Articles & News

In the Beginning . . .

May 28, 2021

“A Bird’s-Eye View of Genesis” 

by Dr. J. Vernon McGee

The Bible itself will speak to our hearts in a way no other book can do. Let’s remember that as our journey through the whole Word begins.

Let me give you a bird’s-eye view of Genesis, a view that will cover the total spectrum of the book. I’ll point out certain things that are relevant to the entire Scripture.

Genesis states many things for the first time: creation, man, woman, sin, sabbath, marriage, family, labor, civilization, culture, murder, sacrifice, races, languages, redemption, and cities.

Genesis also favors certain phrases. “These are the generations of” describes the families of early history. We are members of this human family, and we spy its beginnings here.

Genesis portrays some very interesting character profiles; it’s a book of biographies. We meet Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Pharaoh, and the 11 sons of Jacob besides Joseph. You will find that God is continually blessing Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. In addition, those who are associated with them—Lot, Abimelech, Potiphar, the butler, and Pharaoh—are also blessed of God.

Genesis first mentions the idea of God’s covenant with man. The Lord frequently appears to the patriarchs, especially to Abraham. The altar is also prominent in Genesis. Sadly, jealousy in the home is rooted here. Egypt is a real destination as it is nowhere else. Judgment on sin is mentioned first in Genesis, as well as evident leadings of providence.

Where would you divide Genesis if only into two parts? I propose between chapters 11 and 12. The first 11 chapters constitute a whole, and beginning with chapter 12 through the remainder of the book, we find an altogether different section. The two parts differ in several ways: The first section extends from creation to Abraham. The second section extends from Abraham through Joseph. The first section deals with major subjects, which even still engage the minds of thoughtful people in our day: the Creation, the Fall, the Flood, the Tower of Babel. The second section has to do with personalities: Abraham, the man of faith; Isaac, the beloved son; Jacob, the chosen and chastened son; and Joseph, his suffering and glory.

Although that is a major division, there is another division of time even more significant. The first eleven chapters cover a minimum time span of 2,000+ years. I feel it is safe to say they may cover several hundred thousand years. This first section of Genesis can cover any time in the past that you may need to fit into your particular theory, and the chances are you would come short of it even then. At least we know the book covers a minimum of 2,000 years in the first 11 chapters, but the second section of 39 chapters covers only 350 years. In fact, beginning with Genesis 12 and running all the way through the Old Testament and the New Testament, a total time span of only 2,000 is covered. Therefore, as far as time is concerned, when you’ve read up to Genesis 11, you’re halfway through the Bible.

Wouldn’t that suggest to our minds and hearts that God had some definite purpose in giving this first section to us? Do you think God is putting the emphasis on this first section or on the rest of the Bible? Isn’t it evident that He is putting the emphasis on the last part? The first section has to do with the universe and with creation, but the last part deals with man, with nations, and with the person of Jesus Christ. God was more interested in Abraham than He was in the entire created universe.

And, my friend, God is more interested in you and attaches more value to you than He does to the entire physical universe.

Genesis is the “seed plot” of the Bible, and here we find the beginning, the source, the birth of everything. The book of Genesis is just like the bud of a beautiful rose, and it opens out into the rest of the Bible. The truth here is in germ form.

One of the best divisions of Genesis is according to the genealogies—i.e., according to the families.

All of these are given to us in the book of Genesis. It is a book of families. Genesis is an amazing book, and it will be a delight to study it with you.

My Turn

“Before you begin to study Genesis, I suggest you read it through, in one sitting if you can. This may be difficult (I haven’t been able to), but you will find it very profitable.” -Dr. J. Vernon McGee

It might take you a whole afternoon or evening to read the book of Genesis. Bible-reading apps say it takes about four hours. Even if you have to take it in four, one-hour segments, take Dr. McGee’s advice and dedicate time to reading Genesis as a whole before you dive into the details.  

Remember what we learned in “Guidelines to Understanding Scripture”:

When you want to study each chapter, locate:

  1. The theme
  2. The most important verse
  3. The most prominent word
  4. The teaching about Christ
  5. The command to obey
  6. The promise to claim
  7. The new truth learned

Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law. -Psalm 119:18