Literature / Book of Genesis

"In the beginning..."

The first book of The Bible. In the Jewish tradition, it is the first book of the Torah and known as Bereshit ("In the beginning"; books of the Torah are known in Hebrew by their first word in that language). Literally everything begins here. From the story of how God created the world, the first peoples and finally the patriarchs of the Israelites.


Genesis contains the following tropes:

  • Adam and Eve Plot: The Trope Namer. God's instructions to the first people are: "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it."
  • And Man Grew Proud: Then Man built a tower intended to reach Heaven. Which is why language classes are needed in the present day.
  • Alcoholic Parent: After the flood, Noah plants a vineyard and gets so drunk he winds up passing out naked. His son Ham thinks this is hilarious and calls his brothers to come see. They respectfully cover him with a blanket instead, walking backwards so they won't have to see their dad naked. For this, Noah curses Ham's son Canaan to be a "servant of servants" of his relations. Why Canaan and not Ham himself? Nobody's quite sure, although it's pretty clear that the real point is justifying the Hebrews' enmity towards the Canaanites.note 
  • Apocalypse How: The Great Flood destroys all humanity and all land animals on the planet, except for what is saved on Noah's ark. Class 2 or 4, depending on whether any species were completely wiped out.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: When Joseph invites his brothers into his palace for a meal, while he's still unrecognizable to them, they're afraid he will attack them, seize them as slaves, and... take their donkeys?
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: The fate of Enoch from the lineage of Adam's son Seth, as was suggested later on by the writer of the Book of Hebrews, saying that instead of seeing death he was "translated".
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Played straight with the matriarchs Sarah, Rebecca and Rachel. Not specifically mentioned concerning the patriarchs, with the exception of Joseph, whose physical beauty is mentioned.
  • Bed Trick:
    • Jacob's wedding. He had worked for Laban for seven years in order to get permission to marry Laban's daughter Rachel, but Laban swapped Rachel out for her older sister Leah on the night of the wedding. Jacob didn't notice this until they were already married, so although he got to marry Rachel the next week, he had to work another seven years to earn (retroactively) his marriage to Rachel, the girl he actually loved.
    • Tamar, a widow of Judah's sons, was due a marriage to another man of the family under the rules of levirate marriage. When it seemed Judah was not going to go through with this, Tamar disguised herself as a prostitute and met him on the road, taking his staff and sigil as payment. She conceived twins and, when Judah realized what had happened and she explained her reasons, he was shamed into admitting his mistakes and, while he didn't marry her, he did acknowledge the twins as his children and heirs.
  • Broke Your Arm Punching Out Cthulhu: Jacob may have pinned the Angel of the Lord, but he walks with a permanent limp afterward.
  • Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie: Joseph makes the Israelites swear that they would take his body with them when they left Egypt. He was eventually reburied in Israel, meaning that they must have carried his coffin through the desert for forty years. This causes complications along the way, because the people carrying his coffin are therefore ritually impure and can't offer the Passover sacrifice. A "make-up" date for the sacrifice one month later is instituted due to this and other reasons, which means that complications as a result of a will are Older Than Feudalism.
  • But Liquor Is Quicker: Lot's daughters got their own father drunk to have sex with him. That showed how corrupt Sodom and Gomorrah had been, to the point that even the ones God had spared engaged in sexual immorality.
  • Cain and Abel: The fall of man away from God sees the collapse of the family, best seen in the interaction of the many brothers within this Book. The only way for even a single nation to begin to reconcile with God is for the brothers of the nation to reconcile with each other. For some examples:
    • The conflict of brothers starts with the first children of Adam and Eve, the farmer Cain and the herder Abel. God finds the animal sacrifices of Abel preferable to Cain's offerings, which leaves Cain envious. Some time later, Cain is confronted by God with the fact that he has slaughtered his own brother, a fact Cain denies while complaining that he's "not his brother's keeper." Indignant, God dismisses Cain's lie by describing how he can hear the blood of the first corpse screaming from the Earth, and then punishes Cain to wander the Earth without a place to call home.
    • Jacob and Esau, two children who are described as fighting even in the womb, both end up the favorite of a different parent, and so each of them works with that parent to conspire against each other for the right of inheritance. Ultimately, first-born Esau is cheated out of his rightful inheritance which now belongs to Jacob, a fact which nearly leads to Esau killing Jacob before the now rightful inheritor flees his home to make his own family. Although if Esau was more mindful of his future inheritance being anything of worth to him than the immediate satisfaction of his appetite, he wouldn't have sold off his birthright to his brother and thus open the door for himself to be cheated in the first place.
