The Hebrew title for “Genesis” is “In the beginning.” That might have remained the title except when the Old Testament was translated into Greek (a couple of centuries before Jesus), the translators noted a peculiar repetition of the word “generations.” It occurs some thirteen times in the book at strategic locations and so the translators named the book “Generations” instead. In Greek, “generations” sounds very much like “genesis.” When, in the fourth century A.D., the book was translated into Latin, its name was forever changed to “Genesis.”
Genesis is about beginnings: the beginning of the universe as we know it, the beginning of mankind, of sin, grace, election, and most of all, the beginning of the people of God. Beginning with a wide scope, it is not long before God narrows the focus. Adam and Eve have three boys: Cain, Able, and Seth. But quickly, the focus narrows to Seth, who has many descendants but the focus again narrows to one son, Enosh. Enosh has many sons and daughters but the writer of Genesis is not interested in them, only a specific son named Kenan. And on this narrowing goes until we come to Abraham. What becomes evident is that nearly everything, for the first eleven chapters, is there to lead us to this man who will become the father of God’s people.
As the story progresses, we learn of God’s partiality and preference toward His people. Despite the fact they do not deserve His blessings, God gives them anyway, and in doing so, introduces the reader to the meaning of election and grace. In Genesis, writing for what had, by then, become a nation of people (Israel), Moses makes these points: You are the people of God. This is how that came about. This is what it means. This is why your heritage and identity are so important. As the story continues in the following books, Moses will make this point: you need to act like God’s people.