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The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia

Genesis, the Book of

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The first book of the Torah, and therefore of the whole Bible, is called by the Jews "Bereshit," after the initial word by the Septuagint and by Philo it is called Γ ύ ν ε σ ι ς (κ ό σ μ ο υ ) = "origin" (of the world), after the contents, and hence "Genesis" has become the usual non-Hebrew designation for it. According to the Masorah, it is divided into ninety-one sections ("parashiyyot"), forty-three of which have open or broken lines ("petuḥ ot"), and forty-eight closed lines ("setumot") or into forty-three chapters ("sedarim") and twenty-nine sections ("pisḳ ot") for reading on the Sabbath, into twelve lessons according to the division adopted from the Vulgate, into fifty chapters with 1,543 verses.

Nature and Plan.
Genesis is a historical work. Beginning with the creation of the world, it recounts the primal history of humanity and the early history of the people of Israel as exemplified in the lives of its patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and their families. It contains the historical presupposition and basis of the national religious ideas and institutions of Israel, and serves as an introduction to its history and legislation. It is a well-planned and well-executed composition of a single writer, who has recounted the traditions of his people with masterly skill, combining them into a uniform work, without contradictions or useless repetitions, but preserving the textual and formal peculiarities incident to their difference in origin and mode of transmission.

The author has treated the story as a series of ten "generations" ("toledot") namely, (1) of heaven and earth, ch. 2:4-iv. (2) of Adam, v.-vi:8 (3) of Noah, 6:9-ix. (4) of Noah's sons, x.-xi:9 (5) of Shem, 11:10-26 (6) of Terah, 11:27-xxv:11 (7) of Ishmael, 25:12-18 (8) of Isaac, 25:19-xxxv. (9) of Esau, xxxvi. (10) of Jacob, xxxvii.-1.


In the beginning God created heaven and earth (i:1), and set them in order in six days. He spoke, and on the first day there appeared the light on the second, the firmament of heaven on the third, the separation between water and land, with vegetation upon the latter on the fourth, sun, moon, and stars on the fifth, the marine animals and birds on the sixth, the land animals and, finally, God created man in His image, man and woman together, blessing them and giving them dominion over all beings. On the seventh day God rested, and blessed and sanctified the day (i:2-ii:3). As regards the creation and subsequent story of man (Adam), God forms him out of earth ("adama"), and breathes into him the breath of life. Then He sets him in a pleasure-garden (Eden), to cultivate and watch over it. Adam is allowed to eat of all the fruit therein except that of the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil." God then brings all the animals to Adam, to serve as company for and to receive names from him. When Adam can find no being like himself among all these creatures, God puts him into a deep sleep, takes a rib from his side, and forms a woman (called later "Eve"), to be a companion to him. The woman is seduced by the artful serpent to eat of the forbidden fruit, and the man also partakes of the same. As punishment they are driven out of Eden (ii:4-iii.). Adam and Eve have two sons, Cain and Abel. Cain grows envious of the favor found by his brother before God, and slays him he then wanders over the earth as a fugitive, and finally settles in the land of Nod. Enoch, one of his sons, builds the first city, and Lamech takes two wives, whose sons are the first dwellers in tents and owners of herds and the earliest inventors of musical instruments and workers in brass and iron. Cain's descendants know nothing about God (iv.). Another son, Seth, has in the meantime been born to Adam and Eve in place of the slain Abel. Seth's descendants never lose thought of God. The tenth in regular descent is the pious Noah (v.).

As mankind has become wicked, indulging in cruelties and excesses, God determines to destroy it entirely. Noah only, on account of his piety, will escape the general ruin and God commands him to build a large ark, since the work of destruction is to be accomplished by means of a great flood. Noah obeys the command, entering the ark together with his wife, his three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, their wives, and, by God's instructions, with one couple of each kind of animal on the earth. Then the flood comes, destroying all living beings save those in the ark. When it has subsided, the latter leave the ark, and God enters into a covenant with Noah and his descendants. Noah begins to cultivate the field that has been cursed during Adam's lifetime (iii:17-19 5:29), and plants a vineyard (ix:20). When, in a fit of intoxication, Noah is shamelessly treated by his son Ham, he curses the latter in the person of Ham's son Canaan, while the reverential Shem and Japheth are blessed (ix:21-27). Ch. x. contains a review of the peoples that are descended from Japheth, Ham, and Shem (down to the chief branch of the last-named), and are living dispersed over the whole earth. The dispersion was due to the "confusion of tongues," which God brought about when men attempted to build a tower that should reach up to heaven (xi:1-9). A genealogy is given of Shem's descendants in regular line, the tenth generation of whom is represented by Terah (xi:10-25).

Terah, who lives at Ur of the Chaldees, has three sons, Abram, Nahor, and Haran. Haran's son is Lot. Nahor is married to Milcah, and Abram to Sarai, who has no children (xi:26-32). God directs Abram to leave his home and kindred because He intends to bless him. Abram obeys, emigrating with his entire household and Lot, his brother's son, to the land of Canaan. Here God appears to him and promises that the land shall become the property of his descendants. Abram is forced by a famine to leave the country and go to Egypt. The King of Egypt takes possession of the beautiful Sarai (whom Abram has represented as his sister), but, smitten by God, is compelled to restore her (xii.). Abram returns to Canaan, and separates from Lot in order to put an end to disputes about pasturage, leaving to Lot the beautiful country in the valley of the Jordan near Sodom. God thereupon again appears to Abram, and again promises him the whole country (xiii.). Lot is taken prisoner during a war between Amraphel, King of Shinar, and Bera, King of Sodom, with their respective allies, whereupon Abram pursues the victors with his armed servants, liberates Lot, and seizes the booty, refusing his share of the same (xiv.). After this exploit God again appears to Abram and promises him protection, a rich reward, and, in spite of the fact that Abram still has no children, a numerous progeny. These descendants must pass four hundred years in servitude in a strange land but after God has judged their oppressors they, in the possession of great wealth, shall leave the land of their affliction, and the fourth generation shall return to the same land (xv.).