    • Joseph, the favorite of Jacob's twelve sons, is so envied by his ten older brothers that they sell him into to slavery and tell their father that Joseph was eaten alive. The tables are turned years later, when the older brothers and the youngest (Benjamin) go to Egypt to request food and shelter for Israel from one of the Pharaoh's advisors: an older Joseph, having risen out of slavery by God's grace. Joseph demands that Benjamin be given to him as a slave in return for the provision of Israel, but the other brothers beg for Benjamin's freedom, not wanting to break their father's heart even further. Impressed by their compassion, Joseph reveals himself as their long-lost brother and allows the people of Israel to come to Egypt.
    • The last group of brothers are the two sons of Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim. Despite the fact that Manasseh is the older one, Ephraim was the one who received a blessing from the patriarch Jacob. Manasseh is indignant, and in his anger, he quietly accepts the situation. Genesis doesn't blow trumpets for Manasseh, but unlike every other older brother who ends up less favored than the younger, he preserves his family over lashing out over his perception of injustice. Rabbi Wolpe touches on this silent victory for brotherhood five minutes into this interview.
  • Cassandra Truth: When Lot tells his family about God's imminent plan to destroy their town, his soon-to-be sons-in-law and other relatives (including possibly some sons and/or daughters and their spouses) laugh at him, thinking he's joking.
  • A Chat with Satan: In third chapter, the serpent, the most cunning of God's creation, convinces the first man and woman to eat from the one tree God order not to eat from by appealing to their desire for beauty, great wisdom, and to be god-like. Naturally, eating from the tree only manages to get the two expelled from Paradise and cursed with mortality and toil that will be passed to all their descendants. The serpent doesn't get away freely from this, as God reckons all the human descendants will have a bone to pick with him. Interestingly, the serpent is never identified as Satan in this book or in any other part of the Torah; it is only later in Christian writings that the two are connected, specifically the Book of Revelation.
  • Circumcision Angst:
    • Many men were left feeling sore the day Abraham applied the commanded custom.
    • Invoked by Simeon and Levi, who claim they will let Dinah marry the prince who raped her if every man from that village is circumcised. They agree, and for three days the village is defenseless, giving the bandits an incredibly easy opening to take revenge and fill their greedy pockets with the loot.
  • Claimed by the Supernatural: Cain is marked by God for murdering his younger brother, but the mark is not a punishment; it is bestowed as a warning to anyone who would harm Cain in his exile that Cain's murder would be avenged seven times over.
  • The Clan: The twelve tribes of Israel descended from Abraham and Isaac, who had their own clans. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are the three patriarchs of the Hebrew people.
  • Cliffhanger: Will the Israelites permanently settle in Egypt or go back to their homeland? They went to the latter the hard way.
  • Completely Unnecessary Translator: The translator in Joseph's story. While there were probably many people for whom the translator proved indispensable, one case where he wasn't needed at all was when Joseph's own brothers showed up. He employed one anyway to conceal his relation to them.
  • Cycle of Revenge:
    • Defied at the start. After Cain kills Abel, he fears that others would come and kill him to avenge Abel, which would likely begin a cycle of murders. However, God put a mark on him to prevent anyone from murdering Cain.
    • Also defied when Esau decides to forgive Jacob instead of seeking revenge for having stolen his blessings. (Having also prospered in the meantime seems to have helped him with this.)
    • Again defied one generation later, when Joseph understands that his brothers have come a long way since they sold him to slavery and decides to reconcile with them instead of punishing them.
  • Death by Childbirth: Rachel dies when she has Benjamin due to the pain of labor, something established in chapter three to be a result of the Fall of Man.
  • Death Faked for You: After the brothers sell Joseph to Egypt, they "explain" Joseph's sudden disappearance to their dad by dipping his robe in blood and making it look like he was attacked by wild animals.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Jacob wrestled an angel for an entire night (though many scholars believe Jacob was actually wrestling with God via theophany). The angel had to resort to cursing Jacob's hip in order to win, and Jacob still obtained a blessing (which remains in effect to this day) before he let the angel leave. To those of you who don't know, Jacob earned a nickname for that feat, which is literally translated as "Wrestles with God" ... The nickname is "Israel".
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Several, with some notable examples being:
    • Noah curses his son, Ham, for failing to avert his eyes when Noah was drunk and naked (the curse inherited by only one son, mind you).
    • After Shechem's rape of their sister Dinah, Jacob takes his sons to task for their reaction as an instance of this. See Circumcision Angst (above) and Rape and Revenge (below).
    • Young Joseph may have been a bit of a bratty brother, with his habit of tattling on his older brothers and announcing his dreams of superiority, but trying to murder him and then selling him into slavery in response? Definitely over-the-top.
