“The Generations of” the patriarchs in the oldest history book Genesis

A German photographer had an order for some portrait studies of a very beautiful girl. To capture her exquisite colouring, he used orthochromatic plates. When they were developed and proofs made, the girl’s face appeared to be covered with blemishes. The photographer complained to the manufacturer, who took the plates and tested them. But the mysterious blotches were found to be the result of outside causes, and not due to any imperfection in the plates themselves.

The subject did not return to view the proofs until two months after her sitting. When she did appear, the photographer was horrified to see her skin scarred and roughened. A few questions cleared up the mystery. Two days after she sat for her portrait, the girl had come down with smallpox. The disfiguring marks were not apparent on her face at the time, but the sensitive orthochromatic plates had detected a change in the skin.

The experience led the photographer to make special studies of photographing “invisible” things and in the end he became an expert at detecting forged documents and altered cheques. You are about to discover some “invisible” (or should I say, some generally unnoticed) “marks” in the world’s oldest document which will show this document in a new perspective.  These “marks” are not immediately apparent to most people.

You might say that, even though we read them with our eyes, yet they remain, as it were, “invisible” to us. It is only the discoveries of archaeology that have made it possible for us to “see” these “marks” in the biblical book of Genesis. And these features embedded in the narrative are compelling evidence that Genesis is very, very ancient.


There are compelling hints that the Hebrew leader Moses compiled
the book of Genesis some time before 1400 BC. But critics continue to point to repetitions in Genesis as proof that many later writers, whom they call J and E and P and D, hashed it together – from oral legends.

Well, if the critic can go into such detail, could it be that he knows something we don’t? After all, there are repetitions, just as he says. Here is one of them:  “And TERAH lived seventy years, and BEGAT
ABRAM, NAHOR, AND HARAN. Now these are the generations of Terah.

Did you notice that “Terah begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran” is written twice? So do the critics have a point? Actually, there is some truth on both sides. Those who insist there was one editor are correct. Those who say there were several writers are likewise correct. However, there is some vital information that neither side has taken into account.


As you read through the book of Genesis, you may notice a recurring
phrase: “these are the generations of…”

Gen.2:4   – “These are the generations of the heavens and the earth.”
Gen.5:1,2   – “This is the book of the generations of Adam.”
Gen.6:9      – “These are the generations of Noah.”
Gen.10:1     – “These are the generations of the sons of Noah.”
Gen.11:10    – “These are the generations of Shem.”
Gen.11:27    – “These are the generations of Terah.”
Gen.25:12    – “These are the generations of Ishmael.”
Gen.25:19    – “These are the generations of Isaac.”
Gen.36:1     – “These are the generations of Esau.”
Gen.36:9     – “These are the generations of Esau.”
Gen.37:2     – “These are the generations of Jacob.”

Buried in the text of Genesis, this repeated expression contains a
stunning clue, apparently unnoticed, of Genesis’ great age. You see, what we are staring at here is a most ancient writing technique.


Before going further, however, we must dispel the idea that the
contents of Genesis were merely handed down orally.
In Gen.5:1 we read: “This is the book of the origins of Adam.”
Here the word sepher (translated “book”) means “written account”
or “finished writing”.

The Septuagint Version renders Gen.2:4: “This is the book of the
origins of the heavens and the earth.”
The “books” of that time were tablets. “Book” simply means “record”.

The earliest records of Genesis, therefore, claim to have been written down – and not, as is often imagined, passed down by word of mouth.

This is not to say that word-perfect oral transmission was impossible. Beyond doubt, brilliant intellects were able to accurately memorise information of such importance. But Genesis itself testifies that these records were  transmitted in “book” form. (Gen.5:1)

It is important to understand also that the very earliest records in our history were incised into baked clay or stone tablets, not to be altered.


However, back to this recurring phrase “These are the generations

There is something very odd about this that has puzzled scholars.
Why? Because in every case, the main history of the person named
is narrated  before this phrase occurs – NOT after it.

