Encountering the Old Testament, 3rd Edition

A Christian Survey

series: Encountering Biblical Studies


4. Genesis 1–11: The Prelude to Israel

Chapter Intro Video

Chapter Objectives

  • Compare the Genesis account of creation with the Mesopotamian account
  • List the ancient Near Eastern accounts of creation
  • Outline the major content of Genesis 1–11
  • Identify the facts in Genesis 1 that support the doctrine that God was alone at the beginning
  • Chart the symmetry of the days of creation
  • Describe the content of chapters 3–11 that support the major theme: the moral failure of humankind
  • Contrast the Genesis account of the flood with the Gilgamesh epic

Chapter Summary

  1. Of all the accounts of creation found in ancient Near Eastern literature, the Mesopotamian accounts are closest to the Hebrew account.
  2. Chapter 1 of Genesis describes the overview of creation.
  3. Chapter 2 of Genesis provides a specific account of creation.
  4. God was alone at the beginning of creation and created the universe from nothing.
  5. There is inexhaustible theological significance in the fact that man was created in God’s image.
  6. The moral failure of humanity is the theme of Genesis 3–11.
  7. The results of original sin are that humankind lost its innocence, its easy access to God, and its peaceful paradise and freedom.
  8. Underlying original sin is the sin of rebellion against God.
  9. Sin increased until God decided that creation should be destroyed, and he used the flood to accomplish this.
  10. The Epic of Gilgamesh contains similarities to the story of Noah and the flood.
  11. The pride and rebellion of humankind is epitomized in the Tower of Babel.

Study Questions

  1. What are the three principal themes of Genesis 1–11?
  2. How did the primeval history and cosmology of Genesis conflict with the prevailing views of the ancient Near East?
  3. What are the three possible interpretations of the Hebrew in Genesis 1:1?
  4. What two literary devices characterize the rest of Genesis 1?
  5. What are the theological implications of being created in God’s image? What word describes the essence of creation in Genesis 1?
  6. What is the relationship of Genesis 1 to Genesis 2? How is the creation of humanity presented differently (from a literary standpoint)? In summary, what do these two chapters present?
  7. What is the theme of Genesis 3–11? In what ways did humanity change after the first sin of Genesis 3? What challenge is always involved in temptation? What two verses depict the dangers and the spread of sin in Genesis 3–11?
  8. In what way does the Table of Nations (10:1–32) hint at the way God will address the problem of sin?
  9. How does the account of the Tower of Babel serve as a climax of the avalanche of sin in Genesis 3–11? How does this unit end on a note of hope?