Genesis

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Home > The Old Testament > Genesis

Subpages: Chapters 1-11b  •  11c-25a  •  25b-35  •  36-50

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Summary[edit]

This section should be very brief. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

Relationship to Old Testament. The relationship of Genesis to even larger blocks of text is discussed at Organization and Overview of the Old Testament and Five Books of Moses.

Story. Genesis is the first book of the Old Testament. It explains the origin of the world, of mankind, and of the House of Israel as the Lord's covenant people. Genesis consists of a series of four "cycles" or collections of stories:

  • Chapters 1-11b: Adam-Noah cycle. God creates the world. God creates mankind, male and female, in his own image. How mankind came to occupy its current position in the world through the Fall. God establishes covenants with all of mankind through their father Adam, and then through their father Noah.
  • Chapters 11c-25a: Abraham cycle. Explains the origin of God's special covenant with Abraham. The birthright blessing under the Abrahamic Covenant then passes to the younger son Isaac, while the older son Ishmael is cast out.
  • Chapters 25b-35: Jacob cycle. The birthright blessing under the Abrahamic Covenant is disdained by the older brother Esau and passes to the younger brother Jacob who fervently seeks it. While Jacob obtains the birthright blessing from his father Isaac through trickery, the Abrahamic Covenant is confirmed with Jacob by God himself.
  • Chapters 36-50: Joseph cycle. Joseph ends the pattern of older brothers separating themselves from the younger brother who enjoys the birthright blessing under the Abrahamic Covenant. Joseph saves his father Jacob's house temporally at the time of a great famine by gathering them to Egypt, thus creating the House of Israel. This gathering also saves the House of Israel spiritually by collecting the entire family into a single people so that all of Jacob's descendants, including all of Joseph's as well, will share in the blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant. While his brothers do bow down to him as heir of the birthright, he gathers and nourishes his brothers rather than casting them out or allowing them to wander away.

Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Genesis include:

  • Origin of the House of Israel. Genesis can be usefully understood as not a history of the origin of the world and of mankind in general, but as a history of the origin of a family (the House of Israel) and as a statement of the historical justification for that family's claim to be God's chosen people.
  • The Abrahamic Covenant. Genesis emphasizes both the content of the Abrahamic Covenant and its passing from Abraham to Isaac to Jacob (Israel).
  • Other blessings and covenants. The Abrahamic Covenant has center stage in Genesis, in large part because it is the covenant that distinguishes Israel as a people from all other peoples. But Genesis also records several other significant blessings and covenants.
  • Favoring younger sons over older siblings. The cultural setting of Genesis clearly favors inheritance by the oldest son. The birthright blessing nevertheless passes repeatedly to younger sons Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Ephraim. This favor is sometimes shown by the younger son's father, sometimes by God, and sometimes by both.
  • Marriage within a preferred group. Great importance is placed upon marrying with a preferred family group, as seen in the lives of Isaac and of Esau and Jacob. This emphasis will continue through much of later Israelite history.
  • God's direct interaction with mankind. God frequently interacts directly with mankind throughout the book of Genesis: with Adam & Eve, Cain, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.

Historical setting[edit]

This section should be brief and explain facts about the historical setting that will help a reader to understand the book. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

Purposes of this historical overview section include: (1) providing a sense of how much the lives of the patriarchs overlapped, something that is often not apparent from the way in which narrative text is divided up; and (2) providing chronological anchor points that are both verifiable and internally consistent for use when working on subpages. The historical data on this page for events prior to Abraham is merely a summary that relies upon the detailed discussion and documentation at Chapter 5-6a and Chapter 10-11a. Another detailed account from Adam to Abraham that incorporates modern revelation is located at Moses. A broader treatment of the history of ancient Israel, including Genesis, is found at Old Testament: Historical Overview.

The period from the Fall to the death of Joseph in Egypt roughly corresponds to 4000 BC to 1700 BC. There is no consensus, however, about the exact dating of events during that period.[1] To sidestep this difficulty, dates on the wiki pages addressing Genesis generally: (1) count time forward from the fall of Adam and Eve rather than trying to count backward in years BC through the period of the judges and the sojourn in Egypt; and (2) do so according to the information provided in Genesis rather than the JST.

Genesis recounts the history of the world beginning with the Creation and continuing up through the establishment of the House of Israel, or through 24 generations from about 4000 BC to about 1700 BC.

