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Genesis: Beginnings

Primeval HistoryPatriarchal History
Creation, 1-2Abraham, 12:1-25:11
Fall, 3-4Isaac, 21:1-35:29
Genealogy, 5Genealogy, 25:12-28
Flood, 6-9Jacob, 25:19-49:33
Genealogy, 10Genealogy, 36
Tower of Babel, 11:1-9Joseph, 37:1-50:26
Genealogy, 11:10-32

Major characters

  • Adam (“red”) & Eve (“life, living”)
  • Noah (“rest or comfort”)
  • Abraham (“father of a multitude”)
  • Isaac (“laughter”)
  • Jacob (“supplanter, deceiver”)
  • Joseph (“he will add”)

Major events

  • Creation, 1-2
  • Fall of man, 3
  • Noah’s flood, 6-9
  • Tower of Babel, 11
  • Abraham Covenant, 12, 15
  • Sacrifice of Isaac, 22
  • Jacob’s ladder, 28
  • Jacob to Egypt, 46
  • Israel’s blessing, 48-49

Major themes

  • Sin and its consequences
  • The promises of God

Christ in all the Scriptures

  • The Seed, 3:15
  • The Ark, 7:1
  • Melchizedek, 14:18-20
  • Isaac, 22
  • Joseph, 37-50

J. B. Nicholson Jr. notes that the story of Genesis can be told in three words:

  • Generation by Divine power
  • Degeneration by human rebellion
  • Regeneration by Divine love

The Bible does not seek to give us a clear chronology of events, particularly for the “primeval” era. However, 1 Kings 6:1 tells us that Solomon began to build the temple in the 400th year after the children of Israel came up out of Egypt. Exodus 12:40-41 tells us that the sojourn of the children of Israel in Egypt was 430 years. Since historians are generally agreed that Solomon died in 930 BC, they have been able to calculate backwards to establish the date of the Exodus and the date of Jacob’s descent into Egypt and then backwards to Abraham’s birth, as shown in the chart above.

Beyond that, the only data available for calculating chronology is the genealogies, which although extensive, have been shown to be abbreviated through comparison of the Biblical genealogies. Any dates prior to Abraham are, therefore, somewhat speculative. However, the gaps in the genealogies certainly do not allow for the millions of years proposed by evolutionists on the basis of uniformitarian geological assumptions. Ussher’s dates, based primarily on the genealogies, dates Creation at 4004 BC. Most creationists would be more general and would say that Creation took place not more than about 10,000 years ago, that is, not more than about 8000 BC. It would seem reasonable to agree that we cannot be more specific than that.

EventM. UngerW. KaiserF. JonesE. Merrill
Birth of Abraham2160216719972166
Birth of Isaac206118962066
Birth of Jacob200118362006
Death of Abraham198518211991
Death of Isaac188117161886
Israel to Egypt1871187617061876
Death of Jacob185416891859
Exodus from Egypt1441144714911446
Start of Solomon’s Temple9619671012931
Based on the works of Merrill Unger, New Unger’s Bible Dictionary; Walter Kaiser, History of Israel; Floyd Jones, The Chronology of the Old Testament; Eugene Merrill, “Fixed Dates in Patriarchal Chronology,” in Bibliotheca Sacra 137.

Chronology of Abraham’s Life

  • Born in 2166 BC[1]
  • 75 years old when he departed Haran (Gen 12:4)
  • 86 years old when Ishmael was born (Gen 16:16)
  • 99 years old when the sign of covenant was given (Gen 17:1)
  • 100 years old when Isaac was born (Gen 21:5)
  • 140 years old when Isaac married Rebekah (Gen 25:20)
  • 175 years old when he died (Gen 25:7) c. 1991

Chronology of Isaac’s life

  • Born when his father was 100 years old c. 2066 BC
  • Married at age 40 (Gen 25:20)
  • Twin sons born at age 60 (Gen 25:26)
  • 75 years old when Abraham died
  • 180 years old when he died (Gen 35:29) c. 1886 (just 10 years before Jacob moved to Egypt)

Chronology of Jacob

  • Born when his father was 60 years old c. 2006
  • 76 years old when he fled from Esau[2] c. 1930
  • Served Laban 7 years for his Rachel but tricked by Laban[3]
  • Served Laban another 7 years for Rachel. Apparently first 11 sons were born during this 7-year period
  • Remained another 6 years before fleeing from Laban, age 96 c. 1910
  • Events of chapter 32-36 occur during an 11-year period
  • 108 years old when Joseph was sold into slavery
  • 130 years old when he moved to Egypt (Gen 47:9) c. 1876
  • 147 years old when he died (Gen 47:28) c. 1859

Chronology of Joseph’s Life

  • Born c. 1916 BC
  • 17 years old when sold into slavery (Gen 37:2)
  • 30 years old when he stood before Pharaoh (Gen. 41:46)
  • 39 years old when he revealed himself to his brothers (Gen. 45:6)
  • 56 years old when Jacob died (Gen 47:28)
  • 110 years old when he died (Gen. 50:22) c. 1806

The Twelve Tribes of Israel

Genesis 29:31-30:24; 35:16-26; 49:1-28
1st wife
Rachel’s maid
Leah’s maid
2nd wife
(1) Reuben
“See, a son”
(2) Simeon
(3) Levi
(4) Judah
(5) Dan
(6) Naphtali
“My wrestling”
(7) Gad
(8) Asher
(9) Issachar
(10) Zebulun
(11) Joseph
“He will add”
(12) Benjamin
“Son of my right hand”
Dinah was born between Zebulun and Joseph.

[1] All dates below follow Eugene Merrill’s dating method.

[2] “Jacob’s age is arrived at as follows: Joseph was thirty years old when introduced to Pharaoh, and, allowing for seven years of plenty and two of famine (Ge 45:6), Joseph was 39 years old when Jacob went to Egypt, at which time Jacob was 130 years of age. Therefore, Joseph was born before Jacob was 91. His birth occurred in the fourteenth year of Jacob’s sojourn in Mesopotamia (Ge 30:25; 29:18,21,27), which would mean Jacob’s flight took place in his seventy-seventh year.” (“Jacob” in New Unger’s Bible Dictionary)

[3] There is a difficulty with the chronology of Jacob’s life regarding his sojourn in Paddan Aram. For a possible solution to the problem see Chronology of the Old Testament, Floyd Jones (Master Books, 1993-2004) pg. 62-67. He suggests that Jacob married his two wives at the beginning of his 20-year period in Haran, not at the end of the first 7 years he served for them. Merrill also argues for the two marriages happening in quick succession, but after the first seven-year period.

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