Genesis was written down by Moses during the forty years of wilderness wanderings most likely based on extant records passed down from the patriarchs before him.  The book covers the history of God's people from the creation of the world until the death of Joseph, Son of Jacob and Rachel, in the land of Egypt.  Internal dating would indicate a time line of from around 6000 BC to around 1800 BC for the events recorded.  The writing itself would be some time after 1500 BC as a part of what would become known as the "Torah" or "Book of Moses."  Scholars also refer to the collection of the first five books as the "Pentateuch."

The book is conveniently divided into 50 chapters in modern Bibles. The main theme of the book is "Beginnings," and in its pages we find the beginning of the world and the beginnings of the Hebrew nation that would eventually be called "The Jews" (literally "Judahites") after the fourth son of Jacob, a man by the name of "Judah."  Themes found in this book set a foundation for the whole Bible.

Although there are loan words from both the Egyptian and Aramaic languages throughout the book, the text is penned in ancient Hebrew.  This is understandable, given the fact that Abraham, whose story begins in chapter 12, stayed with a related tribe of Semites, called the Aramaens, near the headwaters of the Euphrates River.  Early records, therefore, would have been in this language.  Moses, an adopted son of an Egyptian princess, would be fluent in that language as well.


The history of the text of Genesis can be found in the phrase "these are the generations of" (KJV) found at the end of accounts recorded throughout the book. There are ten such "signatures."[1]: 2:4; 5:1; 6:9; 10:1; 11:10,27; 17:7; 25:12,19; 36:1,9; and 37:2. These sections record the accounts of the lives of the patriarchs from Adam to Joseph. It is not known who first wrote these down, but when revealing Himself as "The One Who Is" ("I Am" or YHWH) God tells Moses to relate to the people this history (Exodus 3:15).  Throughout the text of the other four books of the Torah Moses is told to write things down and the text flows seamlessly from Genesis into Exodus, thus indicating a common author of the version that has survived to this day. 

When the author of the book of Joshua pens that book, the previous five books are his obvious authority.  The account of the death of Moses at the end of Deuteronomy was apparently revealed and written by that author.  There was practically unanimous agreement until modern times that Moses wrote down Genesis 1:1 through Deuteronomy 33:29. Chapter 34 of that book records the death of Moses and the installation of Joshua as his successor.

Outline of Genesis[2]Edit

I. Primeval History (1:1 - 11:26)

A. The Creation of the World (1:1 - 2:3)
B. The Story of Man (2:4 - 11:26)
  1. Adam and Eve and the fall (3:1-24)
  2. Cain and Abel, the first murder (4:1-26)
  3. The godly line of Seth and death (5:1-32)
  4. Noah and the Flood (6:1 - 8:19)
  5. The events after the Flood (8:20 - 9:29
  6. Descendants of Noah and the Tower of Babel (10:1 - 11:26)

