Genesis introduces the reader to the early mythology of Jews, Muslims, and Christians. Here, we read about the creation of the physical universe and a subsequent global flood. Then we meet Abram, who is called by God to be the father of many nations, the recipient of all land east of Egypt and west of the Euphrates. He’s ultimately a conduit of more than physical sons and lands, though. He’s the reason why billions of people throughout world history have reason to celebrate.
Abram has a son named Ishmael with his wife’s slave, Hagar. Then he has a son, Isaac, with his wife, Sarai. Abram’s name is changed to “Abraham,” Father of Nations, and his wife becomes Sarah. Not even Abraham would fathom in his own lifetime the depth of the promise God made to him in the wilderness of Canaan.
Isaac marries Abraham’s niece, Rebekah, and they have twins, Esau and Jacob. Jacob robs his brother of his birthright and their father’s blessing. He flees his brother’s wrath by moving to Haran. Jacob’s also looking for a wife from his father’s family tree. In Haran, he falls in love with Rachel. With no dowry, he offers to indenture himself to Rachel’s father (and his uncle), Laban, for seven years in exchange for her hand in marriage. Laban agrees, but tricks him on his wedding night, presenting his older daughter, Leah, to him instead.
Jacob contracts with Laban to work another seven years in exchange for Rachel’s hand in marriage. For fourteen years, Jacob works for Laban, making him a very wealthy man. Also during this time, he has eleven sons and a daughter with Leah, Rachel, and their two maidens.
After another six years of Laban trying to trick Jacob out of his wages (a total of twenty years), Jacob, his wives, and all their children leave Haran to settle on their own terms. On the way, Jacob reconciles with his brother Esau and his father-in-law Laban, who hunts him down but decides to bury the hatchet.
These tribal fathers aren’t without flaw. Far from it. Reuben sleeps with one of Jacob’s wives, Simeon and Levi slaughter innocent men, women, and children, Judah sleeps with his daughter-in-law, and the ten older brothers plot against number eleven, Joseph, and sell him to traders on their way to Egypt.
This brings us to the final story in Genesis. Joseph is purchased by Pharaoh’s captain of the guard, ends up in prison, then interprets a dream for Pharaoh himself. Pharaoh rewards him by making him viceroy of all Egypt and putting him in charge of food supply maintenance in preparation for the coming famine.
Joseph’s brothers come to Egypt to buy grain, but they don’t recognize their brother, who is now their provider and savior. Eventually, after testing his brothers’ loyalty to Benjamin, the youngest of the brood, they all reconcile and move their father, Jacob, to Goshen, to be close to Joseph. Jacob lives another seventeen years in the care of his son, Joseph.
Genesis is a provocative book. There are angels, dragons, murder, mass drownings, incest, polygamy, sky fire, epic battles, land grabs, and prostitution. This book would make a great fantasy series on Netflix. You can read the whole story starting here.