  • Don't Look Back: In the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, God warns Lot, his wife, and daughters to not look back as they flee the cities prior to the imminent destruction of the cities ("Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed" (Genesis 19:15-17)). Yet, Lot's wife does, and upon seeing the flaming ruins of Sodom and Gomorrah, is somehow turned into a pillar of salt.
  • Driven by Envy: Notable examples include Cain and Joseph's brothers.
  • The End of the Beginning: The conclusion to the story of Joseph. On one hand, the family of the patriarchs is now re-united, which is a refreshing development after generations of Sibling Rivalry. On the other hand, the Israelites are settled in a foreign land, which is not the promised land. See Cliffhanger above. How long will this last?
  • Enemy to All Living Things: Part of Cain's curse.
  • Everything's Better with Rainbows: After the massive flood in Genesis, God promises not to drown all the creatures again and puts a rainbow in the sky as a symbol of his covenant with them.
  • The Exile: Adam and Eve are banished from the Garden of Eden as the final part of their punishment.
  • Fake Period Excuse: When Jacob and his wives flee Laban's home, Rachel steals her father's idols just before she and her husband's caravan leave. When her father catches up to Jacob and accuses him of stealing, Jacob lets him search his entire property, saying (not knowing who did it) that anyone who stole the idols will be put to death. Rachel keeps her father from finding them by sitting on top of the saddle where she hid them, while claiming she's on her period (thereby making anything she touches unclean) knowing full well her father wouldn't dare to move her in that condition. As a result, he never finds them.
  • False Rape Accusation: Potiphar's wife accuses Joseph of trying to rape her (when in fact it was basically the other way around).
  • Famous Ancestor: Chapter 10 is called "The Table of Nations" and it traces the lineage of many Middle Eastern peoples back to Noah's sons.
  • Fatal Flaw: Every person in the Book holds on to some characteristic that damages their relationship with God and makes clear that none of these humans, despite being made in God's image, are divine. Flaws include:
    • Adam's ignorance.
    • Eve's greed.
    • Cain's wrath.
    • Noah's drunkenness.
    • Abraham & Sarah's impatience for a child.
    • Rebekah's favoritism and impatience for making God's prophecies come true.
    • Esau's hunger.
    • Jacob's deceit and favoritism.
    • Joseph's spoiled vanity.
  • First Girl Wins: Adam and Eve. Although according to some Fanon, Eve was actually the second girl. A few sources even have her third.
  • Flaming Sword: There is a flaming, whirling (in some translations) sword placed at the entrance to the Garden of Eden to prevent Adam and Eve from getting back in.
  • Food as Bribe: Jacob was able to get his brother Esau to sell his birthright for a bowl of stew.
  • Forbidden Fruit: God gives free reign to the first two humans over everything in the paradisal Garden of Eden, except for one tree, because eating of its fruits will cause them to die. Unfortunately, a wily serpent manages to tempt the two into eating the fruit out of their desire to be god-like, leading them to be expelled from the Garden and introduce humanity to pain and death. The exact species of fruit wasn't mentioned. Much like Four Is Death, it's portrayed as an apple because the Latin word for apple, malus, also means "evil".
    Genesis 2:16-17 : And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of
  • Forgiveness:
    • A minor instance of this is when Jacob and Esau reconcile after their struggle for the family inheritance.
    • Arguably the forgiveness story in the Genesis is that of Joseph and his brothers. The brothers, green with envy, sold Joseph into slavery and convinced their father his favorite son was dead. The brothers assume they'll never see Joseph again, but when they come to Egypt to beg for food, it turns out the Pharaoh's most trusted advisor is a grown-up Joseph. The brothers immediately fear for their lives, but instead of taking vengeance, Joseph not only spares his brothers, but invites them to come live in luxury in Egypt. Then the Hebrews never had to deal with slavery ever again... right?
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Noah cursed Canaan right after the flood, and the descendants of Canaan would come to be great enemies of God's chosen people, the Jews.
    • That Esau and Jacob struggle with each other while still in their mother's womb is an early harbinger of their Sibling Rivalry in the future and the conflict between the tribes descended of them.
    • Joseph's dreams that his brothers and parents will bow down before him signals his future role as the savior of the entire clan.
    • The order in which Perez and Zerah are born.
    • The blessings given by each patriarch to their sons/grandsons foreshadow the prominence that their respective tribes will gain.
    • The Egyptians ending up selling themselves into slavery to get food near the end of the famine; while the Hebrews are spared this fate for now, guess what's going to happen to them when later Pharaohs forget what Joseph and his people did for Egypt?
