I am writing these papers especially for you, John, my dear son. I hold you close to my heart, and pray for you daily, that the Lord Jesus in whom you have believed will gradually transform you into His own image as the years go by. You are now in your 20th year, and I am now 63,  and I know that we have found it difficult to relate to each other at times. Our age gap may be part of the problem. But you are a man of action, always wanting to be up and about, doing things, meeting people, relating to others, working with your hands, going places, seeing things, whereas I have been the “scholar in the study”. God has made us differently. You cannot be the scholar. I cannot be as you. We both know that and accept it. But because you are my son, I have a God-given duty towards you, to pass on to you all those good things that the Lord has so graciously given to me over the years, and He has left me with the directive of making a bridge between us. I hope I shall succeed. May God give me wisdom. [Later comment in 1999 – Yes, God has marvellously answered that prayer, and father and son now have a good working relationship. Thank you, Lord.]
Some years ago we spent a whole year going through Genesis in our mid-week Bible studies. Everyone in the fellowship felt the excitement as one thing after another fell into place, and a whole new world of wonder and beauty was displayed to us. I have been asked to set down our findings, and make a permanent record, that others may share the “Hidden Treasures of Genesis.” But it is so easy to make vital and interesting material lack-lustre and dull when committing it to print. I am therefore writing these papers to you. I think it will help me bridge the gap. I hope you will find it readable, enjoyable, instructive, and faith-building. But at the same time I think it will help me to make the subject more alive and personal, more easily readable and understandable, not only for you, but for anyone else who reads.
I know that you have read Genesis. You were with us for our studies together, but I also know that you were in your mid-teens at the time, and perhaps found it difficult to follow. I am sure you will find the Book much more thrilling now. Do you realise that in fifty chapters we are given over TWO THOUSAND YEARS of related history! No other book has ever achieved that goal. There is something almost magic in it, a magnetic attractiveness that draws you constantly into a deeper relationship with the characters – Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, seven men and Eve, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Leah, Bilhah, Zilpah, seven women. I have read and studied Genesis for many years, and never tire of digging deeper. The more intimately I study, the closer do the characters draw near, until I almost feel as though I know them, rather than think about them as just people who lived thousands of years ago.
I also know that Genesis is of supreme importance as the only SURE revelation the world possesses of man’s beginnings. No other religion has such a grand, comprehensive, and divinely inspired story. Take away Genesis, and the whole fabric of the Bible falls apart. It is our Foundation Stone. No wonder the Enemy has caused men to attack it with such vigour. He knows its value to us, and wants to rob us of it. Last century a number of German scholars introduced what became known as “The Higher Criticism”. “Criticism” it may be, but there is nothing “higher” about it at all. One of its chief exponents was Friedrich Delitzsch. He was an Assyriologist and Old Testament scholar. In 1921 he wrote, “The Books of Moses, Joshua, and Judges suffer under the fault that history is indiscriminately mixed with legends and fairy tales, as is also the case in the Book of Kings.” In another place he wrote, “The Old Testament works, the alleged Word of God, has been transmitted in a much more faulty and careless way than we can comprehend.”
Enough of the negative side! It is pointless giving valuable space to destructive critics. Let me rather introduce you to a man of more recent days, one whom I knew in earlier years, and for whom I still hold the greatest respect. A brief personal reminiscence will not be out of place. Back in 1947, when I was just a lad of 16, a friend invited me to join his Bible Class. I was not particularly interested, but on the other hand I was by no means antagonistic. So I went with him one Sunday afternoon. They met in a local school hall. I was amazed to find about 150 other boys there, aged from about 10 to 18. It was the Finchley, London, branch of the Crusaders’ Union. There were four leaders in charge. In due course I learned that the senior leader, Herbert Bevington, was one of the founder members of the Union. Another leader, Donald Wiseman, was the son of Air Commodore P.J.Wiseman, the President of the Crusaders’ Union. These, together with Lawrence Bell and CecilPoulter, I learned to respect as true men of God. And it was through their prayers and unobtrusive actions that eventually I came to know the Lord the following spring.
