Big Picture Exposition: Genesis and Its Characters

Wenham, Genesis Came across this quote from Gordon Wenham in his commentary on Genesis:

“And in its biographical sketches, character change is what Genesis is all about: Abram becomes Abraham; Jacob becomes Israel. Particularly in Jacob’s family we see examples of character change: Reuben, violator of his father’s concubine, later shows great concern for both Joseph and his father, while the upstart cocky Joseph becomes the wise statesman who forgives his brothers.” Gordon Wenham, Genesis 16-50, pp. 364.

BW COMMENT: Genesis is foundational for understanding God’s redemptive worldwide purposes. But catch what Wenham is saying about this thoroughly redemptive-historical and covenantal book. Through these expansive creation-renewing covenants, the hearts of God’s people will be changed, too. God’s covenants do not merely bring renewing grace to objective, external time and space history. But as God’s people wrestle with those promises, Genesis shows God’s covenants bringing renewing grace into the deepest (and ugliest) recesses of the human heart (Or at least beginning to bring that grace into their hearts).

So, if you are wondering how do you preach, teach, or study the same Abrahamic covenant themes again and again (because you will see the same old Abrahamic promises again and again and again for approximately 40 chapters of Genesis), look at how the characters respond to those promises. At times, they will respond incredibly poorly to them. So, ask how do we respond poorly to God’s gracious promises like them? But generally, as their narrative arc progresses, there will be some grace-wrought change in their lives. So, ask how those promises can transform our own struggles with the (same) sins that the Patriarchs struggled with?