The Bible: A Timeline of Genesis

The stories in the book of Genesis have as many twists and turns as a television soap opera; there’s deception, betrayal, murder, natural disasters, punishment, perversion, sacrifice, slavery, dysfunctional families and redemption. This chronology examines the many highlights and low lights of Genesis.

Chapter 1 of Genesis gets straight to the point: "In the beginning," it says, "God created the heaven and the earth." Indeed, by the end of Day Six, God has created day and night, land and sea, birds, fish and every other living creature, including man, in the forms of Adam and Eve. On the seventh day God decides to rest on what will become known as the Sabbath.

Adam and Eve are left to their own devices in the Garden of Eden, which is teeming with fauna and flora of every persuasion. God instructs Adam not to eat the forbidden fruit of a certain tree; unfortunately, Eve is persuaded by the resident serpent – the Devil in disguise – to do just that, and is joined in her indiscretion by Adam. The result is that a furious God exiles them both from the Garden of Eden.

By Chapter 4, Adam and Eve have had two sons – Cain and Abel. Both make offerings to God but Abel’s appears to be more to the Lord’s liking, driving Cain into a jealous rage which culminates in his brother’s murder. When God confronts Cain about Abel’s whereabouts, Cain infamously says: "I know not. Am I my brother’s keeper?" God places a mark on Cain as a result of his crime.

As the generations pass, God becomes increasingly saddened by man’s wickedness and decides something drastic needs to be done. He instructs a just man named Noah to build a gigantic ark in order to house a pair of every living creature. God then causes the earth to flood for 40 days, drowning everything except the occupants of the ark.

Once the floodwaters recede, Noah and his descendants repopulate the earth. But after Noah’s death, those descendants become a little too enchanted with heaven for God’s liking; when they decide to build the Tower of Babel in order to reach into heaven, He scuppers their plans by scattering them and causing them to speak different languages so they cannot reunite.

The following chapters introduce one of the iconic characters of Genesis – Abraham, a descendant of Noah’s son Shem. God makes a covenant with Abraham which will make him ‘the father of the nations’, and promises the land to his heirs. Abraham responds by building an altar to God and invoking Him by name.

In Chapters 18-19, the cities Sodom and Gomorrah draw God’s wrath because of the prevalence of deviancy. Abraham tries to dissuade God from destroying the cities but when God fails to find 10 just men within their precincts, He devastates the cities and their inhabitants with fire and brimstone.

Despite Abraham’s loyalty, God decides to test him yet further by asking him, in Chapter 22, to sacrifice his only son, Isaac. In one of The Bible’s most electrifying passages a clueless Isaac asks his father on Mount Moriah: "Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" Fortunately, Isaac is spared by God just as Abraham prepares to kill him; God sends a ram trapped in a thicket as a burnt offering in place of the boy, whom Abraham had already placed on the altar.

The excitement doesn’t stop there, however; in Chapter 25 Isaac’s twin sons Esau and Jacob show that the sibling rivalry between Cain and Abel wasn’t a one-off occurrence. When Esau feels ill, he asks Jacob for some stew. "Sell me this day thy birthright," Jacob demands. Esau accedes in order to stave off his illness, and in so doing loses his birthright.

But Jacob’s machinations aren’t over. In Chapter 27, he wears a goatskin in order to impersonate Esau and gain his now elderly father Isaac’s blessings. Esau is outraged and promises himself that he will one day kill Jacob. Later, Jacob encounters an angel with whom he wrestles, and who renames him Israel. Later still, Esau and Jacob eventually reconcile.

By Chapter 37, Jacob (or Israel) has 12 sons, the 11th of whom – Joseph – is his favorite. This causes immense jealousy among the other boys, who conspire to sell Joseph into slavery in Egypt. However, he becomes known to the Pharaoh in Egypt, who is amazed that Joseph can correctly interpret his dreams. He raises the boy to a very powerful position in the kingdom.

Between Chapters 43-46 Joseph is reunited with his father and brothers when they visit Egypt looking for food. Genesis concludes with the 12 tribes of Israel settling in Egypt, the deaths of Jacob and Joseph – the latter still in exile in Egypt – and the exodus being prophesied.

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