Sarai being still childless, Abram gets a son, Ishmael, by her Egyptian handmaid, Hagar (xvi.). God again appears to Abram, and enters into a personal covenant with him securing Abram's future: God promises him a numerous progeny, changes his name to "Abraham" and that of Sarai to "Sarah," and institutes the circumcision of all males as an eternal sign of the covenant. Abraham, together with his whole house, immediately fulfils the rite (xvii.). God once more appears to Abraham in the person of three messengers, whom Abraham receives hospitably, and who announce to him that he will have a son within a year, although he and his wife are already very old. Abraham also hears that God's messengers intend to execute judgment upon the wicked inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, whereupon he intercedes for the sinners, and endeavors to have their fate set aside (xviii.). Two of the messengers go to Sodom, where they are hospitably received by Lot. The men of the city wish to lay shameless hands upon them, and, having thus shown that they have deserved their fate, Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed by fire and brimstone, only Lot and his two daughters being saved. The circumstances of the birth of Ammon and Moab are set forth (xix.). Abraham journeys to Gerar, the country of Abimelech. Here also he represents Sarah as his sister, and Abimelech plans to gain possession of her, but desists on being warned by God (xx.).

At last the long-expected son is born, and receives the name of "Isaac." At the instance of Sarah, the boy Ishmael, together with his mother, Hagar, is driven out of the house, but they also have a great future promised to them. Abraham, during the banquet that he gives in honor of Isaac's birth, enters into a covenant with Abimelech, who confirms his right to the well Beer-sheba (xxi.).

Now that Abraham seems to have all his desires fulfilled, having even provided for the future of his son, God subjects him to the greatest trial of his faith by demanding Isaac as a sacrifice. Abraham obeys but, as he is about to lay the knife upon his son, God restrains him, promising him numberless descendants. On the death of Sarah Abraham acquires Machpelah for a family tomb (xxiii.). Then he sends his servant to Mesopotamia, Nahor's home, to find among his relations a wife for Isaac and Rebekah, Nahor's granddaughter, is chosen (xxiv.). Other children are born to Abraham by another wife, Keturah, among whose descendants are the Midianites and he dies in a prosperous old age (xxv:1-18).

After being married for twenty years Rebekah has twins by Isaac: Esau, who becomes a hunter, and Jacob, who becomes a herdsman. Jacob persuades Esau to sell him his birthright, for which the latter does not care (xxv:19-34) notwithstanding this bargain, God appears to Isaac and repeats the promises given to Abraham. His wife, whom he represents as his sister, is endangered in the country of the Philistines, but King Abimelech himself averts disaster. In spite of the hostility of Abimelech's people, Isaac is fortunate in all his undertakings in that country, especially in digging wells. God appears to him at Beer-sheba, encourages him, and promises him blessings and numerous descendants and Abimelech enters into a covenant with him at the same place. Esau marries Canaanite women, to the regret of his parents (xxvi.). Rebekah persuades Jacob to dress himself as Esau, and thus obtain from his senile father the blessing intended for Esau (xxvii.). To escape his brother's vengeance, Jacob is sent to relations in Haran, being charged by Isaac to find a wife there. On the way God appears to him at night, promising protection and aid for himself and the land for his numerous descendants (xxviii.). Arrived at Haran, Jacob hires himself to Laban, his mother's brother, on condition that, after having served for seven years as herdsman, he shall have for wife the younger daughter, Rachel, with whom he is in love. At the end of this period Laban gives him the elder daughter, Leah Jacob therefore serves another seven years for Rachel, and after that six years more for cattle. In the meantime Leah bears him Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah by Rachel's maid Bilhah he has Dan and Naphtali by Zilpah, Leah's maid, Gad and Asher then, by Leah again, Issachar, Zebulun, and Dinah and finally, by Rachel, Joseph. He also acquires much wealth in flocks (xxix.-xxx.).

In fear of Laban, Jacob flees with his family and all his possessions, but becomes reconciled with Laban, who overtakes him (xxxi.). On approaching his home he is in fear of Esau, to whom he sends presents and with the worst apprehensions he turns at night to God in prayer. An angel of God appears to Jacob, is vanquished in wrestling, and announces to him that he shall bear the name "Israel," i.e. , "the combatant of God" (xxxii.). The meeting with Esau proves a friendly one, and the brothers separate reconciled. Jacob settles at Shalem (xxxiii.). His sons Simeon and Levi take bloody vengeance on the city of Shechem, whose prince has dishonored their sister Dinah (xxxiv.). Jacob moves to Beth-el, where God bestows upon him the promised name of "Israel," and repeats His other promises. On the road from Beth-el Rachel gives birth to a son, Benjamin, and dies (xxxv.). A genealogy of Esau and the inhabitants and rulers of his country, Edom, is given in ch. xxxvi.

Joseph, Jacob's favorite, is hated by his brothers on account of his dreams prognosticating his future dominion, and on the advice of Judah is secretly sold to a caravan of Ishmaelitic merchants going to Egypt. His brothers tell their father that a wild animal has devoured Joseph (xxxvii.). Joseph, carried to Egypt, is there sold as a slave to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh's officials. He gains his master's confidence but when the latter's wife, unable to seduce him, accuses him falsely, he is cast into prison (xxxix.). Here he correctly interprets the dreams of two of his fellow prisoners, the king's butler and baker (xl.). When Pharaoh is troubled by dreams that no one is able to interpret, the butler draws attention to Joseph. The latter is thereupon brought before Pharaoh, whose dreams he interprets to mean that seven years of abundance will be followed by seven years of famine. He advises the king to make provision accordingly, and is empowered to take the necessary steps, being appointed second in the kingdom. Joseph marries Asenath, the daughter of the priest Poti-pherah, by whom he has two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim (xli.).

