Lecture 1: Old Testament theology.
Lecture 2: Creation and all was good!
Lecture 3: A world gone wrong as sin enters!
Lecture 4: A New Beginning (Genesis 5-11) – Genealogies in Genesis.
- What is Old Testament theology?
- Why should we study the Old Testament?
- The Books of Moses in context
- What is the Pentateuch?
25And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:25-27).
1In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Gen 1:1).
The TANAK/Overview of Old Testament
Old Testament theology is the study of what God has revealed about Himself in the Old Testament. The system of Old Testament theology takes the various truths that the Old Testament books teach us about God and presents them in an organized fashion. God’s revelation of Himself begins in Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The presupposition of God and His creative work is something that all believers accept by faith and is emphasized throughout Scripture from Genesis to Revelation.
Old Testament theology is a rich and rewarding study of what God revealed of Himself, His character, His attributes, etc., in the Old Testament. The Old Testament focuses primarily on God’s relationship with the Jews, starting with His call of Abraham in Genesis 12. He chose Israel and covenanted with them for the purpose of relaying His message to the world and ultimately bringing the Messiah to save us from our sin. Through His relationship with the Jews, God blessed the entire world (Genesis 12:3). The Old Testament chronicles God’s progressive revelation of Himself, specifically to His chosen people but also to those of Gentile heritage, in order that we might learn who He is and His plan in the world. Into the very heart of the Old Testament is woven the idea of a covenant between God and man: the first was made with Adam and others with Noah, Abraham, the nation of Israel, and David.
Old Testament theology is foundational to our understanding of God and His purposes in the world. The seeds of the doctrines of substitutionary atonement, salvation, election, holiness, mercy, judgment, and forgiveness are all found in the Old Testament. A study of Old Testament theology includes a look at theology proper, anthropology, and eschatology, among other vital subjects.
There are many reasons to study the Old Testament. For one, the Old Testament lays the foundation for the teachings and events found in the New Testament. The Bible is a progressive revelation. If you skip the first half of any good book and try to finish it, you will have a hard time understanding the characters, the plot, and the ending. In the same way, the New Testament is only completely understood when we see its foundation of the events, characters, laws, sacrificial system, covenants, and promises of the Old Testament.
If we only had the New Testament, we would come to the Gospels and not know why the Jews were looking for a Messiah (a Savior King). We would not understand why this Messiah was coming (see Isaiah 53), and we would not have been able to identify Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah through the many detailed prophecies that were given concerning Him [e.g., His birth place (Micah 5:2), His manner of death (Psalm 22, especially verses 1, 7–8, 14–18; 69:21), His resurrection (Psalm 16:10), and many more details of His ministry (Isaiah 9:2; 52:13)].
A study of the Old Testament is also important for understanding the Jewish customs mentioned in passing in the New Testament. We would not understand the way the Pharisees had perverted God’s law by adding their own traditions to it, or why Jesus was so upset as He cleansed the temple courtyard, or where Jesus got the words He used in His many replies to adversaries.
The Old Testament records numerous detailed prophecies that could only have come true if the Bible is God’s Word, not man’s (e.g., Daniel 7 and the following chapters). Daniel’s prophecies give specific details about the rise and fall of nations. These prophecies are so accurate, in fact, that sceptics choose to believe they were written after the fact.
We should study the Old Testament because of the countless lessons it contains for us. By observing the lives of the characters of the Old Testament, we find guidance for our own lives. We are exhorted to trust God no matter what (Daniel 3). We learn to stand firm in our convictions (Daniel 1) and to await the reward of faithfulness (Daniel 6). We learn it is best to confess sin early and sincerely instead of shifting blame (1 Samuel 15). We learn not to toy with sin, because it will find us out (Judges 13—16). We learn that our sin has consequences not only for ourselves but for our loved ones (Genesis 3) and, conversely, that our good behavior has rewards for us and those around us (Exodus 20:5–6).
A study of the Old Testament also helps us understand prophecy. The Old Testament contains many promises that God will yet fulfill for the Jewish nation. The Old Testament reveals such things as the length of the Tribulation, how Christ’s future 1,000-year reign fulfills His promises to the Jews, and how the conclusion of the Bible ties up the loose ends that were unraveled in the beginning of time.
In summary, the Old Testament allows us to learn how to love and serve God, and it reveals more about God’s character. It shows through repeatedly fulfilled prophecy why the Bible is unique among holy books—it alone is able to demonstrate that it is what it claims to be: the inspired Word of God. In short, if you have not yet ventured into the pages of the Old Testament, you are missing much that God has available for you.
The Pentateuch is the first five books of the Bible that conservative Bible scholars believe were mostly written by Moses. Even though the books of the Pentateuch themselves do not clearly identify the author, there are many passages that attribute them to Moses or as being his words (Exodus 17:14, 24:4–7;Numbers 33:1–2; Deuteronomy 31:9–22). While there are some verses in the Pentateuch that would appear to have been added by someone later than Moses, for example, Deuteronomy 34:5–8, which describes the death and burial of Moses, most if not all scholars attribute the majority of these books to Moses. Even if Joshua or someone else actually wrote the original manuscripts, the teaching and revelation can be traced from God through Moses.
No matter who actually wrote the words that make up the books of the Pentateuch, the author of those words was God through His prophet Moses, and the inspiration of these five books of the Bible is still true. One of the most important evidences for Moses being the author of the Pentateuch is that Jesus Himself refers this section of the Old Testament as the “Law of Moses” (Luke 24:44).
The word Pentateuch comes from a combination of the Greek word penta, meaning “five” and teuchos, which can be translated “scroll.” Therefore, it simply refers to the five scrolls that make up the first of three divisions of the Jewish canon. The name Pentateuch can be traced at least as far back as AD 200, when Tertullian referred to the first five books of the Bible by that name. Also known as the Torah, which is the Hebrew word meaning “Law,” these five books of the Bible are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
Jews generally divided the Old Testament into three different sections, The Law, The Prophets, and The Writings (TaNaK). The Law or Torah consists of the first five books of Scripture that contain the historical background of creation and God’s choosing of Abraham and the Jewish nation as His chosen people. They also contain the instructions and law given to Israel at Mount Sinai. Scripture refers to these five books by various names. In Joshua 1:7 they said to be the “law (Torah) which Moses My servant commanded you” and “the law of Moses” in 1 Kings 2:3.
The five books of the Bible that make up the Pentateuch are the beginning of God’s progressive revelation to man. In Genesis we find the beginning of creation, the fall of man, the promise of redemption, the beginning of human civilization, and the beginning of God’s covenant relationship with His chosen nation, Israel.
Following Genesis we have Exodus, which records God’s deliverance of His covenant people from the bondage of slavery and the preparation for their possession of the Promised Land that He had set aside for them. Exodus records the deliverance of Israel from Egypt after 400 years of slavery as promised by God to Abraham (Genesis 15:13). In it we find the covenant God makes with Israel at Mount Sinai, instructions for building the tabernacle, the giving of the Ten Commandments, and other instructions on how Israel was to worship God.
Leviticus follows Exodus and expands on the instructions for how a covenant people (Israel) were to worship God and govern themselves. It lays forth the requirements of the sacrificial system that would allow God to overlook the sins of His people until the perfect and ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ would provide redemption and completely atone for the sins of all of God’s elect.
