Personalities In Genesis

Personalities In Genesis

James T. Naismith

With these brief introductory comments, we begin a series of character studies in Genesis by Dr. James T. Naismith of Peterborough, Ontario. These studies were first published in book form under the title, PERSONALITIES IN GENESIS.

Copyright by Everyday Publications; used by permission.

Dr. Naismith, in addition to practicing medicine, is an able and appreciated Bible teacher.


The name Genesis is derived from a Greek word meaning origin or beginning. The Hebrew name of this book is bereshith — the first word in the Hebrew Bible — In the beginning.

This is the book of beginnings —of divine revelation, world creation, human history. Here we read of the beginning of man — as an individual, family, society, nation. Here is the record of the beginning of sin, of sacrifice for sin, of salvation from sin. Genesis describes the beginning of the human race and goes on to deal with the beginnings of the Jewish race — God’s people, chosen out of the human race.

Genesis has aptly been described as “the foundation on which the superstructure of the Scriptures rests”; “the seed in which the plant of God’s Word is enfolded”; “the plinth of the pillar of the Divine revelation”; “the root of the tree of the inspired Scriptures”; “the source of the stream of the holy writings of the Bible.” It is indeed the watershed of all Scriptural revelation, the seed-plot of the Bible, to which we can trace so many of the themes developed through the Sacred Page. Here are the seeds of sin, salvation, prophecy, Bible doctrines, godly living. It has been said: “The roots of all subsequent revelation are planted deep in Genesis, and whoever would truly comprehend that revelation must begin here.”

Much of the book of Genesis has been subjected to severe scientific, philosophical and theological criticism, the first 11 chapters —particularly, the records of the Creation, Fall and Flood — being regarded by some as merely mythical. We shall not be considering these critical questions in detail in our study, but our position will be that the early chapters of Genesis are divine revelations of actual events. In this we are fortified by the authoritative statements of our Lord who referred on several occasions to the book of Genesis in His ministry (see Matt. 19:4-6; 24:37-38; Luke 11:51; 17:26-29, 32; John 8:44, 56-58) and by frequent allusions to and quotations from the book by the New Testament writers.

Sir Winston Churchill once wrote: “We reject with scorn all these learned and laboured myths that Moses was but a legendary figure upon whom the priesthood and the people hung their essential social, moral and religious ordinances. We believe that the most scientific view, the most up-to-date and rationalistic conception will find its fullest satisfaction in taking the Bible story literally, and in identifying one of the greatest human beings with the most decisive leaps forward ever discernible in the human story. We remain unmoved by the tones of Professor Gradgrind and Dr. Dryasdust. We may be sure that all these things happened just as they are set out in Holy Writ. We may believe that they happened to people not so very different from ourselves, and that the impressions those people received were faithfully recorded and have been transmitted across the centuries with far more accuracy than many of the telegraphed accounts we read of goings on of today. Let the men of science and learning expand their knowledge and probe with their researches every detail of the records which have been preserved to us from these dim ages. All they will do is to fortify the grand simplicity and essential accuracy of the recorded truths which have lighted so far the pilgrimage of man.”

Outline of Genesis

The book divides itself into 2 major sections:

I. CHAPTERS 1-11. Primeval History. Record of 4 main events — Creation, Fall, Flood, Babel; and 4 particular men — Adam, Abel, Enoch, Noah.

II. CHAPTERS 1-50. Patriarchal History. Account of the lives of 4 main characters; Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph.

The book provides its own subdivisions by the ten recurring phrases: The book of the generations of, or these are the generations of. Each of these phrases refers to what follows and marks the beginning of a new section of the book. Genesis can thus be analysed as follows:

    1. Introduction — Creation —1:1 to 2:3

    2. The Heaven and the Earth — 2:4 to 4:26

    3. Adam — 5:1 to 6:8

    4. Noah — 6:9 to 9:29

    5. Sons of Noah — 10:1 to 11:9

    6. Shem — 11:10-26

    7. Terah — 11:27 to 25:11

    8. Ishmael — 25:12-18

    9. Isaac — 25:19 to 35:29

    10. Esau — 36:1 to 37:1

    11. Jacob — 37:2 to 50:26

Personalities In Genesis

The book of Genesis teems with characters whose life-stories are penned for our profit as well as interest. Seven of the eight great men noted above, whose lives we shall consider, are given honourable mention in God’s Hall of Fame — Hebrews 11 — and take up more than half of this chapter of illustrious men and women. But men (and women) are not the only personalities in the book. The dominant Person is God, and all others — and all else — are seen in relationship to Him. We shall briefly consider what Genesis reveals of Him as Creator, Sovereign, Judge, Redeemer, Friend, Guide. Satan, too, is introduced to us early in the book, and we are given an insight into his character, methods and judgment. Finally, the Lord Jesus Christ, though not specifically named, is undoubtedly here, as He is “in all the Scriptures” (Luke 24:27) — in direct prophecy, in many wonderful types, and in actual Person.