Genesis starts with the genesis of the whole world, but is actually about the genesis of the nation of Israel, which is actually the genesis of God’s intervention in human affairs.
Creation is there for context really: everything had a starting point. To me it visualises the world through the eyes of a newborn baby, a birth story metaphor for our world that we can all share: being formless in water, light coming into darkness, the first days of life as everything comes into focus, all new and wonderful.
Then, just as you grow up and leave your parents, breaking hearts and having yours broken, Genesis becomes a story of faults and failure. Corrupt cynicism threatens to strangle the small flashes of optimism and hope that still co-exist in the world, in each heart in it.
Reading Genesis you learn that God plans his salvation to hang by a thread: in an ark floating on a flood of destruction, in a bloodline running through dysfunctional family generations. The thread is even traced to a literal thread, tied around the foot of an unborn baby.
Judgement comes in life spans, salvation comes threaded through generations. (If that creates massive chronological anomalies, well, he also made time).
Also God speaks and acts through the undeserving, the second wife, the child without the birthright, the un-entitled. (Are there more urgent lessons for the western church today?)
God has patience, because we are very very slow. Here he intervenes like vivid camera flash moments in a murky world – illuminating images, visions or choices that realign our minds to him, so we learn his love and start to know his mind.
The big picture, literally. Creation, corruption, destruction and survival
1 In which the creation story drives me to rhapsodies about birth and patterns
2 A second creation story… I meditate on the differences and literalism
3 If chapter 1 was a birth, Adam & Eve is coming-of-age genre, first love and heartbeak
4 Cain wins – the evil prosper from God’s abundance of blessing and grace, for a time. It really was always thus
5 The corrupt evil lines largely win in genealogy zoom forward to Noah.
6 God’s plan to drown all and start again. How did it get to this?
7 The ark as new eden, the flood the anti creation story
8 Contemplating what a traumatic trip it would have been in the Ark, Noah’s thankfulness is quite inspiring!
9 Post ark, the preciousness of life, the indignity of life, so it goes…
10 Post Noah genealogy, the thread of God’s intervention in a desert of unholiness
11 Tower of babel and more genealogies. I love the internet, but its sort of our new tower
Abraham and Isaac, Gods nation/salvation promise
12 Abram, the bible doesn’t hide that he is a broken vessel into which God’s grace poured
13 Lot and Abram, neither perfect but one not even trying
14 Abram rescues Lot in a sticky political situation. Mechizedek turns up, from Salem (prefigures Jer-salem). Its pre-exodus Canaan
15 The semi-covenant, the promise of the nation and land (and the slavery in egypt)
16 Abrams messy family attempts to force an heir, gives me comfort for my own
17 The full covenant, Abram becomes Abraham, gets a lesson in trusting God
18 Abraham is promised a son and bargains with God over Sodom’s destruction, a lesson in how God speaks
19 Crazy chapter – the destruction of Sodom and saving of Lot, very sordid, love conquers all?
20 Another “sister narrative” Abraham misleads about him and Sarah. I disapprove.
21 Miraculous birth of Isaac to overage Sarah is mired by her treatment of Hagar
22 Abraham asked to sacrifice the miracle son – Sacrificing sons? I marvel at the 1000 year jigsaw puzzle that is the bible.
23 The burial of sarah, significant because they don’t yet have the land to put her
24 Rebekah becomes Isaacs wife. An odd tender story of guidance
25 On to Isaac’s sons, Jacob and Esau, who sells his birthright to him for soup
26 Isaac’s life… a lot like Abraham’s, (even yet another “sister” narrative)
Sons of Isaac: Esau, & Jacob – the bible’s scummiest hero
27 Behaving badly… Jacob cheats his way through an unholy squabble the inheritance
28 A ladder to heaven in a shabby world
29 The first 3 tribe name sons are born to Jacob’s loveless 1st marriage to Leah. Her prayer of gratitude for their birth is the only reference to God in the chapter
30 A competitive sexual roundabout of 2 wives and their handmaids fills out the 12 sons who’ll become titular heads of the tribes. Jacob sets out to cheat his father in law…
31 Jacob leaves his father in law with 2 daughters 12 grandchildren and a fair whack of the family wealth – by God’s grace it goes better than it could have
32 In the buildup to a reunion with Esau, Jacob feels guilt, fear; experiences redemption
33 Esau is warm and forgiving, Jacob’s fear was unwarranted. Jacob ignores God’s next direction
34 Disengaged from God, Jacob’s family falls apart, a nasty violent greedy chapter
35 Jacob has seen a glorious ladder to God, wrestled with God and remained pretty nasty. Now he receives God’s promise. Finally, he seems to have some respect for God.
36 Esau’s fate, He was blessed, but he was not the line of God’s salvation promise…
Sons of Jacob: Joseph and the very scummy brothers
37 Joseph’s favourite son status enrages his brothers, they leave him for dead in a pit
38 Sub plot moment, Judah’s family, Tamar gives birth to a child who’ll be in Jesus’ line
39 Joseph is rescued and finds success in Egypt… prompting more jealousy, and jail time
40 Joseph, the truth teller, has a chance to interpret dreams for the pharaoh
41 Stunning reversal, J goes from jail to 2ic in all of Egypt
42 Famine brings J’s brothers to Egypt and he sets about schooling them in grace.
43 J’s brothers don’t recognise him, and he plays on it for maximum effect
44 The situation gets so intense that sacrificial love is drawn out of the brothers
45 Finally Joseph reveals his identity, mega happy resolution (of this story…)
46 The Israelites all come to Egypt to live in happy protected peaceful coexistence (hmm)
47 Pharaoh accepts Josephs family and grants them land
48 Talk about setting up the sequel: as Judah dies, he shares God’s promise about returning to Canaan
49 Judah’s final blessings/summaries of the brothers, and dies
50 Genesis starts and ends on a high, but its been quite a journey in between