Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Key to the Structure of Genesis - Toledot

As I indicated in a previous post, I am teaching through Genesis for our Sunday School class. As I have been studying I have become more and more awestruck with how intracately the book has been written. This becomes evident when noticing the main structure of Genesis.

Most Old Testament scholars hold that the key to Genesis structure is a Hebrew world toledot (pronounced toll-uh-dote). This is the word translated "the account of" or "generations" which appears periodically throughout the book. For example, Genesis 2:4 begins with "This is the account of the heavens and the earth..." or, in Hebrew, "the toledot. of the heavens and the earth..." Then the biblical record details the life of the first humans. The word shows up at the beginning of a section of text and this heading,
thus summarize[s] the ensuing discussion, which traces the development of the subject from a starting point to an end. (Allen P. Ross, Creation and Blessing, pg. 71).
Toledot, then, is almost like a title or summary of the story which is about to take place. However,
contrary to what one might expect, the accounts are not essentially about the titular ancestor but about his descendants. For instance, the accounts of the lines of Terah, of Isaac, and of Jacob are primarily about their offspring: Abraham, Jacob and the twelve sons of Israel, respectively. (Bruce Waltke, Genesis, p. 18)
There are ten actual appearances of the word through Genesis. Some think Genesis 1:1 serves as a "toledot" without the use of the word. Here is another visual aid to show where these division occur throughout Genesis. It created it using Ross' and Waltke's commentaries. Hope it helps.

(click on picture for a larger image)


Mark said...

Lona gave us a lesson on the toledot last week. Pretty interesting.