People in America are fiercely independent.
In fact, a researcher from the Netherlands noted on a
scale of 1-100, that Americans would get a score of 95 for
their love for independence.
In our culture, we focus greatly on the individual,
and not on the group.
So we could make a bold statement about our culture
and say that one of the greatest values in America is that
Here are some bold statements with regards to Italian
culture: The greatest civilization is Italy, and the
greatest place is one's city of birth.
The greatest motivator is ambition, and the greatest
farce is morality.
The greatest value is what's practical, and the
greatest expression is noise.
The greatest threat is depersonalization, and the
greatest fear is death.
Now, those are very broad statements, but they do
help us to understand better how our Italian neighbors think
and view the world.
So why the culture lesson in this introduction?
Because taking this cultural approach towards the
book of Genesis can help us to understand it better.
Let's get just a little background before launching into our
look at authorship, audience, and purpose.
Luke 24:44 tells us: “Then He said to them, 'These
are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with
you, that all the things must be fulfilled which were
written in the Law of Moses, and the Prophets, and the
Psalms concerning Me.'”
Jesus is speaking to His disciples, and He notes how
each part of the Hebrew Bible talks about Him: the Law, the
Prophets, and the Writings (and Psalms is the largest book
of this part).
Notice He also says the Law of Moses.
So Jesus definitely believed that Moses was the
author of the law or the first five books of the Old
another occasion, Jesus again emphasizes Moses' authorship
of the these books.
Look at Mark 10:2: “The Pharisees came and asked
Him, 'Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?'
And He answered and said to them, 'What did Moses
They said, 'Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of
divorce, and to dismiss her.'
[Their answer is
based on the book of Deuteronomy.]
And Jesus answered and said to them: 'Because of
the hardness of your heart, he wrote you this precept. [
Moses did. Now
notice how Jesus answers His own question as to what Moses
But from the beginning of the creation, God made them male
and female. [What book is Jesus referring to?
It's Genesis isn't it?
It's as if Jesus is saying, 'Yes, Moses did write one
thing in Deuteronomy, but he also commanded something else
that even goes further back.'] For this reason a man
shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife,
and the two shall become one flesh; so then, they are no
longer two, but one flesh.
Therefore, what God has joined together, let not man
So this shows us that Jesus believed the author of
Genesis was Moses.
Why mention this?
When you start reading commentaries on Genesis,
you'll find many writers who no longer believe in the
authorship of Moses.
They believe that the book evolved over many
centuries with 3-4 authors and a final editor as well.
So beware that Jesus' view that Moses wrote Genesis
is no longer being upheld by many writers.
Now for whom did Moses write Genesis?
The book never answers this directly, but the
contents give us some helpful clues.
The first eleven chapters give us the history of
mankind and show us how all nations come from the family of
Noah. But in
chapter 12, God narrows the focus down to one man, and then
we learn about the history of the Jews.
There are four major events in chapters 1-11: the
creation, the fall, the flood, and the tower of Babel, and
there are four major characters in 12-50: Abraham, Isaac,
Jacob, and Joseph.
So, the book is focusing on the history of the Jewish
people. So the
audience Moses was targeting is the Jews.
One commentator notes: “Since Moses was aware that
one of the major tasks was to weld the Israelites into a
nation and to prepare them to enter the land that God had
promised to their ancestors, he would have had proper
motivation and divine guidance to write a history of the
patriarchs and to record the laws which were to be Israel's
guide in Canaan.
During the forty years in the wilderness, he would
have had the time necessary for such a challenging task”
those 40 years, there was a new generation of the Jews ready
to enter into the Promised Land.
Someone made this good remark: “Now, here they were
again, having come full circle. The dramatic tension was
high. Would they or would they not be obedient and
faithfully embrace the future that God had set before them?
It was in the midst of all this that they were given
the Books of Moses in general, and Genesis in particular.
... It was in this
situation that they heard — as they needed to hear — of
God’s gracious provision and promises toward them in spite
of their great and repeated sin and rebellion and
And it is this context that will guide us in our own
understanding and approach to this book” (Lindsay).
