GENESIS - INTRODUCTION
A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
Copyright 2000 James Melough
These studies on Genesis have come about by the process of evolution. In the course of preparing talks for Bible study classes in the 1970’s the author began to accumulate notes, not with any thought of writing a book on Genesis, but simply to preserve what he thought to be the more important part of what he gleaned from the writings or oral ministry of others, together with what resulted from his own study of the book. In the course of time the notes had become fairly extensive, and this, combined with the question of class members as to whether the material presented orally might perhaps be made available in writing, resulted in the preparation of small booklets, each one of which covered one chapter of Genesis.
Over the years the same question continued to be asked relative to studies on other Bible books, and the result was that in 1986 the publication of a monthly magazine entitled Green Pastures was begun, presenting in serial form studies on several Bible books; but after two or three years there were increasingly numerous suggestions by readers that the serialized material would be welcomed in book form. In 1995 the Lord indicated that the author should suspend publication of the magazine, and devote himself to the revising and editing of the material accumulated in over forty years of Bible teaching, that material existing in the form of complete manuscripts of studies of nine Bible books, and partially completed manuscripts of four others.
Since the preparation of the booklets had brought the notes on Genesis into basically the form which now constitutes this present volume, there seemed to be no reason not to present the manuscript to a publisher, in the hope that he might concur in the judgment of the Bible class members who had heard the lectures, that the work merited a wider circulation. The result is that those notes are now available in the form of this book, which is offered with the prayer that God will use it for His own glory in the encouragement and upbuilding of His people.
But for God’s gracious enablement this book could never have been written, or published. I gratefully acknowledge my indebtedness to Him for His sustaining grace throughout the approximately seven years it took to write it.
A further debt of gratitude is due also to the very many whose oral and written ministry over more than fifty years has contributed much to the essence of this book. Their faithful ministry will have its merited reward at the judgment seat of Christ.
And last, but by no means least, is the contribution made by my wife. For almost fifty years she has uncomplainingly sacrificed much time that she might rightly have claimed, so that I could devote myself to study, writing, and ministry. Without that willing sacrifice this book couldn’t have been written. She too will have a full recompense at the judgment seat of Christ, and until that day a grateful husband can only acknowledge an indebtedness he could never repay.
Until the discovery of the Rosetta stone, Egyptian hieroglyphics were an enigma that baffled the skill of even the most learned linguists, and so with Scripture: until one has learned the meaning of the Bible’s typological language, the literal language remains a perplexing mystery beyond the ability of the keenest intellect to solve. The futility of bringing mere human wisdom to bear on the interpretation of Scripture is declared, not only by Scripture itself, “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God ... neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Co 2:14), but also in what some of the greatest but unrenewed minds have presented as their “interpretation” of the Bible.
The spiritual discernment of which Paul speaks in 1 Co 2:14, cannot be acquired in the world’s universities. It is available only to the man who has had the new birth which the Lord Jesus Christ in John 3:3,7 has declared to be an imperative for those who would escape hell and enter heaven, for Scripture reminds us that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding” (Pr 9:10).
He who isn’t indwelt by the Holy Spirit can no more understand Scripture than can a corpse, for Scripture is the language of the living God, and all unconverted men are spiritually dead, see Eph 2:1,5.
Spiritual life, however, isn’t the only prerequis-ite of spiritual understanding. There must be obedience coupled with a diligent study of Scripture, but the recompense of that obedience is to learn the meaning of the Bible’s typological language. Like prophecy, however, the study of Biblical typology has been brought into disrepute by the activity of those who have allowed a riotous imagination to supply what the Holy Spirit disowns. But none of this alters the fact that he who would understand Scripture must not only accept the fact that God has made lavish use of type and symbol, he must recognize also that that use has not been capricious. From Genesis to Revelation it is governed by the same inflexible law as controls the succession of the seasons and the movements of the stars. What a symbol means in Genesis is what it means in the Psalms or in Revelation.
A lifetime’s study of Scripture has taught the writer, as it has many others, at least something of the meaning of God’s symbolic language, and convinced him that the Bible can’t be rightly understood apart from the use of that knowledge. For example, is it simply imagination that sees in the death-like sleep of Adam, and the opening of his side to produce his bride, a symbolic picture of the actual death of the last Adam, and the opening of His side to produce the water which is a symbol of the Word, see Eph 5:26, and the blood which cleanses sinners and makes them members of that mystical body which is His bride, the Church? Is it mere fancy that sees in an obedient Isaac bound on the altar, a type of God’s obedient Son nailed to the cross? Or that sees in an obedient Joseph leaving the vale of Hebron at his father’s request, to seek the welfare of his evil brethren, a picture of the true Joseph leaving heaven to seek the welfare of His sinful earthly brethren, the Jews?
These and countless other typological pictures stud the pages of Scripture, and he who fails to see them is like the child who fails to see in the puzzle- pictures drawn to amuse the young, the figures of men, animals and other objects which the artist has partially hidden in the details of the original picture, and which are discovered by examining the picture from different positions.
Some insist that the only typical or symbolic pictures in the Bible are those which are stated in it to be such, e.g., Ga 4:24. On the contrary, the truth is that the few which are easily discernible are the diamonds scattered on the surface to alert the reader to the vast mine beneath the surface.
Its lists of names of people or places is another feature of the Bible which has evoked the question, Of what use are they? How different those lists become when we take the trouble to examine the meanings of those names! Then we discover what a wealth of teaching God has set before us in those seemingly tedious lists which most Christians never bother to read.
Let us not forget what God has declared concerning His Word, “All Scripture (including those lists) is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable, etc.,” (2 Tim 3:16). Whether it be colors, numbers, compass directions, metals, materials, etc., beyond the literal lies a higher spiritual message.
This commentary on Genesis therefore, while by no means confined to an exposition relying solely on the meaning of Biblical typology, presents an interpretation that in some respects will be new to many, but hopefully, not incomprehensible. The writer’s first exposure to this field of study came when he was a young man listening for the first time to a series of lectures on the typological significance of the Tabernacle. His reaction was amazement, not only at the truth presented, but by his own failure to have seen that truth by himself. The experience sent him back to his studies with whole new vistas spread before him, and the Bible become an inexhaustible mine of spiritual wealth which he has enjoyed for half a century. It is his prayer that this commentary on Genesis will open that mine for the eternal enrichment of those who read it.
No attempt has been made to defend the view that Moses is the writer of the Pentateuch. Others far more able than the writer have already done that.
The only other point requiring mention in this introduction is the fact that the author views the acceptance of a time gap of perhaps ages between Ge 1:1 and 1:2 as being essential to a proper understanding of Genesis. As is stated in the comments on those verses, it is not only that this is required by the plain statements of Scripture relative to God’s having created the earth instantly, and as a perfect thing, but also by recognizing that the work which employed Him for six literal days was not the creation, but the re-creation of an earth that had become a ruin, that work being a clear typological picture of the means by which He also recovers fallen man from the ruined state into which he has been brought by the disobedience of the first Adam. Refusal to accept the time gap between verses 1 and 2, mars the typological picture presented in the first three chapters of Genesis. That they are such a picture is declared in 2 Cor 4:6 “For God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
A verse-by-verse format has been used since it is the one that best facilitates easy reference, and is the one preferred by the majority of Bible students.
With this brief introduction then, the book is presented with the prayer that its perusal will bring the reader as much pleasure and spiritual profit as its preparation has brought the writer.