It has been universally admitted that Gen. 2:4 refers to what has gone before, in ch. 1 and ch. 2:1-3. In fact, Lenormant and Moffat went so far as to place Gen. 2:4 in front of chapter 1 in their translations, having assumed that in all the other cases where such "generations" are mentioned, these refer to what follows.
Gen. 2:4, however, and the first chapter of Matthew, ought to have demonstrated that the formula which we are discussing referred to what has just been written, not to what immediately follows. Thus, Matt. 1:1 shews ancestors of the Lord, from Abraham onwards, certainly not descendants of the Lord. It is "The book of the generation of Jesus Christ" in the sense that it gives His Hebrew ancestors.
While in all these eleven verses the 1611 King James Authorized Version uses the word generations, modern translations use other words. Thus, Robert Young has "births," which reads rather awkwardly, as one could not speak of "the births of Isaac." The Revised Standard version reads "generations" down to Gen. 10:1, then changes over to "descendants" down to Gen. 36:9, but in the final occurrence, Gen. 37:2, reads "This is the history of the family of Jacob." Rotherham reads either genesis or generations, but in ch. 11:10 has genealogies; while in the final verse, ch. 37:2 he has a note: "Note the latitude of the Hebrew toledoth here, 'details of the family history.'" Darby uses "history" or "genealogy" down to ch. 6:1, then sticks to "genealogies" alone thereafter. The New World version, is throughout much more realistic than the foregoing versions, and uses "history" or "historical origins," but in ch. 10:1 reads "family descents." It is correct, too, in stating that the formula comes at the end of the record in each case.
In a book published in 1896, "The Bible and The East," Col. C. R. Conder made the suggestion that the first records of the Hebrews were written on tablets, and in the cuneiform or wedge-shaped script. In the year 1911 he published another book, "The First Bible," wherein he elaborated this idea, shewing how some cuneiform words may have been read in two ways.
About twenty years ago the matter was carried much further forward in a book published by P. J. Wiseman, who had spent some time in Babylonia among the ancient excavations there. Gradually he came to see more and more clearly that Genesis must have been originally inscribed on tablets in the ancient script of the time, by the Patriarchs who were intimately concerned with the events related, and whose names are clearly stated. Moses, as compiler and editor of the Book, clearly shews the sources of his information, and edited the Book in such a form that it defies all the rash attacks of its critics.
One rejoices to know that the Bible is so constructed that it is well capable of hitting back at all who presume they are competent to correct it or sneer at it. Wiseman's book, "New Discoveries in Babylonia about Genesis," totally destroys many of the pretentious claims of the critics. The author also shews that scholars and commentators of all schools of thought have gone astray in dividing Genesis into sections which commence with the formula, including Driver, Wright, Spurrell, Skinner, Carpenter, Bullinger, Lange, and Keil.
On the first page of Vol. 1 of Dr. Bullinger's Companion Bible there is a structure of the Eleven Generations. This shews the generations of the Heavens and the Earth as extending from Gen. 2:4 to 4:26; those of Adam from 5:1 to 6:8; of Noah from 6:9 to 9:29, and so on, while those of Jacob are shewn as covering 37:1 down to 50:26.
Anyone can observe, however, that ch. 2:4 down to 4:26 does not concern the Heavens and the Earth. A note in the Companion Bible at Gen. 2:4 says the word generations means "family history." The section 2:4 down to 4:26 is the family history or the historical origins of Adam, very probably the section inscribed by Adam during his lifetime.
It is quite true that some of the sections do commence with a genealogy or a register of births, and this has misled scholars into thinking that the phrase "These are the generations" is a preface or introduction to what follows.
The section Gen. 1:1 to 2:3 is shewn in the Companion Bible simply as "The Introduction." In Appendix No. 20 it is stated that the posterity of Cain comes in the first Toledoth, that of "the generations of the heavens and the earth," and not in "the book of the generations of Adam." This is most confusing and quite erroneous.