Following Leviticus is Numbers, which covers key events during the 40 years that Israel wandered in the wilderness as well as additional instructions for worshiping God and living as His covenant people. The last of the five books that make up the Pentateuch is Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy is sometimes referred to as the “second law” or “repetition of the law.” It records the final words of Moses before the nation of Israel crosses over into the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 1:1). In Deuteronomy we find God’s Law and standards that were given to Israel at Mount Sinai repeated and expounded upon by Moses. As Israel was to move into a new chapter of their history as God’s chosen nation, Moses is reminding them not only of God’s commandments and their responsibilities but of the blessings that would be theirs by obeying God and the curses that would come from disobedience.
The five books that make up the Pentateuch are generally considered to be historical books because they record historical events. While they are often called the Torah or the Law, in reality they contain much more than laws. They provide an overview to God’s plan of redemption and provide a backdrop to everything in Scripture that would follow. Like all of the Old Testament, the promises, types, and prophecies contained in the first five books of Scripture have their ultimate fulfillment in the person and work of Jesus Christ. They provide the important historical background needed to set the stage for the coming Kinsmen Redeemer.
- Show on a map where the events of Genesis 1-11 occurred; and
- Defend the Biblical concept of creation when challenged by a sceptic.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Genesis 1:1-2
3And God said….
Old Testament book of Genesis
Origins: Creation not Confusion
Ex nihilo is Latin for “from nothing.” The term creation ex nihilo refers to God creating everything from nothing. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). Prior to that moment, there was nothing. God didn’t make the universe from pre-existing building blocks. He started from scratch.
The Bible never expressly states that God made everything from nothing, but it is implied. In Hebrews 11:3 we read, “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” Scholars take this to mean that the universe came into existence by divine command and was not assembled from pre-existing matter or energy. Things that are visible do not owe their existence to anything visible.
Humans can be very creative, but we cannot create ex nihilo. Strictly speaking, we cannot create; we can only synthesize. We require materials from which to build something. God is not so constrained. This is difficult for us to comprehend because of a fundamental law of physics that we are all familiar with. The “first law of science” states that matter (the stuff the universe is made of) cannot be created or destroyed. Matter can be converted from solid to liquid to gas to plasma and back again; atoms can be combined into molecules and split into their component parts; but matter cannot be created from nothing or completely destroyed. And so this idea that God created everything from nothing is not natural to us. It’s not natural at all—it’s supernatural.
The term creation ex nihilo refers to the supernatural event that was the beginning of the universe. It was the moment that God created something (everything) from nothing.
Recommended Resource: The Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel
“What is the biblical Creation story?”
Answer: The basic creation story is found in Genesis 1 and 2, with the account of what happened in the Garden of Eden in chapter 3. Genesis 1 begins before the existence of anything except God Himself. God’s revelation of Himself and His will for mankind is the beginning of the creation story. In this beginning, God created everything in the universe (Genesis 1:1). This includes all the heavenly bodies (including every star and planet), as well as everything on the earth. While the triune nature of God is not explicit in the Genesis account, God does reveal an “us” within the Godhead (Genesis 1:26). The Spirit is active in creation (Genesis 1:2) as is Christ (John 1:1–3; Colossians 1:15–17).
In the six days of creation, God formed light, the universe, and the earth (day 1); the sky and the atmosphere (day 2); dry land and all plant life (day 3); the stars and heavenly bodies, including the sun and moon (day 4); birds and water creatures (day 5); and all the land animals and man (day 6). Mankind is special above all other creatures because he bears the image of God (Genesis 1:27) and has the responsibility to steward and subdue the earth (verse 28). All of creation was completed in six days in all its vast array and wondrous beauty. God announced that His creation was “very good” (verse 31). Genesis 2 sees the ending of God’s creative work and gives a more detailed account of the creation of man.
The seventh day is marked by God’s resting. The rest does not suggest that God was tired; rather, His “rest” was simply a cessation of work. God was done, and the universe was just as He wanted it to be. God’s six days of work, followed by a day of no work, establishes a pattern of taking one day in seven for rest and sets the number of days in the week still in use today. The keeping of the Sabbath later became a distinguishing mark of God’s chosen people (Exodus 20:8–11.)
Genesis 2 takes a closer look at the creation of man. This passage is not a second creation account, nor is it contradictory to Genesis 1. Genesis 2 simply takes a step away from a linear report to refocus the reader on God’s unique work concerning man. God formed man from the dust of the earth He had previously created. After forming man’s body, God breathed life—a soul—into him. The fact that God chose to form man this way shows His great care in this process. God next placed the first man, Adam, in a special place, the Garden of Eden. Eden was beautiful and bountiful. Adam had almost everything he needed, including food and productive work. However, God was not done with man.
God helped Adam to see his need for a mate by having him review all the other creatures and naming them (Genesis 2:19–20). At the end of the naming process, Adam understood what he lacked. God caused Adam to sleep and then formed Eve with as much care as He had formed Adam (verses 21–22). Eve was made from Adam’s rib. When God brought Eve to Adam, the man immediately understood that she was special. She was his counterpart, his complement, and flesh of his flesh (verse 23).
God made both Adam and Eve in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). The Bible’s creation account establishes the family as the basic building block of society (Genesis 1:24; cf. Matthew 19:5–6). As a God-ordained institution, marriage is to be only between one man and one woman.
Adam and Eve were created in a state of innocence (Genesis 1:25) and had not committed any sin. They enjoyed communion with God in Eden and the freedom to eat of whatever trees of the garden they wished, except for one (Genesis 2:16–17). Part of their relationship with God was the inclusion of one simple rule: Adam and Eve were forbidden to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:17).
At some point Eve was tempted by the serpent to eat from the forbidden tree, which she did. Adam also ate and joined his wife in disobedience (Genesis 3:1–6). When Adam and Eve sinned against God, they lost their innocence and their nature was corrupted (Genesis 3:7–12). Sin brought consequences. The process of death began immediately. God cursed the serpent to crawl forever on the ground and be hated by men (verses 14–15). God punished Eve to pain in childbirth and conflict with her husband (verse 16), and He punished Adam with toil and hardship in his labors (verses 17–19). And Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden and denied access to the tree of life (Genesis 3:22–24).
In His great mercy, God also covered Adam and Eve’s shame (Genesis 3:21) and gave them a message of hope in the promise of a Redeemer. The Bible’s first mention of the coming Messiah is found in Genesis 3:15, often called the protoevangelium. The Seed of the woman would come to crush the head of the Serpent, at the cost of being bruised Himself. So, an integral part of the creation story is a prediction of Jesus’ death on the cross and His triumph over Satan and the curse.
Recommended Resource: Battle for the Beginning: Creation, Evolution, and the Bible by John MacArthur
A World Gone Wrong (Gen. 3-4)
After reading this lecture, you should be able to:
- Understand the origins and consequences of sin; and
- Explain the promise of the Messiah as He is presented in Genesis 3
15The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. 16And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eatof it you shall surely die.” Genesis 2:15-17
How Wicked is Our Sin?
Ravi Zacharias: What is SIN?
“Is the Adam and Eve story to be understood literally?”