I spoke of Donald Wiseman. Even today the memory is clear in my mind of the mid-week Bible studies that he took. Donald was working at the British Museum at the time. He was accomplished in oriental languages. His father had spent some years out in the Middle East, particularly Iraq, and had been present at many major archaeological sites. Numerous clay tablets had been brought back from Iraq. Donald was engaged in translating them. Imagine the interest and excitement that was generated when he brought a number of these tablets to the Bible Studies. I can remember holding them, handling them with great care as treasured possessions of the British Museum. Most of them were about 3 by 2 inches in size, shaped like tiny pillows. Some of them were enclosed in clay “envelopes”, which were sealed. Donald told us that these were contract tablets, legal documents relating to the sale of property.
Other tablets were in sets. He pointed out certain markings which enabled the readers to know the serial number, (like our page numbers in books), and also whether the series was finished or not. The final tablet contained a marking saying “END”, in just the same way that some of our older books used to have the Latin word FINIS on the last page. Then he spoke about a literary device found on all the tablets, called a COLOPHON, which gave the title of the whole series, equivalent to the name on the front of our books. But with the tablets, the COLOPHON was always found at the END rather than the beginning. We asked Donald when these tablets were made, and he said they came from Babylon, and were written in the days of Abram, before he left for Canaan. We gasped! They were nearly 4,000 years old! But they were so wellpreserved, they could have been made this century.
Of course, none of us could read a word of the writing. It was amazing that anyone could! But Donald was the most accomplished man in the country at the subject, and we were told by another leader, after the meeting was over, that when he was taking his degree, he knew more than his professors! The writing was called CUNEIFORM. Donald said that the word was derived from the Latin CUNEUS, meaning a wedge. The scribes of Abram’s day would use a wooden pen-sized stick, sharpened at one end to the form of a wedge, and create the markings that we saw. Some of the tablets were incredibly neat, and must have been done with great care. Furthermore, he told us that this form of writing was used for over a thousand years, with but minor changes. In the days of the Kings of Israel and Judah, tablets just like these were sent about from country to country as diplomatic mail. They have even been found in Egypt, (a country which tended to use Papyrus rather than clay tablets,) and speak of situations in foreign lands. Some of these finds go back to the days of Moses.
All this was of general interest at the outset of Donald’s talks. But after he’d set the scene, he went on to relate his findings to the Book of Genesis. Both he and his father believed that Genesis was originally written on numerous clay tablets, which eventually were placed in Moses’ possession, and he wrote (with a minimal amount of editing) the fifty chapters we now have. He went on to say that Moses had left in place many of the COLOPHONS and other literary devices, rather than eliminate them, probably to show later readers that he was not making up the story himself, but rather that he had access to original documents. Although I can remember these things after more than 40 years has slipped by, I also know that I never gave much more thought to them until more recently.
We (senior boys at Crusaders) had quite a lot of contact with Donald, and his younger brother David, in those days, both at Bible Class and Summer Camps. The policy of the Crusaders’ Union was to uphold the truths of the Bible, and lead boys to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus. I can speak with deep thankfulness to God for all that I learned in those early years of my Christian walk. Donald, as I said, was working at the British Museum. He became the Assistant Keeper in the Department of Western Asiatic Antiquities, and later was elected to the Professorial Chair of Assyriology at the University ofLondon. But in that very year, 1948, sadly his father died at the early age of 60, not however before publishing two very important books. The first came out in 1936, and was entitled “New Discoveries in Babylonia about Genesis”, based on his findings in Iraq, 1931-33, and the second just two years before his death, entitled “Creation Revealed in Six Days.” Both of these books were republished as a single volume in 1977 by Marshall, Morgan & Scott, edited by his son Donald, and entitled “Clues to Creation in Genesis.” I have a copy of this book, and believe it to be one of the most fascinating and valuable books on Genesis ever written. It opens up the whole subject of how Genesis was written, and answers many otherwise impossible questions. In these initial papers I should like to explain briefly what P.J.Wiseman said in his two books, because I doubt whether it’s possible to obtain copies of the book now, outside second-hand shops.
