Ark of the Covenant - Bible History Online
Bible History

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia


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IV. The Historical Character.
1. History of the Patriarchs: (Genesis 12 through 50):
(1) Unfounded Attacks upon the History.
(a) From General Dogmatic Principles:
In order to disprove the historical character of the patriarchs, the critics are accustomed to operate largely with general dogmatic principles, such as this, that no nation knows who its original founder was. In answer to this it can be said that the history of Israel is and was from the beginning to the end unique, and cannot be judged by the average principles of historiography. But it is then claimed that Abraham's entire life appears to be only one continuous trial of faith, which was centered on the one promise of the true heir, but that this is in reality a psychological impossibility. Over against this claim we can in reply cite contrary facts from the history of several thousands of years; and that, too, in the experience of those very men who were most prominent in religious development, such as Paul and Luther.
(b) From Distance of Time:
Secondly, critics emphasize the long period of time that elapsed between these events themselves and their first records, especially if these records can be accredited to so late a period as the 9th or the 8th century BC. In consequence of this, it is claimed that much of the contents of Genesis is myth or fable; and Gunkel even resolves the whole book into a set of unconnected little myths and fables. Over against this claim we can again appeal to the universal feeling in this matter. I do not think that it can be made plausible, that in any race fables and myths came in the course of time more and more to be accepted as actual facts, so that perchance we should now be willing to accept as historical truths the stories of the Nibelungenlied or Red Riding Hood. But this, according to the critics, must have been the case in Israel. Prophets accepted the story of the destruction of the two cities in the Jordan valley, as recorded in Gen 19, as correct (compare Am 4:11; Isa 1:9; 3:9; Hos 11:8); also Abraham as a historical person (Isa 29:22; 41:8; 51:1 ff; Mic 7:20; Jer 33:26; Ezek 33:24; and possibly Mal 2:15); then Isaac (Am 7:9,16; Jer 33:26); also Jacob (Hos 12:3 ff; Am 9:8; Jer 33:26); also Joseph (Am 5:6,15); and these prophets evidently thought that these events and persons were regarded as historical by the people in general. In the New Testament we can cite, for Abraham, Mt 3:9; Gal 3; 4:21 ff; Rom 4:9 ff; 9:7 ff; Heb 7:1 ff; 11:8 ff; Jas 2:21 ff, and especially the words of Jesus in Mt 8:11; Lk 16:22 ff; Jn 8:52 ff; finally in Mt 22:31 f, the whole argument for the resurrection of the dead is without a foundation if the patriarchs are not historical personages. Over against this, there was no period in the history of Israel in which it can be shown that these stories of Genesis Were regarded only as myths. If these events were actual occurrences, then those things which the patriarchs experienced were so unique that these experiences were not forgotten for a long time. Then, too, we can also refer to the strength of the memory of those nations that were not accustomed to have written records of their history.
(c) From Biblical Data:
Finally, the attempt has been made to discover in the Bible itself a pre-Mosaic stage in its ideas of man concerning God, which is claimed to contradict the higher development of Divine ideas in the patriarchs, for which purpose the critics appeal to Ezek 23:3,1; 20:7 ff; Josh 24:14 ff. But at these places it is evident that the idolatry of the people is pictured as apostasy. And when in Ex 6:2 ff the name of Yahweh is as a matter of fact represented as something new, it is nevertheless a fact that in these very passages the revelation given is connected with the history of the patriarchs. The same is true of Ex 3:1 ff. The whole hypothesis that the religion before the days of Moses was polytheistic has not been derived from the Bible, but is interpreted into it, and ends in doing violence to the facts there recorded (compare my book, Die Entwicklung der alttestamentlichen Gottesidee in vorexilischer Zeit).
(d) From Comparison with Religion of Arabia:
The critics further compare the pre-Mosaic religion of Israel with the low grade of religion in Arabia in the 5th century after Christ; but in order to do this, they must isolate Israel entirely, since all the surrounding nations at the time of the Tell el-Amarna Lettershad attained to an altogether different and higher stage of religious development and civilization.
(2) Unsatisfactory Attempts at Explaining the Patriarchal Age.
