What is the first book of the Bible and what is it about?

The first book of the Bible is the book of Genesis. The word "Genesis" means "beginning" or "origin".  The name was assigned to it in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament). The first word in the book of Genesis is "bereshith" which means "in the beginning."

Who wrote the book of Genesis?

The book of Genesis was written by Moses who also wrote the next four books of the Bible: Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The first five books of the Bible are considered to be the Law and are sometimes called the "Law of Moses and the Pentateuch. 

  • “Keep the charge of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies, according to what is written in the Law of Moses, that you may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn," (1 Kings 2:3).
  • "And all the people gathered as one man at the square which was in front of the Water Gate, and they asked Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses which the LORD had given to Israel," (Nehemiah 8:1).
  • See also Joshua 8:31-32; 22:5; 23:6; 2 Kings 14:6; 2 Chronicles 25:4; 30:16; Ezra 7:6; Daniel 9:13; Malachi 4:4.

In the New Testament there are references to the books and writings of Moses.

  • “But regarding the fact that the dead rise again, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the burning bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I AM THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, AND THE GOD OF ISAAC, and the God of Jacob’?" (Mark 12:26).
  • "But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the burning bush, where he calls the Lord THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, AND THE GOD OF ISAAC, AND THE GOD OF JACOB," (Luke 20:37).
  • See also Luke 2:22; 24:44; John 1:17, 45; 7:19; 8:5; Acts 13:39; 1 Corinthians 9:9; Hebrews 9:19.

There are other verses but they should be sufficient to show that both the old and New Testament attributed the first few books to Moses. Therefore, he wrote the book of Genesis.

What is in the book of Genesis?

The book of Genesis contains description of the creation of the world,  the fall of Adam and Eve, the subsequent generations of people, through Joseph's death in Egypt. The book is divided into 11 parts that are designated with the expression "these are the generations of". However, the chapter divisions do not coincide with these 11 designations.

Following are two brief outlines of the book of Genesis

First Outline

  1. Creation, Gen. 1:1–2:25
  2. The fall, Gen. 3:1–24
  3. The flood, Gen. 6:8–7:24
  4. Abraham, Gen. 12:1–25:18
  5. Isaac, Gen. 25:19–26:35
  6. Jacob, Gen. 27:1–36:43
  7. Joseph, Gen. 37:1–50:261

Second outline

  1.  Pre-history: the creation record, (1:1–2:3)
    1. Creation of the world (1:1-25; 2:1-3)
  2. The story of man (2:4–11:26)
    1. His creation and Fall (2:4–3:24); his increasing numbers (4:1–6:8); the judgment of the Flood (6:9–9:29); the rise of nations (10:1–11:26).
  3. The story of Abraham (11:27–23:20)
    1. His entry into the promised land (11:27–14:24); the covenant and the promise (15:1–18:15); Sodom and Gomorrah (18:16–19:38); Sarah, Isaac and Ishmael (20:1–23:20).
  4. The story of Isaac (24:1–26:35)
    1. His marriage with Rebekah (24:1–67); death of his father and birth of his children (25:1–34); the promise renewed at Gerar (26:1–35).
  5. The story of Jacob (27:1–36:43)
    1. His obtaining of the blessing by deceit (27:1–46); his flight to Harran, and renewal of the promise at Bethel (28:1–22); his life and marriages in Harran (29:1–31:16); his return to the promised land, and renewal of the promise at Bethel (31:17–35:29); Esau’s line (36:1–43).
  6. The story of Joseph (37:1–50:26)
    1. Joseph sold into Egypt (37:1–36); Judah and his daughter-in-law (38:1–30); Joseph in Egypt (39:1–45:28); Joseph’s father and brothers in Egypt (46:1–47:31); Jacob’s blessing gives priority to Ephraim and to Judah (48:1–49:28); deaths of Jacob and Joseph (49:29–50:26).2

The book of Genesis can be outlined in different forms but these two should be sufficient to give you a basic understanding of how the book of Genesis is laid out. Consider the book is a book of history that lays the foundation for understanding the rest of the Bible.

  • 1. Thomas Nelson Publishers. Nelson’s Quick Reference Topical Bible Index. Nelson’s Quick Reference. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1996.
  • 2. Wood, D. R. W., and I. Howard Marshall. New Bible Dictionary. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996.

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.