Knowing what is being read makes all the difference. There is a big difference between reading fiction and non-fiction, a recipe book, poetry, history, or today’s news! So, the reader must know what Genesis is. The Biblical writers considered it to be true history. But in addition, Genesis was universally considered to be the first book of the Law of Israel, the five books of the Torah.
Genesis is the first book of the old covenant scriptures. Paul referred to this portion of the Bible as “the old covenant” (2 Cor. 3:14). When the Jew read the scriptures of the old covenant, he was reading the actual canon of “the old covenant.” The laws in Exodus are part of “the book of the covenant” (Exod. 24:7). Jesus too would refer to the five books of the Torah as the “Law” (Matt. 5:27), i.e, the old covenant. The Bible itself is a covenant document comprised of the covenant documents – the old covenant scriptures and the new covenant scriptures. The question here is to understand why Genesis is part of the old covenant document since the old covenant did not exist until God brought Israel out of Egypt to Sinai.
Genesis provides the germane history leading up to the old covenant. In Genesis, Moses recounts the creation, Adam’s fall, the conflict between the kings of the world and the people of God, the judgment in the flood, the promise of the Kingdom of God, and the history of the patriarchs down to Joseph. Exodus starts with a reference to Joseph and gives the forming of the old covenant. Following the form of ancient near eastern suzerainty treaties, the old covenant had six parts: the preamble, historical prologue, the law, document clause, invocations to God, and the sanctions. Genesis provides historical prologue to the covenant.
God made the old covenant with Israel at Sinai. As God brought Israel to Sinai, He instructed Moses to tell Israel, “if you will obey My voice and keep My covenant…, you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exod. 19:5-6). God was the King, and He administered His kingdom to Israel through the old covenant. This kingdom and covenant context shapes the book of Genesis.
Meredith G. Kline, The Structure of Biblical Authority
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Unless otherwise noted Scripture quotations are from NASB. Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995, 2020 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org
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