(a) Explanation Based on High Places:
In denying the historical character of the account of the patriarchs in Genesis, the critics are forced to contrive some scheme in explanation of the existence of these stories, but in doing this they make some bad breaks. Thus, e.g., they say that the Israelites when they entered Canaan found there the high places of the heathen peoples; and since if they wanted to make use of these in the service of Yahweh they must first declare them legitimate places of worship, this was done by inventing the history of the patriarchs, who long before this are said to have already consecrated all these places to the Yahweh worship. But how is it possible on this supposition to explain the story of Joseph, which transpired in Egypt? Then, too, the reasons for the origin of the other stories of the patriarchs would be enshrouded in a remarkable mystery and would be of very inferior character. Again, it is nowhere declared in the passages of Genesis that here come into consideration that they are reporting the beginnings of a permanent cult when they give an account of how God appeared to the patriarchs or when they erected altars in His honor. And, finally, while it is indeed true that the cult localities of the patriarchs are in part identical with those of later times (compare Bethel, Beersheba)--and this is from the outset probable, because certain places, such as hills, trees, water, etc., as it were, of themselves were suitable for purposes of the cult--yet such an identification of earlier and later localities does not cover all cases. And can we imagine that a prophetical method of writing history would have had any occasion in this manner to declare the worship of calves in Bethel a legitimate service?
(b) The Dating Back of Later Events to Earlier Times:
But we are further told that the pre-prophetic condition of affairs in Israel was in general dated back into the primitive period, and this was done in such a way that the character of Abraham was regarded as reproducing ideal Israel, and the character of Jacob the empirical Israel in the past; something that certainly is from the outset an odd speculation of too much learning! If this explanation is correct, what shall we then do with Isaac and Joseph? And why is the whole story of the condition of civilization pictured in Genesis so entirely different from that of later times? And is Abraham really a perfect ideal? Is he not rather, notwithstanding his mighty faith, a human being of flesh and blood, who can even doubt (Gen 15:2 f; 17:17); who can make use of sinful means to realize the promise (Gen 16, Hagar); who tells a falsehood, although for the best of purposes, namely, to protect his wife (Gen 12:9 ff), and for this reason must accept the rebuke of the heathen Abimelech (Gen 20:9 f)? In addition, Abraham is married to his half-sister (Gen 20:12), which, according to Dt 27:22; Lev 18:9,11; 20:17, is forbidden with the penalty of death for the transgressor. In the same way Jacob, according to Gen 29 f, has two sisters as wives, which is also declared by Lev 18:18 to be a crime.
(c) The Patriarchs as heroes eponymi:
In the third place, it is said that the people have in the persons of the patriarchs made for themselves eponymous heroes. But why did they make so many at one time? In addition, Abraham cannot possibly be regarded as such a hero as Jacob or Israel is, and in exceptional cases also Isaac and Joseph (Am 7:9,16; 5:6,15). It is not correct to place genealogies like those in Gen 10:1 ff; 25:1 ff,13 ff on a level with the stories concerning the patriarchs. In the latter case we are dealing with individualities of pronounced character, who in the experiences of their lives represent great fundamental principles and laws in the kingdom of God--Abraham, the principle of the grace of God, to which faith on the part of man is the counterpart; Jacob, the principle of Divine election; Joseph, that of the providential guidance of life; while Isaac, it is true, when he becomes prominent in the history, evinces no independent character, but merely follows in the footsteps of Abraham (compare 26:1 ff,3 ff,15,18,24 ff), but is in this very imitative life pictured in an excellent way.
(d) Different Explanations Combined:
If we combine two or more of these different and unsatisfactory attempts at an explanation of the history of the patriarchs, we must become all the more distrustful, because the outcome of this combination is such an inharmonious scheme.
(3) Positive Reasons for the Historical Character of Genesis.