You see, the new generation of Jews, ready to enter
the Promised Land, needs to know who they are and what their
own culture is all about.
So Moses helps them to understand their own culture
by providing some great truths in Genesis, some broad
strokes that will help them to understand better themselves
and the culture God wants them to be.
So, as we approach Genesis, another writer challenges
us: “So, let's join Israel in the desert.
Pack up your tent.
Leave your modernized campers behind.
Come as you are—and bring an appetite for manna!
As Israelites, we own our allegiance to Jehovah God
in a world where many gods are worshiped” (Baylis).
Let's look quickly now at nine of these broad strokes
or great truths.
irst of all, the greatest God is Jehovah.
All the cultures around Israel believed in many gods:
Baal, Molech, Ashtoreth, Anath, and El, to name just a few.
These gods were very much like most people—sometimes
Take El, the father of the gods; he was “a brutal [and]
He not only dethrones his own father ... but also castrates
him. He slays
his favorite son, and cuts off his daughter's head. ...
Intrigue and murder, deceit and incest are what you get from
these gods. ... [They] were not sterling examples” (Baylis).
Moses knew this, and knew that people become like the
god they worship.
This is why He tells of Jehovah, the most worthy God
who is holy, righteous, gracious, and just.
This is the God who was the Creator and spoke all
things into existence.
Did you ever notice how on days 1-3 God made the
environments, and then on days 4-6, He made the inhabitants
to go in each of those environments?
This God is in complete control, and all the other
gods are really nonentities.
This God takes a special interest in mankind; man is
the climax of God's creative work, and being made “in His
image” distinguishes us from all things created earlier!
This great Creator can also be the a great Destroyer!
He floods the whole world, and every living thing is
wiped off the face of the earth, except for Noah and his
family and the animals in the ark.
This God is also a great Preserver!
He sends a severe drought in all the world, and yet
His preserves His chosen people.
The greatest God is Jehovah!
The second truth is that the greatest provider is God.
God provides clothing for Adam and Eve, He provides a
means of salvation for man to escape the flood, He provides
water and lineage for Ishmael, He provides a son when
Abraham is 100 years old, He provides a ram for a sacrifice
(as seen in our reading), He provides a wife for Isaac, He
provides wealth and a large family for Jacob, He providers
leadership for Joseph, He provides a new home for the Jews.
Yes, Abraham's words were never truer, “The Lord
And the new generation of Jews needed to be reminded:
God would be their Provider as well.
Have we forgotten this wonderful truth as well?
Jesus admonished us in Matthew 6:33: “But seek
first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all
these things [food, drink, clothing] will be added to you.”
If you keep God first, He will provide your
The apostle Paul encouraged the members at Philippi with
these words: “And my God shall supply all your need
according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus”
(Philippians 4:19). A
missionary once said, “God's work done in God's way will
never lack God's supply” (Taylor in Rowell).
Are we trusting in God to provide?
Truly, the greatest provider is God.
The third great truth is that the greatest virtue is
and Even were forced to leave paradise because of their
disobedience, Enoch did not see death because he obediently
walked with God, Noah and his family were saved because they
obediently followed God's instructions, Abraham was blessed
because of His willingness to obediently sacrifice his own
son, Jacob responded obediently when God told him to move to
Egypt, and Joseph was eventually exalted for his obedience
Obedience is underscored in the New Testament as well.
Hebrews 5:9 states that Jesus “became the author
of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.”
1 Thessalonians 1:8 tells that Jesus will return
“taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those
who do not obey [His] gospel.”
Jesus Himself taught
that only those who do or who obey God's will will enter
into heaven (Matthew 7:21).
Someone has said, “If you want to grow the fruit of
the Spirit, then you'd better be working in the garden of
obedience” (modified Fullam in Rowell).
Someone else gave this little parable: “In the third
grade, I was condemned to live under the law of
Then I later discovered the law of corrective lenses.
The nearsightedness was still there, but it was
overpowered by this new law.