The Creation and the Fall

Genesis 1-3 recounts the creation of the world in seven creative periods, the placement of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and the Fall. There is no consensus about how long it takes for any of these events to occur.

Adam to Noah: Generations 1-10

The Fall of Adam and Eve occurs at the beginning of mankind's temporal existence upon the earth, counted here as Year 0 (Chapter 2-3). Adam lives to age 930, which is typical for the natural age of men prior to the flood (Chapter 5-6a).

In Generation 2 Adam and Eve's wicked son Cain murders their righteous son Abel. Later they have another righteous son, Seth (130-1042), who is identified as a replacement for Abel (Chapter 4).

Generation 7 is the only other generation prior the flood about which we have much information. Righteous Seth's descendant in Generation 7, Enoch (622-987), walks with God and is taken by God (Chapter 5-6a). In contrast, wicked Cain's descendant in Generation 7, Lamech, is another murderer (Chapter 4).

Enoch's son Methuselah (Generation 8) lives to the age of 969, dying in 1656, the same year as the flood. There is nothing to indicate whether Methuselah dies because of the flood or shortly before it occurs. Methuselah's son Lamech (Generation 9, not the descendant of Cain) lives only to the age of 777, dying in 1651 five years before the flood (Chapter 5-6a).

Noah (Generation 10) is born in 1056, only about a hundred years after Adam dies and Enoch is taken by God. While Noah's ancestors all had birthright sons when between the ages of 65-187, Noah does not have any sons until about age 500. By this time his father Lamech and grandfather Methuselah are both well advanced in years (Chapter 5-6a).

Noah to Abraham: Generations 10-20

The flood occurs in 1656 when Noah is 600 (Gen 7:6). Noah's three sons are then about a hundred years old (Gen 5:32; Gen 11:10).

After the flood, the natural lifespan of mankind rapidly decreases from more than 900 years to less than 200 years. When Abraham (Generation 20) is born in 1948, all of his male ancestors back to and including Noah are still alive. But in spite of the great difference in their ages, most die during Abraham's lifetime, and at Abraham's death in 2123 only two, Shem (Generation 11) and Eber (Generation 14), will outlive him by more than another five years. Eber, the last of Abraham's fathers, will die in 2187 at age 464. (Chapter 11b).

The non-birthright genealogical information for the descendants of Noah emphasizes the mighty king Nimrod (Generation 13) and says that the beginning of his kingdom was Babel. While we have no specific chronological data for Nimrod, his Generation 13 peer from the birthright line, Salah, was born only 37 years after the flood in 1693 and lived for 433 years until 2126, three years after the death of Abraham (Gen 11:12, 15). Moreover, while a connection between Nimrod and the Tower of Babel incident can be reasonably inferred, the connection is not explicit. It is thus difficult to conclude anything more specific than that language was probably confounded at the Tower of Babel before Abraham was born in 1948, but perhaps at least fifty or a hundred years after the flood in 1656 (Chapter 10-11a).

The Jaredites left from the Tower of Babel for America shortly before language was confounded, likely some time between about 1750 and 1900.

Abraham to Joseph: Generations 20-23

The last three quarters of Genesis deals with only four generations: Abraham (Chapters 11c-25a); Isaac; Jacob (Chapters 25b-35); and Joseph (Chapters 36-50).

Abraham (Generation 20) is born in 1948, ten generations, and a little less than three hundred years, after the flood.[2]

In 2023 at age 75, only seventeen years after the death of Noah, Abraham leaves Haran in Syria for Canaan (Gen 12:4). Over the next ten years, when between the ages of 75 and 85, Abraham stays in Egypt (Gen 12:10-20), returns to Canaan and parts ways with Lot (Gen 13:5-12), and then rescues Lot and is blessed by Melchizedek (Gen 14:18-20).

In 2033 Abraham at age 85 marries Hagar, and the next year in 2034 Ishmael (Generation 21) is born (Gen 16:3, 16). In 2047, when Abraham is age 99, the Lord changes his name from Abram to Abraham, institutes the covenant of circumcision, and promises that his birthright son Isaac will be born the next year to Sarah (Gen 17). Following the destruction of Sodom (Gen 18-19), Isaac (Generation 21) is born in 2048 when Abraham is age 100 (Gen 25:26).