Answer: Let us assume for a moment that the Adam and Eve story is not to be understood literally. What would be the result? Would Christianity remain essentially the same with a non-literal understanding of the story of Adam and Eve? No!. In fact, it would have serious implications for virtually every tenet and doctrine of the Christian faith. If Adam was not a real man, then sin did not enter the world through one man as Romans 5:12 states. How, then, did sin enter world? Further, if the New Testament is wrong about how sin entered the world, what else is it wrong about? If Romans 5:12 is wrong, how do we know that the entirety of Romans 5:8–15 is not wrong? If the story of Adam and Eve is not to be taken literally—if they did not really exist—then there was no one to rebel, there was no fall into sin. Satan, the great deceiver, would like nothing better than for people to believe that the Bible should not be taken literally and that the story of the fall of man is a myth. Why? Because once we start denying parts of the Bible, we lose our trust in the Bible. Why should we believe anything God’s Word says if we cannot trust everything that it says?
Jesus taught that God created one man and one woman (Mark 10:6) and mentions Abel, a son of Adam and Eve in Luke 11:51. Was Jesus wrong in His beliefs? Or did Jesus know there were no literal Adam and Eve and He was simply accommodating His teaching to the beliefs of the people (i.e., lying)? If Jesus is wrong in His beliefs, He is not God. If Jesus is intentionally deceiving people, He is sinning and therefore cannot be the Savior (1 Peter 1:19).
That is why this is such a serious issue. To deny the literalness of Adam and Eve is to place oneself in opposition to Jesus and the apostle Paul. If one has the audacity to claim he is right and Jesus and Paul are wrong, then Jesus is a sinner, not God and not the Savior; the apostle Paul is a false prophet; and the Bible is not inspired, inerrant, or trustworthy.
The Bible clearly presents Adam and Eve as literal people who existed in a literal Garden of Eden. They literally rebelled against God, they literally believed Satan’s lie, and they were literally cast out of the Garden (Genesis 3:24). They had literal children, all of whom inherited the sin nature, and that nature was passed down to succeeding generations to this very day. Fortunately, God promised a literal Savior to redeem us from that sin nature (Genesis 3:15). That Savior is Jesus Christ, called the “last Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:45), who died on a literal cross and literally rose again. Those who believe in Christ will have literal salvation and spend eternity in a literal heaven.
Christians who deny the story of Adam and Eve essentially deny their own faith. Rejecting the literal interpretation of the Bible’s historical narratives is a slippery slope. If Adam and Eve did not exist, then were Cain and Abel not real? Did Seth exist, and did he father a godly line that led all the way to Abraham and eventually to Jesus Himself? Where in Luke’s genealogy (Luke 3:23–38) do the names stop referring to literal people and start referring to mythical characters? To dismiss Adam and Eve as non-literal is to deny the accuracy of Luke’s gospel, cast aspersions on Moses’ record, and remove the foundation of the rest of the Bible.
God’s Word claims to be true (Psalm 119:160). Jesus Christ declared God’s Word to be truth (John 17:17). All of God’s Word is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16-17). These declarations include the biblical account of Adam and Eve.
Recommended Resource: Did Adam and Eve Really Exist? Who They Were and Why You Should Care by C. John Collins
Question: “What is the definition of sin?”
Answer: Sin is described in the Bible as transgression of the law of God (1 John 3:4) and rebellion against God (Deuteronomy 9:7; Joshua 1:18). Sin had its beginning with Lucifer, probably the most beautiful and powerful of the angels. Not content with his position, he desired to be higher than God, and that was his downfall, the beginning of sin (Isaiah 14:12-15). Renamed Satan, he brought sin to the human race in the Garden of Eden, where he tempted Adam and Eve with the same enticement, “you shall be like God.” Genesis 3 describes Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God and against His command. Since that time, sin has been passed down through all the generations of mankind and we, Adam’s descendants, have inherited sin from him. Romans 5:12 tells us that through Adam sin entered the world, and so death was passed on to all men because “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
Through Adam, the inherent inclination to sin entered the human race, and human beings became sinners by nature. When Adam sinned, his inner nature was transformed by his sin of rebellion, bringing to him spiritual death and depravity which would be passed on to all who came after him. We are sinners not because we sin; rather, we sin because we are sinners. This passed-on depravity is known as inherited sin. Just as we inherit physical characteristics from our parents, we inherit our sinful natures from Adam. King David lamented this condition of fallen human nature in Psalm 51:5: “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”
Another type of sin is known as imputed sin. Used in both financial and legal settings, the Greek word translated “imputed” means “to take something that belongs to someone and credit it to another’s account.” Before the Law of Moses was given, sin was not imputed to man, although men were still sinners because of inherited sin. After the Law was given, sins committed in violation of the Law were imputed (accounted) to them (Romans 5:13). Even before transgressions of the law were imputed to men, the ultimate penalty for sin (death) continued to reign (Romans 5:14). All humans, from Adam to Moses, were subject to death, not because of their sinful acts against the Mosaic Law (which they did not have), but because of their own inherited sinful nature. After Moses, humans were subject to death both because of inherited sin from Adam and imputed sin from violating the laws of God.
God used the principle of imputation to benefit mankind when He imputed the sin of believers to the account of Jesus Christ, who paid the penalty for that sin—death—on the cross. Imputing our sin to Jesus, God treated Him as if He were a sinner, though He was not, and had Him die for the sins of the entire world (1 John 2:2). It is important to understand that sin was imputed to Him, but He did not inherit it from Adam. He bore the penalty for sin, but He never became a sinner. His pure and perfect nature was untouched by sin. He was treated as though He were guilty of all the sins ever committed by the human race, even though He committed none. In exchange, God imputed the righteousness of Christ to believers and credited our accounts with His righteousness, just as He had credited our sins to Christ’s account (2 Corinthians 5:21).
A third type of sin is personal sin, that which is committed every day by every human being. Because we have inherited a sin nature from Adam, we commit individual, personal sins, everything from seemingly innocent untruths to murder. Those who have not placed their faith in Jesus Christ must pay the penalty for these personal sins, as well as inherited and imputed sin. However, believers have been freed from the eternal penalty of sin—hell and spiritual death—but now we also have the power to resist sinning. Now we can choose whether or not to commit personal sins because we have the power to resist sin through the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, sanctifying and convicting us of our sins when we do commit them (Romans 8:9-11). Once we confess our personal sins to God and ask forgiveness for them, we are restored to perfect fellowship and communion with Him. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
We are all three times condemned due to inherited sin, imputed sin, and personal sin. The only just penalty for this sin is death (Romans 6:23), not just physical death but eternal death (Revelation 20:11-15). Thankfully, inherited sin, imputed sin, and personal sin have all been crucified on the cross of Jesus, and now by faith in Jesus Christ as the Saviour “we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7).
Recommended Resource: Basic Theology by Charles Ryrie
“What is the sin nature?”
Answer: The sin nature is that aspect in man that makes him rebellious against God. When we speak of the sin nature, we refer to the fact that we have a natural inclination to sin; given the choice to do God’s will or our own, we will naturally choose to do our own thing.
Proof of the sin nature abounds. No one has to teach a child to lie or be selfish; rather, we go to great lengths to teach children to tell the truth and put others first. Sinful behaviour comes naturally. The news is filled with tragic examples of mankind acting badly. Wherever people are, there is trouble. Charles Spurgeon said, “As the salt flavours every drop in the Atlantic, so does sin affect every atom of our nature. It is so sadly there, so abundantly there, that if you cannot detect it, you are deceived.”