Here's the irony: You would think if I want to be
free, I should throw my glasses away.
But it's only by obeying the law of corrective lenses
I that became truly free” (Holm in Larson/Elshof).
Substitute “nearsightedness” with “sin” and
“corrective lenses” with Christ, and you'll get the point!
The greatest virtue is obedience.
The next truth is that the greatest sin is deception.
The serpent deceives Eve, Abraham deceives the
foreign kings into thinking that his wife is his sister,
Isaac does the same, Jacob deceives his father into giving
him the blessing, Laban deceives Jacob by giving him Leah,
Jacob deceives Laban later by returning to his homeland
without saying goodbye, Simeon and Levi act deceptively
against Hamor and Shechem, Tamar acts deceptively against
Judah, Joseph's brothers act deceptively against their
father by giving him Joseph's stained coat, and Joseph even
acts somewhat deceptively towards his brothers for a time
until he reveals himself to them!
The New Testament speaks of the deceitfulness of
false teachers, of riches, of evil company, of vain words,
of sorceries, and of Satan himself (Matthew 24:11; Mark
4:19; 1 Corinthians 15:33; Ephesians 5:6; Revelation 18:23,
12:9 and 20:10).
And it warns us time and again not to deceive
ourselves (1 Corinthians 6:9; Galatians 6:7; James 1:26; 1
John 1:8). The
old proverb of Sir Walter Scott still rings true: “Oh what a
tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”
Did you hear about the butcher who pulled his last
chicken out of a barrel and flung it on the scales behind
The lady who was his customer said, “I really need more than
that, do you have a larger one?”
So, the butcher puts the same chicken in the barrel,
and then makes noise like he's rummaging around, and pulls
out the same chicken, and places it on the scale saying,
“This one is one pound more.”
The women then ponders her options, and says, “OK,
I'll take them both!”
The greatest sin is deception.
The next truth is the greatest asset is family.
It's interesting that we find the expression, “Now
these are the generations of Adam, of Noah, of his sons, of
Terah, of Ishmael, of Isaac, of Esau, and of Jacob” (5:1;
6:9; 10:1; 11:27; 25:12 and 19; 36:9; 37:2).
Every time this happens, there follows a genealogy of
the descendants of that person.
This shows the importance of families.
“God created man to live in a family, not to be a
hermit or a recluse or an unsocial or antisocial being.
God declared: 'It is not good for man to be alone'
(Gen. 2:18). ... Children are [seen as] God's gifts to
parents ... [and] since both parent and child are made in
the image of God, each deserves the respect of the other”
Genesis opens with the creation of the world and the
creation of family, and it closes with a family reunion,
Jacob blessing his sons, and Joseph forgiving his brothers.
Do you see your family as an asset?
Someone said that every family needs a garden with
three rows of squash—squash gossip, squash criticism, squash
indifference, four rows of turn ups—turn up with a smile,
turn up with a new idea, turn up with determination, turn up
with politeness, and five rows of lettuce—let us be loyal,
let us be prayerful, let us be unselfish, let us be loving,
and let us be truthful (Swindoll).
The greatest asset is not your job, nor your
education, nor your money, but it's your family!
The next truth is the greatest assurance is covenant.
In the ancient world, a covenant was like a contract,
and both parties had obligations to fulfill.
When God made a covenant, you see time and time again
how He keeps His end of the deal.
The rainbow reminds us of His covenant to never again
flood the world.
God made a covenant with Abraham that He would make
His family great, and we Jacob's large family heading to
Egypt in chapter 46.
He tells Abraham that He would give the Jews the land
after 400 years in slavery, and the story of Joseph shows us
how God is beginning to work that out.
God tells Abraham how all the nations of the world
would be blessed through his family, and that is seen in
Joseph's feeding all the nations!
And it is seen even further when Christ enters the
apostle Paul explains this in Galatians 3:8-9: “And the
Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by
faith [or their faith in Christ and His work]
preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand saying, 'In you
all the nations shall be blessed.'