For example:

* ADAM: Adam’s story is given in chapters 2 to 4.
– Then comes “This is the book of the generations of Adam.”
(Genesis 5:1)
– Then after the phrase “This is the book of the generations
of Adam,” we learn nothing more about Adam, except his age
at death.

So when we read “this is the book of the history of Adam” it is the
concluding sentence of the record already supplied concerning Adam. It is placed AFTER the history of Adam.

Here’s another example:

* JACOB: Jacob’s story appears in Genesis 25:25 to 37:1.
– Then comes “These are the generations of Jacob.”
(Genesis 37:2)
– But after “These are the generations of Jacob”, we read
mainly about Joseph, not about Jacob.

What follows does not talk about Jacob at all! The expression “These are the generations of Jacob” in Genesis 37:2 obviously has nothing to do with what follows: “Joseph being seventeen years old was feeding the flock with his brothers.” (v.2)

In each case where the person’s name is given, the verses that follow
DO NOT give the history of that person at all! And this appears not to make sense.


So what does this phrase “These are the generations of”, mean? If it
is NOT an introduction, or a preface to the history of the person named, then whatever is it? That is the mystery!


It is often a rule in ancient Scripture that the first use of a word or phrase fixes its future meaning. So, when we take the phrase, “these are the generations of” where it is first used, this becomes our guide to understanding the same expression “these are the generations of” when we see it repeated through the book of Genesis.

Here is its first use: “These are the generations of the heavens
and of the earth when they were created” (Genesis 2:4).

Again, you will notice that it is not placed before, but AFTER the
history of Creation already given in Genesis chapter 1. So this
phrase is the concluding sentence of the record already written. This means it is the end-title for what has gone before.

Other books of Moses show this same feature:

• The book of Leviticus has a simple opening, but the book’s   conclusion is, “These are the commandments which the Lord   commanded Moses for the children of Israel in Mount Sinai.”
• In the book of Numbers the last sentence reads: “These are the   commandments and judgments which the Lord commanded by the hand of Moses unto the children of Israel in the plains of Moab by   Jordan near Jericho.”

Now to the book of Genesis. It keeps repeating the phrase “These are the generations”. What does this word “generations” mean? The Hebrew word for “generations” is toledoth. This means “history”, especially family history. And also the origin of anything, the story of their origin.

For example, in Gen.2:4, “these are the generations of the heavens
and the earth” means this is the story of their origin. (Gesenius’
Hebrew Lexicon)

So, put simply, the use of toledoth (generations) means “this is
the history”, “these are the historical origins of…,” “these are
beginnings of…”  – signifying family history IN ITS ORIGINS.

It turns out that such end-titles were common practice in ancient
times. We might cite, as an example, the Code of Hammurabi, an Eastern king who was contemporary with Terah and Abraham. Here the conclusion is more lengthy and formal than the introduction. It is at the end of his great inscription that he speaks of having written it.

He says, “The righteous laws which Hammurabi the wise king established… my weighty words have been written upon my monument.”


In those very ancient times the prevailing literary method of writing
was to provide little or nothing of a preface, but frequently a very formal conclusion. So a title phrase, known as ‘colophon’, tended to be placed at the end of each tablet, or series of tablets.

Today, we place the title at the beginning of a book, but in very ancient times they placed it at the end. The title was the concluding sentence – and pointed back to the report just given.

So when we read “these are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created” (Gen.2:4), it is the concluding sentence of the record already written. It is placed AFTER the history of Creation. It ENDS the section of history about Creation. Immediately after that COMMENCES another section.

Likewise, “These are the generations of Adam” ENDS the section of
history about Adam. And immediately after that COMMENCES another section about something else.

“These are the generations of Jacob” ENDS the section of history about Jacob. And immediately after that, “Joseph being seventeen years old,” etc., COMMENCES another section.


And that brings us to another very ancient writing technique that shows Genesis to have been written originally on clay tablets. Immediately following the phrase “These are the generations of”, there comes a repetition. And repetitions were used to join the tablets.