In 2083, Terah (Generation 19) dies in Haran in Syria at age 205, sixty years after Abraham left Haran for Canaan (Gen 11:32). Two years later Sarah dies at age 127 when Abraham is age 137 (Gen 17:17; 23:1). Another three years later in 2088 Isaac at age 40 marries Rebekah when his father Abraham is age 140 (Gen 25:20).

In 2108, after Isaac and Rebekah have been married for twenty years, they have twin boys Jacob and Esau (Generation 22) when their father Isaac is age 60 and their grandfather Abraham is age 160 (Gen 25:26). In 2123 Abraham (Generation 20) dies at age 175 (Gen 25:7).

In 2148 Esau at age 40 marries two Hittite women (Gen 26:34). Ten years later in 2158, five hundred and two years after the flood, Noah's son Shem (Generation 11) finally dies at age 600 (Gen 11:10-11). In 2171 Jacob and Esau's uncle Ishmael (Generation 21) dies at age 137 (Gen 25:17). Eber (Generation 14), the last of the long lived patriarchs, dies at age 464 in 2187 (Gen 11:10-17).[3]

Meanwhile, Jacob obtains through trickery the birthright blessing of his elderly father Isaac. Jacob soon flees at age 76 in 2184 (when Isaac is age 136) from the presence of his brother Esau to the house of his uncle Laban in Padan Aram.[4] After seven years, in 2191, Jacob is tricked into marrying Leah, but is then allowed to also marry Rachel a week later in return for another seven years of service that last until 2198 (Gen 29:15-30). During this second seven years, between 2191-2198, eleven of Jacob's twelve sons plus a daughter Dinah (Generation 23) are born (Gen 29:31-30:21). It is reasonable to estimate that Leah's son Levi is born about 2194 and her son Judah about 2195. Joseph is born in 2198 at the conclusion of the second seven years (Gen 30:22-26) when his father Jacob is age 90.[5] Jacob then works a final six years to earn flocks, for a total of twenty years, before returning home to Canaan in 2204 at age 96 and reconciling with his brother Esau (Gen 31:38, 41).

At some point during 2204-2215, when Jacob is age 96-108, his sons kill the men of Shechem (Gen 34), Jacob moves his family to Bethel (Gen 35:1), and Rachel dies giving birth to Jacob's youngest son Benjamin (Gen 35:16-20). In ____ Jacob settles in Mamre (Gen 35:27). About ____ Judah marries Shuah, a Canaanite, and has three sons: Er, Onan, and Shelah (Gen 38:1-5).

Meanwhile in 2215 Joseph is sold into slavery at age 17 (Gen 37:2). Over the next thirteen years during 2215-2228 he first serves in Potiphar's house and then, after being falsely accused by Potiphar's wife, spends the remainder of those years in prison. In 2226, two years before his release from prison, he interprets the dreams of pharoah's baker and cupbearer (Gen 41:1).

In 2228, Isaac (Generation 21) dies at Hebron in Canaan at age 180 and is buried by his twin sons Jacob and Esau, age 120 (Gen 35:28).

Also in 2228 Joseph at age 30 interprets Pharoah's dream, is released from prison, and is made the second ruler over Egypt (Gen 41:46). During 2229-2235, Egypt enjoys seven years of plenty, and Joseph's two sons Ephraim and Manasseh are born (Gen 41:47-53).

In about ____ Judah's sons Er and Onan each marry Tamar and then die (Gen 38:6-10). Then Judah's wife Shuah also dies (Gen 38:12). When Judah refuses to let his third son Shelah marry Tamar, she seduces Judah and gives birth to twin sons Pharez and Zerah (Gen 38:27-30).

During 2237-2243 there are even years of famine in both Egypt and Canaan. In 2238, during the second year of the famine, Jacob, age 130, moves his entire household from Canaan to Egypt (Gen 45:6, 11; 47:9, 28). After seventeen years, Jacob (Generation 22) dies in Egypt in 2255 at age 147 (Gen 47:9, 28). In 2309, Joseph (Generation 23) dies at age 110 (Gen 50:22-26).

The last generation to be specifically mentioned in Genesis by name are Joseph's two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim (Generation 24) (Gen 41:50-52; 48:5).

Discussion[edit]

This section is for detailed discussion such as the meaning of a symbol, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout a passage, or insights that can be further developed in the future. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

Origin of the House of Israel[edit]

Genesis can be usefully understood as not a history of the origin of the world and of mankind in general, but as a history of the origin of a family (the House of Israel) and as a statement of the historical justification for that family's claim to be God's chosen people.