The Bible explains the reason for the trouble. Humanity is sinful, not just in theory or in practice but by nature. Sin is part of the very fiber of our being. The Bible speaks of “sinful flesh” in Romans 8:3. It’s our “earthly nature” that produces the list of sins in Colossians 3:5. And Romans 6:6 speaks of “the body ruled by sin.” The flesh-and-blood existence we lead on this earth is shaped by our sinful, corrupt nature.
The sin nature is universal in humanity. All of us have a sinful nature, and it affects every part of us. This is the doctrine of total depravity, and it is biblical. All of us have gone astray (Isaiah 53:6). Paul admits that “the trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin” (Romans 7:14). Paul was in his “sinful nature a slave to the law of sin” (Romans 7:25). Solomon concurs: “Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, / no one who does what is right and never sins” (Ecclesiastes 7:20). The apostle John perhaps puts it most bluntly: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).
Even children have a sin nature. David rues the fact that he was born with sin already at work within him: “Surely I was sinful at birth, / sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). Elsewhere, David states, “Even from birth the wicked go astray; / from the womb they are wayward, spreading lies” (Psalm 58:3).
Where did the sin nature come from? Scripture says that God created humans good and without a sinful nature: “God created man in His own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). However, Genesis 3 records the disobedience of Adam and Eve. By that one action, sin entered into their nature. They were immediately stricken with a sense of shame and unfitness, and they hid from God’s presence (Genesis 3:8). When they had children, Adam’s image and likeness was passed along to his offspring (Genesis 5:3). The sin nature manifested itself early in the genealogy: the very first child born to Adam and Eve, Cain, became the very first murderer (Genesis 4:8).
From generation to generation, the sin nature was passed down to all of humanity: “Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). This verse also presents the unsettling truth that the sin nature leads inexorably to death (see also Romans 6:23 and Ephesians 2:1).
Other consequences of the sin nature are hostility toward God and ignorance of His truth. Paul says, “The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:7–8). Also, “the person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:14).
There is only one Person in the history of the world who did not have a sin nature: Jesus Christ. His virgin birth allowed Him to enter our world while bypassing the curse passed down from Adam. Jesus then lived a sinless life of absolute perfection. He was “the Holy and Righteous One” (Acts 3:14) who “had no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21). This allowed Jesus to be sacrificed on the cross as our perfect substitute, “a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:19). John Calvin puts it in perspective: “For certainly, Christ is much more powerful to save than Adam was to ruin.”
It is through Christ that we are born again. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). When we are born of Adam, we inherit his sin nature; but when we are born again in Christ, we inherit a new nature: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
We don’t lose our sin nature once we receive Christ. The Bible says that sin remains in us and that a struggle with that old nature will continue as long as we are in this world. Paul bemoaned his own personal struggle in Romans 7:15–25. But we have help in the battle—divine help. The Spirit of God takes up residence in each believer and supplies the power we need to overcome the pull of the sin nature within us. “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God” (1 John 3:9). God’s ultimate plan for us is total sanctification when we see Christ (1 Thessalonians 3:13; 1 John 3:2).
Through His finished work on the cross, Jesus satisfied God’s wrath against sin and provided believers with victory over their sin nature: “‘He himself bore our sins’ in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24). In His resurrection, Jesus offers life to everyone bound by corrupt flesh. Those who are born again now have this command: “Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11).
Recommended Resource: Basic Theology by Charles Ryrie
“Where did sin come from?”
Answer: God did not create sin, but He created beings with free will who have the ability to sin. This includes Satan, fallen angels (demons), and humans. To be clear, sin is a falling short of God’s standards. Sin is not an entity or a thing that “exists”; it has no independent being. Rather, sin is a lack of something, a failure to fully obey God’s law and live up to His glory (Romans 3:23).
When He created the universe and our world, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31; cf. 1 Timothy 4:4). This “very good” creation included humanity and the angel that would later become known as Satan. At this point, no humans or angels had yet sinned, but they had the potential to do so. God did not create any being sinful, yet a group of angels rebelled against God in heaven and became sinful.
Satan’s fall from heaven is symbolically described in Isaiah 14:12–14 and Ezekiel 28:12–19. An angel named Lucifer wanted to “ascend to the heavens” and be “above the stars of God” (Isaiah 14:13). Verse 14 adds he desired to make himself “like the Most High.” God judged Lucifer by removing him from God’s ongoing presence (Isaiah 14:15). That fallen angel is now known as Satan (“adversary”) or the devil (“slanderer”).
In Ezekiel, we find Satan was created as a perfect, wise, and beautiful angel (Ezekiel 28:14). But then Satan rebelled: “You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you” (verse 15). That’s when the situation changed. Scripture hints at the reason Satan chose to sin: “Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor” (verse 17; cf. 1 Timothy 3:6). Satan’s fall took place at some point before he came as a serpent to tempt Eve in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3. After being thrown to the earth (Ezekiel 28:17), Satan tempted humanity to sin, and he has continued that practice ever since (see Matthew 4:1–11).
Since Adam’s sin, humans have inherited Adam’s spiritual corruption and have been born with a sin nature. We are naturally inclined to sin (Romans 6 – 7; James 1:13–15). But in Christ Jesus we can be forgiven of our sins. “God made [Jesus] who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). We receive forgiveness from the eternal penalty of sin when we put our faith in Jesus. We also receive freedom from slavery to sin and can learn, by yielding to the Holy Spirit, to live righteously. This process of acting less like Adam and more like Christ is called sanctification.
Some have wondered why God created beings who could sin. Why didn’t He create angels and humans without the ability to sin? The alternative would be to create beings unable to choose right and wrong. But, in that case, angels and humans would be like robots, unable to truly show love and affection to the Lord. God could either make sin impossible, or He could make beings free to choose, but He could not logically do both. Without an ability to choose, no being can have a meaningful relationship with God. There would never be a meaningful experience of His mercy and love, His justice and righteousness. The fullness of God’s nature and glory would not be on display.
The existence of sin is negative (Romans 6:23), but it is not the end of the story. Satan will ultimately be defeated. His end has been declared, and his evil will not continue forever (Revelation 20:7–10). Through faith in Jesus Christ, we can receive forgiveness of sins and restored fellowship with God (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8–9). This relationship provides eternal life as well as abundant life through our connection with the Lord (John 10:10). Jesus conquers sin and death and brings us to a fullness of relationship with God we can only begin to imagine (1 Corinthians 15:50–58; Revelation 21 – 22).
Recommended Resource: Basic Theology by Charles Ryrie
What is original sin?”
Answer: The term original sin refers to Adam’s sin of disobedience in eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil and its effects upon the rest of the human race. Original sin can be defined as “the moral corruption we possess as a consequence of Adam’s sin, resulting in a sinful disposition manifesting itself in habitually sinful behavior.” The doctrine of original sin focuses particularly on its effect on our internal nature and our standing before God. There are three main views that deal with that effect:
Pelagianism: This view says that Adam’s sin had no effect upon the souls of his descendants other than that he provided a sinful example. Adam’s example has influenced those who followed him to also sin. But, according to this view, man has the ability to stop sinning if he simply chooses to. Pelagianism runs contrary to a number of passages that indicate man is hopelessly enslaved by his sins (apart from God’s intervention) and that his good works are “dead” or worthless in meriting God’s favor (Ephesians 2:1–2; Matthew 15:18–19; Romans 7:23; Hebrews 6:1; 9:14).
