THE Hebrew narrative books as they are now in our hands have a well-defined scheme of history. The Book of Genesis begins with the creation of the world, and gives a chronological outline of the first period, which ends with the Deluge. A fresh start is made with Noah, the second father of the race. In this period the whole race of mankind is grouped genealogically, and, as it appears, geographically; the three zones of the known world being assigned to the three sons of Noah and their descendants. Attention is then directed to Abraham, one of the descendants of Shem. This is because he is the father of the group of peoples to which Israel belongs. In the family of Abraham we are introduced to Ishmael and Isaac. But Ishmael is dismissed from the record with a mere genealogy, that we may devote ourselves to Isaac and his line. The two sons of Isaac are brought before us in the same way, and a genealogical account of the clans of Esau is given before they in turn are dismissed, that we may give exclusive attention to Jacob and his sons. These are the main subjects of the narrative, up to which the rest has skilfully led.
It is necessary for us to note however that this plan of history, which leaves nothing to be desired in point of completeness, is due to the latest of the authors who have been concerned in the composition of Genesis. These numbers and genealogies are the work of the Priestly author, who wrote certainly after the year 500 B.C. In accordance with the spirit of his time which delighted in genealogical tables--as we see abundantly illustrated in the Books of Chronicles written a little later--he brought the whole early history into tabular form. The divisions of his history are in fact entitled genealogies. Even the sketch of the Creation has the subscription "This is the Book of Genealogy of Heaven and Earth,"1 and similar titles stand at the head of the other divisions of his work.____________________