While Exodus–Deuteronomy details Israel’s calling as a holy nation (Exod 19:5–6), Genesis clarifies the global context of that calling and the hope of a royal Deliverer. Accordingly, it describes the initial two KINGDOM stages: Kickoff and Rebellion (creation, fall, flood) and Instrument of Blessing (the patriarchs). It also details the initial two biblical covenants: the Adamic/Noahic and the Abrahamic covenants.
This post provides a case study in interpreting Genesis through the light and lens of Christ. As summarized in table 6.1, the previous two blog posts overviewed seven possible ways to treasure Christ in the OT.
|1. Consider the OT’s salvation-historical trajectories.|
|2. See the OT’ direct messianic predictions.|
|3. Recognize similarities and contrasts within salvation history.|
|4. Identify OT types.|
|5. Revel in Yahweh’s identity and activity.|
|6. Observe the OT’s ethical ideals.|
|7. Use the OT to instruct others.|
Genesis opens with a preface in 1:1–2:3. It then comprises ten units headed by the phrase “the generations of,” which are grouped into five larger units, given the fronting of the Hebrew word for “and” (see table 1).
|1||Preface. Biblical worldview foundations (1:1-2:3)|
|2||i||These are the generations of the heavens and the earth (2:4-4:26)||N(+LG/SG)|
|3A||ii||This is the book of the generations of Adam (5:1-6:8)||LG(+N)|
|iii||These are the generations of Noah(6:9-9:29)
And these are the generations of Noah’s Sons(10:1-11:9)
|3B||iv||These are the generations of Shem (11:10-26)
And these are the generations of Terah (11:27-25:11)
And these are the generations of Ishmael (25:12-18)
And these are the generations of Isaac (25:19-35:29)
And these are the generations of Esau (36:1-8,9-37:1)
|v||These are the generations of Jacob (37:2-50:26)||N(+SG+N)|
*KEY: N = Narrative; LG = Linear Genealogy; SG = Segmented Genealogy
The first of these “generations” units has the only heading that does not include a human name (2:4); both this and the context suggest that the ensuing section (2:4–4:26) introduces the redemptive story that follows. As table 6.3 shows, this section also clarifies the world’s need for blessing, as it details humanity’s covenantal purpose (2:4–25); humanity’s sin, God’s curse, and its aftermath (3:1–4:26); and Yahweh’s promise of a curse-overcoming offspring (3:15).
After this, two genealogies (5:1–6:8; 11:10–26) introduce two parallel units that develop the world’s hope for blessing (5:1–11:9; 11:10–50:26). Part one reports the kingdom hope from Adam to Noah (5:1–6:8) and then describes how Yahweh protected the promised line and renewed his covenant with creation in the wake of the flood (6:9–11:9). Part two documents the perpetuation of kingdom hope from Shem to Terah and clarifies how God will use Abraham and his offspring to bless the nations (11:10–37:1). It then closes with a recounting of the promised line’s preservation in Egypt, while also developing the hope for a royal Deliverer (37:2–50:26).
|I.||Preface – God’s Blessing-Commission (1:1-2:3):God Purposes that Humanity Rule His World as His Image-Bearers|
|II.||The Need for Blessing (2:4-4:26): Humanity Rebels and God Curses the World Yet Promises a Curse-Overcoming Offspring|
|III.||The Hope for Blessing (5:1-50:26): God Preserves Humanity and Provides a Way for the World to Enjoy Kingdom Blessing
A. God Reaffirms Humanity’s Blessing-Commission (5:1-11:9)
B. God Declares How His Kingdom Blessing Will Reach the World (11:10-50:26)
Preface (Gen 1:1-2:3)
At creation’s climax, God shapes humans in his image (1:26–27) and charges them to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion” (1:28). From the start, God’s covenant with creation stresses the themes of progeny, property, and power, all themes that resurface in Scripture’s covenantal progression culminating in Christ. The narrator characterizes the commission as a blessing, meaning that humankind would only increase and rule as God’s representatives if he empowered them to do so.
Way 5: Revel in Yahweh’s Identity and Activity
God’s role as Creator (Gen 1:1) allows us to see and celebrate Christ, who was “in the beginning with God” and without whom “was not anything made that was made” (John 1:2-3; cf. Col 1:16).
The Heavens and the Earth’s Generations (Gen 2:4-4:26)
Yahweh set the first man as head over his creation (2:15–17) and then provided him a wife from his own body (2:21–25). When Adam rebelled (3:1–6), he secured his own death and the death of those he represented (2:17; Rom 5:12). He also transferred the world’s rule to the evil serpent (1 John 5:19). A new “Adam” figure, operating as a new covenantal head, would be the only one to reverse such a curse (Rom 5:18–19).
Way 4: Identity OT Types
Paul notes that Adam “was a type of the one to come… For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous”(Rom 5:14,19).