When the famine comes it is felt even in Canaan and Jacob sends his sons to Egypt to buy corn. The brothers appear before Joseph, who recognizes them, but does not discover himself. After having proved them on this and on a second journey, and they having shown themselves so fearful and penitent that Judah even offers himself as slave, Joseph reveals his identity, forgives his brothers the wrong they did him, and promises to settle in Egypt both them and his father (xlii.-xlv.). Jacob brings his whole family, numbering 66 persons, to Egypt, this making, inclusive of Joseph and his sons and himself, 70 persons. Pharaoh receives them amicably and assigns to them the land of Goshen (xlvi.-xlvii.). When Jacob feels the approach of death he sends for Joseph and his sons, and receives Ephraim and Manasseh among his own sons (xlviii.). Then he calls his sons to his bedside and reveals their future to them (xlix.). Jacob dies, and is solemnly interred in the family tomb at Machpelah. Joseph lives to see his great-grandchildren, and on his death-bed he exhorts his brethren, if God should remember them and lead them out of the country, to take his bones with them (1.).

Aim of Work.
V05p601001.jpgIlluminated Page of Genesis .(From a manuscript formerly in the possession of the Duke of Sussex.)In the choice, connection, and presentation of his material the narrator has followed certain principles incident to the purpose and scope of his work. Although he adopts the universal view-point of history, beginning with the Creation and giving a review of the entire human race, he yet intends to deal particularly with Israel, the people subsequently chosen by God, and to give an account of its origin and of its election, which is based on its religious and moral character. His chief point of view, therefore, is that of narrator of tribal and religious history and only the details that bear on this history are reported.

It is his primary intention to show that the people of Israel are descended in a direct line from Adam, the first man created by God, through legitimate marriages in conformity with Israelitish moral ideals, i.e. , monandric marriages. Offshoots branch from this main line at central points represented by Adam, Noah, Shem, Eber, Abraham, and Isaac, though their subsequent legitimacy can not be guaranteed. Linguistically the descent from the main line is always indicated by the word , vouching for the paternity while descent in a branch line is indicated by . This is the explanation of the interchange of these two words, a phenomenon which has never yet been correctly interpreted. The line branching off at any one central point is always fully treated before the next member of the main line is mentioned. Only such matters are related in regard to the branch lines as are important for the history of humanity or that of Israel. No fact is ever introduced merely on account of its historical or antiquarian value. In the main line the interest is concentrated upon the promised, long-expected generations of Isaac— Jacob, his sons and grandsons— who safely pass through all dangers and tribulations, emphasis being laid on their religious and moral character.

The events are related in definite chronological order, the chief dates being as follows:

Event. Year of Creation.
Adam dies 930
"Noah is born, the first birth after Adam's death 1056
The Flood 1656
Birth of Abraham 1948
Noah's death at the age of 930 2006
Abraham goes to Canaan 2023
Birth of Ishmael 2034
Birth of Isaac 2048
Death of Terah at the age of 205 2083
Death of Sarah at the age of 127 2085
Isaac marries Rebekah 2088
Birth of Esau and Jacob 2108
Death of Abraham, aged 175 2123
Death of Shem at the age of 600 2158
Ishmael dies at the age of 137 2171
Death of Eber at the age of 464 2181
Jacob marries Leah and Rachel 2192
Birth of Joseph 2199
Joseph is sold 2216
Death of Isaac at the age of 180 2228
Jacob and his family go to Egypt 2238
Death of Jacob at the age of 147 2255
Death of Joseph at the age of 110 2309
The year of the Creation is the year 3949 before the common era.

The ten generations before the Flood attain to ages varying between 777 years (Lamech) and 969 years (Methuselah), with the exception of Enoch (365 years). Those of the ten generations after the Flood vary between 600 years (Shem) and 148 (Nahor). All the reasons for the details of this chronology have not yet been discovered. Oppert has declared (in "R. E. J." 1895, and in Chronology ) that the figures are connected with ancient Babylonian chronological systems. The variations found in the Septuagint and in the Samaritan Pentateuch were introduced for certain purposes (see Jacob in "J. Q. R." 12:434 et seq. ). The correctness of the Masoretic figures, however, is evident from the context.

Anachronisms such as various critics allege are found in Genesis do not in reality exist and their assumption is based on a misunderstanding of the historiographic principles of the book. Thus the history of a generation no longer of importance is closed and the death of its last member noted, although it may not be contemporaneous with the next succeeding generation, to which the attention is then exclusively directed. This view explains the apparent contradictions between 11:32 and 11:26, 12:4 also between 25:7 and 25:26 21:5 and 25:20 35:28 (Jacob was at that time 120 years old) and 47:9 37:2, 41:46 etc. In ch. xxxiv. Dinah is not six to seven years old, nor Simeon and Levi eleven and ten respectively, but (xxxv:27, 37:1 et seq. , 33:17) each is ten years older. The events in ch. xxxviii. do not cover twenty-three years— from the sale of Joseph in his seventeenth year to the arrival of Judah's grandsons in Egypt (xlvi:12) in Joseph's fortieth year— but thirty-three years, as the words (elsewhere only in 21:22 and 1 Kings 11:29 ) refer back in this case to 33:17. The story is introduced at this point to provide a pause after ch. xxxvii.