Arminianism: Arminians believe Adam’s original sin has resulted in the rest of mankind inheriting a corrupt, sinful nature, which causes us to sin in the same way that a cat’s nature causes it to meow—it comes naturally. According to this view, man cannot stop sinning on his own; God’s supernatural, enabling grace, called prevenient grace, in conjunction with the gospel, allows that person to choose to exercise faith in Christ. The teaching of prevenient grace is not explicitly found in Scripture.
Calvinism: The Calvinistic doctrine of original sin states that Adam’s sin has resulted not only in our having a sin nature, but also in our incurring guilt before God for which we deserve punishment. Being conceived with original sin upon us (Psalm 51:5) results in our inheriting a sin nature so wicked that Jeremiah 17:9 describes the human heart as “deceitful above all things and beyond cure.” Not only was Adam found guilty because he sinned, but his sin was imputed to us, making us guilty and deserving of his punishment (death) as well (Romans 5:12, 19). There are two views as to why Adam’s sin should be imputed to us. The first view states that the human race was within Adam in seed form; thus, when Adam sinned, we sinned in him. This is similar to the biblical teaching that Levi (a descendant of Abraham) paid tithes to Melchizedek in Abraham (Genesis 14:20; Hebrews 7:4–9), even though Levi was not born until hundreds of years later. The other main view is that Adam served as our representative, and so, when he sinned, we were found guilty as well.
Both the Arminian and Calvinistic views teach original sin and see individuals as unable to overcome sin apart from the power of the Holy Spirit. Most all Calvinists also teach imputed sin; some Arminians deny imputation of sin, and others believe that Christ’s death has negated the effects of imputation.
The fact of original sin means that we cannot please God on our own. No matter how many “good deeds” we do, we still commit sin, and we still have the problem of a corrupt nature within. We must have Christ; we must be born again (John 3:3). God deals with the effects of original sin in our hearts through the process of sanctification. As John Piper puts it, “The problem of our moral defilement and habitual sinning is solved by his purifying us by the work of Spirit” (“Adam, Christ, and Justification: Part IV,” preached 8/20/2000).
Recommended Resource: Basic Theology by Charles Ryrie
“Did we all inherit sin from Adam and Eve?”
Answer: Yes!, all people inherited sin from Adam and Eve, specifically from Adam. Sin is described in the Bible as transgression of the law of God (1 John 3:4) and rebellion against God (Deuteronomy 9:7; Joshua 1:18). Genesis 3 describes Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God and His command. Because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience, sin has been an “inheritance” for all of their descendants. Romans 5:12 tells us that, through Adam, sin entered the world and so death was passed on to all men because all have sinned. This passed-on sin is known as inherited sin. Just as we inherit physical characteristics from our parents, we inherit our sinful nature from Adam.
Adam and Eve were made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27; 9:6). However, we are also in the image and likeness of Adam (Genesis 5:3). When Adam fell into sin, the result was every one of his descendants also being “infected” with sin. David lamented this fact in one of his Psalms: “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). This does not mean that his mother bore him illegitimately; rather, his mother had inherited a sin nature from her parents, and they from their parents, and so on. David inherited sin from his parents, just as we all do. Even if we live the best life possible, we are still sinners as a result of inherited sin.
Being born sinners results in the fact that we all sin. Notice the progression in Romans 5:12: sin entered the world through Adam, death follows sin, death comes to all people, all people sin because they inherit sin from Adam. Because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), we need a perfect, sinless sacrifice to wash away our sin, something we are powerless to do on our own. Thankfully, Jesus Christ is the Savior from sin! Our sin has been crucified on the cross of Jesus, and now “in Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7). God, in His infinite wisdom, has provided the remedy for the sin we inherit, and that remedy is available to everyone: “Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you” (Acts 13:38).
Recommended Resource: Basic Theology by Charles Ryrie
“Does Genesis chapter 1 mean literal 24-hour days?”
Answer: In our opinion, examination of the Hebrew word for “day” and the context in which it appears in Genesis will lead to the conclusion that “day” means a literal, 24-hour period of time.
The Hebrew word yom translated into the English “day” can mean more than one thing. It can refer to the 24-hour period of time that it takes for the earth to rotate on its axis (e.g., “there are 24 hours in a day”). It can refer to the period of daylight between dawn and dusk (e.g., “it gets pretty hot during the day but it cools down a bit at night”). And it can refer to an unspecified period of time (e.g., “back in my grandfather’s day . . .”). It is used to refer to a 24-hour period in Genesis 7:11. It is used to refer to the period of daylight between dawn and dusk in Genesis 1:16. And it is used to refer to an unspecified period of time in Genesis 2:4. So, what does yom mean in Genesis 1:5–2:2 when used in conjunction with ordinal numbers (i.e., the first day, the second day, the third day, the fourth day, the fifth day, the sixth day, and the seventh day)? Are these 24-hour periods or something else? Could yom as it is used here mean an unspecified period of time?
We can determine how yom should be interpreted in Genesis 1:5–2:2 by comparing that context to the word’s usage elsewhere in Scripture. The Hebrew word yom is used 2,301 times in the Old Testament. Outside of Genesis 1, yom plus a number (used 410 times) almost always indicates an ordinary day, i.e., a 24-hour period. There are a few instances where yom and a number do not imply a literal, 24-hour day. The words evening and morning together (38 times) most often indicate an ordinary day. The exact construction of evening, then morning, along with yom is only seen outside of Genesis 1 in one verse. This is Daniel 8:26, which clearly implies a long period of time.
All in all, the context in which the word yom is used in Genesis 1:5–2:2, describing each day as “the evening and the morning,” seems to suggest that the author of Genesis meant 24-hour periods. This was the standard interpretation of the days of Genesis 1:5–2:2 for most of Christian history. At the same time, there were early church fathers, such as Augustine, who noted that the vague nature of the “days” of Genesis could well suggest a non-literal interpretation.
Then, in the 1800s, a paradigm shift occurred within the scientific community. This was mostly driven by hostility to religion and an effort to re-interpret observations in ways contrary to the Bible. This caused a rift in the scientific community. One side claimed that only atheism, as well as specific ideas such as an old earth and naturalistic evolution, was compatible with science. The other side, in response, attempted to denounce atheism and any possible old-earth interpretations.
The truth is that both young-earth and old-earth interpretations rely upon certain assumptions. Sincere believers debate the meaning of yom in the creation account because a case can be made on both sides. This does not diminish the importance of what Genesis teaches, regardless of whether or not a person accepts young-earth creationism.
For instance, according to Exodus 20:9–11, God used the six creation days of Genesis as a model for man’s workweek: work six days, rest one. Apparently, He had us in mind even before He made us (on the sixth day) and wanted to provide an example for us to follow. Certainly God could have used six discrete 24-hour days. And He could have created everything using a process of long time periods. Our view, based on our interpretation of the Bible, is that six literal days is the most likely interpretation of the Genesis account.
Recommended Resource: The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate by John H. Walto
A New Beginning (Genesis 5-11) – Genealogies in Genesis
After reading through this study unit, you should be able to:
- Recognise God’s redemptive grace through the lives of Noah and his family;
- Explain the origins of language and culture
17Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. When he built a city, he called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch. 18To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad fathered Mehujael, and Mehujael fathered Methushael, and Methushael fathered Lamech. Genesis 4:17ff
These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God. Genesis 6:9
Why Read Boring Bible Genealogies?