God subjected creation to “futility,” but he did so “in hope” (8:20), for when he cursed the serpent, he promised: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Gen 3:15). The singular pronoun “he” here indicates the “offspring” is a male individual, who would triumph over the evil serpent, thus reversing the curse and bringing new creation.1
Way 2: See the OT’s direct messianic predictions
Genesis 3:15 is direct messianic prophecy anticipating Christ, and Revelation 12:1-6,17 recalls the verse with respect to Jesus.
Adam’s Generations and Those of Noah and His Sons (Gen 5:1–11:9)
The genealogy from Adam to Noah highlights how God was preserving the “living,” whose hope was in the one to come. In typological foreshadowing of Genesis 3:15’s fulfillment, Lamech declared that his son Noah would overcome the curse (5:29). Through Noah, God preserved a remnant (8:14–19) and reaffirmed his blessing-commission and covenant with creation (9:1, 7, 9–17). By substitutionary atonement (8:20–22), which anticipated Christ’s saving work, Yahweh purchased common grace for all (Matt 5:45).
Way 4: Identity OT Types
Along with being the “last Adam” (1 Cor 15:45), Christ is the antitypical human, who perfectly images God (2 Cor 4:4; Col 1:15).
Following the flood, evil intentions led humans to rebel again (Gen 11:1–6). So, Yahweh confused their languages and dispersed them throughout the earth (11:7–9). Specifically, those dispersed were the “clans/families” of Shem, Ham, and Japheth, which together became seventy “nations” (10:32; 11:7–9). Yahweh would incorporate a remnant of these “families” (12:3; 28:14) and “nations” (18:18; 22:18; 26:4) into his global purposes.
Way 7: Use the OT to instruct others
The “Noah walked with God” and “was a righteous man, blameless in his generation” (Gen 6:8-9) magnifies Christ as the one whose sanctifying power made even Old Testament justified saints holy, thus providing us an example (He 11:7).
The Generations of Shem, Terah, Ishmael, Isaac, and Esau, as well as Jacob (Gen 11:10–50:26)
Shem’s and Terah’s Generations (Gen 11:10–26; 11:27–25:11)
The heading “the generations of Shem” (11:10) recalls Shem’s elevation among his brothers in Yahweh’s kingdom program (9:26–27), and Shem’s genealogy to Terah again highlights how Yahweh preserved people in every generation who hoped in the coming offspring (11:10–26). The progenitor in the next “generations” heading is Terah (11:27), because Moses wanted to devote much of the next section to the story of Abram, later named Abraham.
The plot develops significantly when Yahweh commissions Abram to “go” to Canaan and there “be a blessing.” As table 6.4 shows, these two coordinated commands (12:1b, 2d) are each followed by one or more conditional promises (12:2abc, 3ab), and the second command-promise unit includes the ultimate promissory result: global blessing (12:3c). The two units indicate how God would reverse the punishments of property and progeny promised in Genesis 3:14–19.2
Way 1: Consider the OT’s salvation-historical trajectories
Through the two commands “Go!” and “Be a blessing!” in Genesis 12:1-3, Yahweh sets a salvation-historical trajectory that moves through Abraham’s behing a father of one nation ( = old covenant, Gen 17:7-8) to Christ’s saving work that makes Abraham the father of many nations ( = new covenant, 17:4-6).
|And Yahweh said to Abram,||1|
|Phase 1: Realized in the Mosaic Covenant|
|Go from your land and your kindred and your father’s house to the lad that I will show you,”||b|
|so that I may make you into a great nation,||2|
|and may bless you,||b|
|and may make your name great.||c|
|Phase 2: Realized in the New Covenant|
“Then be a blessing,
|so that I may bless those who bless you,||3|
|but him who dishonors you I will curse,||b|
|with the result that in you all the families of the ground may be blessed.||c|
Table 6.4. The Structure of Genesis 12:1–3 (Author’s Translation)
The two units also foresee two major phases in God’s saving drama. Phase one relates to Abraham fathering a nation centered in Canaan. Yahweh would fulfill this through the Mosaic covenant (15:13, 18; 17:8). Phase two would occur when Abraham’s representative blessed the families Yahweh dispersed (12:2d–3). This would happen only when Abraham’s offspring perfectly obeyed (18:18–19)—something realized only through Abraham’s ultimate offspring who blesses the world (Gal 3:14, 16, 29). Jesus does this through his perfect life, culminating in his death and resurrection (Phil 2:8; 1 Pet 2:22).
Way 6: Observe the OT’s ethical ideals
“Righteousness” was the ethical goal of law keeping (Deut 6:25). Yet God Cridits righteousness to Abraham by faith apart from works (Gen 15:16), thus justifying the ungodly (Rom 4:5) based on Christ’s perfect righteousness, which leads to “justification and life for all men” (5:18; cf. 3:21-26).