  • Get Out:
    • The Pharaoh boots Abraham out of Egypt for lying about his wife Sarah being "his sister" (technically his half-sister) and causing God to plague the Egyptians for that misinformation.
    • Abimelech, the king of the Philistines, tells Isaac to leave the region because he was getting too prosperous and the Philistines were envying him.
  • Girl in a Box: According to some para-text in The Talmud, Abraham placed Sarah in a box so the Egyptians wouldn't kill him to take her (because of her beauty).
  • Giving Them the Strip: This is how Joseph struggles free from Potiphar's wife after she tries to seduce him forcefully. It does make it difficult for him to explain why (a) she is claiming that he tried to rape her and (b) she has his clothes to prove it.
  • God Is Good: God makes the universe, and says that it's good. He also gives Cain - the first murderer - a mark to keep people from killing him.
  • Good Is Not Soft: In Genesis 12:3, God says to Abraham that He will bless those who bless him and curse those who curse him.
  • Guile Hero: This seems to be something of a family trait for Abraham and his descendants.
    • Abraham tries to deceive the Egyptians about his relationship with Sarah, which leads to an Idiot Ball and a What the Hell, Hero? response from the Egyptians. Pattern repeat by his successor Isaac.
    • Rebecca is the MasterMind behind securing the greater blessing for her favourite son, Jacob.
    • Jacob thoroughly deserves his reputation as "The Deceiver" with respect to his treatment of Esau and Laban, the latter being a Manipulative Bastard himself.
    • Rachel (who is Rebecca's niece and Laban's daughter and therefore shares some of the same guileful gene pool as Jacob) outsmarts her father and successfully removes his household idols.
    • Joseph, being the son of Jacob and Rachel, tops the list by successfully carrying out an elaborate Xanatos Gambit to reunite the family (see below), and also saves an entire nation from a famine in the process.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Nephilim are the offspring of "sons of God" who took human women as wives. They're described as "heroes of old" and may have corresponded to a common Old World belief that there used to be men who were nearly giants. Either way, the Nephilim still are not excepted from obedience to God despite their semi-divine nature.
  • Hero of Another Story:
    • Ishmael, Abraham's son with his Egyptian slave Hagar, becomes the ancestor of a numerous progeny, the Ishmaelites, which includes a great many other Semitic tribes apart from Israel.
    • Whereas Genesis 37 - 50 focuses mainly on Joseph, Chapter 38 shows Judah with his own story to tell. It's Judah's descendants who go on to be the most memorable.
    • Various other nations (sometimes heroic, other times villainous) arise from Abraham and his nephew Lot. Abraham's wife Keturah (after Sarah died) goes on to give birth to Midian, patriarch of (who else?) the Midianites. Lot's sons and grandsons Ben-Ammi and Ben-Moab go on to found the Ammonites and the Moabites.
  • Hope Spot: After learning that God plans to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah for their wickedness, Abraham is able to bargain God down to sparing them if there are at least ten righteous men there for the sake of Lot and his family. It isn't enough.
  • How We Got Here: Tradition holds that the narrator is Moses, and that Genesis was written during the Exodus to record Israel's history leading up to that time.
  • Implausible Deniability: Cain is enough of a moron to think he can murder his brother and then lie about it to an omniscient and omnipotent God.
  • Incest Is Relative:
    • Lot and his daughters.
    • Abraham's wife, Sarah, is later revealed to be also his half-sister. This is used as an excuse on multiple occasions to pretend Sarah is just "his sister" so certain powerful men won't kill Abraham to get her. (It only ends in trouble both times.)
    • Some attempts to answer the question "where did Cain get his wife?" allude to this possibility.
  • Improvised Clothes: The fig leaves Adam and Eve make into loincloths when they eat the fruit and realize they're naked and feel ashamed for it.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: When questioned as to why he was hiding in the Garden, Adam responds that it was because he was ashamed of his nudity. God then responds, "Who told you that you were naked?! You have eaten, then, of the tree that I have commanded you not to eat from."
  • Innocent Fanservice Girl: Well, couple. Adam and Eve are naked when they're first created, but they have no concept of "naked," and are unashamed. It's only after they eat the fruit that they become aware of their nudity, and start to feel... well, naked.
  • Jacob and Esau: The prototypical example of this trope, at least in western culture, is probably Jacob and Esau from this very book. They are twins, but Esau, the elder brother, is favoured by his father, while Jacob is his mother's favourite. They are very different, too; Esau is a great hunter and sports a Carpet of Virility, and Jacob is good at cooking and stuff like that, and not hairy at all. The latter two even conspire successfully to cheat Esau out of his inheritance, even though it ends up fulfilling what God had said about the sons, that "the older [Esau] shall serve the younger [Jacob]".
