The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1-17

The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1-17

The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1-17

The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1-17


"In the Old Testament we read God's word as it was spoken to his people Israel. Today, thousands of years later, we hear in these thirty-nine books his inspired and authoritative message for us."

These twin convictions, shared by all of the contributors to The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, define the goal of this ambitious series of commentaries. For those many modern readers who find the Old Testament to be strange and foreign soil, the NICOT series serves as an authoritative guide bridging the cultural gap between today's world and the world of ancient Israel. Each NICOT volume aims to help us hear God's word as clearly as possible.

Scholars, pastors, and serious Bible students will welcome the fresh light that this commentary series casts on ancient yet familiar biblical texts. The contributors apply their proven scholarly expertise and wide experience as teachers to illumine our understanding of the Old Testament. As gifted writers, they present the results of the best recent research in an interesting manner.

Each commentary opens with an introduction to the biblical book, looking especially at questions concerning its background, authorship, date, purpose, structure, and theology. A select bibliography also points readers to resources for their own study. The author's own translation from the original Hebrew forms the basis of the commentary proper. Verse-by-verse comments nicely balance in-depth discussions of technical matters -- textual criticism, critical problems, and so on -- with exposition of the biblical writer's theology and its implications for the life of faith today.


The title “Genesis” comes to us by way of the Latin Vulgate (Incipit Liber Bresith id est Genesis), which in turn borrowed, or transliterated, from the Greek lxx, Génesis. This word is best reproduced in English by “origin.”

In postbiblical Hebrew usage the title is b rē’šîṯ, which is, in fact, simply the first word of 1:1 (“In [the] beginning”). This follows the custom of naming the books of the Pentateuch on the basis of either their first word, their first two words, or an expression near the beginning of the first verse. Thus the titles for the rest of the Torah books are as follows: Exodus— w ’ēlleh š môṯ (“and these [are] the names of”); Leviticus—wayyiqrā’ (“and he called”); Numbers—b miḏbar (“in the wilderness of”); Deuteronomy— ’ēlleh hadd ḇārîm (“these [are] the words”). This custom is followed only sporadically in the Hebrew Bible once one moves beyond its first five books (e.g., “Song of Songs,” šîr haššîrîm, and “Lamentations,” ’êUD and “Book of the Righteous.” Rabbi Isaac Abrabanel (1427–1508) writes at the end of his commentary on Genesis: “B’reshith is called ‘The Book of Creation’ (Sepher ha-B’riah) or ‘The Book of Formation’ (Sepher ha-Yetsirah).” Nahmanides likewise writes in his introduction: “B’reshith, which is the Book of Yetsirah, teaches that the world is new.” Midrash Habiur raises the question: “Why is

1. Modern Hebrew usage sometimes abbreviates titles (š môṯ for Exodus, d ḇrîm for Deuteronomy), or slightly changes the title (bammiḏbar, “in the wilderness,” for Numbers).

2. “Lamentations” derives from lxx thrḗnoi and Vulg. threni, which is a translation of qînôṯ, the title given to this ot book by the Babylonian Talmud (Baba Batra 14b, 15a) and other early Jewish writings (Jerusalem Talmud, šabbat 16:15c, which uses the expression m gillaṯ qînôṯ).

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