Nor are there any repetitions or unnecessary doublets. If ch. ii. were an account of the Creation differing from that found in ch. i., nearly all the events would have been omitted it is, however, the story in detail of the creation of man, introduced by a summary of what preceded. Neither are there two accounts of the Flood in ch. vi.-ix., in which no detail is superfluous. The three accounts of the danger of Sarah and Rebekah, ch. xii., xx., and xxvi., are not repetitions, as the circumstances are different in each case and ch. xxvi. refers expressly to ch. xx. The account in 19:29 of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the rescue of Lot, is but a summary introducing the story that follows, which would not be comprehensible without 19:14,23, 28. Repeated references to the same place (Beth-el, 28:19, 35:15), or renewed attempts to explain the same name (Beer-sheba, 21:31, 26:33 comp. 30:20 et seq. ), or several names for the same person (xxvi:34, 27:46-xxxvi:2 for Esau's wives) are not contradictions. The change of Jacob's name into that of "Israel" is not narrated twice for 32:29 contains only the announcement by the messenger of God. Apparently no exegete has noted that is a parenthesis often found in prophetic speeches ("Not Jacob— thus it will be said [i.e. , in 35:10]— shall be thy name") is an impossible construction in Hebrew 32:4 et seq. and 33:1 et seq. do not prove, contrary to 36:6-7, that Esau was living at Seir before Jacob's return. The account of the sale of Joseph as found in 37:1-25,28, 29-36 xl. 1 et seq. does not contradict 37:25-27,28 xxxix. for the Midianites were the middlemen between the brothers and the Ishmaelites, on the one hand, and between the latter and Potiphar, on the other. Potiphar is a different person from the overseer of the prison and Joseph could very well say that he had been stolen, i.e. , that he had been put out of the way (xl. 15).

It is the purpose of the book, on its religious as well as its historic side, to portray the relation of God to humanity and the behavior of the latter toward Him His gracious guidance of the history of the Patriarchs, and the promises given to them their faith in Him in spite of all dangers, tribulations, and temptations and, finally, the religious and moral contrasts with Hamitic (Egyptian and Canaanite) behavior.

Religion of Genesis.
Being a historical narrative, no formal explanations of its religious views are found in Genesis but the stories it contains are founded on such views, and the author furthermore looks upon history as a means of teaching religion. He is a historian only in virtue of being a theologian. He inculcates religious doctrines in the form of stories. Instead of propounding a system he describes the religious life. The book therefore contains an inexhaustible fund of ideas. The most important among these, regarding God, the Creation, humanity, and Israel's Patriarchs, may be mentioned here.

There is only one God, who has created heaven and earth (that is, the world), and has called all objects and living beings into existence by His word. The most important point of the theology of Genesis, after this fundamental fact, is the intentional variation in the name of God. It is the most striking point of the book that the same God is now called "Elohim" and now "Yhwh ." In this variation is found the key to the whole book and even to the whole Pentateuch. It is not accidental nor are the names used indifferently by the author, though the principle he follows can not be reduced to a simple formula, nor the special intention in each case be made evident.

"Yhwh " is the proper name of God (= "the Almighty" see Exodus 3:12 et seq. , 6:2), used wherever the personality of God is to be emphasized. Hence only such expressions are used in connection with "Yhwh " as convey the impression of personality, i.e. , anthropomorphisms. Eyes, ears, nose, mouth, face, hand, heart are ascribed only to "Yhwh ," never to "Elohim." These anthropomorphisms are used merely to suggest the personal life and activity of God, and are not literal personifications, as is conclusively proved by the fact that phrases which would be actual anthropomorphisms— e.g. , "God sees with His eyes" "He hears with His ears" "one sees God's face" ("head," "body," etc.)— never occur. The expression "Yhwh 's eyes" indicates divine knowledge of what may be seen through personal apperception "Yhwh 's ears," what may be heard = "God's anger" indicates the reaction of God's moral nature against evil "Yhwh 's mouth" indicates the utterances of the God who speaks personally "Yhwh 's face" indicates immediate personal intercourse with the God who is felt to be present "Yhwh 's hand" indicates His sensible manifestations of power "Yhwh 's heart" indicates His thoughts and designs. The phrase "Yhwh , a personal God," characterizes fully the use of this name. A person or a nation can have personal relations with the personal Yhwh only and only He can plan and guide the fate of either with a personal interest. Yhwh is the God of history and of the education of the human race. Only Yhwh can exact a positive attitude toward Himself, and make demands upon man that are adequate, i.e. , moral: Yhwh is the God of positive morality. A personal, inner life longing for expression can be organized into definite form and find response only if Yhwh be a personal, living God. Yhwh is the God of ritual, worship, aspiration, and love.

"Elohim" is an appellative, and the general name for the divinity, the superhuman, extramundane being, whose existence is felt by all men— a being that possesses intelligence and will, exists in the world and beyond human power, and is the final cause of all that exists and happens. " Yhwh " is concrete "Elohim" is abstract. "Yhwh " is the special," Elohim" the general, God. "Yhwh " is personal "Elohim." impersonal. Yet there is no other Elohim but Yhwh , who is "ha-Elohim" (the Elohim).

The following points may be observed in particular: (a ) "Elohim," as genitive of a person, indicates that the latter has superhuman relations (xxiii:6 similarly of an object, 28:17,22). (b ) It also indicates ideal humanity (xxxiii:10 comp. 32:29).

