The Inspiration of the Scriptures: Genesis

 •  15 min. read  •  grade level: 9
Divine Design.—1. Genesis
Let us now test the reality of distinct purpose on God's part attributed to His word, beginning with the earliest book of Scripture.
Genesis opens with the creation, distinguishing the beginning when man was not nor our environment of nature, and intimating a state of convulsion for the earth at least, which followed the original act and preceded its formation for the human race (Gen. 1:1, 21In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. 2And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. (Genesis 1:1‑2)). The week is then detailed which ushers in Adam, God's (Elohim's) work and rest (Gen. 1:3-2:33And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. 4And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. 5And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. 6And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. 7And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. 8And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day. 9And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. 10And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good. 11And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. 12And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good. 13And the evening and the morning were the third day. 14And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: 15And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. 16And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. 17And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, 18And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good. 19And the evening and the morning were the fourth day. 20And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. 21And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. 22And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth. 23And the evening and the morning were the fifth day. 24And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. 25And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good. 26And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. 27So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. 28And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. 29And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. 30And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so. 31And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day. 1Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. 3And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made. (Genesis 1:3‑2)).
The true commencement of chap. 2 is in ver. 4, where the name of Jehovah Elohim, or the LORD God, necessarily appears as in chap. 3 also. For the design was to identify Elohim, the Creator, with Jehovah, the moral Governor, Who established man, not as a living soul only, but by His in-breathing into him only in immediate relationship with Himself, and set in a paradise planted for him, yet with moral responsibility put to the proof and provision for life if obedient, but if disobedient with death the penalty. Nor this only, but man's relation to his wife, builded out of himself to be his intimate counterpart and so named by himself, is here; as he also gave names to the subject creation of earth, bird, and beast.
Chap. 3 shows how man fell through the woman by the wiles of a mysterious foe who availed himself of the serpent as medium, and so acquired to the end the title of “the old serpent, who is the Devil and Satan” (Rev. 20:22And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, (Revelation 20:2)). The design here required the same divine designation as in the chapter before, the form of which is all the more apparent from the omission of Jehovah by the serpent and by the woman parleying with the tempter (1-5). But the solemn sentence of death was not passed on the head of the race, now knowing good and evil, without a previous curse on the serpent, wherein was intimated the blessed assurance of the woman's Seed, bruised in heel, to bruise the enemy's head. Coats of skins were given to the guilty pair, who knew themselves not the less naked for their fig-leaf aprons. The divine covering for sinners had its source in death.
Thereon follows the essential difference between Adam's sons in chap. 4. Abel by faith brought a sacrifice. Cain, hard and unbelieving, brought an offering of the fruit of the ground, and, incensed at Jehovah's acceptance of Abel and his offering, slew his righteous brother. What a picture of man's worship; as the close of the chapter is of his world with art and science and pleasures of life to hide that he is an outcast, a vain substitute for paradise! Here accordingly Jehovah's name appears with strict propriety; the exceptional case in vers. 25 only confirms it, as Eve's natural expression, disappointed in her spiritual thought of ver. 1. Yet is Seth the appointed seed that succeeds the slain Abel, and men call on Jehovah's name: so it will be, as it was.
In chap. 5 is a review of the race down to Noah and his offering. Adam and his sons, long as they might live, died at length. For if Elohim created and made, death was through sin; but Enoch walked with God, and was not, for God took him. It was not simple government, but Elohim known and acting according to His nature. On the other hand Jehovah as properly is used in ver. 29 where His moral dealing is in view. Of all those, two men are divine witnesses, respectively of heavenly grace, and of earthly judgment yet with mercy glorying against it.
Then chap. 6:1-8 proceeds with righteous judgment under Jehovah's name, which is no way inconsistent with “the sons of God” in 2 and 4, as in Job a regular designation; whereas Elohim alone is found in 9-22. The expression is as accurate as the design is evident. Relationship was violated; and nature was corrupted; but if judgment must ensue, the Creator duly perpetuates the creature.
So in chap. 7 Jehovah has respect for Noah and his house too, enjoining clean beasts and birds by sevens, not two as in His name of Elohim; and Noah obeyed in both (5, 9). Oh, the blindness of pseudo-critics, who fancy inconsistency, when the divine wisdom was as plain in His acts, as His design is in His word! What ignorance and folly to account for all this by the imaginary patchwork of tradition! See also the absurdity of an Elohist and a Jehovist in the same ver. 16, where the two motives of divine action meet in Noah subject and kept safe. Truly “all have not faith:” woe to those who believe not! particularly if they profess the Lord's name,
Chap. 8 conversely has Elohim only in 1-9, but in 20-22 Jehovah no less instructively. This instruction pseudo-criticism denies and destroys as far as it can, by the childish fancy of different legendists. Truly they labor for the fire and weary themselves for vanity.
So chap. 9 designedly gives Elohim throughout, save that the special blessing in Shem's case brings in Jehovah his God in 26, whereas of Japheth is said Elohim only in 27. Conceive the imbecility as well as the unspirituality of supposing here two authors, where so much of the force depends on the One Who first uttered all by one mouth, then wrote all by a single pen in due time! As the end of chap. 8 shows the world that was resting for its order on sacrifice, so 9 begins with the principle of government committed to man's hand, and the sign was added of no deluge more.