So then those who are of faith are blessed with
Jehovah is reliable and dependable.
We live with assurance under a better covenant, and
God has guaranteed that if we live faithfully to Him (that
our side of contract), then He will give the victor's crown
of eternal life (Revelation 2:10)!
The next truth is that the greatest positive
motivator is identity.
We see how the whole book of Genesis is helping the
new generation of the Jews to understand who they are.
Or maybe it would be better to say Whose they are.
Their ancestry can be traced back to the beginning of
are not only children of Abraham, but eventually of God
God who had covenanted with Abraham to give them the land is
now reminding this new generation of Jews that He is on
their side and will be them.
Wouldn't this have been a tremendous comfort to these
Jews to know God had promised the land to their ancestors,
and now He is ready to make good on that promise!
They are the children of Israel!
And even more so, they are the children of Jehovah!
Isn't this much the same idea of the apostle Paul
when He writes in Romans 8:29ff: “For whom He foreknew,
He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son,
that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
Moreover, whom He predestined, these He also called;
whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He
justified, these He also glorified.
[The Jews could point back to creation and say, “We
have been created in God's image”, but Christians can point
back to before the creation and say, “We have been
predestined to be created in Jesus' image!].
What then shall we
say to these things?
If God is for us, who can be against us?”
God is on the side of those who follow Christ!
Look Whose we are!
The greatest positive motivator is identity.
The next truth is that the greatest negative motivator is
“Punishment” may sound like an ugly word to some today, but
God uses it throughout Genesis in an effective way to teach
His people that there are consequences to our conduct and to
help them get back on the road towards improvement.
The disobedient Adam and Even are driven from the
garden, the wicked world is destroyed by a flood, the
boastful people of Babel are divided and scattered over the
earth, Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed by fire from heaven,
and Jacob is punished by having to stay away many years from
his original family and by having to put up with the
craftiness and dishonesty of Laban, Simeon is punished with
imprisonment, and Benjamin is threatened to be punished with
slavery until Judah intervenes for him and arouses Joseph's
Genesis shows that Jehovah holds all peoples accountable for
their actions—both the pagans and the Israelites are
punished because there is a just Judge, and Abraham can ask
in 18:25: “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do
contrast to Genesis, the New Testament also speaks of
Jesus said of those who did not help others in
Matthew 25:46: “And these will go away into everlasting
punishment, but the righteousness unto eternal life.”
Someone has observed: “If we follow the New
Testament, the essence of hell lies assuredly above all in
its endlessness (Von Huegel in ZPE “punishment”).
The greatest negative motivator is punishment.
A final truth is that the greatest question is “What have
you done?” God
asks this of Eve and Cain (3:13; 4:10).
Pharaoh and Abimelech ask this of Abraham (12:18;
asks it of Laban, and Laban later asks it of Jacob (29:25;
asks it of his brothers (44:15).
This is a personal questions that forces us to
reflect on our conduct.
We might revise this question just a bit since we are
under the new covenant: “What have you done lately in the
name Jesus to serve, to teach, or to encourage others?”
“Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of
these, My brethren, you did it to Me.”
The greatest question is “What have you done?”
Moses challenged the new generation of Jews to be the great
culture that God was expecting them to be!
God wants you to be part of a great culture too
that's based on the life of His Son.
There was a girl whose father was successful lawyer.
He was handsome and also blind.
Renee said she was glad that her father was blind
since her mother was very plain and homely: “If my father
could compare my mother to other beautiful women, I'm afraid
he might not love my mother as he does.
Because he is blind, he only sees and loves her
heart” (Shank HUL91).
May God blind us to this world so that we can
recognize Him as our provider, be obedient to His will, live
up to our identity in Christ, and love His amazing and
What have you done to secure eternal life?
Have you repented of your sins?
Have you put on Christ by being baptized into His
name? Have you
lived the Christian life like you should?
Have you supported the church?
Have you been a blessing to others?
Have you loved God's heart with all your heart?
Don't be deceived any longer!
Let Christ add you to His forever family!