(c ) "Elohim" expresses the fate imposed by a higher power. The statement "A person is prosperous" is paraphrased by "Elohim is with him," which is distinctly different from "Yhwh is with him." While the former indicates objectively a person's prosperity with regard to a single event, the latter expresses the higher intentions and consecutive plans of the personal God in regard to the person in question. Abimelech says to Abraham, "Elohim is with thee in all that thou doest" (xxi:22), while he says to Isaac, " Yhwh is with thee," and "thou art now the blessed of Yhwh " (xxvi:28,29). For Abimelech had at first tried in vain to injure Isaac but later he convinced himself () that evidently () it was the Yhwh worshiped by Isaac that designedly protected and blessed the latter. Again, in 21:20: "And Elohim was with the lad" for Ishmael did not belong to the chosen line, concerning which God had special plans. Yhwh , however, is always with Israel and its heroes (xxvi:3,28 28:15 [xxxii:10,13] 46:4 Exodus 3:12 Numbers 23:21 Deuteronomy 2:7 20:1 31:8,23 Joshua 1:5,9 , 17 3:7 Judges 2:18 6:12,16 1Samuel 3:19 16:18 18:12,14 20:13 2Samuel 7:3 , 5:10 1 Kings 1:37 2 Kings 18:7 ). Particularly instructive is Jacob's vow, 28:20 et seq. , "If Elohim will be with me . . . then shall Yhwh be my Elohim." Adverse fate especially is, out of fear, euphemistically ascribed to the general Elohim, the impersonal God, rather than to Yhwh 42:28).

(d ) As "Elohim" designates the universal ruler of the world, that term is used in ch. i. in the story of the Creation but in order to designate this Elohim as the true God the word "Yhwh " is always added in the following chapters (ii., iii.). (e ) In so far as man feels himself dependent upon Elohim, whom he needs, the latter becomes his Elohim. As the term "Elohim" includes the idea of beneficent power, this relation becomes, on the part of God, that of the omnipotent patron, and, on the part of man, that of the proté gé , the one who needs protection and offers respect and obedience (xvii:7, 28:22). The same interpretation applies to "Elohim" followed by the genitive of a person. ( f ) Elohim is the religious meeting-ground between the believer in Yhwh and persons of a different faith (xiv:22 20:13 21:23 39:9 41:16,25, 28,32, 38). ( g ) "Elohim" is the appellation of God used in connection with the person who is inclined toward Yhwh , but whose faith is not yet fully developed for the one who is on the way to religion, as Melchizedek (ch. xiv.) and Abraham's servant (ch. xxiv. comp. Jethro in Exodus and Balaam in Numbers see § § 28,31). (h ) "Elohim" represents God for those whose moral perception has been blunted by sin (iii:3,5) from the mouths of the serpent and the woman instead of "Jahweh" is heard "Elohim" they desire to change the idea of a living God, who says, "Thou shalt," into a blurred concept of an impersonal and indefinite God. But the God who pronounces judgment is Yhwh (ch. ii., iii. on Cain, ch. iv. in connection with the Flood, 6:3-8 the tower of Babel, 11:5 et seq. Sodom and Gomorrah, 18:19 Er and Onan, 38:7,10). ( i ) Although the personality of Elohim is indistinct, he yet is felt to be a moral power making moral demands. The moral obligation toward him is the negative virtue of the "fear of God," the fear of murder (xx:11), unchastity (xxxix:9), injustice (xlii:18), and renunciation (xxii:12). (k ) "Elohim" also means the appearance of the Deity, and hence may be synonymous with "mal' ak." It may also designate an object of the ritual representing or symbolizing the Deity (xxxv:2).

"Elohim" is more explicitly defined by the article "ha-Elohim," i.e. , "the Elohim" or "of the Elohim," is sometimes used to identify an "Elohim" previously mentioned (xvii:18 comp. verse 17 20:6,17 comp. verse 3). The single, definite, previously mentioned appearance of an Elohim is called "ha-Elohim," being as such synonymous with "Mal' ak Yhwh " (xxii:1,3, 9,11, 15), both speaking for Yhwh (verse 16 comp. 48:15). "Ha-Elohim," when derived from "Elohim," is a preparation for " Yhwh " when derived from "Yhwh " it is a weakening of the idea of God (see § § 31 et seq. ). Although these examples do not exhaust the different uses of these two names, they are sufficient to show the author's intentions.

A rare term for "God" is "El Shaddai" (xvii:1, 28:3, 35:11, 43:13, 48:13 "Shaddai" in 49:25). The usual translation and interpretation, "Almighty," is entirely unsupported. The term, when closely examined, means "the God of faith," i.e. , the God who faithfully fulfils His promises. Perhaps it also means a God of love who is inclined to show abundant love.

God as a personal being is not only referred to in anthropomorphistic and anthropopathic terms, but He also appears to man and speaks with him. Thus He speaks with Adam and Eve, Cain, Noah, Abraham, Hagar, Abimelech, Isaac, Jacob, and Laban. But He appears only from the time of Abraham, and in different ways. An Elohim "appears" to Abimelech and Laban in a dream at night (xx:3, 31:24) a mal' ak Yhwh appears to Hagar (xvi:7 et seq. ), being called in verse 13 simply "Yhwh ." Yhwh appears to Abram (xii:7, 15:1) in a vision (xii:1,7) apparently accompanied by darkness, a pillar of smoke, and fire in xvii. Yhwh , who is subsequently called "Elohim" (verses 9,15, 19), appears, and then ascends (verse 22) in xviii. Yhwh appears in the form of three men who visit Abraham, but these speak as one Yhwh in verses 13,17, 20,26, and 33, who then leaves, while the two messengers go to Sodom. Yhwh appears to Isaac on a certain day (xxvi:2), and again that night (verse 24). Jacob is addressed in a dream by Yhwh (xxviii:12 et seq. ). In 31:3 Yhwh speaks to Jacob Jacob says (verse 11) that a mal' ak of Elohim appeared to him in a dream. In 35:9 Elohim again appears to him, in reference to the nocturnal encounter with a "man" (xxxii:14 et seq. ), and ascends (xxxv:13). In 46:2 Elohim speaks to him in a vision of the night.

Hence, the appearance of God means either a dream-vision, or the appearance of a messenger sent by God, who speaks in His name, and may therefore himself be called "Elohim of Yhwh ."