In chap. 10 we have the rise of nations divided in their lands, every one after his tongue, from Noah's three sons; and even in those days Nimrod's assumption of despotic power, where alone Jehovah occurs, as right relationship was violated. But in the earlier verses (1-9) of chap. 11 we have Jehovah judging the moral cause for the scattering of men, bent on making themselves a name in one vast republic. From ver. 10 the generations of Shem are traced to bring in “the fathers,” and “afterward the sons,” of Israel.
Chap. 12 presents Jehovah's call of Abram. He had left Ur of the Chaldees for Haran at the end of chap. 11. Only when he “went as Jehovah had spoken to him” does he arrive in Canaan. He first has the promises, father of the faithful, as Adam of all mankind. Abram is a pilgrim, with “this land” promised to his seed, and has not a tent only but altars he built to Jehovah. This was the walk and worship of faith. Under the pressure of famine he goes down into Egypt, and denies his true relationship to Sarai; so that she was taken into Pharaoh's house, and he became very rich with the king's gifts. It was total failure; but Jehovah plagued Pharaoh, delivered Sarai, and dismissed Abram, who had no altar in Egypt and returns to the place where his trial had been at the beginning, unto the place of his altar there.
Chap. 13. Thereon strife among their herdmen leads to the separation of Lot from Abram, who has Jehovah's promise more fully renewed, and Abram builds another altar.
But chap. 14 shows Lot swept away in the world's wars, as he had already betrayed his worldly-mindedness. But Abram defeats the conquerors who led Lot captive, Then Melchizedek king of Salem blessed Abram on the part of God Most High, possessor of heaven and, earth, and blessed God Most High Who delivered Abram's enemies into his hand. It is a picture which closes the first part of Abram's history, the type of the day of blessing, of “bread and wine,” not of sacrifices nor of intercession above and unseen, which sustains now, based on sacrifice. Here the distinctive name is Jehovah, but qualified by God Most High (Elyon), the victory of faith when enemies are put down and rival gods vanish; heaven and earth unite in the blessing of God and His own under the priest Melchizedek reigning. How plain yet profound is this typical climax? Who could have designed it all but God?
From chap. 15 we have a fresh and subsequent order of things personal, rather than public, closing with chap. 21, where the question of the heir is solved fully and in various points of view. First we have Jehovah's word coming in a vision, and the seed after the flesh in prophetic detail, and a sacrificial covenant by which the limits of the land are guaranteed. In chap. 16. we see failure in the faith so bright in the chapter before, and the carnal impatience which sought it illegitimately, to her sorrow especially who suggested it. Not Hagar but Sarai must be the heir's mother. Cf. Gal. 4. In chap. 17 Jehovah (for such is the name here also) appears to Abram revealing His title, specific for the patriarchs, of El Shaddai, God Almighty, and enlarging his name to Abraham, as his wife's was to be Sarah. Yet it is said to be Elohim so talking and saying: so baseless is the fancy of different documents or authors; and so perfect is the design in putting these elements together. Nations and kings were to come of Abraham and Sarah by an everlasting covenant established with Isaac, but with circumcision (expressing death to the flesh) which extended even to the connected stranger. Chap. 18 gives Jehovah's next appearing in intimate condescension; and the time of the heir's birth is announced, but after this of the judgment just about to fall on the guilty cities which draws out Abraham's intercession. This stopped short of what his heart yearned after; but Jehovah delivered Lot and his daughters, while punishing his wife's disobedience in chap. 19 with its sad sequel. In chap. 20 Abraham again denies his relationship to the mother of the coming heir; but Elohim warns Abimelech who also restores Sarah intact. God's grace alone shines throughout; but Jehovah had judged the deed (ver. 18) in His righteous government. The series concludes with chap. 21, when the heir was born, and soon after the bondmaid's son was cast out, though preserved in respect for faithful Abraham. But more now; for Abimelech, instead of reproving, stands reproved; and Beersheba attests the inheritance of the world, Abraham planting a tamarisk or grove and calling on the name of Jehovah, the everlasting God (El Olam). The inheritance, wide as it is, may not compare with His grace Who gives all; but it is glorious. Who but One could have indited these communications? Did He leave them like Sibylline leaves to be blown about, and gathered by Elohists, Jehovists, or such like imaginary ghosts? His word is truth.
Chap. 22 lays the foundation in the Son's death and resurrection figuratively for new and heavenly things; chap. 23 is the passing away of the mother, Israel; chap. 24 the call of the bride for the risen bridegroom;1 and chap. 25:1-10 indicates other descendants of Abraham endowed with favor, but not to the disparagement of the heir of all; after which the father dies in a good old age. Here the futility of different hands, Elohist or Jehovist, is as manifest as before. Elohim tempted or tried Abraham's faith; yet the angel of Jehovah interposed after the proof that he feared Elohim; and so to the end of chap. 22. Neither occurs in 23; but Jehovah the God of the heavens and the God of the earth &c. is in 24. In chap. 25:11 Elohim blessed Isaac, yet after the generations of Ishmael (12-18) Jehovah appears in those of Isaac: what more simple, intelligible, or accurate from one and the same hand? So it is Jehovah yet the God of Abraham in chap. 26 even in Gentile lips; and again in chap. 27. There we read “Jehovah hath blessed; and Elohim give thee” (vers. 27, 28): plain and sure evidence against the variorum hypothesis; and so is chap. 28:3, 4, 13, 16, 17, 20-22.