The individuality of the patriarchs as well as their significance in the entire development of the history of the kingdom of God, and their different missions individually; further, the truthful portraiture of their method of living, which had not yet reached the stage of permanent settlement; and, finally, the fact that the prophets, the New Testament and above all Jesus Himself regard their historical character as something self-evident (see (1b) above), make the conviction a certainty, that we must insist upon their being historical personages; especially, too, because the attacks on this view (see (1) above), as also the efforts to explain these narratives on other grounds (see (2) above), must be pronounced to be failures. To this we must add the following: If Moses were the founder of the religion of Israel, it would scarcely have been possible that a theory would have been invented and have found acceptance that robs Moses of this honor by the invention of the story of the patriarchs. Rather the opposite would be the case. Besides, this older revelation of God is absolutely necessary in order to make Moses' work and success intelligible and possible. For he himself expressly declares that his work is based on the promises of God given to the fathers. Through this connection with the older revelation it was possible for Moses to win the attention and the confidence of the people (compare Ex 2:24; 3:6,13 ff; 4:5; 6:3,1; 15:2; 32:13 f; 33:1; compare also my book, Die Entwicklung der alttestamentlichen Gottesidee in vorexilischer Zeit, 117 ff; and Strack, Genesis, 93 ff).
Individuality of Patriarchs:
In so far as the history of the patriarchs contains miracles, they are in perfect harmony with the entire character of sacred history (compare EXODUS, III, 2); and as far as the number of miracles is concerned, there are in fact fewer reported in the days of the patriarchs than in the times of Moses.. On the view that the history of the patriarchs, which is earlier than the period of Moses, was an invention and not history, the opposite condition of affairs could be expected. Leaving out of consideration the unsatisfactory instances cited under V, 2, below, there is to be found also in the Book of Genesis absolutely no reference to indicate events of a later period, which would throw a doubt on the historical character of what is here reported. In every direction (e.g. in connection with theophanies and the cult worship), there is a noticeable progress to be seen in going from Genesis to Exodus, a fact which again is an important argument for the historical reliability of the contents of both books. Finally, we add the following. Ch 14 (the Chedorlaomer and the Melchizedek episodes) has through recent archaeological researches been brilliantly confirmed as far as the names are concerned, as also in reference to the political conditions of the times, the general historical situation and the chronology. In the same way the religious conditions of Egypt, as described in Gen 12, and in the entire history of Joseph, are so faithfully pictured that it is absolutely impossible to regard these accounts as the work of imagination. These accounts must be the outcome, on the part of the author, of a personal knowledge of these things and conditions, as they are absolutely correct, even to the details of the coloring.
2. The Primitive History of Genesis 1 through 11:
(1) Prominence of the Religious Element.
In the primitive history as recorded in the opening chapters of Genesis we must yet emphasize, more than is done elsewhere, that the chief interest for the Christian is found in the religious and moral teachings of this account; and that these teachings remain unshaken, even when chronological, historical, archaeological, physical, geographical or philological sciences would tempt us to reach negative conclusions. It is a wise thing, from the outset, not to be too timid in this direction, and to concede considerable liberty in this matter, when we remember that it is not the purpose of the Bible to give us scientific knowledge in scientific forms, but to furnish us with religious and ethical thoughts in a language which a childlike mind, that is open to Divine things, can understand.
(2) Carefulness as Regards Divergent Results of Scientific Research.
On the other hand, it is right over against the so-called "results" of these different sciences to be very critical and skeptical, since in very many cases science retracts today what with a flourish of trumpets it declared yesterday to be a "sure" result of investigations; e.g. as far as the chronology is concerned, the natural and the historical sciences often base their computations on purely arbitrary figures, or on those which are constructed entirely upon conclusions of analogy, and are far from conclusive, if perchance the history of the earth or of mankind has not at all times developed at the same pace, i.e. has moved upward and downward, as e.g. a child in its earlier years will always learn more rapidly than at any later period of its life.
(3) Frequent Confirmation of the Bible by Science.
But finally the Holy Scriptures, the statements of which at this period are often regarded slightingly by theologians, are regarded much more highly by men of science. This is done, e.g., by such scientists as Reinke and K.E. von Baer, who declare that Moses, because of his story of the creation, was a man of unsurpassed and unsurpassable scientific thought; or when many geological facts point to such an event as the Deluge in the history of the earth. The history of languages, as a whole and in its details, also furnishes many proofs for the correctness of Gen 10, and that chapter has further been confirmed in a most surprising manner by many other discoveries (compare the existence of Babel at a period earlier than Nineveh, and the colonizing of Assur by Babel). Then facts like the following can be explained only on the presupposition that the reports in Genesis are correct, as when a Dutchman in the 17th century built an ark after the measurements given in Genesis and found the vessel in every particular adapted to its purposes; and when today we again hear specialists who declare that the modern ocean sailing vessel is being more and more constructed according to the relative proportions of the ark.