Wiseman’s thesis hinges entirely on understanding the word used eleven times in Genesis, and translated in the A.V. as “generations.” Let us start by examining that word. In Hebrew it is TOLEDOTH.
TOLEDOTH is plural, and the simplest and most accurate translation is RECORDS. In the dim distant past men used to keep family records far mre assiduously than today. Sometimes these records would be in the form of “family trees”, at other times the records would include significant events that occurred in their lifetime. At death, the records would be passed on to the eldest son, who would continue the record, so to speak, by writing further tablets. In this way a series of tablets would be formed, and they would be re-written to include the literary devices I mentioned earlier, so that each tablet had its own serial number, and so on. It is possible to imagine that other children in the family might use the RECORDS when learning to write, so that in copying them they would at the same time learn the history of their ancestors. And by studying the many tens of thousands of clay tablets unearthed from the Middle East, one realises just how important family RECORDS were to them.
Wiseman went on to state his second most important point. He said that the word TOLEDOTH occurred at the END of each section, rather than the beginning. This he had learned by a careful study of many Babylonian tablets. So that when we read, for example, in Genesis 5:1 “This is the Book of the Generations of Adam” it is the end of Adam’s RECORD, rather than the beginning. I remember Donald showing us this very point when presenting the clay tablets at the Bible studies. Now this makes a whole lot of difference to the reading of Genesis, and I don’t know of any Bible, any modern version, which uses this knowledge. All those which I have examined present the formula as though it BEGAN a section. Take the “generations of Adam” which I have just mentioned. It appears at 5:1. The next time it appears is 6:9, where we read “These are the generations of Noah.” If all the material contained between 5:1 and 6:9 is in fact Adam’s record, then how did he know about the birth of Noah’s sons, over 600 years after he died?!! But if Adam’s record ENDS at 5:1, then there is no problem, in fact it answers some interesting questions.
Take for example the family history of the line of Cain, which is found in chapter four, as part of Adam’s record. It stops at Tubal-cain, Jabal and Jubal. Who were these men? The generations went as follows:- Adam – Cain – Enoch – Irad –Mehujael – Methusael – Lamech – Jabal, Jubal, and Tubal-cain. In other words these three brothers are the 8th generation from Adam. But Adam says about Jabal, that he was the father of those who dwell in tents, and of Jubal that he was the father of those who play the harp and pipe. Hence Adam was aware of the children of these men, who were in the NINTH generation. Now compare this with Noah’s record in chapter five. The generations are as follows:- Adam – Seth – Enos –Cainan – Mahalaleel – Jared – Enoch – Methuselah – Lamech – Noah – Shem, Ham, & Japheth. Who is in the ninth generation? Lamech. And by working out the dates from Noah’s genealogy, we find that Lamech was born in 874 from Adam, and his son Noah was born in 1056. But Adam died in 930. Assuming the lifespan of Cain’s offspring to be as constant as those of Seth, it is reasonable to assume that Adam would have been able to write about Tubal-cain, Jabal, and Jubal, and their children but NO FURTHER, because he died.
Are you with me, John? I hope I’ve explained that clearly. You may have to read the last two paragraphs a second time. The conclusion is clear enough. As long as we assume the word “generations” (TOLEDOTH) to be at the END of a man’s writing, there is no problem. But if we insist that it BEGINS a section, there is nothing but confusion. The two genealogies, of Cain, and of Seth, give clear evidence as to why nothing more is heard of Cain’s line after Jabal’s children. I don’t suppose many people have even asked why the table of offspring ends there. But once the Genesis records are seen in the light of individual tablets, many new things come to light. I’ll show you some others in due course.
