As we begin our study of going through the Bible, we must first begin in Genesis and begin to form the foundation of the story line of the Bible as well as the smaller narratives that flow into the larger narrative. In this article, we will cover the first five books of the Bible, Genesis through Deuteronomy. Let’s begin “in the beginning”.
Genesis chapter 1 starts with the creation of the universe. The “heavens and the earth” as referenced in the Bible is where the story begins. The story of the Bible begins with the creation of the cosmic universe, displaying right from the beginning that God is in control and He is the all-powerful being in the universe. God creates the stars, sun, moon, and the earth. Most of the first chapter of Genesis is God creating and filling the earth. The end of the first chapter closes with the creation of the most precious of creations…humans. God creates humans and they are given a divine purpose and role. The purpose and role is to rule the earth and multiply on it. God gives humans the authority to rule on His behalf, and it is a role that will soon be tainted and disturbed.
In Genesis 2, the narrative focuses around these two humans, Adam and Eve, in a garden. This garden, known as the garden of Eden, will now become the centerpiece of the rest of the narrative until Jesus. As we will see, so many hyperlinks will be found in the Old Testament that point back to the garden and what happened there. Let’s go to chapter 3 to find out what happens in the garden.
The garden of Eden was a heavenly garden with two trees in the middle of it. The tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and bad. These two humans could eat from any tree in the garden including the tree of life. However, they were not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and bad and for good reason. The created humans were to receive divine guidance and wisdom from God himself, and if they took from the tree, they were defining good and for themselves. Well, as the story goes, these humans were deceived by a smart serpent and they took of the tree they were commanded not to. This resulted in banishment from the garden and exile. Sin had now entered the human realm and the beautiful garden is lost.
As God was speaking to each character in this story because of what they had done, God says something that will spark the journey of the Bible. In Genesis 3:15, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” Here, God is talking to the serpent and He says that an offspring will come from the woman who will crush the serpent’s head and that the serpent would strike his heel. The crushing blow is to the head of the serpent who is now the villain in the story. So as readers of the Hebrew Bible as we journey through the narrative, we are on the lookout for this seed of the woman. We are awaiting this human who can crush the head of the villain so we can have the victory.
With the foundation of the story now in place, we can start to see patterns in Genesis. Characters like Noah, Abraham, and Joseph are all depicted as the seed of the woman who should be the one to save the people but ultimately fail. This story-line is the main one in the Scriptures. The story line that points to Jesus is the main theme. When we get to Abraham, we see a promise from God that starts a smaller yet widely focused theme. In Genesis 17, we see a covenant that God makes with Abraham (or Abram at that time) and God tells him that he will become a father of many nations. Through one nation, God will bring salvation to the whole world. Through one man, God will call a nation to Him to be different than all the other nations. This nation will be a light to the other nations to follow God and what followers of Yahweh are to act like. This nation is Israel.
After Abraham comes Isaac and Jacob whose name was also Israel. Then in Genesis, the story of Joseph takes over who is depicted as the rejected seed of the woman but who seems to save everyone in the end. Still, even he is not the one we are looking for.
The next book is Exodus which is God’s redemptive story of Israel. The Hebrews are in slavery to the most powerful empire in the world at this time, Egypt. God saves Israel through their leader Moses, who leads the people out of the land of slavery and into the harsh wilderness. At this, the people complain about the conditions in the wilderness and wish they were back in slavery. Time and time again, God shows Israel that He is more than capable of taking care of them and continues to promise to them a land “flowing with milk and honey” known as the promised land. Exodus 20 through Deuteronomy seems like the most boring part of the Bible but it is vital to understanding the narrative. We have now arrived at the Laws.
The rest of the Torah is taken up by the rest of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The rest of Exodus goes through civil laws that Israel is to follow. Leviticus is known for the priestly laws and sacrifices. Numbers is also filled with some laws but it also pushes the narrative forward. It still paints this picture of this grumbling nation and a God who seems to put up with a lot.
Then we get to Deuteronomy which is the most powerful, in my opinion of the Torah besides Genesis. Throughout Deuteronomy, the message is simple. Stick to the law of God and have it on your heart. The people, as they enter the new land, are not supposed to forget the law of God and what He has done for them. God is not leaving them, but the narrative is going to change rapidly and it will be very easy for them to forget God as they cross the Jordan River to get to their promised land. Their new leader is Joshua and he will have a hefty job leading a rebellious people to a land that God has promised them.
The law was set in place not as a comprehensive law code for the people of Israel to follow. Rather, it was a set of moral and ritual practices to which they were held too. The law was about loving God and loving your neighbor and by following the law, the people of Israel would act, speak, and think differently than all the other nations. The law is not the same as our Constitution or State Constitutions are here in the United States. Not every single law or forbidden and allowed action is in the 611 commands of the Torah. Only the standards that provide a basis for moral uprightness and ritual purity and blueprints for buildings are given. The law was not made to condemn. It was given to show the people how to make right with God, until Jesus came.
This is where we will leave off for next time. So far, we are still looking for that seed of the woman who will crush the villain. The story of Israel has taken over the narrative but for a very specific purpose. The nation of Israel and our individual characters like Abraham and Moses, repeat the same mistake that Adam and Eve did in the garden. Continuing to take from the tree and give in to the serpent is repeated over and over again. We can see ourselves in the people of Israel as well. We all complain, we all make mistakes, and we believe in a God that continues to want us back with Him. The story of Israel is a redemption story and our story is a redemption story as well.