"Mal' ak of God" signifies, in the first place, the fortunate disposition of circumstances (xxiv:7,40 comp. 48:16), in which case it is parallel to "ha-Elohim," the divine guidance of human life more often, however, it denotes the "angels" ("mal' akim"), messengers of God in human shape who carry His behests to men and who seem to enter and leave heaven through a gate (xxviii:11) e.g. , "Yhwh 's messenger" (xvi:7,11 22:11,15) "Elohim's messenger" (xxi:17 in the plural, 19:1,15 28:12 32:2) or "ha-Elohim's messenger" (xxxi:11). The "man" who wrestled with Jacob likewise seems to have been a mal' ak (xxxii:25,29, 31), and the men whom Abraham entertained and who saved Lot were also mal' akim (xviii., xix.). According to the popular belief, it is disastrous to meet them (xvi:13, 32:31). On this point, more than on any other, the author seems to have followed popular ideas.

It appears from the foregoing that the conception of God found in Genesis is throughout a practical, religious one. God is treated exclusively with reference to His dealings with the world and with man, and to the interest that He takes in man's fate and behavior. He guides, educates, and punishes. He assigns to the first of mankind a habitation in Eden, sets them a task, and commands them not to do a certain thing. When they break this command He punishes them but even after that He cares for them. Although punishing the murderer Cain, He affords him protection the cruelties and unnatural sins of the generation of the Flood arouse His sorrow and anger He humiliates the pride of the men who are planning to build a tower that shall reach to heaven He utterly destroys with fire and brimstone the sinful generation of Sodom and Gomorrah. The punishments are either the natural consequences of sin— the first of mankind have robbed the earth, which had willingly offered the fruit of its trees, hence it is cursed and paralyzed, and can no longer give its fruit freely, so long as Adam is living Eve has succumbed to desire, hence she has become the slave of desire Cain has defiled the earth by murder, hence he has deprived it of its strength— or they correspond exactly to the sins e.g. , men build a tower in order to remain united, hence they are dispersed Jacob wishes to rule his brother, therefore he must humiliate himself before that brother he deceives, and is deceived in return he dresses up in a goatskin in order to obtain a blessing fraudulently, therefore he is terribly deceived and plunged in sorrow through a goatskin Judah advises the sale of Joseph as a slave, therefore he himself is forced to offer himself as a slave.

God, on the other hand, is pleased with the pious, with Enoch and Noah, and especially with Abraham's unshakable faith (xv:6) his righteousness and justice, which he recommends to his children and household (xviii:19) his implicit obedience, which is ready to make the supreme sacrifice (xxii:12,16). For Abraham's sake God saves Lot (xix:19) blesses Abraham's son Isaac (xxvi:5), his children, and his children's children protects them through all dangers prevents others from doing evil to them (xii:17, xiv., xv., 20:3, xxvi., 31:24) and leads them in a marvelous manner. He gives commands to men, and binds them to Himself by covenants and promises. They are the objects of His designs, as they are His work.

The Creation.
The entire universe is the work of God this proposition is the necessary consequence of the idea of God as found in Genesis and the Pentateuch and in the whole Bible generally. From this arises doubtless the author's belief that God created the world out of nothing. He does not say how this primal act of creation was accomplished. In the beginning the earth was a desolate watery chaos ("tohu wa bohu"), over which the spirit of God brooded, and which God divided into heaven and earth and arranged and peopled in six days. The living beings are created in an orderly sequence, proceeding from the inorganic to the organic, from the incomplete to the complete, man being the crown. In the beginning God creates light together with time and the day. The outer firmament separates the waters above and below it then when the lower waters recede the land appears the earth produces grass and trees and plants and animals are created, each "after its kind," and endowed with the faculty of propagating within their kind in their respective elements. Every organic being, therefore, is endowed with a nature of its own, which the Creator intends it to keep by pairing only with its own kind. The lights that God has fixed in the firmament serve to separate the day from the night they shall be for "signs, periods, seasons, and years," and shall give light to the earth. The sun is the greater light, that rules the day the moon is the lesser light, that rules the night.

The Creation is, in the judgment of God, good in particular, and very good in general, i.e. , fit for life, commensurate to its purpose, salutary, harmonic, and pleasing. The book expresses an optimistic satisfaction and pleasure in the world, a lively veneration for God's arrangements and the peculiar dignity of each being as determined by God. The simplicity, sublimity, depth, and moral grandeur of this story of the Creation and its superiority to every other story dealing with the subject are universally recognized.

Man, the crown of Creation, as a pair including man and woman, has been made in God's image. God forms the first man, Adam, out of earth ("adamah"). This indicates his relation to it in a manner that is fundamental for many later laws. Man is a child of the earth, from which he has been taken, and to which he shall return. It possesses for him a certain moral grandeur: he serves it it does not serve him. He must include God's creatures in the respect that it demands in general, by not exploiting them for his own selfish uses. Unlawful robbery of its gifts (as in paradise), murder, and unchastity anger it, paralyze its power and delight in producing, and defile it. God breathed the breath of life into the nostrils of man, whom He formed out of earth. Therefore that part of him that is contrasted with his corporeal nature or supplements it— his life, soul, spirit, and reason— is not, as with the animals, of earthly origin, existing in consequence of the body, but is of divine, heavenly origin. Man is "toledot" (ii:4) of heaven and earth.

The creation of man also is good, in the judgment of God the book, therefore, is cognizant of nothing that is naturally evil, within man or outside of him. After God has created man, He says: "It is not good that the man should be alone I will make him an help meet for him" (ii:18). In order that man may convince himself that there is no being similar to him among all the creatures that have been made, God brings all the animals unto Adam, that he may name them, i.e. , make clear to himself their different characteristics. Hence man, looking for a being like unto himself among the animals, finds language. God thereupon creates woman out of the rib of man, who gladly recognizes her as bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh" meaning that the mature man may and shall leave the paternal house, where he has been merely a dependent member of the family, and, urged by the longing for a sympathetic being that will supplement him, shall live with the woman of his choice, and found with her a family of his own, where the two shall be combined in an actual and a spiritual unity. In this passage the relation between man and woman is expressed, and also the nature of marriage, which is a life partnership in which one helps and supplements the other. Procreation is not its purpose, but its consequence. God has given to man, as to all living beings, the faculty of multiplying.

