Book summary

Genesis covers the origins of life, sin, and civilization, and the establishment of God’s people.

The book starts with the story of creation. Not long after God brings humankind to life, Adam & Eve sin and are banished from the Garden of Eden. Early civilization is also sinful and God brings judgment on them through a great flood, but he spares a righteous man called Noah and gives humanity a fresh start.

God then establishes the nation of Israel through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. Jacob, whom God renamed to Israel, had twelve sons who go on to form the twelve tribes of Israel and they collectively become known as the Israelites.

Chapters 1-11 — Origins of human history

Ch 1-5 — Origins of life, sin, and civilization

Ch 1-2 — Origin of life
  • In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. (Gen. 1:1-3)

  • So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Gen. 1:27)

Ch 3 — Origin of sin
  • Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Gen. 3:1)

  • To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life.” … So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. (Gen. 3:17,23)

Ch 4-5 — Origin of civilization
  • Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man.” Later she gave birth to his brother Abel. (Gen. 4:1-2)

Ch 6-7 — Judgment on early civilization

  • So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out.” (Gen. 6:13-14)

  • And rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights. (Gen. 7:12)

Ch 8-11 — A new start for humanity

Covenant with Noah
  • But God remembered Noah … and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded. (Gen. 8:1)

  • [And God said,] “… Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” (Gen. 9:15-16)

God re-establishes civilization through Noah and his sons
  • These are the clans of Noah’s sons, according to their lines of descent, within their nations. From these the nations spread out over the earth after the flood. (Gen. 10:32)

God establishes new languages and scatters people over the earth
  • [People gathered to build a tower that reached to the heavens.] The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel … (Gen. 11:6-9)

Chapters 12-50 — Origins of God’s chosen people

Ch 12-24 — Abraham

Ch 12-17 — Abrahamic covenant
  • The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Gen. 12:1-3)

  • “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates …” (Gen. 15:18)

  • “You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations… This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you.” (Gen. 17:4-5,10-11)

Ch 21 — The Birth of Isaac
  • … and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. (Gen. 21:1-2)

Ch 25-28 — Isaac

Ch 25 — Jacob and Esau
  • Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. The Lord answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant… The Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.” (Gen. 25:21,23)

  • The first to come out was red, and his whole body was like a hairy garment; so they named him Esau. After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. (Gen. 25:25-26)

Ch 27 — Jacob gets Isaac’s blessing
  • [With help from his mother Rebekah, Jacob deceived his father Isaac, whose eyesight was failing, into giving him the blessing meant for his older brother Esau.]

  • [Rebekah then told Jacob,] “Your brother Esau is planning to avenge himself by killing you. Now then, my son, do what I say: Flee at once to my brother Laban in Harran.” (Gen. 27:42-43)

Ch 28-36 — Jacob

Ch 28 — Jacob’s dream at Bethel
  • He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the Lord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.” (Gen. 28:12-14)

Ch 29 — Jacob marries Leah and Rachel
  • Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel… Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, “I’ll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.” (Gen. 29:16,18)

Ch 30-31 — Jacob flees from Laban
  • Jacob heard that Laban’s sons were saying, “Jacob has taken everything our father owned and has gained all this wealth from what belonged to our father.” And Jacob noticed that Laban’s attitude toward him was not what it had been. Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.” (Gen. 31:1-3)

Ch 32 — Jacob wrestles with God
  • So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man… Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” (Gen. 32:24-25,28)

Ch 35 — Jacob’s twelve sons
Jacob had twelve sons:
The sons of Leah:
Reuben the firstborn of Jacob, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun.
The sons of Rachel:
Joseph and Benjamin.
The sons of Rachel’s maidservant Bilhah:
Dan and Naphtali.
The sons of Leah’s maidservant Zilpah:
Gad and Asher. (Gen. 35:22-26)

Ch 37-50 — Joseph

Ch 37 — Joseph’s dreams
  • “We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it… I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” (Gen. 37:7,9)

  • [Jacob said,] “What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?” (Gen. 37:10)

  • “Here comes that dreamer!” they said to each other. “Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.” (Gen. 37:19-20)

  • So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt. (Gen. 37:28)

Ch 39-40 — Joseph interprets dreams in prison
  • Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there. The Lord was with Joseph and he prospered… (Gen. 39:1-2)

  • … and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he refused. (Gen. 39:7-8)

  • “Look,” she said to them, “this Hebrew has been brought to us to make sport of us! He came in here to sleep with me, but I screamed.” … When his master heard the story his wife told him, saying, “This is how your slave treated me,” he burned with anger. Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined. (Gen. 39:14,19-20)

  • [Joseph said to the cupbearer and the baker:] “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams.” (Gen. 40:8)

Ch 41 — Joseph interprets Pharaoh’s dreams
  • Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.” So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.” (Gen. 41:39-41)

Ch 42 — Joseph’s brothers go to Egypt during the famine
  • When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, “… I have heard that there is grain in Egypt. Go down there and buy some for us, so that we may live and not die.” (Gen. 42:1-2)

  • As soon as Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he pretended to be a stranger and spoke harshly to them. “Where do you come from?” he asked. (Gen. 42:7)

Ch 45 — Joseph makes himself known to his brothers
  • Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.” (Gen. 45:4-5)

Ch 48 — Manasseh and Ephraim become tribes in their own right
  • [Jacob said to Joseph,] “Now then, your two sons born to you in Egypt before I came to you here will be reckoned as mine; Ephraim and Manasseh will be mine, just as Reuben and Simeon are mine. Any children born to you after them will be yours; in the territory they inherit they will be reckoned under the names of their brothers.” (Gen. 48:5-6)

Ch 49-50 — Jacob and Joseph reach the end of their lives
  • Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” (Gen. 50:24)