Today it will seem as though you are beginning to read the history of the world. You are not. You are beginning to read the Law of Moses.
The Law of Moses is the original "constitution" for the nation of Israel.
In Moses’ time, a nation’s law—or constitution—followed a certain format. Since all nations of the ancient Middle East were kingdoms, they were an agreement between the nation and its king.
Each law had three parts:
- What the king did for the people
- What the king required of the people (the laws)
- The blessings and curses for obedience or disobedience to the king’s authority
In Israel’s case, the king was God Almighty, the Creator of the heavens and the earth. He ruled his kingdom through prophets and judges. Prophets spoke to the people for God, and judges made decisions when the people were in disagreement.
Moses was both a prophet and a judge.
The first five books of the Bible—Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy—are the five books of the Mosaic Law. (Mosaic means "of Moses.") The Jews call those five books the Torah. Scholars sometimes call those five books the Pentateuch, which is from an ancient Greek word meaning "five scrolls."
The reason that the Law of Moses begins with the creation of the world is because that is the very first thing that the King of Israel did for his people. He created the world. It is not until the book of Exodus that the Torah will begin to discuss the King’s requirements for the people. In Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, the Law will discuss this more fully and give the blessings and curses that come from obeying or disobeying God’s Law.
After the creation of the world, the Law of Moses gives the ancestry of the nation of Israel, explaining how they came to exist on the earth.
God Always Picks a Man
You will notice that after the creation of the world, a lot of time is spent on Adam (lit. Man) and two of his children. Afterward, Genesis goes very, very quickly through the descendants of "Man."
Tomorrow, we will begin Genesis chapter six. There the story of Man’s descendants stops its rapid progress, and we will spend several chapters on Noah and his children. At the end of tomorrow’s lesson, we will see Genesis speed rapidly through Noah’s descendants until it gets to Abraham.
In history, you will see that God always chooses a man, and then a nation descended from that man, through whom he will bless the world. In Genesis, it is first the man named Man (Adam). Then, when Man’s descendants became evil, God reduced the world to Noah.
After that, God promised never to destroy the wicked children of men like that again. So later, he will choose Abram (later Abraham), from whom a nation will descend that will bless the world.
Points to Ponder
- The 39 books we call the "Old Testament" are called the Tanakh (or Tanach) by Jews. Tanakh is the first letters of the Hebrew words for law, prophets, and writings.
- These books are not really the Old Testament. Instead, they are the books written while the Old Testament was in force.
- A testament is a contract. The Old Testament, as the Christians have named it, is the Law of Moses, the contract between God and Israel.
- Jews, of course, do not consider the Law of Moses the "Old" Testament. They believe it is still in force. Christians believe it has been replaced by the new covenant that Jeremiah prophesied would come (Jer. 31:31-34).
- The New Covenant, as Christians call it, is the agreement between God and man instituted by Jesus Christ. "The Gospel" is a very similar term.
- All 39 books of the Tanakh are written in Hebrew, though there are some portions in Aramaic, which is a sister language to Hebrew.
- Only Protestants and Jews limit the Tanakh to 39 books. Catholic and Orthodox churches usually have at least 46. Some Orthodox churches have over 50.
- Not all languages call this book Genesis. In German and some other languages, these are the five books of Moses, and Genesis is called First Moses.
- The Hebrew word "adam" is used over 500 times in the Hebrew Scriptures to mean "man." Thus, "Adam" is not really a special name. The first man’s name was "Man."
- Does Genesis conflict with the theory of evolution? Christian opinions vary widely on how literally Genesis should be interpreted and whether the inspiration of the Bible means that it is inerrant historically and scientifically.
- A common question that comes up in this section of Genesis is where Cain’s wife came from. There is no way to answer this question. A similar question would be where all the people came from that caused Cain to build a city after he was expelled and who were the people he was afraid would kill him.
- Remember, Genesis is not the history of the world. It is the beginning of the account of what the King did for his people. This may not explain where Cain’s wife came from, but it does explain why the Law does not address the question.
- The reason God rejected Cain’s sacrifice is because Cain was already an evil person even before he killed his brother (Gen. 4:7; 1 Jn. 3:12).