The Sevenfold Structure of Genesis

Isabel Piczek - Hand of God-S

“The seven days of Genesis 1 are a chiasm, and therefore these sections are a chiasm. The Adam who doesn’t come to rule at the beginning is answered by the Adam who does come to rule at the end.”

Adapted from James B. Jordan, “The Life of Jacob,” Biblical Horizons No. 258, July 2017.

Genesis has a sevenfold structure. Many books of the Bible, including Revelation, have the same structure. The book is marked out in sections by a phrase that is found about ten times in the book: these are the generations of. Chapter 5:1: “These are the generations of Adam.” Chapter 6:9: “These are the generations of Noah.” The word “generations” in Hebrew is toledot. The “ot” is a feminine plural ending. “Sabbaot”—Lord of sabbaoth—Lord of hosts—armies. “Im” is masculine plural—“Elohim”—plural of “El” or God—majestic God, or many gods. Toledot is the plural of generation—toledah, and the reason I mention that is that these sections of Genesis are called toledah sections.

There are ten of these sections, but if you look at it more carefully you notice that some of the sections are grouped so that we come up with seven sections. The structure of Genesis consists of an introduction and then seven sections that correspond to the seven days of Genesis 1…

This sequence of seven speech actions is the way God always works with the world… That is why Genesis has seven sections, and why the first seven books of the Bible follow the same format. Genesis is the book of the first day. Exodus is where the firmament is made—the firmament people—that is the Tabernacle. Leviticus has to do with flesh and blood, plants and seeds. Numbers has to do with stars. Deuteronomy has to do with the organisation of a group of people. Joshua has to do with planting of a people int he land. Judges has to do with sin bringing a time to its fulfillment on the Sabbath Day. The Spirit works that way, and that is why the Bible is written as it is.

Now, the first section we have is the generations of the heaven and earth, what the heaven and earth brought forth. The heaven and earth bring forth—they marry—and bring forth humanity. What is generated by the heavens and the earth? Genesis 2:4, “This is the generation of the heaven and the earth after they were created in the day Yahweh God made earth and heaven.” Verse 7, “Then Yahweh God formed man of dust (not clay) of the ground,”—that’s the earthy part—“and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life”—that’s the heavenly part. The Spirit comes from heaven into dust, the marriage of earth and heaven, and man is formed. That is what the heavens and the earth generate. They generate Adam. And Adam generates Eve, and Adam and Eve generate Cain and Abel and Seth. That’s the generation of the heaven and earth, and what the heavens and earth bring forth is Adam.

This corresponds to day one—the creation of heaven and earth out of formlessness corresponds to the creation of man. The earth was formless and the Spirit of God moved in. Dust is about as formless as you can get. A brick has form. A rock has form. Clay has form. Dust has no form. Man wasn’t made of clay, but of dust. It is formless, and then God’s Spirit comes into it as a parallel to day one. In Genesis 2 the creation of man corresponds to the creation of light on day one. Genesis 2 has the same sevenfold fold outline as Genesis 1. In Genesis 2 the phrase “The Lord God did” follow the same sequence as in Genesis 1, and forming man is parallel to making light on the first day, which is followed throughout Bible. Human beings are lights, stars, etc.

The comes the separation of light and darkness on day one. “God separated the light from the darkness, he saw the light was good. He called the light day, and the darkness he called night.” That separation theme is carried through in this section of Genesis by the judgment on man where he is separated from the Garden, and then primarily the separation of Cain and Abel into a darkened and light kind of people. This second section goes down to the end of Genesis 4.

The next section is the generations of Adam. Chapter 5 says, “This is the book of the generations of Adam,” and then it talks about Adam. Adam had a son in is likeness named Seth, so Adam generates Seth, and then Enosh, Kenan, Mehalalel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, and Noah.

This corresponds to the establishment on the second day of the firmament to separate waters above from waters below. The godly line of Seth is the human form of that firmament, and the corruption of that line is answered by the removal of the firmament and the re-coalescence of the waters in the flood.

The godly line stands between, as Adam was supposed to do from the beginning, heaven and earth. There was a mountain rising up out of the earth, and on the mountain stood the priest who mediated between God and man. Symbolically speaking, this was Adam’s position in the firmament—below God and above the world. That is the position of the godly line that comes from Adam, the Sethites. The creation of the Sethite race, as opposed to the Cainite race, is equivalent to the formation of the firmament, linked with that aspect of creation week. This is the second toledot section in Genesis and it relates to the firmament. All of the things made in the first week have a human equivalent now in this story. This group of human beings is placed between heaven and earth.

Noah brings forth Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and the whole “table of nations” comes from them. Just as in Day 3 of Genesis 1 there are two section where land and sea are separated, and then the plants are put on the earth—two actions on the third day. So here, the separation of land and sea is answered by the flood, and then the fact that as the flood receded we have a new separation of land and sea. This is very much the same language as in Genesis 1.

And then the multiplication of plants on the land is answered by the table of nations in Chapter 10. “These are the generations of Shem, Ham, and Japheth…” This is another subsection of toledot. The 70 nations grow up, which are the plants on the earth. Does the book of Genesis symbolize humans as plants? Yes, it does, and that is clear from the very first chapters when God says that the earth will bring forth thorns and thistles. Man is made of earth, and what is the next thing that happens after God says the earth will bring forth thorns and good things? First there is Cain, then Abel. But that isn’t where it starts. It starts when God says that the seed of the woman will defeat the seed of the serpent. Women don’t have seeds in a biological sense. In Genesis 1 the plants are said to have seeds about 8 or 9 times and establishes what is meant. In vs. 11 God says, “Let the earth sprout forth vegetation, plants seeding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit with seed in them on the earth.” And the earth brought forth vegetation, verbs seeding seeds after their kind, and trees bearing fruit with seed in them after their kind. On and on the word “seed” goes. I have given you every plant seeding seed, and every tree having fruit yielding seed.

