In the first ten chapters of Genesis including the original creation, there may be millions of years embraced, but in the next forty chapters only a few centuries are dealt with. Here the emphasis is not on the material, but on the moral and spiritual. From the creation of Adam to the flood, over sixteen hundred years in duration are covered. The vast universe seems insignificant when we find that Abram’s history occupies almost fourteen chapters.
It is said that Abram lived mid-way between Adam and Christ, and this is important in the unfolding of the divine purposes.
The emphasis in this book is on divine election and selection. Seth takes the place of Abel; Cain is set aside and Seth is chosen. From Jared’s family, Enoch is chosen. From Lamech’s family, the choice is Noah. From his three sons, Shem is chosen; Terah had three sons and Abram is chosen. Abraham had two sons and God’s choice was Isaac; of Isaac’s sons, Jacob is chosen. Jacob had twelve sons, and of these Judah is chosen for the continuation of the Messianic line.
Abram. In Genesis chapter 10, the beginnings of many nations are recorded but redemption does not come through them. For this the narrative develops the Line of the Hebrew family with Abram as the father and founder, 12. 2; Gal. 3. 29.
There are three main beginnings in this book: in Adam, the beginning of the human race; in Noah, a new beginning on the post-diluvian earth, and now in Abram, a new departure, the beginning of the chosen nation. Our attention is directed to one family and one man, Abram, who had the high privilege of being called “the friend of God”, Isa. 41. 8; 2 Chron. 20. 7; James 2. 23. His father Terah, and his brothers Haran and Nahor, are of lesser significance. God makes choice of Abram in sovereign election. Thirty-nine chapters, more than three-quarters of this book, are devoted to the life of Abram and the first three generations of his descendants.
His life, like the course of a river, had many windings, but it seemed to deepen and gather in strength as it went on. His descent from Shem shows him in the line of promise, Gen. ii. 10-26. The words “after these things” divide his life into three parts:
(i)The Call given and accepted, 11. 27 to 14. 24. (ii)The Covenant made and confirmed, chs. 15-21. (iii) The Challenge met and rewarded, 22 to 25. 10.
The first tells of the Venture of faith; the second develops the Value of faith, and the third presents the Victory of faith. This chosen man had his name changed to Abraham, father of a multitude, 17. 5. He consecrated his all to God, ch. 22. He lived 175 years, 25. 7.
Isaac. Typically Isaac represents “sonship”, and he was “appointed heir’ of all things, 24. 36; 25. 5. Although he lived longer than the other patriarchs, much less is recorded of him. Chapter 26 is the only chapter exclusively devoted to him. He was gentle, patient, affectionate, peace-loving and God-fearing. His life is undistinguished, lacking the venture of his father and the adventure of his son. “He was the ordinary son of a great father, and the ordinary father of a great son’. His ordinary life was an “ordered” life, and in the truest sense the “ordained life”. He lived 180 years, Gen. 35. 28, 29. In Abraham we see divine election, calling him out; in Isaac divine provision, in a supernatural birth;, in Jacob divine preservation from enemies; and in Joseph divine directions guiding him through.
To Abraham God gave seven communications, to Jacob He gave five, but to Isaac He gave only two. The things he did once may be indicative of his character. He undertook the building of “an altar to God”; he is found “calling on the name of the Lord”, 26. 25, and praying, 25. 21. The importance of his life is in his resemblance to the Lord Jesus. This is presented in his birth, then as the son of the covenant, the sacrifice and the type of Abraham’s spiritual posterity, Gal. 4. 21-31. He was a noble son, a faithful husband and a weak father.
Jacob. He has a permanent place in history and religion, and gave to the chosen race its name “Israel”. There is scarcely anything more striking in the whole of the Old Testament than the frequency of the title “the God of Jacob” in the Psalms and in Isaiah. His history is given in Genesis 25. 26 to 50. 13. This controversial figure attracts and fascinates us by his very weaknesses. He is so human like ourselves, yet the reality and determination that marked the man impress us with a desire to live in personal contact with God. His character is different from all the Bible heroes, Moses, Joshua, David, Darnel, Peter, John and Paul. In him there is mixed a self-seeking disposition with a gentle and genuine devotedness to his mother, his wife and his sons. The transformation in his life was slow, and the old nature was never wiped out. There was a gradual victory of the higher over the lower in him, and ultimately “Israel” was clearly seen.
We cannot but admire his steadfastness of purpose amidst all difficulties, trials and opposition and his genuine appreci-ation of divine realities in the covenant of God with his father. His character was formed in the school of God. Sorrow both made and left its permanent mark upon him. The roughness of his nature was made smooth, and chastening yielded the peaceable fruits of righteousness.
The grace of God, from the vision at Bethel to the closing days in Egypt, was the cause of his success. He claimed and depended on the promise of God and never forgot what He had promised, “I am with thee, … I will not leave thee”. The “God of Jacob”, Psa. 46. 7, is a God of unchanging love, of unerring wisdom, of unfailing grace.
His life is associated with four places:
Beer-sheba, Gen. 25. 19 to 28. 10, a determined man. Haran, Gen. 28. 10 to 30. 43, a deceitful man. Hebron, Gen. 35-45, a disciplined man. Egypt, Gen. 46 to 50. 13, a devout man.
The true peaks in his life were Bethel and Peniel; the former is his conversion, the latter his consecration. He lived a full life during his pilgrimage of 147 years.
Joseph was not one of “the” partriarchs and to him the covenant was not renewed, though he inherited it. About one quarter of Genesis is taken up with his history. Like Abraham, fourteen chapters are given to him. He is the link between Canaan and Egypt, between the family and the nation. He is one of the most beautiful Old Testament characters and typified Him who was to be the Seed of the woman, and the fulfilment of all Messianic prophecy. He is seen at home, 37. 1-27, delightful days; in slavery, 37. 28-36, dark days; as a servant, 39.1-19, dangerous days; in prison, 39. 20 to 40. 23, difficult days; in the court, 41. 1-36, decisive days; as prime minister, 41. 37 to 50. 26, dynamic days. This wonderful book, which begins with the creative power of God demonstrated in creation, ends with a coffin in Egypt, Rom. 6. 23.
Suggestive Studies. The “altars” and the “looks” of Abraham. The similarities between Mount Moriah and Mount Calvary. The wells of Isaac, his likeness to the Lord Jesus. Divine appearings to Jacob, the places and the messages. Peniel and Calvary.
The “tears” of Joseph; his foreshadowing of the Messiah of Israel.
The prophetic picture of Israel as a nation in chapter 49.