Because of human wickedness, much of humankind is lost to the Flood (chapters 7 and 8). A new society is rebuilt through Noah.

The origin of the world’s languages is told in the story of the Tower of Babel (chapter 11). The source of the nation of Israel is found a chapter later, where God calls Abram to leave his home in Ur of the Chaldees (in modern-day Iraq) and to start a new life in Canaan (modern-day Lebanon, Syria, Israel and Jordan).

God then offers Abram, his family and descendants a new covenant. He promises to be their God (17:7). As a sign of acceptance, the renamed Abraham and all male descend­ants are to be circumcised (17:11–14).

It is to Abraham’s sons Ishmael and Isaac that some trace the source of the present-day Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

After Abraham’s death (chapter 25), the remaining chapters chronicle the lives of Isaac, his son Jacob and Jacob’s 12 sons, including the stylishly coated Joseph, as they live in a new land.

By the end of Genesis, the Hebrew people are faced with famine in Canaan and move to Egypt for yet another new beginning.

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