Background Information for Genesis

5 background info (2)

 AUTHOR: Moses


DATE: Overall, Genesis fits the treaty format dating from 1400–1200 BC.

The records of agreements which Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob made with rulers close to them follow the treaty format during 1800–1700 BC.

This suggests that Moses used older writings passed down from father to son. We cannot place a date on even older events which Moses reported in Gen 1–11.


TYPE OF BOOK: Mainly narrative (a historical story) with some poetry and prophecy. Gen 1 is considered “poetic narrative” because it is a story with some features of Hebrew poetry.


PURPOSE: After generations of slavery, these Jews needed to know the history of their ancestors as people chosen by God.

In an ancient treaty format, Genesis functions as the historical background to the covenant God made with the nation of Israel.

It says, “This is what I have done for your people, so you must obey my agreement with you.”


MAIN CHARACTERS: Adam, Eve, Cain, Abel, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph.


ORIGINAL RECIPIENTS: Israelites freed from slavery in Egypt.

This person called Ahira is not in the Bible. I made him and his wife up to help you understand life in their time:

“Allow me to tell you a little more about myself. My name is Ahira. I was born as a Hebrew slave into a family of woodworkers in Egypt. My master taught me everything he knew.

“One day, the pharaoh saw a table I made and took me from my master. Working close to the palace, I got to know Elisheba, a Hebrew woman who wove colorful cloth for the pharaoh.

“On our wedding day, Ramesses saw her beauty and took Elisheba for his own. I tried to fight, but his guards hit me until they thought I was dead. My first master sent some slaves to find me, probably because I was his best worker. It took me a long time to heal.

“After God saved us from Egypt, I looked everywhere for Elisheba. Finally, I met another woman Ramesses had taken. When she told me that my wife died while giving birth to pharaoh’s child, I fell to the ground.

“While we were staying by Mount Sinai, God commanded Moses to build and furnish a tabernacle for him to live among us (Exod 25:8–9).

“When Moses called for skilled people, I offered to help to thank God for getting us out of Egypt. The chief artist chose me to do the woodwork which he would cover with gold (Exod 35:4–19).

“During the year that we worked, Moses spent a lot of time putting together all the ancient records which the leaders of Israel gave to him.

“Once it was on one scroll, he called us to come to the foot of Mount Sinai. There he taught us about God and our ancestors. Here is what I remember about what Moses read:

Image via Wikimedia Commons This ancient Egyptian statue is of a Hebrew slave.


Read An Early Israelite View: Gen 1–2:3


Return to Chapter 5: An Early Israelite View of Genesis


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