When analyzed in depth, what does Genesis 1-11 really say?
Genesis 1-11 is one of the most interesting passages of the Bible. So many questions come from trying to explain everything from creation to the flood to how nations came about. But we must remember that Genesis 1-11 is not meant to explain every possible thing since the beginning of creation.
Genesis 1-3 tells the account of creation. Genesis 1 is designed to present a poetic interpretation of how God created the universe. The key from this passage of Scripture is not to understand all of the scientific possibilities of how God made everything. Moses wrote these chapters to show that it was God who made the universe, not chance, or gods.
In Moses’ day, there were all kinds of creation narratives. Each one of them had a different take on creation and have gods of the day in different cultures were involved in creation. Many of them gave the idea that creation was an accident or a mistake.
But what Moses wrote the first three books of the Bible, he showed that a loving and caring God created the universe and humanity. We are not a mistake. We are the pinnacle of creation
While Genesis 1 presents an overall poetic view, looking at all of creation, Genesis 2 zooms in on more specific details, like creating the animals and the pinnacle of creation, humankind. It’s sometimes hard for readers to see this telescoping from big creation to small creation.
To be more specific, Genesis 1:1 starts out with the largest picture. Some people propose what is called “gap theory” between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2. Moses is going from the overall big picture Genesis 1:1 to a smaller picture throughout the rest of Genesis 1. There is no gap. There is only the zooming in from the largest picture of creation to a smaller one and how God spoke everything creation into existence from nothing.
In Genesis 2, he zooms in even further, focusing on animals and the creation of humanity. He spends time to explain that God rested on the seventh day after created for six days. Then he zooms in on the fifth and sixth days of creation
Following the Fall of Man in Genesis 3, Moses continues to elaborate on the first family of creation and their children. Cain and Abel get into a spat about who’s sacrifices are better. God prefers the sacrifices of Abel, giving Cain desire to kill his brother.
But Cain is banished from God’s plans for the earth, and Seth, the third son mentioned from Adam and Eve becomes the one who carries the godly line. We get to see both the line of Cain and the line of Seth through Genesis 4-6. These contain the genealogies that explain the family lines of Cain and Seth and the differences between these two lines.
Genesis 6 begins with some of the most curious parts of Scripture. We hear about what most scholars believe is angels marrying the daughters of men. The results of these marriages give us some of the best material for our imaginations to consider.
Whatever happened in those days of Noah, it was so bad that God decided to start over with creation. He sent the flood throughout the entire earth. He began a restart of all of his creation. Sin had become so rampant in wickedness was so devious that God started over instead of fixing the problem.
We read about Noah, the only righteous man left throughout all of the land. God commissions him to build an ark, a giant boat to house all of his creation in the animals and his family. They wait out the entire flood together and restart creation after the fund.
This makes all of creation before the time of the flood a mystery to us. People lived for hundreds of years, almost a millennium in some cases. We can’t even fathom such long life as God limited the number of human years to 120 in the best of circumstances.
This makes it much harder for us to believe the reality of what it was like to live before the flood. Many people challenge the records of Genesis for this very purpose. They consider it fictional at best. But the fact is that the world before the flood was much different than it is today. A worldwide flood had drastic effects on the planet and life as we know it.
From the time of Noah, we find out that sin and wickedness were not eradicated from our world. Through accounts like the Tower of Babel we learn that humanity still had wicked goals, like trying to reach the heavens where only God dwelt.
This is where we learned of the differences between many languages and countries. The table of nations shows us how different nations came about through different lines of Noah’s family. And at the end of Genesis 1-11, we meet a man named Abraham who will be the chosen person to start the nation that God chooses himself.
Even Christians can admit that Genesis 1-11 contains many mysteries that we will never figure out this side of heaven. But just because we don’t understand everything written within these pages of Scripture doesn’t mean we can’t trust that God is telling the truth about everything that happened in prehistory. Moses uses reliable sources as he writes these chapters of the Bible for us.
Sources like the genealogies and the table of nations, along with strong oral tradition, are reliable and acceptable resources at the time of Moses’ writing. Beyond this, anyone who believes in the Scriptures as a Christian understands that Moses wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and God does not lie (Numbers 23:19).
So what do we get out of reading these first eleven chapters of the Bible? I think one of the most important theological takeaways from this section of Scripture is that no matter what God did, evil continued upon the earth. Even after trying to restart creation, evil is pervasive enough to show up again.
Sin is dangerous. It never stops. No matter what we do, we cannot stop sin on our own. Willpower is not enough. We need the power of the Holy Spirit and God’s help to resist temptation and sin.
Another take away is that God will have to do something more drastic than re-creating earth. He will have to send his one and only Son to pay the ultimate penalty of death and substituted himself in our place to save humanity from sin and wickedness. Nothing else will work.
This foundation is laid Abraham’s account. Through him God chooses a nation from which to bring forth the promised Messiah, his Son Jesus, who can forgive sins and bring humanity back into relationship with God, as Adam and Eve do in the garden of Eden when they walked with him in the cool of the day (Genesis 3:8).
These eleven chapters lay the foundation for God’s desire to dwell with his creation, with us. Throughout history he has intervened for the sole purpose of knowing us as his creation and dwelling with us forever.
Genesis 1-11 tell the accounts of how God does everything possible to maintain relationship with humanity despite sins effects. With every step, he is moving toward redemption of his creation. He is not a God far off who does not care about us. He wants to know us and he wants us to know him.