Background on Genesis 1

By Will Barlow

What is our assumption about the Bible?

“The Bible teaches us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.”
— Galileo

Background to Genesis

  • Who wrote Genesis?
    • Some say that it was a mixture of writers over a longer span of time
    • I believe that Moses wrote Genesis (with the spirit of God guiding him)

How does this affect our reading of Genesis?

What was going on:

Exodus 1:8-10   Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. And he said to his people, "Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land."

Exodus 3:1-2   Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed.

Exodus 3:3-4   And Moses said, "I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned." When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am."

Exodus 3:5-6   Then he said, "Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground." And he said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Exodus 3:7-8   Then the LORD said, "I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.

Exodus 3:9-10   And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt."

Exodus 3:11-12   But Moses said to God, "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?" He said, "But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain."

Exodus 3:13-14   Then Moses said to God, "If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' what shall I say to them?" God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." And he said, "Say this to the people of Israel: 'I AM has sent me to you.'"

Exodus 3:15-16   God also said to Moses, "Say this to the people of Israel: 'The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.' This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations. Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, 'The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, "I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt,

Exodus 3:17   and I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey."'

Exodus 17:3   But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, "Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?"

Numbers 21:5   And the people spoke against God and against Moses, "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food."

Who was the original audience of Genesis?

  • The very people who grumbled and complained to Moses
  • People who had a slave mentality (after generations of slavery in Egypt)
  • People who were around idols in Egypt for centuries

Background on Genesis
“Genesis was written to the Israelites after they had lived in a land that worshiped many gods to remind them of who the one true God was—not to explain the science and details of creation.” (pg. 166)

Questions for Genesis to Answer

  • Are we going to survive here in the desert? Are we safe here?
  • Is there really only one God? What about all the Egyptian gods? Are they angry we left Egypt?
  • Is this God who rescued us still here, or are we alone?
  • What do we have to do to please this one God so we will have crops that won’t fail and have food for our families?
  • Should we worship the sun? Should we worship the moon like the Egyptians? Or worship like the Canaanites, who are now nearby?
  • Is the Egyptian story of how the world was made the true one? (pg. 168)

Contrasting Genesis 1
Contrasting Genesis 1 with the other creation accounts:

  • Single God
  • Creates by Himself using a word
  • Creates humans with love and care
  • Views humans as more than servants

Comparing Genesis 1
Comparing Genesis 1 with the other creation accounts:

  • Similar view of a “flat Earth”
  • Similar view of waters above and below
  • Similar views of a solid dome above the Earth

When I say “Earth,” what comes to mind?

The Hebrews thought of this:

Questions we ask of Genesis 1
In our modern society, here are some questions that we ask of Genesis 1:

  • How old is the Universe? How old is the Earth?
  • How did plants live without the Sun for a few days?
  • Where did the light come from if the Sun wasn’t there?

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