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Bible: The Old Testament

Genesis, Chapters 1–11

Themes, Motifs & Symbols

Genesis, Chapters 1–11, page 2

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The Book of Genesis opens the Hebrew Bible with the story of creation. God, a spirit hovering over an empty, watery void, creates the world by speaking into the darkness and calling into being light, sky, land, vegetation, and living creatures over the course of six days. Each day, he pauses to pronounce his works “good” (1:4). On the sixth day, God declares his intention to make a being in his “own image,” and he creates humankind (1:26). He fashions a man out of dust and forms a woman out of the man’s rib. God places the two people, Adam and Eve, in the idyllic garden of Eden, encouraging them to procreate and to enjoy the created world fully, and forbidding them to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

In the garden, Eve encounters a crafty serpent who convinces her to eat the tree’s forbidden fruit, assuring her that she will not suffer if she does so. Eve shares the fruit with Adam, and the two are immediately filled with shame and remorse. While walking in the garden, God discovers their disobedience. After cursing the serpent, he turns and curses the couple. Eve, he says, will be cursed to suffer painful childbirth and must submit to her husband’s authority. Adam is cursed to toil and work the ground for food. The two are subsequently banished from Eden.

Sent out into the world, Adam and Eve give birth to two sons, Cain and Abel. Cain, a farmer, offers God a portion of his crops one day as a sacrifice, only to learn that God is more pleased when Abel, a herdsman, presents God with the fattest portion of his flocks. Enraged, Cain kills his brother. God exiles Cain from his home to wander in the land east of Eden. Adam and Eve give birth to a third son, Seth. Through Seth and Cain, the human race begins to grow.

Ten generations pass, and humankind becomes more evil. God begins to lament his creation and makes plans to destroy humankind completely. However, one man, Noah, has earned God’s favor because of his blameless behavior. God speaks to Noah and promises to establish a special covenant with Noah and his family. He instructs Noah to build an ark, or boat, large enough to hold Noah’s family and pairs of every kind of living animal while God sends a great flood to destroy the earth. Noah does so, his family and the animals enter the ark, and rain falls in a deluge for forty days, submerging the earth in water for more than a year. When the waters finally recede, God calls Noah’s family out of the ark and reaffirms his covenant with Noah. Upon exiting the ark, Noah’s family finds that the earth is moist and green again. God promises that from this new fertile earth will follow an equally fertile lineage for Noah and his family. But humankind must follow certain rules to maintain this favor: humans must not eat meat with blood still in it, and anyone who murders another human must also be killed. God vows never to destroy the earth again, and he designates the rainbow to be a symbol of his covenant.

One night, Noah becomes drunk and lies naked in his tent. Ham, one of Noah’s sons, sees his naked father and tells his brothers, Shem and Japeth. Shem and Japeth cover their father without looking at him. Upon waking, Noah curses Ham’s descendants, the Canaanites, for Ham’s indiscretion, declaring that they will serve the future descendants of Ham’s brothers. A detailed genealogy of the three brothers’ descendants is given. Many generations pass and humankind again becomes corrupt. Some men, having moved west to Babylon, attempt to assert their greatness and power by building a large tower that would enable them to reach the heavens. Their arrogance angers God, who destroys the edifice. He scatters the people across the earth by confusing their common language, thus forever dividing humankind into separate nations.


The first eleven chapters of Genesis tell an authoritative story about the beginnings of the world that contains many contradictions. Scholars believe that the account is not the work of one author, but of a later editor or “redactor” who collected stories from various traditional sources into one volume. For instance, the author of the story of Cain and Abel shows a knowledge of Jewish sacrificial law that only a later writer would possess. Also, the narrator’s introduction of stories with phrases such as “This is the list of the descendants of Adam” (5:1) or “These are the descendants of Noah” (6:9) suggests these tales existed before the current writer or redactor collected them into their present form.

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not sure about the Analysis

by JEDI1016, September 01, 2012

The section that quotes 1:27-29 relies heavily on the use of the semicolon in the passage. however this is not punctuation that exists in Hebrew and would not have been in the original. in particular its not aplicable to "man and woman he created them" because the 'them' is actually singular in Hebrew and therefor should be translated "Man and woman he created it (humanity)" so its not even the same kind of binary described in the analysis.


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by GrammarJunkie18, July 11, 2013

You keep repeating that Gd appears in different forms and can be physical, while in fact the Old Testament itself says that He sent an angel, or made something appear, etc. Also, the Bible specifically says that He is not physical. In chapter 4 of Deuteronomy, Moses says to the Hebrews: "And you shall watch yourselves very well, for you did not see any image on the day that the Lord spoke to you at Horeb from the midst of the fire," then goes on to explicitly say not to make any image of Him because He doesn't have one! I just don't see how ... Read more


18 out of 31 people found this helpful

song of solomon

by pastorluke, December 22, 2013

The bible states that you are not to focus on words of no value and look at the big picture 2 Timothy 2:14
[ Dealing With False Teachers ] Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.. The reason for this was the attempted forced paganism of the church by deception. The Bible interprets itself as intended and todays false interpretations and nit picking are very troubling and indicative of corruption. Here, watch this for how the ... Read more


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