Genealogies in the Bible – A look at genealogies in the Bible by Dr. Allen Ross
The Ark | The Reality of Noah’s Ark
John Piper – The Tower of Babel
“What is the relevance of the genealogies in the Bible?”
Answer: The Bible contains multiple genealogical records. Many of us either skim these sections or skip them altogether, finding them largely irrelevant and perhaps even boring. However, they are part of Scripture, and, since all Scripture is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16), they must bear some significance. There must be something we can learn from these lists.
First, the genealogies help substantiate the Bible’s historical accuracy. These lists confirm the physical existence of the characters in the Bible. By knowing family histories, we understand that the Bible is far from a mere story or a parable for how we should live our lives. It is authentic, historical truth. An actual man named Adam had actual descendants (and, therefore, his actual sin has actual consequences).
The genealogies also confirm prophecy. The Messiah was prophesied to come from the line of David (Isaiah 11:1). By recording His lineage in Scripture, God confirms that Jesus was descended from David (see Matthew 1:1-17 and Luke 3:23-38). The genealogy is yet another attestation of Jesus Christ’s fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies.
The lists also demonstrate the detail-oriented nature of God and His interest in individuals. God did not see Israel vaguely, as a nebulous group of people; He saw with specificity, with precision and detail. There is nothing detached about the genealogies. They show a God involved. The inspired Word mentions people by name. Real people, with real histories and real futures. God cares about each person and the details of his or her life (Matthew 10:27-31; Psalm 139).
Finally, we can learn from various people listed in the genealogies. Some of the lists contain narrative portions that give us glimpses into the lives of the people. For instance, the prayer of Jabez is found within a genealogy (1 Chronicles 4:9-10). From this, we learn about God’s character and the nature of prayer. Other genealogies reveal that Ruth and Rahab are in the Messianic line (Ruth 4:21-22; Matthew 1:5). We see that God values the lives of these individuals, even though they were Gentiles and not part of His covenant people.
While genealogies may at first glance appear irrelevant, they hold an important place in Scripture. Genealogies bolster the historicity of Scripture, confirm prophecy, and provide insight into the character of God and the lives of His people.
Recommended Resource: God the Son Incarnate: The Doctrine of Christ by Stephen Wellum
“What was the purpose of the flood in the time of Noah?”
Answer: Genesis 6 gives the sad account of the state of humanity prior to the worldwide flood during the days of Noah. Genesis 6:5 states, “The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.” The level of sin and corruption among the human population was staggering: people thought about doing evil “all the time.” For the strong and healthy individual, an evil lifestyle would have ramifications evidenced by disease and death. But the weak or unhealthy (babies, children, women, and the disabled) would have been immediately put in harm’s way by the evil actions of others.
In addition, “The sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose” (Genesis 6:2). In the Hebrew language, these “sons of God” were “bene elohim.” This term is usually applied to angels (see Job 1:6). Genesis seems to be stating that, somehow, there was a physical union between angels and human women. The unnatural offspring of this union were the “Nephilim” (Genesis 6:4). The word Nephilim is directly transliterated from the Hebrew. The ancient root of the word implies a “fall.” Whatever the word actually means (in some versions of the Bible it is translated as “giants”), Scripture describes the Nephilim as “the heroes of old, men of renown.” Some theologians believe that God could simply not allow this corrupt offspring to exist on the earth, and that was part of the reason for the flood.
What can be understood without question is that the world that was then, the world of Noah, was incredibly corrupt and perverted. Genesis 6:6 tells us that “the LORD regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.” The Lord’s “regret” is unlike ours. Creating mankind in the image of God was not a “mistake” on the part of the Lord. The Hebrew word nahem can also be translated “grieved.” The depraved actions of mankind grieved God in His most holy heart.
God responded to man’s sin in a holy and righteous manner, but also in a way that salvaged mankind. “So the LORD said, ‘I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.’ But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD” (Genesis 6:7–8). Yes, all people on earth died except the eight people who were found righteous in the eyes of God: Noah, Noah’s wife, and Noah’s three sons and their wives. Scripture indicates that Noah testified to the world about the coming flood for 120 years. The people who perished in the flood died because they refused to acknowledge God or seek His forgiveness. Noah, on the other hand, is described as righteous, blameless, and obedient in that he “walked with God” (Genesis 6:9).
Noah and his family became our ancestors. None of us descend from the Nephilim or the unrighteous line of Cain (since Noah descended from Seth). The polluted, unrighteous population of the world of Noah disappeared from the earth. Mankind was salvaged, and from the line of righteous Noah came the Son of Man, Jesus Christ our Lord, who died to save those who call upon His name.
Recommended Resource: The Genesis Flood: The Biblical Record and Its Scientific Implications, 50th Anniversary Edition by Morris & Whitcomb
“What similarities are there between the Gilgamesh flood account and the biblical flood account?”
Answer: There are many similarities between the Gilgamesh flood account and the biblical flood account (Genesis 6—8), beginning most importantly with God choosing a righteous man to build an ark because of an impending great flood. In both accounts, samples from all species of animals were to be on the ark, and birds were used after the rains to determine if flood waters had subsided anywhere to reveal dry land. There are other similarities between the Gilgamesh flood account and the biblical flood account.
One major point of clear agreement is that a global flooding disaster occurred in ancient times. Portions of the Gilgamesh account (Chaldean Flood Tablets) have been found dating back to 2000 BC or earlier. Tablets containing the full story, however, date to approximately 650 BC, or well after the Genesis account (c. 1450—1410 BC). These Chaldean tablets, from the city of Ur (modern-day southern Iraq), describe how the Babylonian God Ea decided to end all life except for the ark dwellers with a great flood. Ea, believed by the Babylonians to be the god who created the earth, selected Ut-Napishtim (or Utnapishtim) to construct a six-story square ark.
During the mid-nineteenth century, this complete “Epic of Gilgamesh” (from 650 BC) was unearthed in some ruins at Nineveh’s great library, and the depth and breadth of similarities and differences became evident. Here is a more extensive listing of the similarities and differences:
• God (or several gods in the Gilgamesh account) decided to destroy humankind because of its wickedness and sinfulness (Genesis 6:5–7).
• A righteous man (Genesis 6:9) was directed to build an ark to save a limited and select group of people and all species of animals (Noah received his orders directly from God, Utnapishtim from a dream).
• Both arks were huge, although their shapes differed. Noah’s was rectangular; Utnapishtim’s was square.
• Both arks had a single door and at least one window.
• A great rain covered the land and mountains with water, although some water emerged from beneath the earth in the biblical account (Genesis 7:11).
• The Noahic flood was the result of a storm lasting 40 days and nights (Genesis 7:12), while the Gilgamesh storm was much shorter: “Six days and seven nights / came the wind and flood, the storm flattening the land” (from Tablet XI, trans. by Maureen G. Kovacs)
• Birds were released to find land (a raven and three doves in the biblical account, Genesis 8:6–12; a dove, swallow, and raven in the other).
• After the rains ceased, both arks came to rest on a mountain, Noah’s on Ararat (Genesis 8:4); Utnapishtim’s on Nisir. These mountains are about 300 miles apart.
• Sacrifices were offered after the flood (Genesis 8:20).
