The title of this book in the Hebrew Bible comes from the first word of the book, Bereshith, “In the beginning.” The English title, Genesis, a Greek word meaning “origin,” comes from the title of this book in the ancient Greek Septuagint Bible, simply by borrowing it without translating. The title is appropriate since Genesis is a book of beginnings: the beginning of the universe and the planet earth, the origin of all earth's life forms and human beings, the first entry of sin and suffering into the world through the human inclination to disobey God and to presume they know better than God what is right or wrong.
The beginnings of God's chosen people—the Israelites—follow these “pre-historical” accounts with the story of Abraham and Sarah and all of the Israelites' earliest ancestors (chapters 12–50). Abraham is famed for his great faith and his willingness to follow the call of God to leave his homeland in the region of the Upper Euphrates River and to venture to a new land, where God promised that many of his descendants would one day live. The stories of his son, Isaac, and his grandsons, Esau and Jacob, follow. The twelve sons of Jacob (also called Israel) become the founders of the twelve tribes of Israel as Jacob, his sons, and their households (“souls,” according to Exod 1.5) settled into life in the Nile Delta in Lower Egypt, where they had been forced by famine to seek food and work. It may have appeared then that the light of God's promise was growing dim as they were forced by their desperate circumstances to abandon their homes and livelihoods in the land of promise.
But Genesis tells how God's providence intervened in the person of Joseph, a great-grandson of Abraham and one of the twelve sons of Jacob. In a fit of jealousy the other brothers had sold the young Joseph into slavery in Egypt, but thanks to his bright mind and the providence of God, Joseph had risen to power in Egypt as vizier, reporting directly to Pharaoh. Joseph's careful planning enabled Egypt to get through the “lean years” of famine by storing up grains during the good years for later rationing. It was also Joseph's gracious generosity that led him to forgive his brothers and care for his family in their desperation. All through the book, the central character is God, the creator and gracious provider.
The Creation of the Universe, Earth, and Human Beings (1.1—2.25)
The Beginning of Sin and Suffering in Human Life (3.1-24)
From Adam to Noah (4.1—5.32)
Noah and the Great Flood (6.1—10.32)
The Tower of Babel (11.1-9)
From Shem to Abraham (11.10-32)
The Israelite Ancestors: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (12.1—35.29)
The Descendants of Esau (36.1-43)
Joseph and his Brothers (37.1—45.28)
The Israelites in Egypt (46.1—50.26)