Themes from Genesis 1-11

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The Pentateuch consists of the first five books of the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy; called "Torah' in Hebrew. The term Pentateuch is from the Greek for "Penta" (five) "teuchos' (books).

Both Jewish and Christian traditions view these five books as a single unit, forming the backbone of the rest of the Bible. Both traditions place the Pentateuch first in the divisions of the Old Testament (Law, Prophets, and Writings).

Other designations for the Pentateuch include ‘The Book of Law', emphasizing the covenant stipulations as its defining features; and ‘The Law of Moses', emphasizing the human mediator as its defining feature.

The Pentateuch has two basic divisions:

The first eleven chapters of Genesis deal with the earth and human race, nature and purpose of humanity, intrusion of sin into God's good creation,judgement and the hope of redemption. Genesis chapter 12 to Deuteronomy chapter 34 deal with Yahweh Covenant, Abraham posterity, Divine election and blessing, and the grant of a ‘promised land'.

2.The Pentateuchal Genres.

Genre is a literary term applicable to a given category of literature under study; the kind or style of literature.

The Pentateuch has a rich collection of genres. There are prose narratives, Ancient poetry and songs, legal writings (Law) and Prophetic revelations.

Prose narratives: In spite of the designation, Torah, the Pentateuch is basically a prose narrative; a third-person descriptive account of early Israelite history interspersed with prayers, speeches and other types of direct discourse. Narrative examples are found in Genesis (cf. Abraham's intercessory prayer for Sodom –Genesis 18:22-33), Exodus (cf. Yahweh's speech to Moses –Exodus 3:7-12), Deuteronomy (cf. Moses' discourse with the people-Deut.1:6ff).

The narratives give principles and lessons, patterns or laws to be applied to the lives of Yahweh's people, and are presented in story forms; comedic, heroic, epic or tragic in character; blending historical reporting and theological interpretation.

Ancient Poetry is in the form of prayers, songs which were used as expressions of emotions to God. Feelings of happiness, joy, security and hope (cf. Song of Moses and Miriam-Exodus 15), as well as feelings of discouragement, guilt, suffering, fear, anger or repentance. (cf. Lamech's taunt-Gen.4:23)

Prophetic Revelation: Prophetic literature in the Old Testament was both divine revelationSrevelationSrevelationSrevelationSrevelationS (cf.Yahweh's revelation to Abraham concerning the oppression and slavery of his descendants-Genesis 15:12-16) and interpretation of Yahweh's covenant –oriented revelation to Israel (cf.Moses' exposition of Yahweh's stipulations-Deut.4:1-10, 29:9). Law: The Hebrew term ‘Torah', rendered ‘law' in English often causes the Pentateuch to be associated with law, even as many of the Hebrew titles for the five books attest ("torat moshe-"the Torah of Moses"). Law in the Old Testament includes commandments ("mishwah", Exodus 20:1-17), statutes ("hog", Exodus 1:15, 16) and ordinances ("mispat", Exodus 21:1)). More than six hundred laws are contained in the books of Exodus, Levitcus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.

3.The Pentateuchal Law.

The laws in the Old Testament were given in the context of the covenant. The purpose of these commandments, statutes, decrees, legal instructions was to order and regulate the moral, religious or ceremonial and civil life of Israel in accordance with the holiness necessary for maintaining the covenant relationship with Yahweh.

It was also a contractual law binding and obligating two parties; Yahweh and His covenant people, Israel (Exodus 20-24). This was similar to the "Suzerainty covenant" of the Ancient Near East in which a powerful "Suzerain" overlord demanded absolute loyalty...
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