(4) Superiority of the Bible over Heathen Mythologies.
Finally, the similarity of the Biblical and the Babylonian accounts of the creation and the Deluge, as these have been discovered by learned research (and we confine ourselves to these two most important reports)--although this similarity has been misinterpreted and declared to be hostile to the historical reliability and the originality of Gen 1 and Gen 6 through 9--does not prove what critics claim that it does. Even if we acknowledge that the contents of these stories were extant in Babylon long before the days of Moses, and that these facts have been drawn from this source by Israel, there yet can be no question that the value of these accounts, the fact that they are saturated with a monotheistic and ethical spirit, is found only in Israel and has been breathed into them only by Israel. For the inner value of a story does not depend upon its antiquity, but upon its spirit. But even this conception of the matter, which is shared by most theologians, cannot satisfy us. When we remember how Babylonian mythology is honeycombed by the grossest superstition and heathenism, and that our ethical feelings are often offended by it in the most terrible manner, it is really not possible to see how such a system could have had any attraction for Israel after the Spirit, and how a man who thought as a prophet could have taken over such stories. If Israel has been a pathfinder in the sphere of religion, as is acknowledged on all hands, why do the critics always talk of their borrowing from others? And then, since similar stories are found also among other nations, and as the natural sciences are anything but a unit in hostility to the Biblical narratives, all these factors can find a satisfactory explanation only on the supposition that there existed an original or primitive revelation, and that in Israel this revelation was transmitted in its greater purity, while among the other nations it was emptied of its contents or was perverted. In this way the universality of these stories can be explained, as also the inferiority in character of similar stories among the other nations.
Babylonian and Biblical Stories
The particularly close connection that exists between the Babylonian and the Biblical versions of these stories is in perfect harmony with the fact that it was from Babylon that the dispersion of mankind set in. The purity of the Biblical tradition is further attested by the fact that it reports the actual history of all mankind (see under I, 2), while the mythologies of other nations are restricted nationally and locally, i.e. the beginnings of the history of the individual nations and the beginnings of the history of mankind are identical, and the earliest history is always reported as taking place in the native land of the people reporting it. The fact that in earlier times there prevailed in Babylon too a purer knowledge of God, which, however, steadily degenerated, is proved by many data, and especially by the recently discovered fragment of a Deluge story, according to which the God who destroyed the world by the Flood and the God who delivered the one family is the same God, which is in perfect agreement with the Bible, but is in contradiction to the later Babylonian story. That in earlier times a purer conception of God prevailed, seems to be confirmed also by the experiences of the missionaries. Evolutionism, i.e. the development of a higher conception of God out of a lower, is nothing but an unproved theory, which at every step is contrary to actual facts. Compare also my book, Die Entwicklung der Gottesidee in vorexilischer Zeit, 129 ff, and Schmidt, Die babylonische Religion: Gedanken uber ihre Entwicklung, a dissertation in which the fact that religion naturally degenerates is proved also as far as the Greeks, the Egyptians, the East Indians and the Chinese are concerned.
V: Origin and Authorship of Genesis.
