How to Study Genesis

General Instructions

Genesis falls into two segments. The first, chapters 1 through 11, covers four major events. The Second segment, chapters 12 through 50, covers the lives of four major characters. The instructions on how to study this book will be divided according to these two segments.

  1. As you read chapter by chapter, ask the "5 W's and an H" about the text: Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How? Ask questions such as: Who is speaking? What is happening? When is it happening? Where will happen? Why was this said or done and what were the consequences? How did it happen? How was it to be done? etc.

  2. Mark in a distinctive way any repeated words or phrases that are key to understanding the content of the chapter. There are several key words you should look for throughout the book of Genesis. Key words: (NASB) God said (or commanded), the generations of (now these are the generations of..), covenant (oath), altar, land (when it refers to the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), circumcised, Abram (or Abraham), bless (blessed, blessing), sin (do evil, act wicked), dream, died. Write these on an index card and use it as a bookmark while you study Genesis.

  3. The and location of events can be very important. Mark time phrases with a clock, and double-underline every geographical location in green.

  4. In the margin of you Bible, summarize the main things that occur in the chapter. List them in the order in which they occur. You may want to number them. For example, in Genesis 1 you could summarize what happens on each of the six days of creation.

    1. If you learn something significant about God or His ways, you may want to put a triangle or color in yellow. This will act as an indicator of an important truth you've learned about God.

  5. Look for the theme (the main subject) of each chapter. Record it on Structure of Genesis

  6. Genesis is often referred to as the book of beginnings; it is the seedbed of truth. This is because the Word of God is a progressive revelation. Progressive revelation means that truth is unveiled over a period of time throughout various books of he Bible. God doesn't say everything He has to say about a particular subject at one time or in one place. Rather, He will introduce a truth and then reveal more and more about it.

Since Genesis is the book of beginnings, when you come to the "first" of anything, record it in the chapter margin in a special way or color so you can spot it easily. For example, next to Genesis 1:26-27 you could write: "First man and woman."

  1. Watch for the origins of various people groups.

Chapters 1-11

  1. Genesis 1-2

    1. Note what is created on each day. Notice when a day begins and ends.

    2. There are numbers of key repeated phrases in Genesis 1. Mark each in a distinctive color.

    3. Chapter 2 gives a detailed explanation of the creation of mankind. Note the order of events and the man's relationship and responsibilities to God and to the woman.

  2. Genesis 3-5

    1. In chapter 3 list all you learn about the serpent and his tactics: how he tempts Eve, what he says. Then note what happens to Satan because he deceives Eve.

    2. Note Eve's progression into sin. List what happens before and after she sins.

    3. Watch what happens to Adam and Eve's relationship with God. Note the consequence of Adam's disobedience.

    4. In chapters 3 through 5 note the consequences of sin's entrance into the world. Genesis 3:15 is the first promise of a Redeemer. Also, in chapter 4, observe the occupations and debilities of the people.

  1. Genesis 6-9

    1. As you study these chapters observe the reason for the flood, how and when it came, who was affected and how.

    2. Watch the timing of events. Mark time phrases with a clock or record them in the margin; e.g., "Rains forty days and nights."

    3. Mark the word covenant and list all you learn from the text about covenant.

  1. Genesis 10-11

    1. Observe who was separated, why and how they were separated, when and where this occurred, and what happened as a result.

    2. Babylon plays an intermittently prominent role throughout the Bible, and of course its roots are in Genesis. Therefore whenever you come to any mention of Babel of Babylon you need to make a note of what you learn.

    3. When you finish reading Genesis 11, look at Structure of Genesis. Next to "Chapter Themes" you will find a place for segment divisions. Fill in the four main events covered in Genesis 1 through 11. The chapter divisions are noted on the chart.

Chapters 12-50

  1. Genesis 12 through 50 covers the biographical segment of Genesis, which focuses on the of four main characters: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob (also called Israel), and Joseph. When you read:

    1. Follow the "General Instructions" for studying each chapter.

    2. Watch for and mark every reference to time in the life of each of the major characters (including their wives and children) in these chapters. God will often tell how old the person was when certain events occurred in his or her life.

    3. The word covenant is more prominent in this segment. Mark each occurrence of this word and then list all you learn about covenant from observing the text.

