From Paradise to the Promised Land

An introduction to the Pentateuch

Based on T. Desmond Alexander

From Paradise to the Promised Land

An introduction to the Pentateuch

Based on T. Desmond Alexander


They are interdependent; They form a single unit.

The genius of the narrator

Someone has skilfully brought different components of the available material into a narrative that tells a unified story.

The basic plot (Gen 1-11)

God creates heaven and earth and humans in it. Humans are created to enjoy special relationship with God; And to exercise authority on His behalf over the earth.

But, they disobey God and so are punished and expelled from Eden. Their subsequent immoral actions pollute the earth making it unfit for human habitation. And, then when they are given another chance to start again, they try to build a city (Babel-Babylon) - a symbol of their arrogance.

Without God, they want to control earth and heaven.

From Gen 12

Abraham enters the stage.

There is a hope for humanity (see Gen 3:15).

The promise

1. Through the “seed” of Abraham “all nations on earth will be blessed” (Gen 22:18) - the promise is still unfulfilled by the end of Pentateuch.

2. The establishment of a great nation - descendants and land (Gen 15) - also unrealised at the end of Deuteronomy.

Both promises are linked.The first promised can occur only if the second is fulfilled.
Thus, making Israel apart from other nations dominates the rest of the story.
In Exodus, we find Israelites forced to build cities for Pharaoh (Ex 1:11). Was it another story of Babel?

(Pay attention to these cities being build in the Bible;
(Notice also, the first one who built a city was Cain (Gen 4:17).

But, the Israelites are rescued to become A “kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex 19:6; see 1 Peter 2:5).
The Israel is called to experience a unique presence of God as He takes up residence among them.
It will happen through the Sinai covenant and the building of the tabernacle.

But, the people will not experience yet such intimate relationship like Adam and Eve in Eden. There are still barriers between God and the people.

Holy nation

Israel need to exemplify the kind of righteousness required by God. To help them to do it, God gives them decrees and laws. They are to reflect God’s holy and perfect nature to the other nations on the earth.

However, they constantly failed in this aspect (narrates in Exodus and Numbers). And as they are about the enter the promised land, God already tells them that they will lose it because of their sins.


The enjoyment of God’s promises is linked to a trust in God’s ability to fulfil them (See Hebr 11).
Faith is central to the life of Abraham - a model of faith (Rom 4:16-17);
Lack of faith is the topic present in Exodus and Numbers.

In Deuteronomy, Moses encourages the people to trust and obey the Lord in order that they may take possession of the promised land.

The fulfilment of the promise may be delayed temporarily due to human failure, but it will ultimately be realised because it originates with God.

The promise

The divine promises to the patriarchs in Genesis sets the agenda for the other books and the entire Bible.
The land of Canaan is promised to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
But, they will take its possession only after a long stay in Egypt (Gen 15:13-16; Ex 12:40-41).

With Joseph, the small group ends in Egypt because of famine. (The end of Genesis)
At the beginning of Exodus - the Israelites who increased largely are being enslaved. But, with God’s help they are able to flee Egypt.

Then, their journey through the wilderness towards Canaan is narrated in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers.
In Deuteronomy, the people are already on the plains of Moab, east of the Jordan, ready to enter the Promised Land.


1. Moses, is the central figure in that story - Exodus 2 describes his birth and the end of Deuteronomy records his death (Deut 34).
2. At the end of Deuteronomy - the plot is not realised.
3. Thus, the Pentateuch looks to the future.
4. How will the promises of God be realised?