1. Connection with Mosaic Times:
That the Book of Genesis stands in some kind of literary connection with the succeeding books of the Pentateuch is generally acknowledged. But if this is the case, then the question as to the origin and the time of the composition of this whole body of books can be decided only if we take them all into consideration. In this article we have only to consider those facts which are found in Genesis for the solution of this problem. It is self-evident that the conclusion we have reached with reference to the literary unity of the book is of great importance for this question (see under II and III above). The historical character of the book, as demonstrated under IV above, also speaks emphatically for this claim that the literary composition of the book must have taken place when the memory of these events was still trustworthy, and the impression and experiences were still fresh and had not yet faded. Such individualistic and vivid pictures of historical personages as are reported by Genesis, such a faithful adherence to the accounts of the civilization in the different countries and districts and at different times, such detailed accounts of foreign customs, conditions and historical events, could scarcely. have been possible, if the Mosaic age with its powerful new impressions, the period of the Judges, with its characteristic apostasy, or even the division of Israel into two kingdoms, with its dire effects on the external union of the people, had all passed by before these accounts were actually written down. On the other hand, the highly developed prophetic conception of these events, and the skillful plan of the book demand that the author must have been a religious and ethical personality of the first rank. And as, finally, it is scarcely credible that Moses would have failed to provide for a systematic report of the great past of the people, for which account, before this and as long as only family histories were involved, there was no need felt, and as the subsequent books of the Pentateuch, which are acknowledged in a literary way to be connected with Genesis, in many of their parts expressly declare that Moses was their author (compare EXODUS, IV), the Mosaic authorship of this book is as good as proved. This is not to deny that older sources and documents were used in the composition of the book, such as perhaps the genealogical tables or the events recorded in Gen 14, possibly, too, some referring to the history of the times before the Deluge and before Abraham. This is probable; but as all the parts of the book have been worked together into a literary unity (see under II and III above), and as such sources are not expressly mentioned, it is a hopeless task to try to describe these different sources in detail or even to separate them as independent documents, after the manner refuted under II and III above, as a theory and in its particulars. And for the age of Genesis, we can refer to the fact that the personal pronoun here is still used for both genders, masculine and feminine, which is true also of the word na`ar ("youth"), a peculiarity which is shared also by the other books of the Pentateuch almost throughout.
2. Examination of Counter-Arguments:
(1) Possibility of Later Additions.
In itself it would be possible that from time to time some explanatory and interpreting additions could have been made to the original text, in case we find indications of a later period in some statements of the book. But that in this case these additions could not have been made by any unauthorized persons, but only officially, should, in the case of a book like Genesis, be regarded as self-evident. But in our times this fact must be emphasized all the more, as in our days the most radical ideas obtain in reference to the way in which sacred books were used in former times. And then it must be said that we cannot prove as an absolute certainty that there is a single passage in Genesis that originated in the post-Mosaic period.
(2) "Prophecy after the Event" Idea.
It is self-evident also that the fulfillment of a prophecy is not an evidence of a "prophecy after the event" (vaticinium post evenrum), altogether independently of the fact that in this case Gen 12:1-3, which is still in process of fulfillment, could not have been written down even today (compare on this matter, perhaps, Noah's prophecy (9:25 ff); or the prediction of the career of Esau (25:23; 27:40); or of Ishmael (16:10 ff; 21:18); or Jacob's blessing (Gen 49)). The last-mentioned case cannot in any way be interpreted as the product of a later time; compare the curse of Levi in 49:5-8 as compared with the honor bestowed on this tribe already in the Mosaic period (Ex 32:26-29; Dt 33:8-11), and in the time of the Judges (Jdg 17:7-13; 1 Sam 2:27 f). Zebulun, too, according to Gen 49:13 is regarded as being settled on the coast, which is not in agreement with historical reality (compare Josh 19:10-16,27). In the same way the curse on Simeon in Gen 49:5-7, which declared that his tribe should be distributed among Israel, was not fulfilled in the time when the people entered Canaan (compare Josh 19:1 and 2 Ch 34:6). In Gen 49:10 "Shiloh" cannot refer to the coming of the tabernacle to Shiloh (compare Josh 18:1); for Shiloh is, on the other hand, to be interpreted personally and Messianically. As long as Shiloh was of any importance (compare 1 Sam 1 ff), Judah was not in the possession of the scepter; but when this scepter did come into the control of Judah, Shiloh had long since ceased to be of any significance (compare my book, Die messianische Erwartung der vorexilischen Propheten, 360 f).
(3) Special Passages Alleged to Indicate Later Date (Gen 12:6; 13:7; 22:2; 36:31 ff; 13:18; 23:2; 14:14).