Notice this example:

(a) Firstly, in Genesis 10:22-25 the children of Shem are listed:
“The children of Shem; Elam, and Asshur, and Arphaxad, and Lud,
and Aram. And the children of Aram; Uz, and Hul, and Gether,
and Mash. And Arphaxad begat Salah; and Salah begat Eber. And
unto Eber were born two sons: the name of one was Peleg.”

(b) Then in Genesis 11:10 appears this phrase: “These are the
generations of Shem.”

(c) Then in Genesis 11:10-16 the children of Shem are listed again:
“Shem begat Arphaxad two years after the flood: And Arphaxad
lived five and thirty years, and begat Salah: And Salah lived
thirty years, and begat Eber: And Eber begat Peleg.”

In the above sequence,
(a) The descendants of Shem who were born during his lifetime
are named.
(b) Then comes the end-title: “These are the generations of
Shem.” This ends Shem’s tablet.
(c) Then the next tablet begins. And it repeats the end part of            the previous tablet (Shem’s tablet) to show that it is the tablet to be read next after Shem’s tablet.

Repetitions, you see, were used to link tablets together. When the lengthy nature of the writing required more than one tablet (just as today with the pages of letters or books), proper sequence was often achieved by the use of titles and catch-lines.

At the start of the next tablet were written the last few lines of the
previous tablet. This very ancient writing technique is precisely what we find in the book of Genesis. Sometimes we find these strange duplications, when we see a reference to “generations” in the book of Genesis.

Here is another one:

“And TERAH lived seventy years, and BEGAT ABRAM, NAHOR, AND HARAN. Now these are the generations of Terah. TERAH BEGAT ABRAM, NAHOR, AND HARAN.” (Genesis 11:26,27)

So the end of one tablet reads as: “And TERAH lived seventy years, and BEGAT ABRAM, NAHOR, AND HARAN. Now these are the generations of Terah.”

And the start of the next tablet says: “TERAH BEGAT ABRAM, NAHOR, AND HARAN.”

This links two tablets, one to follow the other. The repetition of the names “Abram, Nahor and Haran”, before and after the “generations” phrase, indicates that they are “catch-lines” and conform to the usual ancient practice. On the first tablet, after the last line, came the first words of the next tablet.

If the critic knew his subject better, he would realise that this charge
of “repetition” could be brought against almost every piece of ancient
writing. It is characteristic of the style of the time.

Hence Professor Arno Poebel, in commenting on some ancient Sumerian tablets found at Nippur, writes: “…the readers of the Bible, moreover, will recognise the quaint principle of partial repetition or paraphrase.” (Poebel, Historical Texts. University of Pennsylvania)

We find that, except for the last part of Genesis (the report concerning Joseph in Egypt), every tablet or series of tablets begins with a repetition of facts contained in the previous tablet.

This is precisely what anyone acquainted with the ancient methods of writing would expect. And it is further evidence of the faithfulness with which the records have been transmitted to us.

The literary methods evident in Genesis are those of the time of Moses and not of a later date when methods changed. (See experts of recognised international standing, such as Kenneth Kitchen, Professor of Archaeology and Oriental Studies; Dr D. Wiseman, Professor of Assyriology and a Semitist; Professor Alan Millard.)

By clutching at these repetitions in Genesis in his attempt to discredit it, the poor critic only shows up his own ignorance. Oh, one does feel so sorry for him! Let’s say it again. Repetitions were deliberate features, inserted to link two tablets.


1.The phrase “These are the generations of…”  is the end-piece of a document – and points back to the narrative already  recorded.
2.It is in the style of the earliest written records.
3.It habitually indicates the writer or owner of the history.

But the most solid evidence that the Book of Genesis is the very OLDEST – yes, I say OLDEST – of all documents we have on this planet earth, such evidence would fill a book. Anyway, , if your curiosity has been perked and you would really like to know, beyond a shadow of doubt, the raw facts, these facts are now available to you. Just go to http://www.beforeus.com/weapon-ebook.html
to order your special copy right now.

Best wishes
Jonathan Gray

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