  • Jaywalking Will Ruin Your Life: The first two people decide to have a bit of fruit, resulting in the fall of man and eternal punishment.
  • Jews Love to Argue: Abraham, the mortal half of the Jewish covenant, makes the trope by haggling with God Himself in a bid to spare Sodom and Gomorrah for Lot's sake.
  • "Just So" Story:
    • Creation, naturally. How did God do it? He just did.
    • The story of the Fall explains that, as a consequence, snakes lost their legs and have to crawl on their stomachs, men have to till the soil to produce food, women have troubles in childbirth and corpses decompose back into the dust from which they're made.
    • The explanation given by the Tower of Babel story for all the world's different languages and dialects: God disrupted their communication so they wouldn't understand each other.
    • The Flood gives the origin of rainbows as a sign of God's promise not to drown the earth again.
  • Kneel Before Frodo: Joseph's brothers bow down before him four times. The first three times, they do not realize that he's Joseph. The fourth and final time, they bow before him fully aware of his identity and in reverence. Technically, only the fourth exemplifies the trope.
  • Knight Templar Big Brother: Dinah's brothers (Simeon and Levi, anyway) avenge their sister by going back on their word — they kill the man who violated her and wipe out his entire clan while the clan is down and not feeling that well...!
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: Sarah is infertile for most of her adult life, while her maidservant gets pregnant by sleeping with Abraham once. Rebekah does eventually conceive, but not without divine intervention... and it almost kills her. Leah pumps out six sons and a daughter, while her sister Rachel struggles to conceive, only to be killed by the second time.
  • Long-Lived: Everyone before The Great Flood, and a few soon thereafter. Adam lived to 930; Methuselah lived to 969. Post-flood, Shem lived to 602.
  • Mandatory Motherhood:
    • Onan provoked God into striking him dead by refusing to have a child with Tamar, his dead brother's wife, as per the laws of levirate marriage (in short, he was required to marry his brother's wife, and their first son would be his brother's to continue his brother's family line). Of course, he vowed that he would (thus avoiding public shaming and being cast out of his family) and then performed coitus interruptus to prevent it (i.e. probably in the course of having sex with her regularly nonetheless), so he kinda had it coming.
    • The reason Sarah, Rachel, and Leah give concubines to their husbands as a means to have children when they get slammed by the Law of Inverse Fertility: this was, in fact, commanded under the Code of Hammurabi, which was the law of the land at that point. (Marriage back then was seen as a way to strengthen sociopolitical alliances, increase socioeconomic status, and carry on one's lineage; love and companionship came later.)
  • Manly Tears: Joseph is mentioned to be crying at several points during the Xanatos Gambit involving his brothers. When he reveals his identity to them, he cries so hard that the guards outside can hear him and report the incident to the Pharaoh. However, the narrative does not portray these events as any kind of weakness on his part.
  • Marry Them All: Jacob works for Laban seven years to marry his beloved Rachel. When the ceremony rolls around, he finds he's married to Leah (her older sister) instead. Laban's solution: you get the other girl next week too, but then you have to work another seven years in retroactive payment. Not only that, but both women bring their handmaids into it as well: Rachel because she's barren (for a while), and Leah because, well, she's the less favored wife and has to keep up. So Jacob winds up having four wives and a total of thirteen children.
  • Matzo Fever: Potiphar's wife really likes Joseph and is upfront and aggressive about it.
  • Meaningful Echo: The phrase "Am I in the place of God?" is first uttered by Jacob out of frustration, when Rachel says she must have a child by him or she will die. One generation later, their son, Joseph, uses almost exactly the same phrase but under happier circumstances, while reassuring his brothers that he has forgiven them and that they have nothing to fear from him.
  • Meaningful Rename:
    • Abram and Sarai are renamed Abraham and Sarah by divine advice.
    • Jacob becomes Israel after wrestling with an angel.
  • Men Act, Women Are: The men are described in terms of their attributes. The women are typically described in terms of beauty.
  • Misplaced Retribution: After Ham laughes at the sight of his father Noah naked. When the latter wakes up, he curses Ham's son Canaan.
  • Mystical Plague: A couple of the Plagues of Egypt in The Bible fit: the plague of pestilence (which only affected livestock) and the plague of boils (skin disease).
  • Mystical Pregnancy: The recurring theme of infertile women becoming pregnant against the odds, which is attributed to divine intervention. Special mention goes to Sarah, who was way past menopause (in her 90's) when Isaac was born.
  • Nephilim: The first of the Bible's two mentions of them, born of mortal women (the "daughters of man") and the "sons of God." (Some extra-canonical texts make them out to be angels preying on mortal women, while others suggest they were ordinary men from Seth's righteous lineage and that their sin was marrying into Cain's rebellious lineage.)