God gives to man dominion over the earth and over all living beings. The food of the first man consists solely of the fruits of the field, that of the animals being grass (i:29). His occupation is to cultivate and watch over the Garden of Eden (ii:15), the only restriction placed upon its enjoyment being that he shall not eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In the Garden of Eden men go naked and know no shame this feeling is aroused only after they have broken God's command, and then He makes them garments of skins to cover their nakedness.

All men on earth are descended from the first pair, Adam and Eve, and are therefore also of the image of God. This statement expresses the unity of the whole human race. Man is a created being, made in the image of God, and all men are related: these doctrines are among the most fundamental and weighty of the whole Bible.

The branch descended from Cain, the fratricide, the eldest son of the first pair, is the founder of civic and nomadic culture. The branch descended from Seth develops along religious lines: from Elohim (Seth, in 4:25) through ha-Elohim (Enoch, in 5:22) to Yhwh (Noah, in 6:8). But punishment has been made necessary on account of Adam's sin the human race must be destroyed on account of its cruelties and excesses. A new race begins with Noah and his sons, and God promises that He will neither curse the earth again, nor destroy all living beings, but that, on the contrary, "seed-time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease" (viii:22). He blesses Noah and his family, that they may multiply and fill the earth and be spiritually above the animals. He permits men to eat meat, but forbids them to eat blood, or meat with the blood thereof. God will demand the blood (life) of every man or animal that spills it. "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed" (ix:6). God enters into a covenant with Noah and his descendants, promising them that He will not again send a general flood upon the earth, and instituting the rainbow as a token thereof (ch. ix.). The God whom all the Noachidæ worship is Elohim (ix:1,7, 8,12, 16,17), Yhwh being worshiped by Shem and his descendants. All the peoples dispersed over the earth are grouped as descendants of Shem, Ham, and Japheth. The genealogy of these peoples which the author draws up in ch. x. according to the ethnographic knowledge of his time, finds no parallel in its universality, which includes all men in one bond of brotherhood. In this way have originated the peoples that shall be blessed in Abraham.

Israel's Patriarchs.
Terah, the descendant of Shem and Eber, has three sons, one of whom, Abraham, is destined by God for momentous events. He shall leave his home and God says to him: "I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee and make thy name great and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed" (xii:2-3). God often repeats the promise that Abraham's descendants shall be as numerous as the stars in heaven and as the sand on the seashore (xv:5, 22:17) that He will make him a father of many nations, and cause him to be exceedingly fruitful that kings and nations shall be descendants of him and Sarah (xvii:5,6, 16) that he shall become a great people that all nations of the earth shall be blessed in him (xviii:18, 22:18) and that his descendants shall receive the entire land of Canaan as a hereditary possession (xiii:14 et seq. , 15:7, 17:18). But before all this comes to pass Israel shall be sorely oppressed for four hundred years as servants in a strange land, after which they shall go out with rich possessions, and God shall judge their oppressors (xv:13 et seq. ). In confirmation of these promises God enters twice into a covenant with Abraham: the first time (xv:18 et seq. ) as an assurance that his descendants shall possess Canaan and the second time, before Isaac's birth, as a sign that He will be their God. In token thereof God changes Abram's and Sarai's names into "Abraham" and "Sarah" (), combining His own name with theirs, and institutes the circumcision of all the men of Abraham's household and their male descendants as an eternal sign of the covenant between Himself and Abraham. Abraham acknowledges Yhwh (xiv:22), builds altars to Him (xii:7,8 13:18) calls upon His name (xii:8, 13:4, 21:33) shows an invincible faith in His promises, whatever present circumstances may be is ready for the greatest sacrifice and proves himself, by his human virtues— his helpfulness, unselfishness, hospitality, humanity, uprightness, dignity, and love of peace— worthy of divine guidance.

Of Abraham's two sons Ishmael shall be blessed, and become the father of twelve princes and the progenitor of a great people (xvi:10, 17:20, 21:18). Ishmael himself becomes an archer, lives in the wilderness, and marries an Egyptian woman (xxi:20 et seq. ). But the one to inherit the promises and the land is Isaac (xvii:21, 21:12), Sarah's son. Therefore his father chooses for him a wife from among his own relations (ch. xxiv.). God renews to him the promises given to Abraham (xxvi:3,24). Isaac is truly the son of his great father, though he has a somewhat passive nature. He also builds an altar to Yhwh , and calls upon His name (xxvi:2).

Isaac's sons are twins Esau, the elder, scorns the rights of the first-born, leaving them to Jacob (xxv:34). Esau is a hunter, whose fate it is to live by the sword and be subject to his brother, though in time he will throw off his yoke (xxvii:40). He is also called "Edom," and subsequently lives in the land of that name in the mountainous region of Seir. He is loved by his father, but Rebekah loves Jacob and when Esau marries a Canaanite woman, Isaac, deceived by a trick, blesses Jacob, who, before he sets out for Haran, receives from his father Abraham's blessing also (xxviii:4). Jacobattains to right relations with God only after mistakes, trials, and struggles. He knows Yhwh , whose hand he has seen in his father's life (xxvii:20) he recognizes Him in the divine appearance (xxviii:16) but he has not experienced God in his own life. God has not yet become his God hence he avoids the name of Yhwh so long as he is in a strange country (xxx:2 31:7,9, 42,53 32:3) but the narrator does not hesitate to say " Yhwh " (xxix:31 31:3 38:7,10), that name being also known to Laban (xxx:27,30) and his daughters (xxix:32 et seq. , 30:24). Not until a time of dire distress does Jacob find Yhwh , who becomes for him Elohim when the vow turns to a prayer. He has overcome Elohim, and himself receives another name after he has amended his ways (i.e. , has gained another God), namely, "Israel," i.e. , "warrior of God." God now gives him the same promises that were given to Abraham and Isaac (xxxv:11 et seq. ), and Jacob builds an altar to God ("El"), on which he pours a drink-offering. Similarly he brings offerings to the God of his father when he leaves Canaan to go with his family to Egypt, God promising to accompany him and to lead his descendants back in due time. Jacob finds the name of Yhwh again only on his death-bed (xlix:18).