Now we enter on Jacob's varied experience, hearing no more of Isaac but his death in chap. 35:28, 29, after a life spent exclusively in Canaan as contrasted with Abraham and Jacob. Divine design is evident in the scripture as well as in the fact. Isaac typified the Son who after death and resurrection is the church's Head and Bridegroom in the heavenlies. Compare chap. 24:3-9, 37-41. Just as strikingly he who was even called Israel knows the greatest vicissitudes, as we see in the remaining chapters of the book. Was this casual? Did it not flow from God's design? It is Jehovah in chap. 29 and Elohim in chap. 30:2-23, yet in the next verse (24) Rachel says not Elohim, but Jehovah; and thus it is in 27 and 30. The notion of different writers is mere fancy, explains nothing, and hinders all due inquiry into the divine motive for the change of name. See also chap. 26:3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 16, 24, 29, 42, 49, 50, 53; chap. 32:9, 28, 30; and chap. 33:5, 10, 11, 20.
One cannot wonder that neither name is in chap. 34 or in 36, 37; but it is Elohim, God in His nature, God sovereign in His action, which appears in 35:1, 3, 7, 9, 10; only the revealed El Shaddai, dropped with Isaac save in reference to Jacob (28:3), here reappears (11). Then Elohim is in 13, 15. But Jehovah is the name in chap. 38:7, 10, where His rights were violated flagrantly in Judah's family; as His marked blessing was on Joseph in 39:2, 3, 5, 21, 23. What could be more correct? On the other hand Elohim alone suits 40:8, 16, 25, 32, 38, 39, 51, 52. It is the historic as well as abstract expression; and hence in 42:18, 28; 43:23, 29; 44:16; 45:5, 7, 8, 9; 46:1, 3; 48:9, 11, 15, 20, 21; 49:25; 50:17, 19, 20, 24, 25; whilst in 43:14, and 48:3 it is El Shaddai, and in 49 Jehovah as specially due. God, or Elohim, is in contrast with man; Jehovah is His name of relationship; El Shaddai is the proper patriarchal title, as El Elyon is that of the kingdom in figure.
But how manifestly we have divine purpose in progressive warning through Esau as before through Ishmael! For Esau was worse, a profane man despising his birthright, which Jacob, however faulty, was far from; but God is faithful in wanderings caused by his unbelief and given with much detail. It is the picture of Israel's sad history, the pledge of their future and blessed restoration to the promised land, as indeed God announced in chap. 46:4, and predicts in Jacob's last words (chap. 49). To this also point the burials there of his body and Joseph's.
Nor can one fairly overlook the tale of Joseph, the general hatred on the part of his brethren, the special guilt and special recovery of Judah, the sale of Joseph to the Gentiles and their subsequent evil, Joseph's interpretation of God's mind in his humiliation, his elevation to administer the kingdom over the Gentiles with a wife then given him, and finally his reception of his brethren now penitent before his glory. A plainer type cannot be of God's dealings, much accomplished yet some not even yet, all settled and sure if we believe the scriptures in general which teach these truths explicitly elsewhere as to Christ.
Is not then divine design throughout the book of Genesis established of God beyond just question? How vast the scope from the absolutely first act of creative energy! How wise the details only when man was to be created! How important to distinguish the fact of the Adamic earth from the relative position of all concerned, and to show how soon and complete was the ruin through sin! Yet do we see immense long-suffering, till the violation of all order, added to man's growing corruption and overspread violence, draws down divine judgment, yet Noah and his house prepared by grace to begin the world set under sacrifice on the one hand and the principle of human government brought in on the other. Instead of filling the earth at God's command, the willful effort to combine and make themselves a name was met by the confusion of tongues, which scattered mankind. Thus began the nations divided in their lands, everyone after his tongue, and his family. Then, when men began to serve other gods, as Josh. 24 tells us, Abraham was called out of country, kindred, and father's house, separated to the true God as His witness. To him was promised the land of Canaan, and yet more all the families of the earth to be blessed in him. Isaac typifies the risen Son in the heavenly place, with a bride called out from the world to join Him there. Jacob represents the earthly people, to be blessed at length in the land after bitter experiences in and out of it, the effect of their own faults. In the midst of this history Joseph foreshadows Christ separated from his envious and hating brethren, but manifesting God's wisdom in his low estate, and exalted to the administration of a world-wide kingdom. He is thus made known to the Jews, now humbled and owing their preservation to him as all others do; yet was his heart set on the people and land notwithstanding; where the great prophecy of chap. 49 shows they are to be at the end of days. Is all this a concourse of atoms? or the work of divine purpose?