  • Never My Fault:
    • Adam and Eve. God confronts Adam and Eve with the eating from the Tree Of Knowledge. Adam blames Eve (and God for creating her in the first place), and Eve blames the serpent.
    • Abraham and Sarah. When Hagar gets pregnant with Ishmael and ends up despising her mistress, Sarah blames Abraham for getting her handmaid pregnant in the first place, and Abraham in turn blames Sarah for giving him the handmaid to father a son through.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Congratulations, Joseph: thanks to the economic policies you put in place to take advantage of your prophetic dreams, a future Pharoah will enslave virtually the entire known world, including your own people.
  • No Doubt The Years Have Changed Me: Joseph's brothers are unable to recognize him after twenty years of separation. It's not surprising, considering that they last saw him as the Annoying Younger Sibling whom they sold to slavery, and now he's the Vizier of Egypt and Pharaoh's Number Two.
  • Opposite-Sex Clone: God took Adam's rib (or "a piece of his side") and cloned Eve from it.
  • Our Ancestors Are Superheroes: The first humans are depicted as living for anywhere from 300 to 900 years, even the ones who didn't have God-given superpowers. There is implication that humans were originally created immortal with natural abilities that would now be considered superhuman, but greatly diminished after the Fall and have been further declining over time, healthcare and technology notwithstanding.
  • Our Giants Are Bigger: Nephilim were generally translated as "giants" in older translations of the book, including the Latin Vulgate and the King James Bible. This was a common explanation for some of the larger people occasionally seen in civilizations at the time, but it also serves to show that even these men towering over ordinary men are only creations subject to their Creator like everyone else.
  • Out-of-Character Moment: A perceived one, anyway. When God reveals His plan to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, which would destroy the wicked and the righteous alike, Abraham claims such ruthlessness is very much unlike God. In the following discussion, God makes a deal that He will spare the cities if there are at least 10 believers there. (The following chapter reveals that there aren't.)
  • Pals with Jesus:
    • Several characters are on speaking terms with God, but Enoch is probably one of the few who can claim to be a friend.
    Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.
    • Abraham and God get along pretty well too.
  • Parental Favoritism: A recurring theme, one that sets the stage for much of the drama.
    • Cain murdered his brother Abel because God, the Father of creation, accepted the latter's offering and rejected the former's.
    • The conflict between Esau and Jacob stems from how Isaac favored Esau and planned to cheat Jacob of his inheritance (Jacob had at this point bought Esau's birthright, and even though his methods were unscrupulous, the first-born right should now go to Jacob and not Esau), while Rebecca favoured Jacob and conspired to trick the visually impaired Isaac to give the blessing to Jacob-disguised-as-Esau.
    • Then there's Isaac, who was born to Abraham and Sarah very late, and after Sarah (in despair at a total lack of children) had told Abraham to have a child by her maid Hagar. Once Isaac was born, Ishmael did something that upset Sarah, and she (with God's backing) told Abraham to send Ishmael and Hagar away.
    • Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery because Jacob obviously treat him better than the rest of his sons.
    • Jacob also favors Benjamin to the point that he is willing to let another son (Simeon) rot in an Egyptian prison and let the rest of the clan starve to avoid having to part with Benjamin.
  • Parental Incest:
    • Lot and his daughters in Genesis 19:30-38. Technically, they raped him.
    • The youngest son of Noah, Ham, is cursed for having "seen his father's nakedness". Since some biblical commentators doubt he would have punished him so severely just for that, saying this must therefore have been a euphemism for molestation or even full sexual relations.
  • Perfectly Arranged Marriage: Isaac and his wife Rebekah. Abraham sent his servant to the land of his brother in Mesopotamia to get a wife for his son Isaac, and the servants prays to God that the first woman who comes along to the well to offer both him and his camels a drink would be the one God has chosen to be Isaac's wife. As it turns out, Rebekah was the first woman who offers the servant and his camels a drink, and so after the servant spends a night in her family's house and talks with her brother Laban about what happened, Laban gives his sister Rebekah his blessings and has her sent to the land of Canaan where Abraham and Isaac were staying, and both Isaac and Rebekah were married upon her arrival.
  • Perpetual Storm: The Great Flood was caused a storm which lasted for 40 days, followed by 150 days of flooding and 220 days of drying out.
  • Person of Mass Construction: God is an exaggerated example of this. He created light, the heavens, the stars, the lands, the animals, and humanity all in only six days.
  • Polyamory: Several named characters are said to have more than one wife.
