In my last article, we considered who wrote the book of Genesis, and for that matter, who wrote the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch. We saw how, according to the vocabulary and syntax used, it has been determined there is truly only one voice and therefore, a singular author. The Bible teaches and we believe this singular human author is Moses. We also confess as Christians that all Scripture is breathed out by God, that is inspired by God the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16,17).
In this article, we are going to consider some of the possibilities to this question: Why did Moses write Genesis? I believe we have several reasons Moses sat and wrote the Book of Beginnings, Genesis.
First, it is the beginning. As we will see in a later blog article, everything finds its beginning in Genesis. When I say everything, I mean everything. To name just a few, we find in the first three chapters, science (naming and cataloging of the various animals), art (the man creating a poem/song celebrating the woman who was created for him), government (the man is to tend and keep the garden), and so much more. Genesis is the book of beginnings. This is the “Hook for the Book” of Genesis. My students must learn my sixty-six different hooks for all the books of the Bible. I share this one now because I believe one of the reasons Moses wrote this first book is to give to the church the account of creation, the flood, the separation of different ethnic groups with their various languages, the rise of the people of Israel, and why Israel was in Egypt in the first place. This last point takes us to the second reason for Moses to write Genesis.
It is the beginning of history. Moses is giving Israel their history. Every people group or every nation has an origin story. So, too, does Israel. While Moses spends the first eleven chapters detailing the origins of all peoples or nations, he quickly moves to one family- Abram/Abraham’s family. It is with Abraham that we find the promises of a nation, of a land, and of the Seed. The language of “the Seed” goes back to Genesis 3:15, the first announcement of the Gospel. However, it is clearer with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Judah where the Seed will come from and what He will provide for His people. One can see with Eve the promise of redemption, and when we see Jacob’s blessing upon Judah, we see the Seed Kingdom foretold (Genesis 49:10). Moses is pointing Israel to a coming King who will reign for all eternity.
Third, it is a defense for God’s people. Because Moses is writing this book for the Israelite people, we need to recognize the situation of life of Israel and Moses. They are leaving Egypt where they were slaves and heading toward the land which was promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This land, by God’s Word, belonged to them. The time of God’s patience with the Canaanites is up and it is time for judgment. So, on the one hand, Israel is going to the land to complete the promise God had given to the Patriarchs. On the other hand, it is because God’s wrath was ready to be poured upon those who have sinned against Him. His instrument of justice was going to be the Israelites. Moses is writing the foundation, the beginning of the promise, for the people going into Canaan as their God given inheritance. The land they are entering is a land flowing with milk and honey, which means a land ready for farming. But the land is also ripe with idolatry. Moses is preparing them with the promises of God so they may enter the land without compromising their faith in the Lord who has spoken all things into existence. Genesis is a defense for why the land belonged to the God who had the right to give it to Israel.
Fourth, it is for our comfort. Not only is this book a great defense of our faith in how God created everything in six twenty-four-hour days (Hebrews 11:1-3), but it’s also a defense for Israel being God’s covenantally blessed people. The comfort found in this book is that God continues to remain faithful to people who turned from him. Adam and Eve fall into sin, causing all of mankind to be born naturally sinful, but God, out of mere grace, covers their shameful nakedness and guides them to His Son, the Seed. Noah is led to build the ark, thus saving humanity. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the Twelve Patriarchs would reveal in various ways their sinfulness, but their resolve to turn to the Lord for mercy, grace, and strength is undeniable. Paul encourages us to see these men as our examples, pointing us not to look to ourselves or even them, but to look to Christ as our only comfort (1 Corinthians 10:6). As Abraham looked to the coming of Christ, so too do we as walk-through Genesis (John 8:56).
Fifth, it is to get us to our only Redeemer. This is the heart of the gospel, and as we have seen through out this brief article, Genesis has the first announcement of the gospel. Genesis has the hope of the Seed coming through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Judah. What a marvelous book to give to us our first and only hope is found in the Seed of the Woman, Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:16).
In our next article, I will begin to look at the first two verses of Genesis 1: The First Great Work of Inspiration.
Dr. J.P. Mosley, Jr., is the Academic Dean and Registrar as well as Heidelberg Theological Seminary’s Professor of Biblical Studies and Systematic Theology.