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Genesis (Bereshit) Introduction

Genesis (Bereshit)

Genesis is the first book of the English Bible and it’s base Hebrew text corresponds to the first book of Torah called Bereshit בְּרֵאשִׁית. Bereshit can be said and spelled eight different ways – Bereshit, Bereishit, Bereshis, Bereishis, B’reshith, Beresh’t, Beresheet, or Bereishees. All of them are correct.

The first time “Genesis” is used to refer to this text was by the seventy-two Jewish translators of the Greek Septuagint (LXX). Later Jerome, using the Septuagint, used this name in his Latin Vulgate translation of the Bible.  William Tyndale and Miles Coverdale depended heavily upon the Latin Vulgate and Luther’s German translations; so continued the tradition of calling this text “Genesis”.  I am sure you know Genesis means “beginning” or “origin

Gen. ChaptersParshaiotCopyright
Bereshit – Genesis 1:1 – 6:8
Halftorah: Isaiah 42:5-43:10
Brit: Rev. 22:6-21
Noach – Genesis 6:9 – 11:32
Halftorah: Isaiah 54:1-55:5
Brit: Mt. 24:36-46
Lech Lecha – Genesis 12:1 – 17:27
Halftorah: Isaiah 40:27-41:16
Brit: Ro. 4:1-25
Vayera – Genesis 18:1 – 22:24
Halftorah: 2 Kings 4:1-37
Brit: Lu. 1:26-38; 24:36-53
Chayei Sarah – Genesis 23:1 – 25:18
Halftorah: 1 Kings 1:1-31
Brit: Mt. 1:1-17
Toledot – Genesis 25:19 – 28:9
Halftorah: Malachi 1:1- 2:7
Brit: Ro. 9:1-13
Vavetze – Genesis 28:10 – 32:2 (3)
Halftorah: Hosea 11:7-14:9 (10)
Brit: Jn. 1:19-51
Vayishlach – Genesis 32:3 (4) – 36:43
Halftorah: Obadiah 1:1-21
Brit: Heb. 11:11-20
Vayeshev – Genesis 37:1 – 40:23
Halftorah: Amos 2:6-3:8
Brit: Mt. 1:1-6, 16-25
Miketz – Genesis 41:1 – 44:17
Halftorah: 1 Kings 3:15 – 4:1 40*
Brit: Mt. 27:15-46
* Shabbat Chanukkah, Ronni vSimchi Zechariah 2:14-4:7
Shabbat/Rosh Chodesh, Isaiah 66:1-24; 1 Peter 2:45-10
Machar Chodesh 1 Samuel 20:18-42
Vayigash – Genesis 44:18 – 47:27
Halftorah: Ezekiel 37:15-28
Brit: Lu. 6:12-16
Vayechi – Genesis 47:28 – 50:26
Halftorah: i Kings 2:1-12
Brit: 1 Peter 1:1-9
KJV – Public Domain
1917 JPS – Public Domain

The Rabbis refer to the first book of Torah as “Bereshit” בְּרֵאשִׁית because it is the first word in the text. Bereshit בְּרֵאשִׁית has three meanings — “in the beginning“, “at the start“, or “at the head (of all things, in this case).” The translation “in the beginning” has become the most popular way to translate Bereshit and from what I’ve read all other translations are strongly opposed. In the world of translation, this has become a very political issue.

In Jewish tradition, there are three additional names used when referring the text of the first book of Torah. They are Sefer Bereshit which may mean book of beginnings, Sefer Rishon meaning the First Book, and Sefer Beri’at Ha’olam which translates to the Book of the Creation of the world. The oldest known reference to this text by the Rabbis is Sefer Maseh Bereshith, Book of Creation.

Understanding Genesis (Bereshit):

These are extremely ancient writings and are perhaps some of the most debated and misunderstood text in all of the Scriptures. The views on these text are very wide even within Judaism.

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Tabs | Understanding Genesis | Stats | Outline | Scribal Practices | Resources | Next Steps

Genesis (Bereshit) Stats:

Researching stats has been very eye opening. At best Bible stats are more a rule of thumb than concrete numbers. While some numbers are generally true in all translation’s others are very subjective. For example, Genesis in modern English translation will have fifty chapters. However, the letter count can differ. Think about British English verses American English. That’s not to mention the regional differences.  Comparing any Bible translation to a Hebrew Torah scroll is comparing apples and oranges.

