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Biblical Israel - Overview of Genesis 1-11


The Book of Genesis covers a vast amount of time, stretching from the beginning of the world to about 1500 B.C. The authors of Genesis did not know about our current view of the world's age (at about 4.5 billion years), nor would they have cared. They only wished to document a few highlights about human origins that had particular religious significance for Israel's view of life, and to record a few traditions about their own ancestors that would help them understand how they came to be a people and a nation.

This primeval history in Genesis 1-11 can be broken down into several stages:

  1. Two creation accounts (Gen 1-2)

  2. The fall of humanity into sin and punishment (Gen 3-4)

  3. The list of ancient heroes from Adam to Noah (Gen 4:17-5:32)

  4. The story of how giants were born due to sin (Gen 6:1-4)

  5. The flood as punishment of that sin (Gen 6:5-9:29)

  6. The new list of nations spread across the world (Gen 10)

  7. The sin of the tower of Babel (Gen 11:1-9)

  8. The list of patriarchs from Noah to Abraham (Gen 11:10-32)

This outline in turn belongs to two basic sources: the Yahwist and the Priestly:

The older of the two sources is of course J, who has joined together several old stories and myths and reworked them to fit the religious message about Yahweh. But it is only in the combination of both J and P together that the full richness of Hebrew thought on human beginnings is revealed.


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