In Gen 12:6; 13:7, it is claimed that it is presupposed that at the time of the author there were no longer any Canaanites in the country, so that these verses belong to a much later period than that of Moses. But on this supposition these verses would be altogether superfluous and therefore unintelligible additions. For that in the time of Abraham the Canaanites had not yet been expelled by Israel, was a self-evident matter for every Israelite. As a matter of fact, the statements in both verses can easily be interpreted. Abraham leaves his native country to go into a strange land. When he comes to Canaan, he finds it inhabited by the Canaanites (compare 10:6,15; 9:25 ff). This could have made his faith to fail him. God, accordingly, repeats His promise at this very moment and does so with greater exactness (compare 13:7 with 13:1), and Abraham shows that God can trust his faith (13:7 f). The question whether the Canaanites no longer existed at the time the book was written, has nothing at all to do with the meaning of these verses. The same is true of 13:7, on account of the presence of the Canaanites and of the Perizzites, which latter tribe had probably come in the meanwhile and is not yet mentioned in Gen 10, but is mentioned in 15:20, and which makes the separation of Abraham and Lot only all the more necessary.
That in Gen 22:2 the land of Moriah is mentioned is claimed by the critics to be a proof that this passage was written after the times of David and even of Solomon, because according to 2 Ch 3:1 the temple stood on Mt. Moriah. But as in this latter passage one particular mountain is called Moriah, but in Abraham's time a whole country was so called, it is scarcely possible that Gen 22:2 could have been written at so late a period.
Usually, too, the list of 8 Edomite kings, who ruled before there was a king of Israel, according to Gen 36:31 ff, is cited as a proof that this part was written only after the establishment of the kingdom in Israel, although the time down to the age of Saul would be entirely too long for only eight kings, as already in the Mosaic period there were kings in Edom (Nu 20:14). Then, too, we find in the days of Solomon a hereditary kingdom in Edom (1 Ki 11:14), while in Gen 36:31 ff we have to deal with an elective kingdom. Also it would be impossible to understand why this list of kings is carried down only so far and no farther, namely down to the time when there were kings in Israel. This statement can properly be interpreted only in the light of 17:6,16, where the promise is given to Abraham that kings should be found among his descendants (compare also 17:20 with 25:16); and in the light of chapter 14, where Abraham is explicitly brought into connection with kings in a number of ways (with the four kings of the East, whom he conquers; with the five kings of the Jordan valley, whom he assists; with the King's Vale (14:17), which prepared the way for the Melchizedek episode; and with this Priest-King himself, who blesses him and to whom he gives tithes (14:18 ff); with the king of Sodom, whom he rebukes (14:21 ff)). Accordingly, the statement in 36:31 is not merely a dry historical notice, but is a reference to the blessing of God, which is realized in Israel at a much later time than in the kindred tribe of Esau, and which puts the faith of Israel to a new test. As the death of the last Edomite king is not mentioned (compare 36:39 in contrast to the preceding passage and to 1 Ch 1:50 f), but as detailed family data are given, we are doubtless dealing here with living contemporaries of Moses, in whose time already the Edomites possessed a kingdom (Nu 20:14; Jdg 11:17), just as this was the case with Amalek (Nu 24:7), with Moab (Nu 21:26; 22:4) and Midian (Nu 31:8). And why would a later writer have mentioned neither Selah (Petra), so important in later times (compare Isa 16:1; Jdg 1:36; 2 Ki 14:7), nor Ezion-Geber (1 Ki 9:26; 2 Ch 8:17 f), among the places given in Gen 36:40 ff? In Moses' time, however, the last-mentioned place was only prairie (Nu 33:35 f).
Just as little is it an argument against the Mosaic times that Hebron is mentioned in Gen 13:18; 23:2, which city, according to Josh 14:15; 15:13, is called Kiriath-arba, a name which Genesis also is acquainted with (compare 23:2), and which in its signification of "city of Arba" points to an originally proper name. Hebron is the older name, which was resumed at a later period, after it had in the meanwhile been supplanted by the Canaanitic name, just as the name of Salem, which occurs already in the Tell el-Amarna Letters, for a period of time gave way to the name of Jebus, but was afterward resumed. That Hebron was an old city and that it existed at a period earlier than the Arba mentioned in Josh 14:15; 15:13, and from whom its later name was derived, can be concluded from Nu 13:22.
