This first book of Moses is, by a Greek word, termed GENESIS, signifying, birth, or origin, generation. For, in them we have the principles (which are as generations, Gen. 2:4) of all things visible and invisible, which in the beginning were created by God through His word out of nothing; and amongst them, of people endowed with the image of God, and placed in Paradise, that persevering in obedience, he might have lived for ever, of which the tree of life was a visible token to him. Here is laid down the reason of keeping the sabbaths, together with the institution of marriage. Here we find the beginning of sin, of death, and of all manner of miseries, poured out like a mighty torrent upon all mankind, through the disobedience of Adam and Eve, in eating the forbidden fruit. Yet therewithal you have likewise here the first promise of grace, touching man’s redemption, by the Seed of the woman, Which God of His mercy would give in due time, to bruise the serpent’s head (which had deceived man to disobedience) to take away sin and death, and to restore again the gifts of life and righteousness, which were quite lost and forfeited.
Here we find the first rudiments and fundamentals of sound doctrine, of true religion and worship of God, which has originated with the first promise, and consequently of the true church. This is not only carefully gathered by the ministry of Adam, of Abel (whom Cain murdered) of Seth, Enoch, Noah and others, but also graciously preserved by God unto Noah. Besides there are in this book set down, the beginnings of apostasy by the descendants of Cain, who, by rejecting the truth, falsifying God’s worship, and disdaining godliness, did separate themselves from that holy people, and by their enormous sins and pollutions, effected at last upon themselves the punishment of a general deluge; wherein nevertheless God saved Noah and his family. Thereupon follows the beginning of the world’s restoration after the aforementioned punishment, the pedigree of the nations, the first promise of calling the Gentiles, the beginning of the first monarchy, the division of languages, and the first genealogies, serving for the calculation of times and the distinction of nations.
Meanwhile it is the principle aim of Moses to point to the re-establishment of the church which sprung forth out of the company of Noah’s household, after it had been preserved a long time in the generation of Shem, and finally has lapsed also into idolatry. And although Melchisedec and his house were yet a remnant of the church, nevertheless it pleased God to choose a certain lineage from Shem’s posterity, which He, setting them apart from all other nations, wanted to hallow for His possession. For this end He received Abraham and his posterity by mere grace, calling him out of Ur in Chaldea, where he had been an idolater, into the land of Canaan, and making promise unto him, above other temporal and spiritual blessings, that the Messiah would be born of his seed and making a covenant with him, which He established by the sign of circumcision. Isaac is born unto him, in whom that seed was to be called, and not in Ishmael, whom he had gotten before by Hagar, or in the children which were born unto him by Keturah after the death of Sarah. Nevertheless he is commanded to offer up his son in sacrifice; and though God suffered him not to execute this, yet he having showed his obedience, God rewards him with the renewing of the former promises. From Isaac the inheritance of the promise descends upon Jacob, to whom the right of primogeniture (or first birthright) is ordained by God, sold by Esau, avouched and ratified by the blessing of Isaac. From Jacob it is derived down on his posterity, as appears by his prophetical benediction.
Generally God maintained this chosen generation in the true doctrine and pure worship, governing them by His Word and Spirit, protecting them against their enemies, and exercising them with many troubles and afflictions, wherein nevertheless He comforted them by His oracles, and redeemed them by deliverances. All this while the human frailties have revealed themselves now and then, even among the most important ones, which God graciously forgave them for the Messiah’s sake, Whom they embraced by an upright faith with true repentance. These things are very lively held forth to us as to what Abraham and Isaac have experienced in Canaan, in Egypt and Gerar and as well to Jacob and Joseph in Canaan, Mesopotamia and Egypt. At last they all die, leaving behind them most excellent testimonies of their faith in the promises of God, not only for the temporal part, touching their living posterity, but likewise for the eternal, concerning their own dying persons; of whom the last-named (whose death is recorded in this book) is Joseph, with whose end of life also closes this book, comprehending a history of above 2300 years.