Even in the Oxford Gesenius Hebrew Lexicon (page 410) the Hebrew word thulduth is wrongly defined as the "account of a man and his descendants." It is an account of a man and his forebears, most likely written by the same man ere he died.
Ferrar Fenton's translation of the Bible (1903))s extremely unsatisfactory as regards these generations. Gen. 2:4 he renders "The following were the productions for the Heavens and the Earth during their creation. .." Ch. 6:9 reads "The following are the children of Noah. . .." In ch. 37:2 we read "These are the progeny of Jacob. .." In everyone of the eleven sections the position has been reversed.
Wiseman quotes Dr. Driver's book on Genesis: "This phrase is One which belongs properly to a genealogical system; it implies that the person to whose name it is prefixed is of sufficient importance to mark a break in the genealogical series, and that he and his descendants will form the subject of the section which follows, until another name is reached prominent enough to form the commencement of a new section."
Wiseman says this is plainly contrary to the facts, as the most prominent person in Genesis is Abraham, yet it is remarkable that though lesser men are mentioned, there is no such phrase as "These are the generations of Abraham." Moreover, the phrase does not always belong to a genealogical list, for sometimes no such list follows at all. The main history of the person named has been written before the phrase and not after it. When we read, "This is the Book of the generations of Adam," we learn nothing more about Adam except his age at death. Commentators reading Gen. 37:2, "These are the generations of Jacob," have been puzzled, as what follows is mainly concerning Joseph.
Wiseman takes the meaning of the Hebrew term thulduth (generations) as family history in its origin, or historical origins, and cites various Hebrew scholars who agree.
The final verse in the Book of Numbers reads; "These are the commandments and the judgments which Jehovah commanded. . .." This is quite in line with the literary custom in ancient times. See also the last verse in Leviticus.
Gen. 5:1 refers to the "Book (sepher) of the generations of Adam." What kind of book? Wiseman says it means a "written narrative" or "record." It could hardly have been a scroll. Primitive records were most probably inscribed on tablets of clay. The Chaldean record of the Flood, preserved by Berosus, a priest of Babylon (about 260 B.C.), says that the god Ea (probably Jah) appeared in a dream to Xisuthros (Noah) and instructed him to bury all the records he possessed, "the beginning, middle, and end of everything," in the City of Sippar (probably the City of Records, sepher).
Had primitive records and revelations been passed down merely by word of mouth, over a period of some thousands of years, it is unthinkable that they would not gradually become more and more corrupted.
Wiseman thinks that the formula "These are the generations of. . ." was probably added in each case by Moses. The various documents or tablets would belong to the Patriarchs who are named, who may indeed have inscribed them on stone or plastic clay. He also thinks there would be eight series of tablets possessed by the persons who are named, all of which would eventually come into the possession of Moses, who compiled Genesis as it now stands. The seventh tablet would include the histories of Ishmael and Isaac (Gen. 11:27 to 25:19), while the eighth would include the histories of Esau and Jacob (Gen. 25:20 to 37:2).
Wiseman presents two remarkable confirmations of these divisions:
"(1) In no instance is an event recorded, which the person or persons named could not have written from intimate personal knowledge, or have obtained absolutely reliable information. (2) It is most significant that the history recorded in the sections outlined above, ceases in all instances before the death of the person named, yet in most cases it is continued almost up to the date of the writer's death, or the date on which it is stated that he wrote the tablets." The author next supplies proof of this in the case of each tablet. Referring to Gen. 37:2, which ends "the generations of Jacob," he notes that the previous verse contains a statement which always seems very isolated and unconnected with the context, "And Jacob dwelt in the land wherein his father was a stranger, in the land of Canaan." This is evidence of the date and place where the tablet was written. Within a few years Jacob had moved south into Egypt, but the record shews where he was living when he wrote it. Although he mentions the death of Isaac, he says nothing about the sale of Joseph into slavery, eleven years before Isaac's death. Nor does he mention Egypt in any way.