Further, the mention of Dan in 14:14 does not necessarily favor the view that this chapter did not originate until after Josh 19:47. Jdg 18:29, where Leshem or Laish is changed into Dan (2 Sam 24:6; compare 24:2 and 24:15), does make the existence of another Dan probable. Since in Gen 14:2,3,7,17 so many ancient names are mentioned, and as the author is most fully informed as to the conditions of the political complexion of the old nations of that time (14:5-7), it would be incomprehensible if he should not have made use of the ancient names Laish and Leshem. However, if this Dan was really meant, we should at most have to deal with a revision, such as that pointed out above. Some other less important arguments against the origin of Genesis from the Mosaic times we can here ignore. The most important argument for the Mosaic origin of the book, in addition to those mentioned under 1, will now be discussed.
VI. Significance.
1. Lays Foundation for the Whole of Revelation:
In the history of the creation the most important feature for us is the fact that the world was created out of nothing (compare Gen 1:1 and the word bara'), which guarantees the absoluteness of God and His perfect control of the entire material world; further, the creation of man, as the crown of all creation, for which all things previously created prepare, and who is to rule over them, but who--most important of all--is created after the image of God in Gen (1:26 f), and whose body has been created by the hand of God and his soul breathed into him by God (2:7). On this fact, too, in the end, is founded the possibility of man's redemption even after the Fall (5:1,3; compare Col 3:9; Eph 4:24), as also the possibility of the incarnation of Jesus Christ, who also is the image of God (Col 1:15; 2 Cor 4:4). Then, too, another all-important factor for us is the unity of the human race, for thereby is made possible and can be understood the fact that all men have become subject to sin and all can be the recipients of grace (Rom 5:12 ff; 1 Cor 15:22 f,45 f). Also the need of redemption is brought out strongly in the Book of Genesis. Compare in connection with the Fall, the pains that shall attend the birth of a child, the cursing of the land, death (3:15 ff), which finds its first victim in Abel, and the monotonous and emphatic repetition of the formula, "and he died," in Gen 5, as characterizing the dismal fate of mankind, and which finds its expression in the rapid decrease of the length of life in the genealogies and in the ages of the patriarchs (5:1 ff; 11:10 ff; 25:7; 35:28; 47:28; 50:26; Ps 90:10), and in the irresistible and increasing power of death. By the side of this, sin at once assumes its most horrible form (Gen 3, doubt, pride, fear, boldness of Eve and Adam), and is propagated and increases; compare the murder and the despair of Cain (Gen 4:1 ff), which is still surpassed by the defiant blasphemy of Lamech (4:23 f); and in the same way, death, which is coming more and more rapidly (see above), is a proof for this, that sin is being more and more intimately interwoven with the human race. Compare further, the corruption of the whole earth, which brings with it as a consequence the judgment of the Deluge (6:5 ff), after the period of grace extending over 120 years had fruitlessly passed by; the lack of reverence on the part of Ham (9:22); the arrogance in connection with the building of the tower of Babel (11:1 ff); the Sodomitic sin in 18:16 through 19:15; the daughters of Lot (19:30 ff). Still worse is it, that the elect also are not without blame. On Abraham, see IV, 1, 2b; then concerning Noah (9:21) and Lot's fearful drunkenness (19:32 ff); Isaac's and Rebekah's preference for Esau or Jacob (25:28); Jacob's deceptions of various kinds, his preference for Joseph (37:3); the horrible deeds of Simeon and Levi (34:25 ff; 49:5 ff); Reuben's incest (35:22; 49:3 f); the cruelty of the brethren of Joseph toward him and his father (chapter 37); finally, Joseph's pride and his reporting his brethren (37:2,5 ff). In short, wherever we look, we see in Genesis already a proof for the truth of Rom 3:23, "All have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God."