With Jacob and his twelve sons the history of the Patriarchs is closed for the seventy persons with whom Jacob enters Egypt are the origin of the future people of Israel. God does not appear to Jacob's sons, nor does he address them. Joseph designedly avoids the appellation " Yhwh " he uses "Elohim" (xxxix:9 xl. 8 41:16,51, 53 45:5,9 48:9 1. 25 "ha-Elohim," 41:25,28, 32 42:18 [xliv:16] 45:9 and the Elohim of his father," 43:23). The narrator, on the other hand, has no reason for avoiding the word "Yhwh ," which he uses intentionally (xxxix:2,3, 5). Yhwh takes a secondary place in the consciousness of Israel while in Egypt, but becomes all-important again in the theophany of the burning bush.

The book prescribes no regulations for the religious life. The Patriarchs are represented in their family relations. Their history is a family history. The relations between husband and wife, parents and children, brother and sister, are displayed in pictures of typical truthfulness, psychologic delicacy, inimitable grace and loveliness, with an inexhaustible wealth of edifying and instructive scenes.

Scientific Criticism.
Since the time of Astruc (1753) modern criticism has held that Genesis is not a uniform work by one author, but was combined by successive editors from several sources that are themselves partly composite, and has received its present form only in the course of centuries its composition from various sources being proved by its repetitions, contradictions, and differences in conception, representation, and language. According to this view, three chief sources must be distinguished, namely, J, E, and P. (1) J, the Jahvist, is so called because he speaks of God as "Yhwh " In his work (chiefly in the primal history, ch. i.-xi., as has been asserted since Budde) several strata must be distinguished, J1 , J2 , J3 , etc. (2) E, the Elohist, is so named because down to Exodus 3 he calls God "Elohim." A redactor (R JE ) at an early date combined and fused J and E, so that these two sources can not always be definitely separated and the critics therefore differ greatly in regard to the details of this question. (3) P, or the Priestly Codex, is so called on account of the priestly manner and tendencies of the author, who also calls God "Elohim." Here again several strata must be distinguished, P1 , P2 , P3 , etc., though only P2 is found in Genesis. After another redactor, D, had combined Deuteronomy with JE, the work so composed was united with P by a final redactor, who then enlarged the whole (the sequence J, E, D, P is, however, not generally accepted). Hence the present Book of Genesis is the work of this last redactor, and was compiled more than one hundred years after Ezra. The works of J, E, and P furnished material for the entire Pentateuch (and later books), on whose origin, scope, time, and place of composition see Pentateuch .

As it would take too much space to give an account of all the attempts made to separate the sources, the analysis of only the last commentator, namely, of Holzinger, who has made a special study of this question, will be noted. In his "Einleitung zum Hexateuch" he has given a full account of the labors of his predecessors, presenting in the "Tabellen" to his work the separation into sources laid down by Dillmann, Wellhausen, Kuenen, Budde, and Cornill. The commentary by Gunkel (1901) is not original as regards the sources.

Analysis of the Sources . "a" and "b" denote respectively the first and second half of the verse α , β , γ , etc., the smaller parts * ="worked over" "s" added to a letter means that the matter contains elements belonging to R or J or E or to the latter two "f" = " and the following verse " or "verses."

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Genesis, the Book of'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901.

P2 . J. E. Redaction, Secondary Sources, and Glosses.
J1 . J2 .
i-ii 3 ii:4b-9bα , 15bβ ?, 16,17* , 18-25. ii:4a gloss or R. In ii. and iii. Rs. 2:6 transposed, 17aα * . Amplifications: 2:9bβ . 10-14,15abα , in 19, then 3:15bβ , 18b, 20 ?, 22,23b, 24.
iii:1-15bα , 17,18a, 19,21, 23a.
iv:1* ?, 2-16a, 17a, 17b?, 18-21. iv:1* ?, 17b?, 25,26. iv:1* , 16aRj.
v:1-3* , 4-19,20-24* , 25-27,28 without , 30-32. In 5:28 . v:1-3* , 20-24* .
vi:9-22. vi:1-3a, 4a* . vi:5-8. vi:3b, in 4a, 4b gloss, 7* (17 * ?), 19f.
vii:6. 11,13-16a, 17a* , 18-21 (24?). vii. If., 3b-5.. (8f.* ). 10,7,* 16b, 12,17b, 22ff. * vii:3aR, 7-10* , 16b transposed. 17a* , 22. f.* (24R?).
viii:1a, 2a, 1b (3b ?), 4f., 13a, 14-19 viii. . . . 6a, 2b, 3a, . . . 6b-12,13b, . . . 20,21aα b, 22. viii:1-3, order of R (3bR ?), 21aβ Rj.
ix:1-3,8-17,28f. ix:20-27. ix:18a, 19. ix:4-7Psalms 10 b* , 18bRJ.
x:1a, 2-7,20, 22f., 31f. x:9 (8,10-12 ?) x:10b (8,10-12 ?). 13-15,18b, 19,21, 25-30. x:16-18a JEs, 24R.
xi:10-26,27, 31,32. xi:1-9 xi. . . . 28-30.
xii. . . . 4b, 5.
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the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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