Blessings and covenants[edit]

The Abrahamic Covenant has center stage in Genesis, in large part because it is the covenant that distinguishes Israel as a people from all other peoples. But Genesis also records several other significant blessings and covenants.

Favoring younger sons over older siblings[edit]

The cultural setting of Genesis clearly favors inheritance by the oldest son. The birthright blessing nevertheless passes repeatedly to younger sons Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Ephraim. This favor is sometimes shown by the younger son's father, sometimes by God, and sometimes by both.

Marriage within a preferred group[edit]

Great importance is placed upon marrying with a preferred family group, as seen in the lives of Isaac and of Esau and Jacob. This emphasis will continue through much of later Israelite history.

God's direct interaction with mankind[edit]

God frequently interacts directly with mankind throughout the book of Genesis: with Adam & Eve, Cain, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.

Identifying the principal blocks of text[edit]

Identifying the principal blocks of text in Genesis is easiest by working in reverse from back to front and by focusing on the phrase "These are the generations of X." Variations on this phrase appear twelve times in Genesis and are consistently used to indicate the beginning of a new block of text. This phrase can be understood as "These are the descendants of X," or "This is what followed after X." The use of this phrase in organizing the text of Genesis can be seen in the complete outline of Genesis below.

  • Gen 36-50: Joseph Cycle. The last three appearances of this phrase occur in Gen 36:1; Gen 36:9, and Gen 37:2. The first two of these instances each introduce a genealogical list of the descendants of Isaac's son Esau that collectively fill only one chapter. The story of the descendants of Isaac's other son Jacob is introduced by the third instance of this phrase. This story of Jacob's descendants fills the last fourteen chapters of Genesis and is primarily about Joseph. For simplicity, all of the stories in the entire last quarter of Genesis, including the two lists of Esau's descendants, are often referred to collectively as the Joseph Cycle.
  • Gen 25b-35: Jacob Cycle. The two previous appearance of this phrase occur in Gen 25:12 and Gen 25:19. The first of these two instances introduces a genealogical list of the descendants of Abraham's son Ishmael that fills only seven verses. The story of the descendants of Abraham's other son Isaac is introduced by the other instance of this phrase. This story of Isaac's two sons fills more than ten chapters and is primarily about Jacob rather than Esau. For simplicity, the entire third quarter of Genesis, including the list of Ishmael's descendants, is often called the Jacob Cycle.
  • Gen 11c-25a: Abraham Cycle. The previous appearance of this phrase occurs in Gen 11:27 and introduces more than fifteen chapters about the life of Terah's son Abraham. This second quarter of Genesis is often called the Abraham Cycle. While this phrase introduces story cycles in Genesis for both Abraham and Jacob, it does not introduce a separate cycle for Isaac. Thus, while the phrase "Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" appears frequently in the scriptures, including in Genesis, it is apparent that Genesis treats Isaac more as a link between Abraham and Jacob than as a separate point of focus.
  • Gen 1-11b: Adam-Noah Cycle. Variations of this phrase occur six more times in the first eleven chapters of Genesis, which provides the key to further subdividing the first quarter of genesis into its major parts. (Gen 1:1; 2:4; 5:1; 6:9; 10:1; 11:10). For simplicity, the entire initial quarter of Genesis is often called the Adam-Noah Cycle.

Outline and page map[edit]

This section contains an outline for the entire book. Items in blue or purple text indicate hyperlinked pages that address specific portions of the book. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

This outline is summarized on this handout and is used with the King James text of Genesis here: Genesis 1-11b11c-25a25b-3536-50

I. Adam-Noah cycle (1-11b)
I-A. Adam cycle (1-6a)
• Book 1: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth ..." (1:1)
A. Story of the Creation (1) (1:1-2:3)
• Book 2: "These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth ..." (2:4)

B. Story of Adam and Eve in the Garden and the Fall (2-3) (2:1-3:24)
C. Stories of murders by Cain and Lamech connected by non-birthright genealogical list to Lamech's three sons (4) (4:1-26)

• Book 3: "This is the book of the generations of Adam ..." (5:1)

D. Birthright genealogical list from Adam to Noah's three sons (5) (5:1-32)
E. Story of pervasive wickedness and God's intent to destroy mankind (6a) (6:1-8)