2. Preparation for Redemption:
By the side of this need of salvation there is to be found also the longing for salvation; compare the name of Noah (Gen 5:29), and the word of blessing from the lips of Jacob (Gen 49:18); and, further, the fact that Abraham reaches out after the promised heir in Gen 15 through 18, and his desire for the possession of the land (12 through 14; 23; 28:20 ff; 33:19 f); and especially from 47:27 on. And in harmony with this need and this longing for redemption we find above all other things the saving and the promising grace of God. He does not cause the bodily death to follow immediately upon the Fall in Gen 3 (although the beginning of the spiritual death sets in at once with the separation from God); He provides for mankind by Himself making garments for them out of skins (3:21); even the expulsion from Paradise is not merely a punishment; God fears that man might live forever if he should eat from the tree of life (3:22 ff). He sets enmity between the human race and the seed of the serpent, so that at least the possibility of a moral contest yet exists; He strengthens the good in Cain (4:7); He removes the pious Enoch (5:24); He saves Noah and his family and makes a covenant with him (8:21 ff); He gives His promise to Abraham (12:1-3) and makes a covenant with him (chapters 15; 17); He delivers Lot (19:13 ff); He is willing even to preserve Sodom at Abraham's prayer, if there are as many as 10 just men in the city (18:32); He bestows a blessing on Ishmael also (16:10 ff; 17:20; 21:13 ff), and permits Isaac to bless Esau (27:39 ff); but above all He is with Isaac, Jacob and Joseph. It is indeed true that the thought runs through Genesis that not all men are capable of receiving His grace, and that not all are drawn to the Father. Cain's sacrifice is not acceptable before God, as was Abel's; the Cainites with their advance in civilization (4:17 ff), to whom Lamech also belonged, are different from Seth (4:26; 5:1 ff), who continues the line of the elect. Finally, the godly, too, permit themselves to be deceived (6:1 ff), and Noah stands alone in his piety. After that Ham is cursed in his youngest son, Canaan (9:22; compare 10:6); but Shem is blessed to such a degree that his blessing is to extend to Japheth also; cf, further, the elimination from sacred history of Lot (19:29 ff); of Ishmael (25:12 ff), and of Esau (36:1 ff); of Sodom and Gomorrah (chapter 19); then the choice of Jacob in preference to Esau (25:19 through 37:1); the preference of Ephraim over Manasseh (48:17 ff); the transmission of the Messianic promises to Judah (49:10; compare my book, Messianische Erwartung, 360 f), so that at the close of Genesis we find already the hope of a personal Messiah expressed, in whom also the word (3:15) that was originally spoken to all mankind is to be entirely fulfilled, and in whom also the blessing given to Abraham shall find its significance and realization for the benefit of all mankind (12:3, and see above, 1, 2 and 3). But in the history of Abraham this fact also becomes clear, that in the end this was all grace on the part of God, and faith on the part of man; and because both grace and faith are in Genesis placed and emphasized at the very beginning of the history of mankind, and before the giving of the law (Ex 19 ff); then this grace and faith cannot be abrogated through the latter or made ineffective. Not by works but by faith is man saved (compare Gal 3:2; Rom 4; Heb 11:8 ff; Jas 2:21 ff). But the guidance of individuals and of His people by God, the ways which He took with His elect, become clear and intelligible ultimately in the history of Joseph; and all and everything must in the end serve the good of those who are His.

Against the separation into documents we mention, of older works: Havernick, Specielle Einleitung in den Pent; Hengstenberg, Beitrage zur Einleitung, II, III; Keil, Einleitung in das Altes Testament, and his Commentary on Gen; Ewald, Die Komposition der Genesis. Of later works: Orr, Problem of the Old Testament; Eerdmans, Die Komposition der Genesis; Moller, Wider den Bann der Quellenscheidung. Against the evolutionary theory: Orr, Problem of the Old Testament; Wiener, Wiener, Essays in Pentateuchal Criticism and Wiener, Origin of the Pentateuch; Green, Unity of Book of Genesis; Moller, Die Entwicklung der alttestamentlichen Gottesidee in vorexilischer Zeit (here also further lit.). On modern archaeological researches: Orr, Problem of the Old Testament; Jeremias, Das Altes Testament im Lichte des alten Orients; Urquhart, Die neueren Entdeckungen und die Bibel (to be used with caution; the work is reliable in the facts but not careful in its conclusions and in its account of Old Testament criticism). Further, compare the histories of Israel by Kohler, Konig, Kittel, Oettli, Klostermann, Stade, Wellhausen: the Commentaries on Genesis by Keil, Delitzsch, Dillmann, Lange, Strack, Gunkel, Holzinger; the Introductions to the Old Testament by Kuenen, Strack, Baudissin, Konig, Cornill, Driver; the Biblical Theologies by Marti, Smend, Budde, Schulz, Oehler. Finally compare Sievers, Metrische Studien, II: "Die hebraische Genesis."
Wilhelm Moller
Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Definition for 'genesis, 4'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". - ISBE; 1915.

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