• God was (or gods were) pleased by the sacrifices (Genesis 8:21), and Noah and Utnapishtim received blessings. Noah’s blessing was to populate the earth and have dominion over all animals (Genesis 9:1–3); Utnapishtim’s was eternal life.
• God (or the many gods) promised not to destroy humankind again (Genesis 8:21–22).
Perhaps most interesting is how the stories remain consistent over time. Although the complete Epic of Gilgamesh was discovered in the mid-nineteenth century, much earlier segments (before the writing of Genesis) have been discovered and dated. Yet most significant is the greater fidelity of the Hebrew account. This is attributed to the importance of Jewish oral tradition and the possibility that some of the story was recorded by Noah or from his time, which would make the Hebrew account precede the Babylonian version.
Some scholars hypothesize the Hebrews borrowed the Babylonian account, but no conclusive proof has been offered to support this. Based on the many and varied differences and details within these stories, it seems unlikely that the biblical version depended upon an existing Sumerian source. Further, given the Jews’ reputation for passing down information scrupulously from one generation to another and maintaining a consistent reporting of events, Genesis is viewed by many as far more historical than the Epic of Gilgamesh, which is regarded as mythological because of its numerous gods and their interrelationships and intrigues in deciding the fate of humankind.
Certainly, for those who believe the Bible is God’s Word, it is sensible to conclude He chose to preserve the true account in the Bible through the oral traditions of His chosen people. By God’s providence, His people kept this account pure and consistent over the centuries until Moses ultimately recorded it in the Book of Genesis. The Epic of Gilgamesh is believed to contain accounts which have been altered and embellished over the years by people not following the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Recommended Resource: The Genesis Flood: The Biblical Record and Its Scientific Implications, 50th Anniversary Edition by Morris & Whitcomb
“What happened at the Tower of Babel?”
Answer: The Tower of Babel is described in Genesis 11:1-9. After the Flood, God commanded humanity to “increase in number and fill the earth” (Genesis 9:1). Humanity decided to do the exact opposite, “Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth’” (Genesis 11:4). Humanity decided to build a great city and all congregate there. They decided to build a gigantic tower as a symbol of their power, to make a name for themselves (Genesis 11:4). This tower is remembered as the Tower of Babel.
In response, God confused the languages of humanity so that they could no longer communicate with each other (Genesis 11:7). The result was that people congregated with other people who spoke the same language, and then went together and settled in other parts of the world (Genesis 11:8-9). God confused the languages at the Tower of Babel to enforce His command for humanity to spread throughout the entire world.
Some Bible teachers also believe that God created the different ethnicities of humanity at the Tower of Babel. This is possible, but it is not taught in the biblical text. On the origin of the ethnicities, please read our article – https://www.gotquestions.org/different-races.html. It seems more likely that the different ethnicities existed prior to the Tower of Babel and that God confused the languages at least partially based on the different ethnicities. From the Tower of Babel, humanity divided based on language (and possibly ethnicity) and settled in various parts of the world.
Genesis 10:5, 20 and 31 describe Noah’s descendants spreading out over the earth “by their clans and languages, in their territories and nations.” How is this possible since God did not confuse the languages until the Tower of Babel in Genesis chapter 11? Genesis 10 lists the descendants of Noah’s three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. It lists their descendants for several generations. With the long life spans of that time (see Genesis 11:10-25), the genealogies in Genesis 10 likely cover several hundreds of years. The Tower of Babel account, told in Genesis 11:1-9, is a “flashback” to the point in Genesis 10 when the languages were confused. Genesis 10 tells us of different languages. Genesis 11 tells us how the different languages originated.
Recommended Resource: Bible Answers for Almost all Your Questions by Elmer Towns
“What is the origin of the different races?”
Answer: The Bible does not explicitly give us the origin of the different “races” or skin colors in humanity. In actuality, there is only one race—the human race. Within the human race is diversity in skin color and other physical characteristics. Some speculate that when God confused the languages at the tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9), He also created racial diversity. It is possible that God made genetic changes to humanity to better enable people to survive in different ecologies, such as the darker skin of Africans being better equipped genetically to survive the excessive heat in Africa. According to this view, God confused the languages, causing humanity to segregate linguistically, and then created genetic racial differences based on where each racial group would eventually settle. While possible, there is no explicit biblical basis for this view. The races/skin colors of humanity are nowhere mentioned in connection with the tower of Babel.
At the Tower of Babel, when the different languages came into existence, groups that spoke one language moved away with others of the same language. In doing so, the gene pool for a specific group shrank dramatically as the group no longer had the entire human population to mix with. Closer inbreeding took place, and in time certain features were emphasized in these different groups (all of which were present as a possibility in the genetic code). As further inbreeding occurred through the generations, the gene pool grew smaller and smaller, to the point that people of one language family all had the same or similar features.
Another explanation is that Adam and Eve possessed the genes to produce black, brown, and white offspring (and everything else in between). This would be similar to how a mixed-race couple sometimes has children that vary in color. Since God obviously desired humanity to be diverse in appearance, it makes sense that God would have given Adam and Eve the ability to produce children of different skin tones. Later, the only survivors of the flood were Noah and his wife, Noah’s three sons and their wives—eight people in all (Genesis 7:13). Perhaps Noah’s daughters-in-law were of different races. It is also possible that Noah’s wife was of a different race than Noah. Maybe all eight of them were of mixed race, which would mean they possessed the genetics to produce children of different races. Whatever the explanation, the most important aspect of this question is that we are all the same race, all created by the same God, all created for the same purpose—to glorify Him.
Recommended Resource: Bible Answers for Almost all Your Questions by Elmer Towns
“Why were genealogies so important to Israel?”
Answer: Family lists and genealogies are a prominent part of 1 and 2 Chronicles and other Old Testament books. These genealogies were obviously important to Israel, and the Jews kept meticulous records.
One reason family history was important to Israel is that it proved one’s identity as a Jew, a partaker of the blessings of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and part of the people chosen by God. If a person was not a Jew, he or she could not truly be a Jewish citizen and participate in all of the aspects of Jewish life and culture.
Family history was also important due to where one lived. Each of the Jewish tribes had received a land inheritance in Israel. For a person to inherit land in a particular tribal area required evidence that he was descended from that particular tribe.
Genealogies were essential to proving whether a Jewish male could serve in the Levitical priesthood. Priests could only be from the tribe of Levi and descendants of Aaron, the brother of Moses. If a man could not prove this connection, he was unable to serve as a priest.
A family’s history could also show an affiliation with people of significance. Today, people delight in finding proof that their ancestors are famous people, such as John Adams or Wyatt Earp. In the same way, a Jew descended from someone like Moses or Gideon was considered to possess a significant blessing.
Genealogies emphasized the importance of the family unit in Jewish culture. Traditional Jewish culture emphasized marriage between a man and a woman who were responsible for raising children and continuing the legacy of their family with the next generation. The Jews took seriously their responsibility to continue the line that would bring honor to the family name.
Finally, the genealogies of the Jews were important in tracing the line of the Messiah. The Old Testament made it clear that the Messiah would be the Son of David (see Matthew 22:42), so records of family history were vital. Matthew and Luke both include genealogies of Jesus in their Gospels to show Jesus’ connection to David. Matthew’s Gospel, written for Jews, traces Jesus’ genealogy to Abraham. Luke’s Gospel, written for Gentiles, traces Jesus’ genealogy all the way back to Adam.