Through Isaac God would affirm his covenant and name the promised offspring (17:19, 21; 21:12). This one would serve as Abraham’s greater “son,” through whom, by his substitutionary sacrifice, “the LORD will provide” pardon for many (22:13–14; cf. Rom 8:32). By becoming numerous, this singular “offspring” will conquer his enemies’ gate (Gen 22:17; 24:60; cf. 26:3) and stand as the one in whom all nations count themselves blessed (22:18; cf. 26:4), thus expanding the patriarch’s fatherhood (17:4). Upon Abraham’s death, Yahweh blessed Isaac (25:11).
Way 4: Identity OT Types
Way 2: See the OT’s direct messianic predictions
The account of Abraham’s near sacrifice of Isaac and Yahweh’s response in Genesis 22:1-19 typologically anticipates God sacrificially giving his own Son for us all (Gen 22:2; Rom 8:32) and directly predicts Abraham’s individual offspring, Christ (Gen 22:17-18), who would possess enemy gates (Matt 16:18) and in whom the nations would regard themselves blessed (Gal 3:8, 16,29; cf. Acts 3:25-26).
Ishmael’s, Isaac’s, and Esau’s Generations (Gen 25:12–18; 25:19–35:29; 36:1–37:1)
At this point, the narrative includes a genealogy devoted to “the generations of Ishmael” (25:12–18), whom Hagar bore to Abraham and whom Yahweh said would become a great nation but not as the agent of his covenant (22:20–21). His descendants represent those living under a curse, in need of the blessing Abraham’s offspring would supply.
With the narrative associated with “the generations of Isaac” (25:19–35:29), Yahweh reaffirmed and developed his patriarchal promises. Rebekah’s twins would be rival nations/peoples, with the older serving the younger (25:23)—something soon realized when the elder Esau sold his birthright to Jacob (25:29–34). Furthermore, in commissioning Isaac to sojourn in the “land” (singular), God promised his presence and blessing, which would include the promised offspring inheriting “lands” (plural; 26:3–4). Quoting this exact promise, Paul identified Christ as the “offspring” that blesses the world (Gal 3:16, 29).
Way 3: Recognize similarities and contrasts within salvation history
The continuity and discontinuity between the “land” (singular, Gen 12:1-2; 15:18; cf Joshua 21:43; 1 Kings 4:21) and “lands” (plurar, Gen 26:3-4; Rom 4:13) magnifies Christ as the one in whom this redemptive-historical development happens, culminating in the new heavens and earth.
Lastly, we learn of Rachel and Isaac’s deaths just before two genealogies associated with “the generations of Esau,” the content of which, again, details those surrounding Israel who needed Yahweh’s blessing (36:1–37:1).
Jacob’s Generations (Gen 37:2–50:26)
The book’s final chapters are devoted to “the generations of Jacob” (37:2–50:26), recording the preservation of Jacob’s twelve sons and their descendants, who would become the nation of Israel and through whom the promised Deliverer would rise. While Joseph is the eleventh born son, his father treats him as the firstborn (37:3–4), and the narrative anticipates his rise above his brothers (37:5–11). Yet his brothers sell him into slavery (37:28).
After a brief interlude on Judah’s offspring (chap. 38), the narrative returns to Joseph, who moves from Egyptian prisoner to second in command (39:1–41:40). Yahweh uses him to preserve life during a famine (45:5, 7). Once his family secured refuge in Egypt (47:26–27), Jacob declared Yahweh’s special blessing of Joseph’s offspring (49:22–26). Concerning Judah, though, he also declared that kingship would remain in his line until the promised one comes (49:8–12). Joseph would retain the blessing of the firstborn, then, but Judah would be the one through whom the offspring-Deliverer would rise “in the last days” (49:1).
Way 2: See the OT’s direct messianic predictions
Yahweh’s promis that “the scepter shall not depart from Judah” and that a king would rise to whom “shall be the obedience of the peoples” (Gen 49:10) directly predicts the rise of Jesus Christ, who is “the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matt 1:1), who will reign on “the throne of his father David,” and whose “kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:32-33).
Read within its close, continuing, and complete contexts, Genesis details gospel hope climaxing in Christ. Its main idea is this: Despite humanity’s losing the blessing of eternally reigning over a very good world as God’s image bearers, Yahweh will restore this blessing to all nations when they place their faith in the woman’s royal offspring, who will descend from Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Judah, crush the serpent, and claim all lands. In short, Genesis is Christian Scripture in which we can see and celebrate the Messiah and the gospel’s hope. Observing and evaluating other OT books carefully should allow prayerful Christians to enjoy similar results.
1C. John Collins, “A Syntactical Note (Genesis 3:15): Is the Woman’s Seed Singular or Plural?,” Tyndale Bulletin 48.1 (1997): 139–48.
2James M. Hamilton Jr., “The Seed of the Woman and the Blessing of Abraham,” Tyndale Bulletin 58.2 (2007): 253–73.
This blog series summarizes Jason S. DeRouchie’s forthcoming book, Delighting in the Old Testament: Through Christ and for Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2024). You can pre-order your copy here.