- Abraham to Isaac (Genesis 11:27-25)
- Isaac to Jacob (Genesis 25:19-35:29 and 37:1)
- Jacob to Joseph (Genesis 37:2-50:26).
16. The genealogies of Ishmael (Genesis 25:12-18) and Esau (Genesis 36) are interspersed between these cycles.
17. In Genesis, one striking aspect is that frequently, a younger son is chosen rather than a firstborn son:
- Seth over Cain
- Shem over Japheth
- Isaac over Ishmael
- Jacob over Esau
- Judah and Joseph over their brothers
- Ephraim over Manasseh
Now sometimes there was something amiss: In the list above, Cain had been banished because he had murdered his brother and refused to repent, and Esau had despised his birthright by selling it for some food. But often, it was just a matter of our omniscient God making a choice according to His will.
- Figures of speech,
- vertical and horizontal parallelism,
- ebb and flow,
- phrases which give a climactic hinge to a passage,
- the 'hourglass' structure of particular accounts,
- alternating between brief and lengthy accounts,
[To show how humanly impossible that is, try passing along a single message of even several sentences, person to person, through twenty people in the same room. Even though they share the same culture and historical time period, the resulting message will generally be a garbled mess. The results are often humorous and never correct. In fact, this type of activity is sometimes used as an ice-breaker in a group setting or party].
- over a 1600 year span
- by 40 plus authors
- by men from every walk of life: a fisherman, herdsman, military leader, political leader, doctor, king, tax collector, rabbi, etc.
- in different places: wilderness, dungeon, hillside, palaces, while traveling, in exile, etc.
- during times of peace and war
- in times of intense joy and deepest sorrow
- on three continents: Asia, Africa and Europe
- in three languages: Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic
- and, importantly for our point here, its subject matter includes hundreds of controversial subjects. Normally that would result in a tangle of opposing opinions. However, from Genesis to Revelation, the Bible has one coherent message:
[Sometime I need to do a post about the Dead Sea Scrolls, and how manuscripts found in that incident measure up to other manuscripts of the Bible found elsewhere after a gap of many years. Very interesting stuff, and the results will astound you.] Anyway, you get what I am saying here:
- top level: "...that of the whole universal plan of God worked out through His creation. Key aspects of the plot at this top level are the initial creation itself; the fall of humanity; the power and ubiquity of sin; the need for redemption; and Christ's incarnation and sacrifice."
- middle level: key aspects "...center on Israel: The call of Abraham; the establishment of an Abrahamic lineage through the patriarchs; the enslaving of Israel in Egypt; God's deliverance from bondage and the conquest of the promised land of Canaan; Israel's frequent sins and increasing disloyalty; God's patient protection and pleading with them; the ultimate destruction of northern Israel and then of Judah; and the restoration of the holy people after the exile."
- bottom level: "Here are found all the hundreds of individual narratives that make up the other two levels: the narrative of how Joseph's brothers sell him to Arab caravaneers heading for Egypt; the narrative of Gideon's doubting God and testing him via the fleece; the narrative of David's adultery with Bathsheba; et al."
Fee and Stuart note that each bottom level individual narrative is at least part of the middle level story of Israel's history, which in turn is part of the top level narrative of God's creation and His redemption of it. They note that this narrative goes through the Old Testament and right through the New Testament as well [see 'Many books, one Author' in point 21 above.].
Ok, I am going to pause this list for now, although I will certainly add to it as other interesting items about the book of Genesis come up. However, I want to get back to those first few chapters of Genesis which I had skipped over before. There is important information in those chapters which have implications for the things which we are studying about the Israelites. As we noted in point 23 above, we can't do justice to those accounts without knowing about the things found in the early chapters of Genesis. So let's go there.