Recommended Resource: 1 & 2 Chronicles, NIV Application Commentary by Andrew Hill
“Is there an error in the counting of the 14 generations in Matthew chapter 1?”
Answer: Matthew’s genealogy traces the ancestors of Joseph, the legal father of Jesus. The structure of the genealogy descends from father to son, beginning with Abraham. Additionally, Matthew divides the genealogy into three groups of fourteen generations, separated by important historic points (Matthew 1:17). Matthew abridged the genealogy by omitting some names that appear in earlier records. Some speculate that the abridged arrangement was intended to aid in memorization. Genealogical abridgement has lots of biblical precedent.
The wording of Matthew 1:17 has caused some to suggest that David’s name is included in both the first and second grouping of generations. Notice, “So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations…” The writer does not express his intent to reveal 42 generations from Abraham to Jesus, but rather three segments of Jewish history, each comprised of 14 generations. It is plausible that David’s name being mentioned twice (v 17) indicates his inclusion in both the first and second groupings. If so, then the first begins with Abraham and ends with David, 14 generations; the second begins with David and ends with Josiah, 14 generations; and the third begins with Jeconiah and ends with Jesus, 14 generations.
In the listing of Jesus’ forefathers, there is a name missing. Excluded from the list is Jehoiakim (a.k.a. Eliakim), who was Josiah’s son and Jeconiah’s father (1 Chronicles 3:15-16). The reason for his exclusion may be that he was a puppet king, given his rule by the Pharaoh of Egypt. The first phase of the captivity of Judah by Babylon began at the end of Jehoiakim’s reign, prior to his son Jeconiah coming into power. Thus, the 3 groupings of 14 generations would include: 1. Abraham to David; 2. Solomon to Jehoiakim (he is not mentioned, but was among the first to be carried off into Babylon); 3. Jeconiah to Jesus.
There may be other possible explanations for the existence of only 41 names in the genealogy of Matthew 1, even though verse 17 speaks of three groupings of 14. Regardless, these two suffice to demonstrate that there is not a contradiction. Many commentators believe that the divisions of 14 generations is simply a literary structure by Matthew not intended to set forth a strict biological lineage. God did not arrange Israel’s history so nicely that there were exactly 14 biological generations between these three crucial moments in salvation history. One suggestion is that in 1 Chronicles 1–2 there are 14 generations listed between Abraham and David and from that Matthew structured the rest of the genealogy according to the number 14.
The purpose of a genealogy is to document the proof of ancestry from the origin of the line to the person under discussion. Every individual need not be included, but only those necessary to establish descending relationship. The author may legitimately abridge a genealogy to establish a point or to make it simpler. Matthew is correct in the factual material for his purpose, which is to document the ancestry of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, from Abraham.
Recommended Resource: Matthew, New American Commentary by Craig Blomberg
How Do I Deal with the Genealogies?
July 20, 2018 | Scott Slayton
In a culture accustomed to an endless stream of entertainment, a sermon on a genealogy surely must rank alongside a root canal or a trip to the DMV on the last day of the month. Even many mature saints skip these passages in their Bible reading or become discouraged trying to read them, so it’s unlikely a pastor will create excitement by announcing that next week’s sermon will be on a roster of names.
Pastors, as we preach through the Scriptures, we must reaffirm our conviction in the inspiration of it all. Since even a list of names, has been breathed out by God, we can be sure these passages show us the character of God, reveal the work of Christ, and build us up to follow him.
The first responsibility for every preacher is discovering the author’s intent. We know the biblical authors, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote using their own distinct vocabularies, backgrounds, and experiences to make their points. The surest way to grasp the author’s main point is to approach the text with questions. By asking good questions, we examine details, drill below the surface, and discover clues that reveal the author’s message.
There are three specific questions we can ask to get at the heart of the genealogies—so that we preach the gospel and build up God’s people through them.
1. How does it fit within the author’s narrative?
The first priority is to see how the author uses the genealogy. He may use it as a way to contrast two family lines, as in the families of Cain and Seth in Genesis 4 and 5. Cain’s line begins and ends with a murderer. His family ultimately ends with the flood. But Seth’s line leads to Noah, a righteous recipient of grace who preserves humanity through obedience.
We should also see what kind of genealogy we’re dealing with, since different kinds make different points. In Genesis 10, the author traces Noah’s descendants by naming each son, the sons of these sons, the sons of their sons, and so on. This “Table of Nations” goes all the way to Terah, the father of Abram. Grasping the difference in genealogies gives us a glimpse into the author’s intent.
2. How does it fulfil the promises of God?
When you’ve been reading the Bible for years, you can forget just how audacious many of its promises are. God takes a childless old man with a barren old wife and tells him he will father a great nation. With the benefit of knowing the end of the story, we marvel at Abraham’s lack of faith in trying to procure a descendant through Hagar and lying about Sarah being his sister. Yet if put ourselves in Abraham’s shoes, we realize how crazy this promise is. So we should read the later genealogies in Genesis and Numbers with amazement.
The list of people who came with Jacob to Egypt (Gen. 46:8–27) shows that, in just a couple of generations, the Lord expanded Abraham’s family in a way that seemed impossible back in Genesis 18. The numbering of God’s people during the wilderness wanderings shows that while they aren’t as innumerable as the stars in the sky yet, God has made Abraham a great nation and isn’t done fulfilling this promise to him and his descendants (Num. 1–4.)
The genealogy of Matthew 1 links the birth of Christ to both Abraham and David. That the genealogy moves from Abraham to David to the return from exile is no accident. Matthew begins with Abraham, whom God promised would bless all peoples of the earth, and then ends with Christ’s command to make disciples of all nations. And by mentioning David early in the genealogy, Matthew signals that Jesus is the long-awaited King who will sit on the throne forever.
3. What glimmers of grace do we see in it?
When we read the genealogies, we shouldn’t be surprised to see God keep his promises. This is what he does. The genealogies also reveal God displaying his grace in ways a first-century reader would find surprising.
The genealogy in Matthew 1, for example, displays God’s grace in unexpected places. It mentions four women: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba, whom he refers to as “the wife of Uriah.” We could trace God’s shocking grace in all four, but let’s focus on Rahab and Ruth. Compare these women—both born outside Abraham’s line—with the women Matthew could have included. He doesn’t mention Sarah or Rebekah, who both play important roles in the Genesis narrative. Instead, we see Rahab, the prostitute from Jericho who’d heard how God miraculously delivered Israel from Egypt. She hid the spies and stealthily sent them out of the city (Josh. 2). Then he focuses on Ruth, the Moabite widow who shows faithfulness to her widowed mother-in-law and receives the blessing of redemption through Boaz.
In both instances, we see God show grace to outsiders with shady backgrounds. Joshua identifies Rahab by her notorious vocation, and Ruth descends from a people who owe their origin to drunkenness, deception, and incest. That these two women with ethnic origins outside of Israel should be singled out in the genealogy of the Lord Jesus shows God’s far-reaching grace in welcoming outsiders into his family.
Don’t Neglect Them
The genealogies challenge every Bible reader and every expositor, but they also yield the fruit of a greater grasp of the biblical narrative, a greater confidence in the promises of God, and a greater appreciation for the grace of God. Like all other Scripture, the genealogies bear the stamp of divine inspiration and equip us for good works.
We just have to develop the eyes to see it.