    4. Note any insights or lessons you learned from the way these people lived. Note how and why God deals with these men, their families, and their associates, and what happens as a result.

  2. Watch when the focus of a chapter moves from Abraham to Isaac, then to Jacob, and then to Joseph. Then on Structure of Genesis , on the line where you recorded the four major events of Genesis 1 through 11, divide the chapters into segments that cover the lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. Look at the chapter themes to see where the focus moves from one of these men to the other. n

    1. When you finish reading Genesis 50 record on Structure of Genesis the theme of Genesis. Under Segment Divisions, record the "firsts" that you marked throughout Genesis. (There is a blank line for any other segment divisions you might want to note.)

Key Doctrines in Genesis

Most of the central teaching of Christianity have their roots in the Book of Genesis.

  1. God the Father - the authority of God in creation (1:1-31; Ps 103:19; 145:8, 9; 1Cor 8:6; Eph 3:9; 4:6)

  2. God the Son - the agent of God in creation (1:1; 3:15; 18:1; John 1:1-3; 10:30; 14:9; Phil 2:5-8; Col 1:15-17; Heb 1:2)

  3. God the Holy Spirit - the presence of God in creation (1:2; 6:3; Mat 1:18; John 3:5-7)

  4. God as one yet three - the Trinity (1:1, 26; 3:22; 11:7; Deut 6:4; Is 45:5-7; Mat 28:19; 1Cor 8:4; 2Cor 13:14)

  5. Human beings - created in Christ's image yet fallen into sin and needing a Savior (1:26; 2:4-25; 9:6; Is 43:7; Rom 8:29; Col 1:16; 3:10; James 3:9; Rev 4:11)

  6. Sin (the Fall) - the infection of all creation with sin by rebellion toward God (2:16, 17; 3:1-19; John 3:36; Rom 3:23; 6:23; 1Cor 2:14; Eph 2:1-3; 1Tim 2:13, 14; 1 John 1:18)

  7. Redemption - the rescue from sin and restoration accomplished by Christ on the cross (3:15; 48:16; John 8:44; 10:15; Rom 3:24, 25; 16:20; 1 Pet 2:24)

  8. Covenant - God establishes relationships and makes promises (15:1-20; 17:10, 11; Nm 25:10-13; Deut 4:25-31; 30:1-9; 2Sam 23:5; 1Chr 16:15-18; Jer 30:11; 32:40; 46:27, 28; Amos 9:8; Luke 1:67-75; Heb 6:13-18)

  9. Promise - God commits Himself into the future (12:1-3; 26:3, 4; 28:14; Acts 2:39; Gal 3:16; Heb 8:6)

  10. Satan - the original rebel among God's creatures (3:1-15; Is 14:13, 14; Matt 4:3-10; 2Cor 11:3, 14; 2Pet 2:4; Rev 12:9; 20:2)

  11. Angels - special being created to serve God (3:24; 18:1-8; 28:12; Luke 2:9-14; Heb 1:6, 7, 14; 2:6, 7; Rev 5:11-14)

  12. Revelation - Natural revelation occurs as God indirectly communicates through what He has made (1:1-2:25; Rom 1:19, 20). Special revelation occurs when God directly communicates Himself as well as otherwise unknowable truth (2:15-17; 3:8-19; 12:1-3; 18:1-8; 32:24-32; Deut 18:18; 2Tim 3:16; Heb 1:1-4; 1Pet 1:10-12)

  13. Israel - Jacob's God-given name that became the name of the nation he fathered; inheritors of God's covenant with Abraham (32:28; 35:10; Deut 28:15-68; Is 65:17-25; Jer 31:31-34; Ezek 37:21-28; Zech 8:1-17; Matt 21:43; Rom 11:1-29)

  14. Judgment - God's righteous response to sin (3:6; 7, 11:1-0; 15:14; 18:16-19:29; Deut 32:39; Is 1:9; Matt 12:36, 37; Rom 1:18-2:16; 2Pet 2:5, 6)

  15. Blessing - a special benefit or a hope-filled statement to someone shout their life (1:28; 9:1; 12:1-3; 14:18-20; 27:1-40; 48:1-20; Num 6:24-27; Deut 11:26, 27; Ps 3:8; Mal 3:10; Matt 5:3-11; 1Pet 3:9)

Key Words in the NIV and KJV


Studies on Genesis