Introduction to Genesis 1-11 (Part 2)

This material is an UNOFFICIAL study guide to Kenneth A. Mathews, The New American Commentary, vol. 1a, Genesis 1:1-11:26 (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 1996). ISBN 978-0-8054-0101-1.


PART 2 – Literary Genesis

When we break it down, the literary composition of Genesis is interesting . Like the name “Genesis” suggests, it is all about genealogies. (We will look more at the name of Genesis in part 3). The importance of these genealogies (tōlĕdōt) is at the core of the purpose of the book.

With a simple overview we can see it can be broken down with the use of genealogies and accounts. The use of the Hebrew phrase tōlĕdōt (transliterated) divides Genesis into twelve distinct units that “form an unmistakably coherent, unified story line.”

Today we will briefly look at the different units to see how “tōlĕdōt” is used and what it means to the bigger picture of the narrative.


Opening Discussion

I. Which translation did you read from this week and why?

II. What stood out to you in your daily devotions this week?

III. What stood out to you in the commentary reading?

IV. Of the passages in Genesis 1-11 you find difficult to understand, do you see any them in a new light?

V. Let us discuss the assigned reading, use the following questions and/or open to questions and comments.


Points to Consider – Read pages 25-41; then answer the following:

A. Intro to Literary Genesis (pages 25-26)

I. “Genesis is a complex literary composition with systematic unity but a diversity of genres.” What forms are they?
a. ______________________
b. ______________________
c. ______________________

II. What might Western readers see as “incongruous” that the author allows to “stand with their ‘rough edges’”?
____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________


B. Structure (pages 26-35)

I. What are the two major sections of Genesis?
a. ________________ (Chapters 1-11)
b. ________________ (Chapters 12-50)

II. Consider the Hebrew word tōlĕdōt. The NIV translates it as “account” and the AV/KJV translates it as “generation”. How does your translation translate tōlĕdōt as (e.g., chapters 5 and 10)?
____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________

III. Why are there problems with word tōlĕdōt in relation to where it is placed?
a. ____________________________________________________________
b. ____________________________________________________________
c. ____________________________________________________________

IV. The commentator gives us six (pages 28-31) different arrangements or structures in breakup Genesis. Which one makes more sense to you?
____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________

V. Which ancient myths do I. Kikwada and A. Quinn compare the primeval history in Genesis 1-11 with? What is the pattern?
____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________

VI. Discuss:
“It is best to take the tōlĕdōt references as evidence of pre-Genesis sources that have been appropriated and modified according to the compositional interests of Genesis.”
____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________

VII. What two passages outside of Genesis use the phrase “tōlĕdōt”?
a. ____________________________________________________________
b. ____________________________________________________________

VIII. “The tōlĕdōt phrase in Genesis serves as a __________ device that __________ the former and the following units by echoing from the preceding material a __________ or __________ and at the same time anticipating the __________ of the next.”

IX. What do the genealogies indicate God is doing within the flow of human history?
____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________

X. What blessing is repeated in Genesis 9:1 & 7?
____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________

XI. Why are the “nonelect offspring” presented in Genesis?
____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________


C. Content (pages 35-41)

“With our understanding of the tōlĕdōt as a hinge device…” discuss the statements/questions below. (We will go through Genesis, chapter by chapter, later in this study. This is a quick summary.)

I. 1:1-2:3
• Why is there no need for the “tōlĕdōt catchphrase” in the first chapter?
____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________

II. 2:4-4:26
• What does the tōlĕdōt bring to attention?
____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________

• What place does humanity have in creation?
____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________

• What are the “potential conflicts” in Genesis 2 and begin in chapter 3 and 4?
a. ______________________
b. ______________________
c. ______________________

III. 5:1-6:8
• What is the significance of “Adam’s line [tōlĕdōt]”?
____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________

IV. 6:9-9:29
• What is Noah’s role in regards to the humane race?
____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________

V. 10:1-11:9
• What importance does naming Noah’s sons before and after the flood hold?
____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________

VI. 11:10-26
• What are the significant differences of the two lists of Shem’s tōlĕdōt?
____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________

• “Together Adam and Shem’s genealogies elevate _____________ ___________.”

VII. 11:27-25:11
• In Genesis what transition does “Terah” mark?
____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________

• What does the use of genealogies do?
____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________

VIII. 25:12-18
• Compare the two sets of brothers, Ishmael/Isaac and Esau/Jacob.
____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________

• What is the point of including Ishmael’s genealogy?
____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________

IX. 25:19-35:29
• What does the lack of mentioning “Sarah” in Isaac’s genealogy point towards?
____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________

• What is the tōlĕdōt more concerned with, the individual or the family?
____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________

X. 36:1-8
• What does this first tōlĕdōt of Esau focus on?
____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________

• What resolve does “Edom” reinforce?
____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________

XI. 36:9-37:1
• What does this second tōlĕdōt of Esau focus on?
____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________

XII. 37:2-50:26
• What similarities do the Jacob and Joseph narratives have?
____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________


D. Conclusion (page 41)

I. What are your thoughts on use of the tōlĕdōt formula?
____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________

II. Concerning the composition of Genesis, what do the genealogies indicate?
____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________

III. Do contemporary categories line up with the author’s intent?
____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________


FOR NEXT WEEK

Please have “Genesis and Canon” (pages 41-54) read and answer the questions. We will go through this together. Second reading of Genesis 1-11: please read in a different translation you are not too familiar with. Take notes on any new insights, a fresh understanding or questions you have.

CLOSE WITH PRAYER