    • Cain's descendant Lamech is the first recorded polygamy, having two wives — Adah and Zillah.
    • Abraham was legally married to Sarah, but also had 2 named concubines, Hagar and Keturah.
    • Jacob got to have two wives (Leah and Rachel) and two concubines (Bilhah and Zilpah) as per custom with Laban's people.
  • Please Spare Him, My Liege!: Because it is Lost in Translation, most people don't realize that God of all people does this at one point. When Abraham is about to sacrifice his son Isaac, God implores him to let him go and sacrifice a ram instead. In Hebrew, there are two ways to formulate a negative sentence: one of them is known as the Prohibitive, the other the Vetitive. The former is used when a person talks down to somebody, i.e. is in a superior position. The latter is used when somebody tries to persuade a superior. With one sole other exception every other negative sentence of God in the Tanakh is formulated as a Prohibitive (for example, the Ten Commandments are formulated in a way that makes it very clear that anybody who violates them will suffer a Fate Worse Than Death), but when God asks (not orders, but asks) Abraham to put down the dagger, it reads the same way as a soldier pleading with his commanding officer.
  • Priest King: Salem in Canaan had priest-king Melchizedek, noted for giving food and blessing to Abraham and Sarah. He is also noted for acknowledging the Abrahamic God, although it's not entirely clear whether Melchizedek was a true monotheist or henotheist (treating God as the principal deity of a pantheon).
  • Psychic Dreams for Everyone: In Joseph's story, Joseph, the Pharaoh, the pharaoh's baker and the pharaoh's chief butler all have prophetic dreams. God is stated to be sending those dreams, which is why Joseph (who is favored by God) is able to interpret them.
  • Rape and Revenge:
    • Among the reasons God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, if the way Sodom's residents planned on treating Lot's guests is any indication.
    • The Canaanite prince Shechem violates Dinah, and her two brothers Levi and Simeon slaughter every man in the prince's village for it. (Jacob does not approve.)
  • Revenge Before Reason:
    • Cain was marked to prevent anyone from murdering him in revenge for his murder of Abel.
    • Jacob's sons Simeon and Levi killed an entire clan in order to avenge the rape of their younger sister. This costs them their right to claim the first-born inheritance after Reuben forfeited his, and Jacob's greatest blessing goes to the fourth son Judah.
  • Replacement Goldfish:
    • Seth who was born after Abel's death. Eventually all humans share him as an ancestor though Noah.
    • Benjamin becomes one for Jacob after Joseph's disappearance.
  • Rule of Three:
    • God appears to Abram with two of his agents.
    • Noah has three sons, who are the ancestors of all people that live after the Flood.
  • Sacred Hospitality:
    • As far as Lot is concerned, the safety of his guests is more important to him than his own and that of his own daughters (fortunately for them, his guests intervened).
    • Abraham is shown displaying extraordinary hospitality towards three "strangers" who turn out to be God and two angels coming to promise Abraham a son and to discuss the issue of Sodom and Gomorrah.
  • Sadly Mythtaken: The Forbidden Fruit is not actually mentioned as being an apple, contrary to what some uneducated first-time readers might expect. (Indeed, apples are not native to the Fertile Crescent, and would most likely have been unfamiliar to the original writers/storytellers.) That was a Visual Pun that came about when the story was translated into Latin, because the words for "evil" and "apple" are similar, and a common anachronism Renaissance artists put in their paintings along with other aesthetics and technology from their own time.
  • Secret Test of Character:
    • Abraham is told to sacrifice his son in order to prove his faith.
    • Joseph basically pulls one of these on his brothers with Benjamin.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Jacob is the Sensitive Guy who tends to sheep while Esau is the Manly Man who hunts for his food.
  • Sex Equals Love: The phrase about why a man is expected to leave his parents and "cling to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." Incidentally, it's one of the very few times in the entire Bible that this trope tends to be played straight.
  • Sibling Rivalry: A running theme in the Genesis. It begins with Cain and Abel, continues through Jacob and Esau and even ventures into the domain of The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry with Rachel and Leah. Joseph's relationship and his brothers headed down the same track, until Joseph broke with the trend and forgave his brothers, thereby reuniting the family.
  • Signature Item Clue:
    • Potiphar's wife gets hold of Joseph's cloak as he runs away from her. She later shows Potiphar the cloak to support her claim that he tried to rape her.
    • Joseph's brothers distress his coat to use as concrete evidence in their claim that wild animals have eaten him.
    • Tamar takes Judah's staff and cloak as tribute for payment while disguised as a shrine prostitute, so that she can later produce them as proof that he's the father of her baby.
  • Soiled City on a Hill: The world before The Great Flood in general, and Sodom and Gomorrah specifically.
