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Though Genesis does not name its author as do the other books of the Pentateuch, its language and writing style are similar enough to conclude that Moses wrote it as well, probably between 1440 and 1400 B.C. Jesus and the apostles imply by their quotes in the NT that they regarded Moses as the author of Genesis. In Greek, Genesis means “origin,” or “beginning.” The Jews know the book as Bereshith, the first word in the Hebrew text, meaning “in the beginning.” The Talmud calls it the “Book of Creation of the World.”

No official records exist of pre-flood history, though legends about it abounded. (For example, post-flood Babylonian records describe pre-flood kings who descended from heaven and reigned for many thousands of years.) In contrast, archaeological finds have revealed much about post-flood history. The earliest written records of Mesopotamian civilization come from the 35th century B.C., which some scholars estimate was shortly after the flood, and begin with the Sumerians, a highly civilized nation with an organized political structure and sophisticated craftsmanship, architecture and art. The Sumerians developed the earliest form of writing in order to keep record of deliveries and rations.

Abraham, Ur, and Mesopotamia

This and other Mesopotamian civilizations thrived from before the time of Abraham to the Exodus, sharing much of their racial roots and culture with Abraham and his descendants. The Third Dynasty of Ur began around 2000 B.C., about the time Abraham grew up in Ur. The well-planned city consisted of regularly-sized blocks with through streets and a sewer system. The one- or two-story homes, built around a central open courtyard, were better constructed than many in Iraq today. Laws required that houses be kept in good repair and held builders responsible if a house collapsed and killed someone. Other civil laws governed marriage, divorce, adoption, inheritance and widows’ rights; ancient Babylonian women had a surprising amount of rights and independence. Nearly every citizen had at least one or two slaves.

Ur’s schools taught reading, writing, math and geography.
The subsequent two dynasties reigned for 200 years and left little record of the time of Abraham and Isaac. Likewise, hardly any written records of Palestine have survived. Likely they knew of and imitated Mesopotamian legal practices since the Amorites made up the ruling class in both Palestine and Babylon and international correspondence was written in the Babylonian language. Palestine paid tribute to Egypt and thus had fewer resources to develop its culture and civilization. Still, well-built walls protected small towns and villages, in which the homes resembled those of Mesopotamia. In the surrounding fields, they grew barley, wheat, figs, grapes and olives and made wine and olive oil, which they exported in large quantities. They measured wealth by cattle, goats and sheep.


GenesisThe First Dynasty of Babylon emerged next; its sixth king Hammurabi (1726 to 1686 B.C.) achieved fame for his civil code, which the Israelite law resembled. Hammurabi’s reign produced a great number of literary works, including epics of creation, the flood, and one that tells a story similar to the fall of man.

Though the patriarchs’ race and culture was similar to these civilizations, their religion differed. Palestinians worshiped many gods in a somewhat immoral manner. El, his wife Asherah and their son Baal became favorite gods, which the people worshiped by offering bloody animal sacrifices on stone altars. Others besides Abraham and his family did worship the true God, but Moses focuses his narrative on Abraham’s family as God’s chosen remnant.

As its name predicts, the theme of Genesis is origins: the origin of the earth, the origin of sin, the origin of God’s chosen people the Israelites. The book introduces a number of doctrines which the rest of the later Bible expounds upon, such as man’s freewill, sin and salvation.

Moses makes no attempt at proving God’s existence; his premise is that God is, was, and always will be. Today, Genesis answers some of man’s existential questions; Where did I come from? God created me. Why am I here? To have a relationship with Him! Where am I going? The book offers the first glimpse of the plan of salvation. The patriarchs’ misadventures teach us to trust God through all of our life experiences. As He did with the infertility of Abraham and Sarah, God can turn around the most hopeless of situations. As He did for Joseph, sold into slavery and unjustly imprisoned, God always brings about a greater good regardless of how tragic our lives may seem.
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