Genesis’ Layout

July 16, 2008

In my study this morning I went through Genesis noting all of the “This is the account/genealogy of ______”s in the book.  My read (and a pretty obvious one I think) is that this common refrain throughout the book establishes the basic outline of the book, with chapter 1-2:3 forming a sort of introduction or prologue (I have yet to decide which).  Here is the breakdown according to the accounts/genealogies of the book:

2:4-4:26  “Account of the heavens and the earth”–including creation, fall, Cain and Able, Lamech, people calling on YWHW

5:1-6:8  “Record of the family line of Adam”–including genealogy, increasing wickedness, foretelling of the flood

6:9-9:29  “Account of Noah”–divine pronouncement, flood, covenant renewal, drunkenness, curse/blessings

10:1-11:9  “Account of Noah’s sons”–genealogies, Babel

11:10-26  “Account of Shem”–genealogy

11:27-25:11  “Account of Terah”–marriages, blessing, move, Egypt, move/separation from Lot, battle, covenant, Ishmael, circumcision, visitors, Sodom and Gomorrah, Gerar, Isaac, sacrifice, Sarah dies, Rebekah, Abraham dies (interesting that it is not “Abraham’s account”…)

25:12-18  “Account of Abraham’s son Ishmael”–geneology

25:19-35:29  “Account of Isaac the son of Abraham”–children, Gerar, Jacob steals the blessing/runs away, Bethel, Jacob’s family/work/flocks/flight, Peniel, brothers meet, Dinah, Bethel, Rachel and Isaac die.

36:1-37:1  “Account of Esau”–genealogy, tribes

37:2-end “Account of Jacob”–Joseph sold, Judah/Tamar, Joseph/Potiphar’s wife, famine, reuniting, move, adoption, blessings, Jacob and Joseph die

 Helpful as knowing the breakdown of the book is, it only leads us back to the same question we had in the beginning before we had anything to say regarding form: How does aesthetics (form, artfulness, etc.) influence, relate to, and/or interact with ideology (what ideas are being taught) and/or historiography (what happened, history)–categories I have stolen from Meir Sternberg’s Poetics of Biblical Narrative.  In other words, has the author arranged the text in this way to communicate certain ideological truths?  Is arrangement serving historiography?  Or perhaps ideological and/or historiographical motivations have determined the present orientation (form) of the text. 

With little to no evidence to here commend itself, let us suffice it to say that yes the author’s arrangement does bear out ideological truths.  But what?  Why this breakdown?  In this order?  With these emphases?  The answer to this and other questions lies (I believe) within the text, which I will keep studying.  Specifically, I think my next move will be to look at the breakdowns and see if I can’t find some similarities and or patterns.  Feel free to add your own thoughts below.