The seed of a plant comes when it blooms and has seed to become the next generation. The seed of the woman comes when she blooms by getting pregnant and has the next generation. The seed of the woman is the child, but this is plant language. So to make people analogous to plants is right there in Genesis. We are in the third section of Genesis, and we read about all these nations, which are plants growing and spreading all over the earth.

Then for the fourth day section we have the generations of Shem—just a short section. The fourth day is when the lights are put in the heavens, and the Shemites are the new light bearers to rule the heavens. Genesis 9:26 says, “Blessed be Yahweh, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem. May God extend the territory of Japheth; may Japheth live in the tents of Shem, and may Canaan be his slave.” Shem has the responsibility for worship. Japheth needs to dwell in the tents of Shem, which means to come to worship. Shem is designated as the line of the covenant seed, and that will later be specified to be Weber, and then Abram, then Isaac, and then Jacob. This is a series of narrowing specification. This is the firmament line of light bearers who maintain God’s truth in the firmament position between heaven and earth.

The fifth section in Genesis is the generations of Terah. What did Terah bring forth? He brought forth Abraham, so this is the Abraham narrative (Genesis 11:27). Terah brought forth Abram, Nahor, and Haran. Corresponding to Day 5 when great swarming creatures were made and God gave his first command to any creature, these themes of multiplication and law are highlighted in the story of Abram, which Genesis 11:27-25:11 delineate. In fact, this theme of multiplication and swarms of people is greatly emphasized here. God says to Abraham, “Your seed will be like the stars of the heavens, like the sand of the sea,” and not only that, Abraham’s brother, Nahor, has twelve children (Genesis 22:20-24). The whole theme of having twelve children starts here, which is multiplication. If you have twelve children you haven’t just reproduced, you have multiplied.

It is part of the “patience” theme that is one of the major themes of Genesis. Abraham has to look over at his brother and say, “He has twelve children,” and then Isaac has to look over at Ishmael and say the same thing while his wife is barren. Abraham has to say the same thing, finally he has just one child. At every point the believers are being told to wait and be patient, while God is giving numerous children to all the unbelievers, or at least those not marked by Divine election to service.

The next section is the generations of Ishmael and Isaac, two section that need to be grouped together as one. In Genesis 25:12 are the twelve sons of Ishmael who are twelve princes, and then vs. 10 gives the generations of Isaac.

We have the generations of Terah, which is the Abraham narrative, and then we have the generations of Isaac, which is the Jacob narrative. You will notice there is no section called the generations of Abraham. There is no Isaac section. There is an Abraham section, a Jacob section, and the ones ones are the generations of Jacob which is the Joseph/Judah section. The Jacob section is a very carefully constructed chiasm, as is the Abraham section. These are very carefully constructed literary units. The first part of Isaac’s life is in the Abraham section when he is a son, and the second half is in the Jacob section where he is a father.

The generations of Ishmael and Isaac correspond to Day 6. Just as Day 6 had two sections—the creation of animals and the creation of man—the toledoth of Ishmael corresponds to the creation of helpful animals because the Ishaelistes are not enemies of Israel Ishmael is regenerated, and is in heaven. The Bible tells us so. They are helpers to Israel. And then the seance half of Day 6 is the creation of man, which corresponds to the generations of Isaac, and is concerned with Jacob, the man who is able to wrestle with God and prevail. This is what it means to be a real, true godly man.

And then the last section is the generations of Esau and Jacob. Genesis 36 is the generation of Esau. That is Cain, the bad thorny plant. The generation of Jacob is the story of Joseph and Judah that has to do with sabbath rest—coming into rest, enthronement, feeding the entire world, and living in the best part of the land. Trace it through in Genesis. It says that the area of the city of Sodom was like the circle of the Jordan, like the Garden of Eden. Then it says that the land of Goshen was the best part of Egypt, and it was like the circle of the Jordan. Being put in Goshen was the equivalent to being put back in the Garden of Eden. Genesis ends with a return to full redemption and Sabbath rest in the story of Joseph. Everything broken has been fixed, at least partially. When we get to Exodus we find that it falls apart. It is Jesus who has to bring the full and final restoration. The generations of Esau in chapter 36 point to the fall of man, which happened on the Sabbath. A false Sabbath rest is given to Esau as he multiplies and takes control, while true Sabbath rest is given to the godly in the land of Goshen.

This is a general chiastic structure. The seven days of Genesis 1 are a chiasm, and therefore these sections are a chiasm. The Adam who doesn’t come to rule at the beginning is answered by the Adam who does come to rule at the end. Adam was supposed to mature and rule, but he didn’t. Joseph does. Adam makes his own clothes. Joseph is given robes by those who honor him. Adam is not honored and not given robes—just bloody animal skins.

It still seems a bit odd for the title of the Abraham narrative to be called the generations of Terah, since it turns out to be all about Abraham. The reason for that is that it is the seed of the woman, the second Adam, who is going to accomplish everything. At every point in Genesis it is the son, the next person in line who is going to accomplish tings, who is going to save the world and be the Messiah. That is the first thing Eve says when she gives birth to Cain. That is why the book is laid out the way it is—the book of generations—the father isn’t adequate, so the son has to come and accomplish the mission. That son turns out to be inadequate, so his son has to come and do it until the coming of Jesus who is the fully capable Son.

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