While searching for Torah scroll stats, I spoke to a trained Scribe.  I asked if scribes know the number of letters in a section of a scroll, he stated this.  “The Talmudic rabbis counted the letters. We still have notation for this in printed edition of the Torah. It is not widely known, but there are difference between our text and theirs.”

Please note both the English and Hebrew stats below are very specific to the source. I used the Dakes King James Version for the English and Akhlah: The Jewish Children Learning Network for the Hebrew stats. The English Translation used here at Whittle Study Bible (WSB) is the JPS 1917 public domain version. The English stats below does not specifically correspond to the texted used on this site.

Also note kosher Torah scrolls are very unique and are hand crafted by the scribe that writes them. There are many factors that can change these numbers. So, consider these numbers more as a rule of thumb than concrete numbers.

There is one stat true for English Bibles and Hebrew Torah scrolls.

Genesis (Bereshit) is the first book in both and both attribute it to Moses. I guess that is two things in common.

KJV English Stats 1

Chapters: 50
Letter Count: ?
Word Count: 38,267
Verse Count: 1,533

Additional English Stats:
Shortest Chapter: 16 (with 16 verses)
Longest Chapter: 24 (with 67 verses)
Commands: 106
Promises: 71
Predictions: 326
Distant Messages from God: 95
Prophecies: 56

Hebrew Stats 2

Parsha Count: 12
Letter Count: 78,063
Word Count: 20,614
Verse Count 3: 1,563
Double Count 4: 30
Shortest Parsha: the 12th parsha called Vayechi
Longest Parsha: See Chart Below

Unique Hebrew Stats:
Scribal Practices 5: 7 (See Genesis Scribal Practices)

  • Enlarged: 4 (1.1; 30.42; 34.31, 50.23)
  • Diminished: 3 (2.4; 23.2; 27.46)
  • Dotted: 5 (16.5, 18.9, 19.33, 33.4, 37.12)
  • Raised (erect): 0
  • Others: 1 (43.26 unexpected dagesh)

Number of Mitzvot: 3

  • Positive: 2 (1.28 / 9.7, 17.10)
  • Negative: 1 (32.33)
בְּרֵאשִׁית — Parashot Bereshit
Genesis Torah Stats
# Hebrew English # of Letters # of Words # of P’sukim
(Verses)
# of Lines in
Torah Scroll
1 בְּרֵאשִׁית Bereshit 7,235 1,931 146 241
2 נֹחַ Noach 6,907 1,861 153 230
3 לֶךְ-לְךָ Lech-Lecha 6,336 1,686 126 208
4 וַיֵּרָא Vayeira 7,862 2,085 147 252
5 חַיֵּי שָׂרָה Chayei Sarah 5,314 1,402 105 171
6 תּוֹלְדֹת Toledot 5,426 1,432 106 173
7 וַיֵּצֵא Vayetze 7,512 2,021 148 235
8 וַיִּשְׁלַח Vayishlach 7,458 1,976 153 237
9 וַיֵּשֶׁב Vayeshev 5,972 1,558 112 190
10 מִקֵּץ Miketz 7,914 2,022 146 255
11 וַיִּגַּשׁ Vayigash 5,680 1,408 106 178
12 וַיְחִי Vayechi 4,448 1,158 85 148

The source of these stats: Akhlah: The Jewish Children Learning Network

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Genesis (Bereshit) Outline:

The outline used on this website for Genesis (Bereshit) Chapters 1 – 13.8 comes from the greatest Jewish scholar of the 20th Century Rabbi/ Professor Umberto Cassuto. His work was translated by Professor Israel Abrahams from the University of Cape Town. The books A Commentary on the Book of Genesis Part One and A Commentary on the Book of Genesis Part Two are published by Varda Books in Skokie, Illinois. 13.9 and onward is guided by the notes in The Schocken Bible, volume 1.

