Encountering the Old Testament, 3rd Edition

A Christian Survey

series: Encountering Biblical Studies


5. Genesis 12–50: The Patriarchs: Ancestors of Israel’s Faith

Chapter Intro Video

Chapter Objectives

  • Contrast the focus of Genesis 1–11 with that of Genesis 12–50
  • Identify the three major characters in Genesis
  • Describe the covenant God made with Abram
  • Explain how Abraham illustrates the Christian doctrine of conversion
  • Compare the relationship of the Joseph story to the patriarchal narratives
  • Illustrate the theological concepts of election, promise, and covenant from Genesis

Chapter Summary

  1. The subject of Genesis 12–50 is the patriarchs and the ancestral families of Israel.
  2. Biblical scholars can find much support for the patriarchal accounts of Genesis in the work of modern historians and archaeologists.
  3. The three patriarchs are Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
  4. The Abrahamic covenant is the foundation for the other covenants of the Bible.
  5. Abraham illustrates the Christian doctrine of conversion.
  6. Abraham obeyed God in preparing to sacrifice Isaac, the son of the covenant.
  7. Joseph was faithful to God under the worst of circumstances.
  8. God elected the patriarchs not by birth or by character or by action, but because he called them.
  9. Election, promise, and covenant are three theological concepts developed in Genesis 12–50.

Study Questions

  1. What is a “patriarch”?
  2. What turn occurs in Genesis 12 (as compared to Gen. 3–11)? What is the Bible’s principal concern in presenting the story of Abram? What is the key verse on this topic?
  3. How did God assure Abram with the smoking fire pot? Define a “covenant.”
  4. What three “other arrangements” did Abram make when Sarai remained childless?
  5. What is the “turning point” in Abram and Sarai’s life? What is God’s requirement of them? What assurance do they receive? What physical sign of this new relationship is introduced?
  6. How did Abraham respond to the command to sacrifice Isaac? How did this command differ from the command to travel to an unknown land?
  7. What question is raised by the Jacob stories? When and how does God assure the reader? What is Jacob’s moment of transformation?
  8. How does the Joseph story differ from those of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? Why is his story included in Scripture?
  9. What are the major theological concepts of Genesis 12–50?