I-B. Noah cycle (6b-11b)
• Book 4: "These are the generations of Noah ..." (6:9)
A'. Story of Noah and the Flood, re-creation (6b-9a) (6:9-9:19)

B'. Story of Ham disrespecting Noah's nakedness, Canaan cursed (9b) (9:20-29)

• Book 5: "Now these are the generations of the sons of Noah: Shem, Ham, and Japheth ..." (10:1)

C'. Non-birthright genealogical list of Noah's three sons (10) (10:1-32)
E'. Story of the Tower of Babel and God's scattering of mankind (11a) (11:1-9)

• Book 6: "These are the generations of Shem [Noah's son] ..." (11:10)

D'. Birthright genealogical list from Shem to Terah's three sons including Abraham (11b) (11:10-26)


II. Abraham cycle (11c-25a)
• Book 7: "Now these are the generations of Terah [Abraham’s father] ..." (11:27)

II-A. Abraham settles near Sodom in Northern Canaan (11c-19)
• Terah's descendants: his three sons Abraham, Nahor, and Haran (11c) (11:27-32)
A. Abrahamic Covenant formed (12a) (12:1-9)

B. My wife is my sister: Pharaoh (12b) (12:10-20)
C. Strife among servants, peace among leaders: Lot (13a) (13:1-13)

A. Abrahamic Covenant renewed (13b) (13:14-18)

D. No reward accepted from Canaanites: Rescue of Lot, blessing from Melchizedek (14) (14:1-24)

A. Abrahamic Covenant renewed (15) (15:1-21)

E. Birth of Ishmael, Hagar flees and returns (16) (16:1-16)

A. Symbolic ritual of circumcision, Abrahamic Covenant renewed (17) (17:1-27)

F. Canaanites of Sodom rejected: Abraham pleads, Lot flees, God destroys (18-19a) (18:1-19:29)

• Terah's descendants through his 3rd son Haran: Lot's sons Moab and Ammon (19b) (19:30-38)

II-B. Abraham settles near Gerar in Southern Canaan (20-25a)

B'. My wife is my sister: Abimelech (20) (20:1-18)
E'. Birth of Isaac, Hagar is cast out (21a) (21:1-21)
C'. Strife among servants, peace among leaders: Abimelech (21b) (21:22-34)

A' Symbolic ritual sacrifice of Isaac, Abrahamic Covenant renewed (22a) (22:1-19)
• Terah's descendants through his 2nd son Nahor: twelve sons and Bethuel's daughter Rebekah (22b) (22:20-24)

D'. No gift accepted from Canaanites: Purchase of Sarah's tomb (23) (23:1-20)
F'. Brides of Canaan rejected: Isaac marries Rebekah (24) (24:1-67)

• Terah's descendants through his 1st son Abraham, and death of Abraham (25a) (25:1-11)


III. Jacob cycle (25b-35)
• Book 8: "Now these are the generations of Ishmael, Abraham's son ..." (25:12)
● Descendants of Ishmael (25b) (25:12-18)

• Book 9: "And these are the generations of Isaac, Abraham's son ..." (25:19)
III-A. Jacob in Canaan (25c-28)
A. Isaac's two sons: Jacob and Esau (25c) (25:19-34)

B. Isaac deals humbly with Canaanites, treaty of peace (26) (26:1-33)
C. Jacob deals trickily with Esau and flees (27-28) (27:1-28:22)

III-B. Jacob in Haran (29-31)

D. Laban tricks Jacob re wife after first 7 years (29a) (29:1-30)
E. Jacob blessed with children during second 7 years (29b-30a) (29:31-30:24)
E'. Jacob blessed with flocks during final 6 years (30b) (30:25-43)
D'. Jacob flees Laban and is then reconciled with Laban (31) (31:1-55)

III-A'. Jacob back in Canaan (32-35)

C'. Jacob deals humbly with and Esau and is reconciled (32-33) (32:1-33:20)
B'. Jacob's sons deal trickily and proudly with Canaanites, Jacob's family flees (34-35a) (34:1-35:15)

A'. Jacob's sons, deaths of Rachel and Isaac (35b) (35:16-29)


IV. Joseph cycle (36-50)
• Book 10: "Now these are the generations of Esau ..." (36:1)
• Book 11: "And these are the generations of Esau ..." (36:9)
● Descendants of Esau (36) (36:1-43)