Let’s get back to the list of GENERATIONS, or TOLEDOTH, and put them all down together, so that we can see what we’ve got at a glance. Here they are:-
1. These are the generations of the heavens and the earth. (2:4)
2. This is the book of the generations of Adam. (5:1)
3. These are the generations of Noah. (6:9)
4. These are the generations of the sons of Noah. (10:1)
5. These are the generations of Shem. (11:10)
6. These are the generations of Terah. (11:27)
7. These are the generations of Ishmael. (25:12)
8. These are the generations of Isaac. (25:19)
9. These are the generations of Esau. (36:1)
10. These are the generations of Esau. (36:9)
11. These are the generations of Jacob. (37:2)
Before making any further comment about these eleven, let me show you the only other THREE places in the Bible where the expression occurs, because it unveils something else of importance. Here they are:-
12. These are the generations of Aaron and Moses. (Numbers 3:1) 1
13. Now these are the generations of Pharez. (Ruth 4:18)
14. The book of the generation of Jesus Christ. (Matthew 1:1)
Look at the first eleven as a group, and what do you notice? Who is MISSING? Who’s name should be there, but isn’t? ABRAHAM! Isn’t that strange? There are no less than THIRTEEN CHAPTERS about Abraham between the records ofTerah his father, and Ishmael his son. And yet his name doesn’t appear on any of the tablets. Why is this? We shall have to return to this problem later. Here’s another problem. The LAST of the 14 generations is in the New Testament, and relates to our Lord. But it is the FIRST VERSE of Matthew’s Gospel, and therefore it CANNOT look back. The genealogy FOLLOWS the statement. We are therefore forced to realise that at some period in the Old Testament the custom changed. It could be due to the use of Papyrus and Parchment, rather than clay tablets. But even if we cannot find any documentary evidence, the fact remains. We shall have to bear this in mind as we proceed, because this is where I have to disagree withP.J.Wiseman’s findings, not BEFORE Abraham, but AFTER his records.
And yet a third observation – the very first time we read of TOLEDOTH, no name is connected with it. “These are the records of the heavens and the earth.” Who wrote them? Was it Adam? After all, no one (apart from his wife) was in the world just then. But if it was Adam, why didn’t he put his name to the tablet? To say that Moses selected only ONE tablet from each of the Patriarchs is missing the point. After all, Abraham is missing altogether, and Esau (!!) appears TWICE! And so we have some problems to solve as we go along. But instead of them becoming troublesome and destructive to Wiseman’s thesis, I think we shall find that they teach us further truths. However, let’s start with the EASIEST section, in other words the records of Adam, Noah, the sons of Noah, Shem, and Terah, and investigate these in a little more detail, to see what we can learn.
THIS IS THE BOOK OF THE RECORDS OF ADAM (5:1) We’ve already noted one important fact about Adam’s record, namely the way in which the record of Cain’s posterity stops abruptly, when it might be expected to go on until the time of the Flood. Now let’s see what else there is to learn. First of all, have you spotted the word “BOOK”, which doesn’t appear in any other of the eleven? In fact it appears again ONLY in the records of Jesus Christ. Now that’s amazing. The FIRST ADAM and the LAST ADAM are selected. See how the Holy Spirit of God can cause men to introduce words, or leave them out, with 4,000 years of history in between! Maybe there is more to learn from this. But why “BOOK” in 5:1? There were no “books” (as we know them) in those days, even if there were at the time of Jesus’ birth.
The Hebrew word for “book” is SEPHER (pronounced SAY-FER), and it comes from a Verb SAPHAR, meaning to cut, inscribe, or make a mark. In its earliest usage, it referred to the CUNEUS, which inscribed the wedge-shaped marks on clay tablets. But later usage in the Old Testament shows it being used for pens with ink. Shall we re-translate the heading? It makes for better reading. THIS IS THE TABLET CONTAINING ADAM’S RECORDS. Isn’t that wonderful? We must thank Moses for leaving these titles. He could easily have dispensed with them when drawing all the records together, but the Spirit of God gently urged him to leave them in. And now we have the truth staring us in the face, and we are enriched for knowing it! We are actually reading the words that Adam used! It was his own tablet. Shall I tell you what this does for me? I feel as though I can KNOW father Adam a little better. Instead of a very distant figure, he has come alive, he has bridged the gap of time and is very much a part of my life and thinking.