The second tablet (Gen. 2:4 to 5:2) bears the marks of extreme antiquity and simplicity, which could never have come from a late hand. Such expressions as "sin crouching at the door" (or rather, sin lurking for an opening), used of Cain, and Lamech's boast, "I have slain a man for my wound and a young man for my hurt" point to contemporary archaic events, of which no explanation is given. No late writer would have used such intimate language as "Jehovah Elohim walking in the Garden in the cool of the day." Such intimacy would to the Israelite be sheer blasphemy.
This second tablet brings the story down to the birth of the sons of Lamech, soon after which Adam died. Adam appears to have been the writer of his tablet.
Noah's record forms tablet number three, from ch. 5:3 to 6:9. The bulk of ch. 5 is devoted to connecting Noah with Adam. In ch. 6:1-9 Noah records the growing corruption of the human race.
The fourth tablet (Gen. 6:9 to 10:1) was the work of, or belonged to, the three sons of Noah, even though it contains Noah's log-book of the Flood. These sons must have completed their tablet or section before they parted after the, Flood. They may have had occasion to observe the truth of Gen.7:19, that all the high mountains (Hebrew harim) which were under all the heavens were covered with water.
The Babylonian record of the Flood states that Noah offered up sacrifice on the summit or peak of the mountain on which the Ark rested. But the original word used is ziqqurat, "I made a libation upon the ziqqurat of the mountain." This is the term applied to the regular shape of the summit of a pyramid. Travellers have said that Mount Ararat stands out as being a most beautifully shaped mass, like an enormous pyramid, visible in all its majesty even from such a distance as Derbend on the Caspian, 270 miles distant.
Waters which covered Ararat would of necessity also cover as far as the whole of Siberia, India, and China, all Europe, most of Africa, Australia, and most of the Americas, provided heights were the same then as now. After the Flood, the three brothers, Japheth, Shem, and Ham would have sufficient time to discover that the earth was empty but for themselves and their families.
The fifth series of tablets covers Gen. 10:2 to 11:9, and belongs to Shem, outlining events for 500 years after the Flood.
The sixth tablet is Terah's, covering Gen. 11:10 to 11:27, and connecting him with Shem. The seventh, according to Wiseman, covers Gen. 11:27 to 25:19, containing the records of Isaac and Ishmael. This includes the life of Abraham, apparently recorded by his sons.
The eighth tablet covers Gen. 25:19 to 37:2 the tablets of Esau and Jacob.
Who wrote the final fourteen chapters of Genesis? Wiseman has a chapter suggesting that only Moses could have done so, when he fitted together all the foregoing tablets. And apparently Moses made no effort to avoid any repetitions, or to combine genealogies. Thus, Shem's genealogies are shewn both in Gen. 10:22-29 and Gen. 11:10-18, while ch. 6:5-8 is duplicated in verses 9-13. Such repetitions shew that various writers have been at work. Except for the section telling the story of the life of Joseph in Egypt, every tablet series begins with a repetition of facts stated in the previous tablet. This practice was common in ancient inscriptions.
In another chapter I hope to shew how Wiseman proves how Genesis is integrated by means of catch-words and colophons, at the beginnings and ends of all the tablet sections.
Furthermore, the records reveal such familiarity with the circumstances and details of the events recorded; that we may take it they were inscribed by the persons concerned with the events.
In the Pentateuch, the only definitely Babylonian words ,are to be found in the early part of Genesis. After Joseph has reached Egypt, we meet with Egyptian words, and the whole environment is changed. The last fourteen chapters of Genesis were written by someone intimately acquainted with Egyptian life and thought.
Genesis 10:19 must have been written previous to the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, "and the border of the Canaanite was from Zidon as thou goest towards Gerar unto Gaza, as thou goest towards Sodom and Gomorrah." As this statement occurs in Shem's tablets, Wiseman infers that Sodom and Gomorrah were still standing in his day.
Wiseman also shews that Moses must have inserted very brief notes occasionally, as in ch. 14, verses 2 to 17, explaining ancient place names. Thus, "Bela (which is Zoar"; "Vale of Siddim (which is the Salt Sea"; "En-mishpat (which is Kadesh)"; "Hobah (which is on the left hand of Damascus)"; "Valley of Shaveh (which is the King's Dale)." See also chs. 16:14; 35:19; 23:2; 23:19. In these last two cases, the note concerning Hebron "in the land of Canaan" must have been written very early, before the Israelites entered their Land.
