When was the Book of Genesis written?

The book of the genesis is an interesting part of the Scripture referred as the law, commonly known as first 5 books of Moses. But, the important question is, when was the book of Genesis written? It is important to note that the contents of Genesis may have been copied from an earlier document but here we will discuss only the dates when the book of Genesis was written and compiled as a single book we have today.

After God revealing His name YHWH (after 1468 BC)

Exod 6:3 “I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name YHWH I was not known to them.

The book of Genesis contains YHWH as name of the Lord even from the very beginning. This means, the book of Genesis must be written after the burning bush incident, which is after 1468 BC.

After Israelites Inherited the Promised Land (after 1428 BC)

Gen 12:6 Abram passed through the land to the place of Shechem, as far as the terebinth tree of Moreh. And the Canaanites were then in the land.

Gen 13:3 And he went on his journey from the South as far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, (7)…The Canaanites and the Perizzites then dwelt in the land.

As the above verse suggests that the book of Genesis must be written after the following events

  • Canaanites completely cast out from the land between Shechem and Moreh
  • Canaanites and the Perizzites completely cast out from the land between Bethel and Ai

From the list of kings defeated by Joshua (Joshua 12: 9,16), clearly Bethel and Ai was conquered. Shechem was also conquered as it is one of the refuge cities. Hence, the book of Genesis must be written after the children of Israel came into the land which is after 1428 BC.

The period when the city of Calah was a great city (1274-1050 BC)

Gen 10:10-12 And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. From that land he went to Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah, and Resen between Nineveh and Calah (that is the principal city).

It is worth noting that the city of Nimrud is the Assyrian Neo-Aramaic name for the ancient Assyrian city of Kalhu (or Calah). The Assyrian king Shalmaneser I (1274 BC–1245 BC) built up Kalhu (Nimrod) into a major city during the Middle Assyrian Empire which was from 1365 to 1050 BC (Ref: Link). The very mention of Calah as a principal city clearly suggests that the authors of the book of Genesis must have been during the time when the city of Calah was a great city, which must be from 1274-1050 BC.

After the term ‘prophet ‘ instead of ‘seer’ (After 1095 BC)

Gen 20:7 “Now therefore, restore the man’s wife; for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you shall live. But if you do not restore her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours.”

1Sam 9:9 (Formerly in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, he spoke thus: “Come, let us go to the seer”; for he who is now called a prophet was formerly called a seer.)

1Chr 29:29 Now the acts of King David, first and last, indeed they are written in the book of Samuel the seer, in the book of Nathan the prophet, and in the book of Gad the seer

The book of Genesis never contains the word ‘seer’. Instead it contains ‘prophet’.  Samuel and Gad were referred as seer but Nathan was referred as prophet.

2Sam 24:11 Now when David arose in the morning, the word of the LORD came to the prophet Gad, David’s seer, saying

The book of 2nd Samuel goes to and fro between seer and prophet for Gad as in 2 Sam 24:11 where both are in the same verse. Nathan was never mentioned as a seer but always as a prophet. Hence, the term prophet came into usage sometime before the reign of king David (1065 BC). Since Nathan who was referred as a prophet confronts David for his sin of adultery and murder, he must be at least 30 years. Hence, the term prophet might have been in usage for a few decades before 1065 BC, which could be around 1095 BC.

After the name Moriah (After 1065 BC)

Gen 22:2 Then He said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”

2Chr 3:1 Now Solomon began to build the house of the LORD at Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the LORD had appeared to his father David, at the place that David had prepared on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.

Moriah means ‘seen of Yah’. As we saw earlier, Abraham does not know the name ‘Yah’ and it is not possible for him to use the name Moriah. Nor did the Israelites could have named the mount as Moriah for it was inside the city of Jebus (or Jerusalem) which was not conquered until the time of David. However, Moriah was the place the LORD appeared to David. The event of David purchasing the threshing floor in Moriah was recorded in 1 Chronicles 21 and 2 Samuel 24 but Moriah was never mentioned. Hence, Moriah was named by David for he was ‘seen of Yah’ and He stopped the plague as recorded in 2 Sam 24:25. David began to reign over all of Israel from 1065 BC.

Conclusion

The internal evidence from the Scripture itself shows that the book of Genesis must have been written when Calah was a great city and during the reign of David. This gives us a more precise time period of between 1065-1050 BC. As i already mentioned in the introduction, it is important to understand that the contents of Genesis may have been from much older documents but the book of Genesis as we have today in our Bibles for the most part was written and compiled around 1060 BC during the reign of David.