• Book 12: "These are the generations of Jacob ..." (37:2)
IV-A. Family disharmony and division, Joseph's tribulations (37-41a)
A. Joseph's two dreams that brothers will serve him (37a) (37:1-11)
A'. Brothers' plans to get rid of Joseph (37b) (37:12-36)

B. Judah a poor steward and seduced by Tamar (38) (38:1-30)
B'. Joseph a good steward and resists Potiphar's wife (39) (39:1-23)
C. Joseph interprets two prisoner dreams (40) (40:1-23)
C'. Joseph interprets two pharoah dreams (41a) (41:1-45)

IV-B. Family reunited and saved in Egypt, Joseph's greatness (41b-47a)

D. Pharaoh prepares for the famine (41b) (41:46-57)
E. Brothers' first trip to buy grain from Egypt, brothers bow, Simeon a hostage (42) (42:1-38)
E'. Brothers' second trip to buy grain from Egypt, they agree to be servants, Judah a ransom (43-45) (43:1-45:28)
F. Family's third trip to Egypt, Joseph nourishes family, Jacob a guest (46-47a) (46:1-47:12)
D'. Pharaoh profits from the famine and Egyptians impoverished (47b) (47:13-26)

IV-C. Jacob and Joseph's last days in Egypt (47b-50)

C'. Jacob adopts and blesses two sons of Joseph, and blesses his own sons (48-49a) (48:1-49:28)

A'. Brothers knowingly agree to serve Joseph (50a) (50:15-21)
• Jacob dies and is buried in Canaan, Joseph dies (47c, 49b, 50b) (47:27-31; 49:29-50; 50:22-26)

Unanswered questions[edit]

This section is for questions along the lines of "I still don't understand ..." Please do not be shy. The point of these questions is to identify things that still need to be addressed on this page. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

Prompts for life application[edit]

This section is for prompts that suggest ways in which a passage can influence a person's life. Prompts may be appropriate either for private self reflection or for a class discussion. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

Prompts for further study[edit]

This section is for prompts that invite us to think about a passage more deeply or in a new way. These are not necessarily questions that beg for answers, but rather prompts along the lines of "Have you ever thought about ..." Prompts are most helpful when they are developed individually, thoughtfully, and with enough background information to clearly indicate a particular direction for further study or thought. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

Resources[edit]

This section is for listing links and print resources, including those that are also cited elsewhere on this page. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

Translations and Lexicons.

Related passages that interpret or shed light on Genesis

  • The Joseph Smith Translation made changes to ___, or more than ___, of the 1,533 verses in Genesis. With so many changes, readers just have to constantly consult the Joseph Smith Translation. Most significant changes are incorporated into the LDS edition of the Bible. All changes are noted in Wayment's Complete Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible.[6]
  • The Book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price is the Joseph Smith translation of Genesis 1:1-6:13.

References cited on this page.

  • Wayment, Thomas A., ed. The Complete Joseph Smith Translation of the Old Testament. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 2009. (ISBN 1606411314) BX8630.A2 2009
  • Finegan, Jack. Handbook of Biblical Chronology: Principles of Time Reckoning in the Ancient World and and Problems of Chronology in the Bible, revised ed. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Pub., 1998. (ISBN 1565631439). BS637.2 .F5 1998. One of the two standard references for assigning specific dates to Old Testament events.
  • Steinmann. Andrew E. From Abraham to Paul: A Biblical Chronology. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2011. (ISBN 0758627998). BS637.3 .S74 2011. Builds on the earlier work of Finegan and Thiele and may become a third standard reference; likewise addresses the difficult issues but also presents a comprehensive timeline including the easy issues.
  • Thiele, Edwin. The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, new revised ed. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan; Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1994. (ISBN 082543825X). BS 1335.5 .T48 1994. One of the two standard references for assigning specific dates to Old Testament events.

Other resources.

Notes[edit]

Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves (such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word). In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources (such as Strong's Bible Concordance or the Joseph Smith Papers) are preferable to footnotes.

