1. Author and Time of Writing
According to an old tradition, not only Genesis (also called the first book of Moses), but the whole Pentateuch (from Greek pente - five and teuchos - container for scrolls) were written by Moses. As far as Exodus to Deuteronomy is concerned, Moses was an eyewitness and partly even main character. When writing Genesis, apart from direct revelations of God (for example the report on the creation of the world in Genesis 1-2), he could possibly have referred to documents from the time of the patriarchs (for example the genealogies of Genesis 5:10-11 and 36). Under the direction of the Holy Spirit of God Moses wrote everything down. As he was a prophet, the words of 2 Peter 1:21 apply to him as well: "Holy men of God spake under the power of the Holy Spirit."
Moses lived around 1500-1400 BC. The highly developed hieroglyphic writing existed already in Egypt, as its origins can be traced back to 3000 BC. The Sumerian pictograms and the Assyrian-Babylonian cuneiform also date back that far.
The Akkadian-Sumerian and Assyrian-Babylonian "creation and flood myths" (for example the "Gilgamesh-Epic") have often been compared with the corresponding reports of the Bible, and are often considered to be their "template". But these human poetic writings, full of various "gods", are in great contrast to the simple, clear words of Holy Scripture. But they do show that these heathen peoples kept a small memory of the beginnings of the world which, in their imagination and under the influence of their idolatry, they wrote down in the form we have today. The worship of snakes, which was, and still is, spread in many idolatrous cultures in the whole world, is another example of how Satan succeeded in getting people to turn away from worshipping the one true God and draw them after himself (compare Genesis 3:1, Revelation 12:9).
The tradition that Moses is the author of the first five books of the Bible originates from the Word of God itself. The title "law" does not only refer to the commandments that Moses received at Sinai from God. Already in the Old Testament it often refers to the whole Pentateuch, the Thora, i.e., the first part of the Old Testament. Compare Joshua 1:7; 8:31; Judges 3:4; 1 Kings 2:3; 2 Chronicles 23:18; Ezra 3:2; Nehemiah 8:1; Daniel 9:11; Malachi 4:4.
The Lord Jesus confirms that Moses is the author in Luke 24:27 and 44; John 5:46-47. And Paul who often speaks of the law calls it the "law of Moses" (Romans 10:5; 1 Corinthians 9:9; Hebrews 10:28).
It becomes evident from two passages in the New Testament that the term "law" or "law of Moses" includes Genesis: 1 Corinthians 14:34 can only refer to the divine order in Genesis 2:18ff and 3:16, since the law of Sinai lacks an explicit command for women to be subject, and in Galatians 4:21ff Paul talks of the story of Ishmael and Isaac (Genesis 16 and 21). In both cases he speaks of the law.
2. Purpose of writing
Genesis (beginning, becoming) is the book of beginnings. It contains the "seed" for all the dealings of God with this world, the principles of the relationships of God with man, and in type anticipates all future revelations of God.
Genesis describes the creation of the world, the fall of the first men into sin and its consequences, but not only the curse but also the first clear pointer to the redeemer. We see God's righteousness in the judgment of the great flood, but also election of grace and the life of faith in Abraham. In the story of Isaac we see the beloved son of the father who had to be sacrificed, and in the story of Joseph and his brothers the whole way of Israel with their Messiah. In the biographies of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob we are also presented with the personal life of faith. The tent shows us that the believer is a wandering stranger in this world, who has no remaining city here, but is looking for the one to come. The altar is the picture of fellowship with the only true God and the worship that He seeks.
a. The names of God
Not only in Genesis, but in the whole Old Testament occur mainly two names of God: God (Hebrew: Elohim) and Jehovah (Hebrew JHWH: The Eternal One, probably to be pronounced Yahweh). These two names do not however, as many critics think, point to different authors or reports, which would have been compiled by later "editors", but are a proof for the divine inspiration of Scripture. Everywhere, where the omnipotence of the creator should be emphasised, we read God. But when He turns in grace to man He is called Jehovah. For example we read in Genesis 7:16, after Noah entered the ark: ".. As God had commanded him. And Jehovah shut him in."
A certain structure of Genesis can be seen in the fact that eleven times the Hebrew word "toledoth" (generations, histories) is mentioned as conclusion - or introduction - of a report. Similar stereotype statements are known from cuneiform tables from Mesopotamia. The word "toledoth" occurs in the following passages:
c. Seven biographies
Genesis contains biographies of seven believers: Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. They are important for the divisions of this book.
4. Overview of contents
I. Genesis 1-11: Ancient history
II. Genesis 12-50: The history of the Patriarchs