II. Patriarchal History (11:27 - 50:26)

A. The book of faith (Abraham) (11:27 - 25:18)
  1. His family  (11:27-32}
  2. His call and migration (12:1-20)
  3. His separation from Lot (13:1-18)
  4. God's covenant with Abraham (14:1-24)
  5. The deliverance of Lot (15:1-21)
  6. The birth of Ishmael (16:1-16)
  7. The circumcision of Abraham (17:1-27)
  8. The destruction of Sodom and Gommorah (18:1 - 19:38)
  9. Abraham and Abimelech (20:1-18)
  10. The birth of Isaac (21:1-18)
  11. The offering of Isaac (22:1-24)
  12. The death and burial of Sarah (23:1-20)
  13. The marriage of Isaac (24:1-67)
  14. The death of Abraham (25:1-11)
  15. The descendants of Ishmael (25:12-18)
B. The book of struggle (Isaac and Jacob)  (25:19 - 36:43)
  1. The twin sons of Isaac (25:19-34)
  2. Isaac deceives Abimelech (26:1-11)
  3. Isaac's frustrating fortunes (26:12-22)
  4. The covenant at Beer-Sheba (26:23-33)
  5. Jacob seizes the blessing by deception (27:1-46)
  6. Jacob sent to Mesopotamia (28:1-9)
  7. Jacob's dream and vow (28:10-22)
  8. Jacob and Laban's daughters (29:1-30)
  9. Jacob's children (29:31 - 30:24)
  10. Jacob outwits Laban (30:25-42)
  11. Jacob's return to Canaan (31:1-21)
  12. Laban's pursuit and confrontation (31:22-42)
  13. The parting covenant (31:43-55)
  14. Jacob's reconciliation with Esau (32:1 - 33:20)
  15. Jacob's later life (34:1 - 36:43)
a. A massacre at Shechem (34:1-31)
b. The renewal of the covenant at Bethel (35:1-16)
c. The deaths of Rachel and Isaac (35:16-29)
d. The descendants of Esau (36:1-43)
C. The book of guidance (Judah and Joseph) (37:1 - 50:26)
  1. Joseph is sold into slavery (37:1-36)
  2. Judah and Tamar (38:1-30)
  3. Joseph under test in Potipher's house (39:1-23)
  4. Joseph interprets the dreams of Pharaoh's servants (40:1-23)
  5. Joseph Interprets Pharoah's dream (41:1-57)
  6. Joseph's brothers in Egypt (42:1 - 47:31)
  7. Joseph's family in Egypt (46:1 - 47:31)
  8. The blessings of Joseph's sons (48:1-22)
  9. Jacob's blessings on his sons (49:1-27)
  10. Jacob's death and burial (49:28 - 50:14)
  11. Joseph's last days (50:15-26)

Time line of EventsEdit

The dates of the text of the Bible, as co-ordinated with secular records, clearly support the dates calculated by Archbishop James Ussher (1581 - 1656). There is a margin of error based on partial years as to the unstated birth dates of persons in numerous genealogies but this reference will use Ussher's dates for a guide.

  • 4004 BC. Creation of the World[3]
  • 4004 BC. Fall of Man[4]
  • 4003 BC. Birth of Cain
  • 4002 BC. Birth of Abel
  • 3875 BC. Murder of Abel
  • 3874 BC. Birth of Seth
  • 3874 BC. Birth of Enoch (son of Cain)
  • 3382 BC. Birth of Enoch (son of Jared)
  • 3284 BC. Birth of Methuselah
  • 3074 BC. Death of Adam
  • 2984 BC. Enoch "walks with God"[5]
  • 2949 BC. Birth of Noah
  • 2449 BC. Construction of the Ark begins
  • 2349 BC. The Great Flood begins
  • 2348 BC. The Flood Ends
  • 2234 BC. Founding of Babylon[6]
  • 2188 BC. Founding of Egypt[7]
  • 1921 BC. Call of Abraham (nee Abram)
  • 1706 BC. Israel (nee Jacob) and family enter Egypt
  • 1635 BC. Joseph dies in Egypt

By this time line, measured from creation, ancient Babel was established 1770 years later.  That is to say, about as much time passed between creation and and Babel as passed between the birth of Jesus and the "birth" of the United States of America.  The call of 75-year-old Abram was about as far on the other side of Jesus as was World War I on this side.


  1. What seem to be "headings" are better thought of as signatures confirming the truth of the previous sections. See Who Wrote Genesis?
  2. The King James Reference Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishing, p. 4
  3. This was in the fall, for the trees were bearing fruit.
  4. This came within weeks, for Eve had not yet conceived though the couple had been told to "multiply." Since sin became part of the human condition, it had to be passed down via corrupted offspring.
  5. Gen. 5:24; Heb. 11:5. Walking with God meant that Enoch pleased God, and so was "translated" as to not die, but to go to heaven with his earthly body.
  6. Ussher J., Annales Veteris Testamenti, Flesher and Sadler, London, p. 5, 1654. The year was 331 BC. After Alexander the Great had defeated Darius at Gaugmela near Arbela, he journeyed to Babylon. Here he received 1903 years of astronomical observations from the Chaldeans, which they claimed dated back to the founding of Babylon.
  7. Ussher, Ref 2, p. 5. The Byzantine chronicler Constantinus Manasses (d. 1187) wrote that the Egyptian state lasted 1663 years. If correct, then counting backward from the time that Cambyses, king of Persia, conquered Egypt in 526 BC, gives us the year of 2188 BC for the founding of Egypt.
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