  1. The difficulty in dating events in Genesis can be understood by thinking of events before Christ in four groups: (1) Counting backwards from Christ, there is broad scholarly consensus that Solomon reigned from 970-931 BC. From this it is not too difficult to count back and determine that Saul began to reign in 1049 BC. Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 37-44, 106 & n.165, 111-15, noting that these dates for Solomon's reign are widely accepted as one of the principal known anchor points from which the rest of the Old Testament chronology can be calculated; Finegan, Handbook of Biblical Chronology, 249-50; Thiele, Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, 67-78. See Old Testament: Historical Overview for further details on dating the reigns of Saul, David, and Solomon. Scholarly disagreement about dates more recent than 1049 BC usually involve a difference of less than five years. (2) Next is the date of the Exodus. There is broad scholarly consensus that the Exodus occurred in either 1250 BC or 1446 BC. But there is not a consensus about which of these two dates is correct. There is broad agreement that following the Exodus, Moses led Israel for 40 years and Joshua for about another 27 years, for a total of about 67 years. But the length of the period between Joshua and Saul, the period covered by the book of Judges, is not settled. So here one must choose between two dates that are 196 years apart. (See the lengthy footnotes at Old Testament: Historical Overview for the arguments in favor of each of these two dates). (3) Next is the length of time that Israel was in Egypt prior to the Exodus. There is broad scholarly consensus that the Israelite sojourn in Egypt lasted either 215 years or 430 years. But again there is not a consensus about which of these two lengths of time is correct. Here one must choose between two dates that are 215 years apart. (Again see the lengthy footnotes at Old Testament: Historical Overview for a discussion of the arguments in favor of each of these two positions). (4) Finally, there is broad consensus that according to Genesis the length of time from the Fall of Adam and Eve until Jacob moved all of his household to Egypt was 2,238 years. This number is easily derived from the genealogical and chronological data discussed in greater detail below. (Since the age difference between each father and son is given only in whole years, it is reasonable to expect that twenty rounding errors averaging half a year each could accumulate to a total error of about ten years, or a little less than one half of one percent). But there is still a choice to made here as well since the Joseph Smith Translation manuscripts make changes during the first twelve generations from Adam to Arphaxad that add another 128 years to this total. (See Moses for a discussion of those changes). Thus the calculation of the date for the Fall is (either 1250 BC or 1446 BC for the date of the Exodus) + (either 215 years or 430 years for the sojourn in Egypt) + (either 2238 years per Genesis or 2366 years per the JST) to yield eight different possible dates ranging from 3703 BC at the shortest to 4242 BC at the longest.
  2. Abraham is born 1948 years after the fall counting as follows: Seth is born after 130 years (Gen 5:3) plus another 105 for Enos (Gen 5:6), 90 for Cainan (Gen 5:9), 70 for Mahaleel (Gen 5:12), 65 for Jared (Gen 5:15), 162 for Enoch (Gen 5:18), 65 for Methuselah (Gen 5:21), 187 for Lamech (Gen 5:25), 182 for Noah (Gen 5:28-29), 600 until the flood (Gen 7:6), 2 more until the birth of Noah's grandson Arphaxad (Gen 11:10), 35 for Salah (Gen 11:12), 30 for Eber, (Gen 11:14), 34 for Peleg (Gen 11:16), 30 for Reu (Gen 11:18), 32 for Serug (Gen 11:20), 30 for Nahor (Gen 11:22), 29 for Terah (Gen 11:24), and 70 for Abraham (Gen 11:26), totaling 1948 years.
  3. Eber's date of death is calculated as follows: the flood occurred in 1656 (see Chapter 5-6a), plus 2 more years for the birth of Arphaxad, 35 more for Salah, 30 for Eber, and 34 + 430 for the lifetime of Eber = 2187 (Gen 11:10-17).
  4. Jacob's age when he went to the house of his uncle Laban is not given directly but can be calculated as follows: First, as explained in another footnote below, Jacob is age 90 when Joseph is born. Second, Joseph is born at the end of the 14 years during which Jacob served for his wives Leah and Rachel (Gen 30:22-25). Jacob thus began at age 76 to serve his uncle Laban.
  5. Jacob's age at the birth of Joseph is not given directly but can be calculated as follows: Joseph stands before Pharaoah at age 30 (Gen 41:46). The seven years of plenty are then about to happen in the future, as opposed to already happening, so they occur when Joseph is age 31-38, and in the second year of the subsequent famine Joseph is age 40 (Gen 41:25-30). Jacob is 130 when he moves from Canaan to Egypt during that second year of famine (Gen 45:6-11; Gen 47:9,28). The age difference between Jacob and Joseph is thus 130-40=90 years.
  6. Wayment, The Complete Joseph Smith Translation of the Old Testament, p. 1-113.

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