We now arrive at what is perhaps the most interesting point brought out by our author. Where more than one tablet was required to record the facts, it was the ancient custom to assign to each series of tablets a title, and also to use catch-lines in order to ensure that the tablets were read in their proper order. In addition, many tablets ended with a Colophon (a Greek word meaning a finishing touch; the name, place, and date of the printer or inscriber; the equivalent of the modern title-page). On ancient tablets this colophon was placed at the end of the subject matter, whereas now-a-days the title-page is placed at the front.
No literary feature in Genesis is more remarkable than these
colophons, which clearly mark off the various sets of tablets. The
necessary catch-words are still embedded in the text, linking up all
the various "historical records." Each of the eight sets of tablets
commences and terminates with words which are similar. Thus we find in
Gen. 1:1 God creates the heavens and the earth.
2:4 Jehovah God makes earth and heavens.
2:4 When they were created.
5:2 In the day they were created.
6:10 Shem, Ham and Japheth.
10:1 Shem, Ham and Japheth.
10:1 After the Flood.
11:10 After the Flood.
11:26 Abram, Nahor and Haran.
11:27 Abram, Nahor and Haran.
25:12 Abraham's son.
25:19 Abraham's son.
36:1 Esau, he is Edam.
36:8 Esau, he is Edam.
36:9 Esau, father of Edam.
36:43 Esau, father of Edom.
By the repetition of the above catch-lines, the whole of Genesis was connected together, just as, in our day, the title of a chapter, or of the whole book, is repeated at the top of each page.
Some of the tablets shew evidence of dating. Babylonian records have been found as inscribed in the year a certain throne was made, or in the year an important wall was built, or in the year a canal was dug. Twice in the Old Testament a great earthquake in the days of King Uzziah is used to mark the time.
At the end of the first tablet (ch. 2:4) the date is simply stated, as "in the day that Jehovah God makes earth and heavens." The end of tablet two is similar, "This is the book of the origins of Adam in the day God created man."
Later tablets were dated by indicating the dwelling-place of the writer at the time when the colophon was written, and these dates were immediately connected with the concluding formula, "These are the generations of . . .." For example, ch. 25:11, "And Isaac dwelt by Beer-lahai-roi"; 36:8, "And Esau dwelt in Mount Seir"; 37:1, "And Jacob dwelt in the land wherein his father sojourned, in the land of Canaan." That is to say, it was when Jacob was living in the land of his father's sojourning that his tablets were written.
Wiseman suggests that this ancient method of "dating" tablets, and the use of catch-lines, will solve problems such as we find in Gen. 11:26-27, where we have the strange statement, "and Terah lived seventy years and begat Abram, Nahor and Haran. And these are the origins of Terah. Terah begat Abram, Nahor and Haran." Verse 26 has been a great stumbling-block to chronologists and others. It implies that when Terah was seventy years old, all three sons were born to him. But actually, Abram was not born till sixty years later. Wiseman says that Terah lived seventy years, and then wrote his tablet. This would imply that Moses added verses 26 and 27. Perhaps verse 26 ought to be read thus: "And Terah lived seventy years. And (or, also) he begat Abram, Nahor and Haran."
Thus the various section,s forming Genesis were all integrated firmly together, and that may partly explain why the Hebrew text of the Book is so pure, as compared with the text of Job, Psalms, and some of the Prophets.
Wiseman concludes by saying that his explanations definitely demolish the critical theory that Genesis was composed of documents originally having nothing to do with each other.
The critics of Genesis and the Old Testament have had their day, and they have failed most ignominiously, all along the line. We need not fear them. God will take good care that His Truth shall conquer. Further discoveries of monumental records can only help to complete the rout of those who think they can, with impudence or imprudence, dare to pass criticism upon the Divine records.
A.T. Last updated 5.2.2006