And thank you brother Wiseman for sharing this revelation with the world. I cannot understand why more Christians haven’t rejoiced in it! What else do we find on Adam’s tablet? There are records of the Garden of Eden, the Fall, the murder of Abel, and the line of Cain. All these subjects are the particular ones which Adam might be expected to record. But someone might ask the question, why did he record Cain’s family and not Seth’s? I’m not sure whether I’ve understood this fully, but the thought that comes to me is this. After the fall, Adam repented deeply, and was most remorseful. He and Eve worked and prayed towards a better end. But they were to witness the world’s first murder, and it must have been terrible for them. After that Adam would have taken a particular interest in Cain’s family, knowing that God had spoken and put a mark on him. I think he must have felt responsible in some measure for what had happened, in the way he had brought up his two sons. Now he wanted to make amends, and care for his Cainite family. And the only way in which we know about it is by a casual record he makes on a tablet. Is this true? I don’t know. But I would like to think it is.
THESE ARE THE RECORDS OF NOAH. Noah’s tablet contained the family history from Adam down to his own day. Where did he get this information? It must have been on other tablets passed down by his forefathers, and incorporated on his own, thereby making the previous ones redundant. There is no problem here. Likewise, we find that father Noah hands over the responsibility for the Flood records to his three sons, even though he lives for another 350 years after the Flood. Moses may have had dozens, perhaps hundreds of tablets to choose from. He was guided to choose just enough to provide mankind with necessary history and divine comment. The rest have been used to write other records, such as the Book of Jashar. But all that is wholly necessary is found within the pages of Genesis.
THESE ARE THE RECORDS OF THE SONS OF NOAH. This section includes the Flood account, the story of Noah’s vineyard, and mention of Noah’s death at the age of 950 years. If you read the story of the Flood carefully in chapters 6-8 you will soon find the evidence of a COMPOSITE AUTHORSHIP. It appears that Moses wove together three separate accounts, those written by Japheth, Ham, and Shem. Differences in style, and in the use of the divine name, are very apparent. The “Higher Critics” had a field-day at the expense of this section in Genesis. But although they were substantially correct in their assertion of multiple authorship, they had no idea why or how. But we can now rejoice in the knowledge that, although the story seems repetitive and badly presented, it is because it contains elements from Noah’s three sons. And once again, Moses never sought to re-write the story in his own words lest he should introduce unwittingly some element of untruth, simply because he didn’t fully understand the wording that was before him on the tablets.
THESE ARE THE RECORDS OF SHEM. The three brothers have now parted and gone on their separate adventures. Shem begins to record events to do with the migration of the families, the names of their offspring, and the places where they went. This is a most interesting section, because from it we learn just how much Shem could have known in his lifetime, amounting to 500 years after the Flood. In other words, all the details he mentions about the dispersion actually occurred within his lifetime, and this helps us when trying to understand the chronology of early events. In addition we have a wonderful proof that his record was written before the days of Abraham. In 10:19 we read “And the border of the Canaanites was from Sidon, as you come to Gerar, unto Gaza; as you go unto Sodom and Gomorrah, and Admahand Zeboim, even unto Lasha.” Language like that could never have been written AFTER the cities of the plain had been destroyed in Abraham’s day. By such passing remarks the proof of Wiseman’s proposition is established.
THESE ARE THE RECORDS OF TERAH. This is a very short section, and consists entirely of genealogy. Whether he wrote anything else we don’t know, but if he did, it would have been about his days in Babylon working for Nimrod. The Bible describes him as an idolater, never as a believer in the One God. It is reasonable therefore that his record in Genesis should be limited to the list of his ancestors, ending abruptly with the birth of his three sons. Alternatively, this may have been the only record Abram took with him. I think that’s enough for this first edition, John. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it. I’m really anxious to convey the good things of the Bible to you in a palatable, readable, and enjoyable fashion. If I’m not getting through to you, let me know!