Part 1: The Primeval History (1.1 -11.32)

See details for the primeval history

Section One: The Story of Creation (1:1-2:3)

  1. Introductory verse (1.1)
  2. The Story of the First Day (1.2-5)
  3. The Story of the Second Day (1.6-8)
  4. The Story of the Third Day (1.9-13)
  5. The Story of the Fourth Day (1.14-19)
  6. The Story of the Fifth Day (1.20-23)
  7. The Story of the Sixth Day (1.24-31)
  8. The Story of the Seventh Day (2.1-3)

Section Two: The Story of the Garden of Eden (2:4 – 3:24)

  1. Transition verse from previous section (2.4)
  2. Creation on Man (2.5-7)
  3. The Planting of the Garden (2.8-14)
  4. Adam’s Task in the Garden of Eden (2.15-17)
  5. Creation of the Woman (2.18-25)
  6. Adam’s Sin (3.1-7)
  7. The Judgment and the Sentence (3.8-21)
  8. The Expulsion (3.22-24)

Section Three: The Story of Cain and Abel (4.1-26)

  1. The Birth and Occupations of Cain and Able (4.1,2)
  2. The Story of the Murder (4.3-8)
  3. The Murder’s Sentence (4.9-16)
  4. The Descendants of Cain (4.17-22)
  5. Lemech’s Song (4.23,24)
  6. The Birth of Seth and Enosh (4.1-7)

Section Four: The Book of the History of Adam (5.1-6.8)

  1. Rubric of the Section (5.1a)
  2. Adam (5.1b-5)
  3. Seth (5.6-8)
  4. Enosh (5.9-11)
  5. Kenan (5.12-14)
  6. Mahalalel (5.15-17)
  7. Jared (5.18-20)
  8. Enoch (5.21-24)
  9. Methuselah (5.25-27)
  10. Lamech (5.28-31)
  11. Noah (5.32)
  12. The Story of the Sons of God and the daughters of Men (6.1-4)
  13. Punishment is decreed on the Generation of the Flood, but Grace is shown to Noah (6.5-8)

Section Five: The Flood (6.9-9.17)

  1. Rubric of the Section (6.9a)
  2. Act One: The Punishment (6.9b – 7.24)
  3. The Corruption of All Flesh, the Righteousness of the Good Man (6.9b-12)
  4. Noah is told of the Coming Doom, commissioned to build the Ark (6.13-22)
  5. The Command to Enter the Ark (7.1-5)
  6. The Fulfillment of the injunction to enter the Ark (7.6-9)
  7. The Beginning of the Flood (7.10-16)
  8. Water on the Earth (7.17-24)
  9. Act Two: The Deliverance (8.1-9.17)
  10. The First Rays of Light (8.1-14)
  11. The Command to leave the Ark (8.15-17)
  12. The Exit from the Ark (8.18-22)
  13. God’s Blessing to Noah and his Sons (9.1-7)
  14. The Divine Promise to Fulfill and Extend the Covenant (9.8-11)
  15. The Sign of the Covenant (9.12-17)

Section Six: The Sons of Noah (9.18-11.9)

  1. Opening Verse of Section (9.20-29)

A. The Story of Noah’s Intoxication (9.20-23)

  1. The Incident (9.20-23)
  2. Blessing and Curse (9.24-27)
  3. Death of Noah (9.28-29)

B. The History of the Sons of Noah (10.1-32)

  1. The Rubric (10.1a)
  2. Introductory Words 10.1b)
  3. Japheth’s Descendants (10.2-5)
  4. Ham’s Descendants (10.6-20)
  5. Shem’s Descendants (10.21-31)
  6. Conclusion (10.32)

C. The Story of the Generation of Division (11.1-9)

  1. Many are the plans in the mind of man (11.1-4)
  2. It is the purpose of the Lord that will be established (11.5-9)

Section Seven: The History of the sons of Shem (11.10-32)

  1. Rubric of the Section (11.10a)
  2. Shem (11.10b-11)
  3. Arpachshad (11.12-13)
  4. Shelah (11.14-15)
  5. Eber (11.16-17)
  6. Peleg (11.18-19)
  7. Reu (11.20-21)
  8. Serug (11.22-23)
  9. Nahor (11.24-25)
  10. Terah (11.26)
  11. The History of Terah (11.27-32)

Part 2: Abraham (12.1 – 25.18)

See details for the book of Abraham

Section One: Abram comes to the Land of Canaan (12.1-9)

  1. The Lord’s Command and Promise (12.1-4)
  2. Abram’s Journeys in the Land of Canaan (12.5-9)

Section Two: Abrahm goes down to Egypt (12.10 – 13.4)

  1. The Journey down to Egypt (12.10-13)
  2. Danger (12.14-16)
  3. Salvation (12.17-20)
  4. The Return to the Land of Canaan (13.1-4)

