The exposition of Old Testament narrative literature has often been a problem for Bible
teachers and preachers. On the one hand, expositors may simply retell the stories (with or without
dramatic embellishments) and then draw a few general lessons from them. The biblical narratives, however,
are far more than illustrative stories. They are highly developed and complex narratives that form
theological treatises. We do not do justice to them by oversimplifying them or overlooking their literary
and theological motifs. On the other hand, expositors who have had more training in exegesis may make a
detailed study of the passage in order to clarify the meaning of everything that happened or was said but
may never come to the point of organizing the theological teaching of a passage in a way that is both clear
and relevant to today's audience.
I have written this book for pastors, teachers, and all serious Bible students who
wish to develop their understanding of the Book of Genesis (and narrative literature in general) and to
increase their ability to expound it. I want to help the reader appreciate the major literary and theological
motifs that form the theological ideas in the narratives and to demonstrate how these theological ideas
can be developed into clear and accurate exposition. This book is not a commentary on Genesis, although
it includes many interpretive comments. Rather, it is a guide to the study and exposition of the book.
The first four chapters include various introductory matters that will give the expositor
a general idea of the nature and composition of Genesis as well as the various approaches to the study
of the book that one will find represented in the commentaries and articles. I have suggested a step-by-step
procedure that makes use of the best of modern scholarship but remains thoroughly orthodox. The rest of
the book traces through the narratives in Genesis to show what such a procedure yields. The number and
the variety of the passages in Genesis provide sufficient material to learn about the study and exposition
of narrative literature.
For each of the narratives I have developed exegetical and expositional ideas, using
the literary and theological motifs of the units. It is not my concern that the reader simply adopt these
ideas and outlines. I would hope that the reader would develop the ideas more fully and improve the ways
of saying things in the exposition. It is my concern that the reader catch something of a method that I
believe is the simplest and most effective way of developing an expositional presentation out of a close
analysis of the text, and expositional presentation that adequately treats the whole passage and is worded
in a way that is true to the contextual meaning of the passage and relevant to the modern audience as well.
The material in this book is in no way intended to replace careful study of the text, which
is absolutely essential for a clear and convincing exposition. I hope that this book inspires and aids the
reader in such a study and thereby contributes to the exposition of the Scriptures. To that end I have included
extensive bibliography for each narrative unit, as well as a general bibliography of the major commentaries
and monographs on Genesis at the end of the book. References to outside sources have their full bibliographical
data listed either at the end of the unit being discussed or, if they are general works, a the end of the book.
This book is largely the result of my teaching the exegetical exposition of the Pentateuch
over the last eight years. I am indebted to my many students, who provided the forum for the discussions and
who contributed to the development of the ideas by their participation. I am also grateful to Marie Janeway
for carefully typing the manuscript and to David Aiken and Dorian Coover for their help in editing and
proofreading the material.