The first word of Genesis is important. It is a Hebrew word. (Hebrew is the language of the Jews.) It means beginning. There are many ways to study the message of Genesis. But we will just use one of these methods here. We will see it as two important beginnings. First, there is the beginning of God's relationship with man. Second, there is the beginning of God's revelation to man. (‘Man’ means men and women.)

[Note: Here, the word ‘relationship’ means that a person belongs to God. It also means a friendship that lasts. People have relationships with each other too. The word ‘revelation’ means something that God makes known to people. They could not learn it in any other way.]

We can learn many things about God in the book of Genesis. It was very important for the first people who read it. And it is just as important for us today.

God is Holy (Chapters 1-5)

People talk a lot about the book of Genesis. And they usually discuss one subject. They talk about the story of the creation. But, the book is about people too. It concentrates on two things. First, there is the fact that God is holy. Second, there is man's reaction to that fact.

[Note: ‘Man’ means men and women.]

The main subjects of this section are three men:

  • Adam: Man hides himself (3:8-10).
  • Cain: Man makes excuses for himself (4:9-12). Sin breaks our relationship with God (chapter 3). Sin also breaks our relationship with people (chapter 4).
  • Enoch: Man submits himself (5:22, 24).

In chapter 3, man is fighting against God.

In chapter 4, man is running away from God.

In chapter 5, man is walking with God. This means that he is a friend of God. So he has a good relationship with God.

The Punishment of God (Chapters 6-11)

God is holy. But He is also fair. In these chapters, there were two special events. There was the Great Flood. And there was the Tower of Babel. God had two purposes in both stories. The first purpose was to punish man's sin. That sin had serious results in the world. And God's other purpose was to control those serious results. Man's mind is evil (6:5; 11:6). Man refuses to submit to God. Man is fighting against God. But God's punishment is not spite. Man's bad behaviour makes him sad. God suffers very much when he must punish people.

Noah is the most important person in this section.

  • He pleased God (6:8).
  • He obeyed God (6:22; 7:5).
  • He knew that God is good (8:20).
  • He had God's help. God approved of him (9).

Man is peculiar. He can build an altar (8:20). But he also wants to build a tower (11:5). A tower is a very tall building. It is often narrow too. The altar shows his friendship with God. The tower shows his fight against God.

We should notice something. It is this. Man cannot defeat God. When God says something, it will happen. Man might say, ‘Let us build…a tower’ (11:4). But God says, ‘Let us go down and confuse their language’ (11:7).

The Power of God (Chapters 12-20)

The most important person here is Abraham. Chapter 12 begins with a command. It is: ‘Leave your country’. There is also a promise. It is this: ‘I will bless you’. God does not just tell us to do things. He always supplies us with the strength to obey.

Notice something about Abraham's life. God's power had no limits in Abraham. There was:

  • power to cancel his sins (12:17-20)
  • power to overcome his difficulties (13:7-18)
  • power to defeat his enemies (14:15-24)
  • power to satisfy his desires (15:2-4).

Chapters 15-18 tell the story of Abraham and Sarah. God had a message for them. He promised to give them a son. But these chapters also show that they were impatient (16). God does not always give immediate gifts. He knows the best time for his benefits. At first, Abraham did not believe that it was possible. Sarah did not believe either. They had to learn an important lesson. It was this. Nothing is too hard for God. God has all power (18:14).

The Bible gives a true account of man. It tells us the good things about man. But it also tells us the bad things about him. This was true about Abraham. In these chapters, he sometimes had a lack of faith in God. Abraham was very impatient too. And this caused serious results. But he also cared about other people (18:22). He appealed to God for them. Abraham knew that they were sinners like him.

Chapter 19 records another act of God's punishment. God punished an evil society. This time, the punishment was not by water. It was by fire. We are so slow to learn! Abraham made a mistake in chapter 12. Then, he made the same mistake in chapter 20. But, notice his desire for prayer. (Read 15:2; 18:22-33; 20:17.)

The Mercy of God (Chapters 21-26)

[Note: Mercy is a very strong word. There are several meanings in it. There is love and pity. To have mercy means to forgive sins. It means to show kindness and goodness. Someone who shows mercy is a gentle person too.]

Abraham was still alive at this time. But, the main interest was in Isaac. God had promised to give a son to Abraham. And Isaac was that son. The subject in this section is God's mercy. Abraham and Sarah did not deserve God's mercy. But God still showed it to them. He gave them a son. This was what they wanted more than anything else. God also showed mercy to Hagar and to her son (21:9-20).

God tested Abraham's trust in him. God's mercy provided an animal. And he gave it at just the right time (22:11-14). God's mercy provided a bride for Isaac too (24:12.). God then showed his mercy to Isaac and Rebekah. He gave them children (25:21).

Notice something else. It is very easy for a child to repeat the father's sins (26:7. Compare 12:13; 20:5).

The story of Isaac tells about God's generous mercy.


  • saved Isaac's life (22)
  • provided Isaac's partner (24)
  • answered Isaac's prayers (25:21).

The Patience of God (Chapters 27-36)

Now we come to JACOB. In many ways, his character is not attractive. But he makes something clear to us. Remember that Genesis is the ‘book of beginnings’. It shows that God can completely change a person's nature. Then God can use that person. He can be part of God's purposes.

This section shows the effects of a parent's example. Isaac copied Abraham's sin (26:7). And Rebekah led her son to do something very wrong (27:6-13).

We should notice something about words. They are very important to Jews. Words that a person speaks are powerful. So, once someone gives a blessing, he cannot cancel it (27:37).

Sin usually produces bad results. And Rebekah suffered very much because of her action. It caused her home to be sad (27:41). And she was very sad too (27:46). Then, Jacob became like his mother. He was selfish. He wanted things for himself.

We see God's patience. His people wanted things for themselves all the time. And they were unkind to other people. These chapters record terrible events. There are stories about selfish desires (31:1-33) and stories about lies (31:34, 35). There is disagreement (31:51, 52). There is fear (32:4-33; especially 32:7). People deceive (34:13-15). They even murder (34:24-31). And they steal (34:2; compare 35:4). There is worship of idols too (35:2).

They are not happy chapters. But God was there all the time. He spoke with his servant, Jacob. God appealed to him (28:13; 31:11; 32:24; 35:7, 9-15). And God was patient with Jacob. God was also patient with Jacob's family.

The Sovereignty of God (Chapters 37-50)

[Note: The sovereignty of God means a very important thing. But it can be hard for us to understand it. It is God's absolute right to rule everything. He also rules in the way that he chooses. Man cannot force God's choice. And man cannot make a limit to God's choice. God chooses to act in his own way. Read Psalm 115:3; Isaiah 45:9-19; Romans 9:19-21; Ephesians 1:11. But there is something that we must always remember. It is this. God always does things that fit with who he is. He will never act in any other way. So, we can trust his sovereignty completely.]

The book ends with the story of Joseph. He had an unhappy family. But it is wonderful to see how he succeeded anyway. Here, we have a different story. It is a story about someone who:

  • was holy (39:9; 41:38; 50:15-21)
  • was a hero (39:20; 40:15)
  • spoke about hope (50:24).

God is in control. (This is another way of saying ‘the Sovereignty of God’.) God cared for Joseph in a special way. And Joseph's entire story shows this (39:21, 23; 45:5-7). Joseph himself said it in the best way. He was speaking to his brothers. And he said, ‘You were planning to do something bad to me... God was planning good things’ (50:20).