Section Three: Lot Parts from Abram (13.5 – 14.24)

  1. The Disputes (13.5-18)
  2. War and Rescue (14.1-24)

Section Four: The Covenant (15.1 – 20.18)

  1. The Covenant between the Pieces (15.1-21)
  2. The Firstborn Son (16.1-16)
  3. The Covenant of Circumcision (17.1-27)
  4. Visit and Promise (18.1-15)
  5. The Great Intercession (18.16-33)
  6. The End of Sodom and Gomorrah (19.1-38)
  7. Abraham, Abimelach, and Sarah (20.1-18)

Section Five: Abraham’s Descendants (21.1 – 25.18)

  1. Isaac Born (21.1-8)
  2. Ishmael Banished (21.9-21)
  3. Covenant with Abimelech (21.22-34)
  4. The Great Test: The Binding of Isaac (22)
  5. Purchase and Burial (23: 1-20)
  6. The Betrothal Journey (24.1-67)
  7. Abraham and Keturah’s Descendants (25.1-6)
  8. Abraham’s Life (25.7-11)
  9. Ishmael’s Descendants (25.12-18)

Part 3: Jacob (25.19 – 36.43 also 37-50)

See details for the book of Jacob

Section One: Isaac’s Descendants (25.19 – 28.9)

  1. Rebekh’s Children (25.19-34)
  2. In the Land (26.1-6)
  3. The Wife: Isaac’s Version (26.7-11)
  4. The Blessing (26.12-33)
  5. Deceit and Blessing (26.34-28.9)

Section Two: Jacob’s Journeys (28.10 – 36.43)

A. Jacob’s journeys to and from Pandan-Aram (28.10-32.2)

  1. Jacob journeys to Haran and has a Dream (28.10-22)
  2. Jacob enters Pandan-Aram (29.1-17)
  3.  Deception Repaid (29.18-30.13)
  4.  Love, Jealousy, and Children (30.14-24)
  5.  Jacob’s Exile: Stealth and Prosperity (30.25-32.1 (32.2))

B. Jacob’s journeys to and throughout the Land of Canaan (32.3-36.43)

  1. Preparations for Esau (32.1-23 (32.2-24))
  2. The Mysterious Stranger: Struggle at the Yabbok (32.24-33 (32.25-34))
  3.  Resolution (33.1-17)
  4.  Home: Peace and Violence (33.18 – 34.31)
  5.  Home: Blessing and Death (35.1-29)
  6.  Reuben (35.21,22)
  7.  Esau’s Descendants (36.1-43)

Part 4: Joseph (37.1 – 50.26)

See details for the book of Joseph

Section One: Jacob in the Land of Canaan (37.1 – 38.30)

  1. Young Joseph: Love and Hate (37)
  2. Judah and Tamar (38)

Section Two: Jacob in Egypt (39.1 – 50.26)

  1. Joseph: Rise and Fall (39)
  2. The Rise to Power: Dreams (40.1 – 41.52)
  3. Famine: The Brothers Come (41.53 – 42.38)
  4. The Test (43 – 44)
  5. Reconciliation (45.1-15)
  6. Migration to Egypt (45.16 – 47.12)
  7. Joseph the Giver (47.13 – 26)
  8. Joseph’s Sons Blessed (48)
  9. Jacob’s Treatment and Death (49)
  10. Jacob’s Burial (50.1-14)
  11. The End of the Matter (50.15-26)

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Genesis (Bereshit) Scribal Practices:

The Hebrew language contains 22 letters plus 5 additional final forms. I have been able to confirm from a trained scribe that each of these letters are both enlarged and diminished throughout the Tanakh. See the stats and chart below.

Scribal Stats Chart

Letter Name Enl Dim  Hebrew Trans Location  Parsha
בּ Bet
1
בְּרֵאשִׁית in the beginning  Ge 1.1 Bereshit
ה Hey
1
בְּהִבָּֽרְאָם when they were created Ge 2.4 Bereshit
ז Zayin
1
הַכְזוֹנָ֕ה like a prostitute Ge 34.31 Vayishlach
כ Kaf
1
וְלִבְכֹּתָֽהּ and to weep for her Ge 23.2 Chayei Sarah
ק  Qof
1
קַ֣צְתִּי I am disgusted Ge 27.46 Toledot
ם Mem Sofit
1
שִׁלֵּשִׁ֑ים of the third generation Ge 50.23 Vayechi
ף Pey Sofit
1
וּבְהַֽעֲטִ֥יף But when were feeble Ge 30.42 Vavetze

Scribal Stats in Genesis

Enl – enlarged letters – 4 appearances in Genesis | 2 are final forms
Dim – diminished letters – 3 appearances in Genesis
Torah Portions – 8 of 12 Torah portions contain scribal markings in Genesis | 1 is listed in the unique marks below.

Unique Marks – In Parsha Miketz (Gen 43.26) we have an unexpected dagesh in the aleph, then they brough  וַיָּבִ֥יאּוּ .

Dotted Text – Genesis (Bereshit) contains a total of thirteen dotted letters. These dots are called “erasure dots” or “Ezra dots”. The scribes use these dots over letters when they are unsure if it belongs in the text. Erasure dots have become a tradition.

#
Scripture  Hebrew Dotted Letters # of
Dotted Ltrs
Translation Parsha
1
Ge 16.5 וּבֵינֶֽי֗ךָ Second Yod
1
and you Lech Lecha
2
Ge 18.9 אֵ֗לָ֔י֗ו֗ Aleph, Yod, Vav
3
to him Vayera
3
Ge 19.33 וּבְקוּ֗מָֽהּ Vav
1
and when she rose Vayera
4
Ge 33.4 וַ֗יִּ֗שָּׁ֗קֵ֑֗ה֗וּ֗‪‬ Resh, Yod, Shin, Qof, Hey, Vav
6
and kissed him Vayishlach
5
Ge 37.12 אֶ֗ת֗־צֹ֥אן Aleph, Tav
2
et – no translation Vayeshev

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Genesis (Bereshit) Resources:

Chumash
The Schocken Bible: Volume 1, The Five Books of Moses | Schocken Books | Everett Fox
The Steinsaltz Humash | Koren Publishers | Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz
The Pentateuch & Haftorahs | The Soncino Press | Dr. J.H. Hertz
The Living Torah | Maznaim Publishing | Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan

Commentaries
The Parsha with Rabbi Juravel: Sefer Bereishis | MC Publications | Rabbi M. Feinzeig
Understanding Genesis: The Heritage of Biblical Israel | Schocken | Nahum M. Sarna
Covenant & Conversation: Genesis: The Book of Beginning | OU Press | Rabbi Johnathan Sacks
A Commentary on the Book of Genesis Part One | Varda Books | Umberto Cassuto
A Commentary on the Book of Genesis Part Two | Varda Books | Umberto Cassuto
The Essential Malbim: Flashes of insight on Bereishis/Genesis | Mesorah Pub. | Rabbi Reuven Subar

Hebrew Language Resources
The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon

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Next Steps:

Since you have finished reading all the background information about Bereshit. Let’s dive into reading the text. Click your preferred chapter link below.

Notes:

  1. KJV English Stats are taken from the Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible. Finnis Jennings Dake . © 1961 . Lawrenceville
  2. Hebrew Stats are pulled from various sources: Kefirah of the Week, Wikipedia, and other sources. Provided here are the total numbers. The specific numbers may be found on each parsha post. See the Parsha List for links to each post.
  3. Verses In the Hebrew text are called “pesukim”. Translated it means “sentences“.
  4. Hebrew Double Stats: “In the Hebrew, words are sometimes found duplicated. It is often the end of one sentence bumped up against the beginning of the next. E.g. “… was Noah. Noah began to…”.

    In any other language or philosophy, such doubling would go unnoticed. But Chabad philosophy seeks meaning in every detail, so they include this in their statistics,” says David Negley (member of a closed Messianic group on Facebook) Each double word instance has several teachings related to them. Listed here are the verses with the Double Counts in Genesis. (1:26 1:29 1:29 6:9 7:2 7:3 7:9 7:14 7:15 7:19 7:21 8:17 11:10 11:27 12:1 14:10 20:18 22:11 25:19 25:30 27:30 30:43 32:17 36:31 37:33 39:10 43:3 43:14 44:28 46:2)

  5. Scribal Practices: Are unique to the Hebrew language and are something that can’t be translated. They are enlarged letters, diminished letters, dotted letters, raised, and other unique features of the Hebrew language. Although they have practical applications additional meaning have been given to each of these instances. Much of the following information had been gathered from the Jewish Encyclopedia