  • Something Completely Different: The story of Judah's involvement with Tamar comes up right in the middle of the Joseph narrative, which carries on afterwards as if nothing happened (in part because these stories took place at the same time, but in entirely different places).
  • Taken for Granite: Lot's wife turned into a pillar of salt when she turned back to look at the burning Sodom.
  • Tempting Fate: The civilization at Babel.
    ..."Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth." The LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which mortals had built. And the LORD said, "Look, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will o; nothing that they propose to do now will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down, and confused their language there, so that they will not understand one another's speech."
  • They Called Me Mad!: Averted. Though virtually every adaptation has this as an interpolation, the text does not actually mention the townspeople mocking Noah for building a boat in the middle of a desert, nor have any specific scene where the Flood then sweeps said taunters away.
  • The Underworld: All characters expect to "go down to Sheol" after death. The words "go down" suggests that Sheol is conceived of as a somewhat depressing afterlife, and there's no difference mentioned concerning the fate of righteous and wicked people. Only gradually does the Old Testament go on to suggest there's more sorting to follow.
  • Vice City: Sodom and Gomorrah are so terrible that Lot struggles to find another single righteous man even among his own family in it, and the people of the towns immediately try to rape two angels that visit the cities. For all of their decadence and perversion, God destroys them both along with the rest of the other unnamed "cities of the plain" other than a tiny out-of-the-way place called Zoar.
  • Whatever Happened to the Mouse?: With all the stories going on at once, some of the characters tumble out of focus and fall through the cracks:
    • Genesis at one point traces Cain's family line down to Tubal-Cain, and then casually mentions he also had a sister named Naamah. Since daughters are usually only named in these genealogies when they've got some significant part in these stories, this suggests she was one of the women taken on the Ark with Noah and his sons. His wife, perhaps, or one of his daughters-in-law? Genesis says nothing more about her.
    • Some time after their escape from Sodom and Gomorrah's destruction, Lot and his daughters left Zoar "because he was afraid" of something. What became of the people in that town, and why didn't the daughters seek for husbands among them? We're not told.
    • After her ugly experience at Shechem, we hear nothing more about what became of Dinah.
    • Speaking of Shechem, Simeon and Levi put all the men to the sword there, but not the women and children; the account merely states they "carried them off" along with any valuables they could find. Did they enslave all of this bunch? (If so, how did they keep them in line and avoid their being an encumbrance to their flight from the area?) Did they release them somewhere along the way to speed up their journey? We simply don't know, and aren't told.
    • What became of Potiphar and his wife after Joseph got out of prison and promoted to Pharaoh's second-in-command? (Potiphar was an important official in Pharaoh's court, so Joseph would likely have met him there again at some point.) Yet again, we're not told.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • God to Adam and Eve, when he finds out they had eaten the Forbidden Fruit.
    • Pharaoh to Abram, when he learns that the woman he's taken to his harem is actually Abram's wife and not just his sister, as he'd claimed.
    • Abimelech to Isaac, when the latter tries to play the same trick on the Philistines in relation to his wife Rebecca.
    • Esau to Jacob (although not face-to-face), for deceitfully taking the blessing their father had meant for Esau.
    • Jacob to a 17-year-old Joseph, for going around telling everyone about his dream that his brothers and parents will all bow down before him.
    • Jacob to his other sons when they slaughter a whole city-state to avenge the rape of their little sister, because he's worried that other tribes and nations around them will begin a Cycle of Revenge. Near the end, he also curses their "cruel wrath" further while dispensing his final words of wisdom about their heritage from his deathbed. Point of note, the descendants of Levi and Shimeon, the two brothers who executed said revenge, are the only two tribes which didn´t earn a separate patch of land when they finally entered Canaan after The Exodus. The Levites were ordained priests and temple servants, while the tribe of Shimeon was assigned to military duties.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: Nobody can agree on where the Garden of Eden is supposed to have been located except "somewhere in the Middle East"note , as two of the rivers named as its borders have no modern equivalent (and the other two are rather generic names).
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Adam and Eve are banished from Eden, in part, so that they won't be able to eat from the Tree of Life, causing them to live forever with the curses they received for eating from the Tree of Knowledge.
  • Withholding Their Name: After Jacob wrestles with the Angel of the LORD and is given a blessing and a Meaningful Rename to Israel, Jacob asks the Angel for His name, and the Angel refuses, saying “Why do you ask Me My name?”
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Potiphar's wife uses the garment that Joseph left behind while giving her the strip as evidence that he tried to rape her.
  • Xanatos Gambit: Carried out by Joseph when he demands that the brothers give up Benjamin to be his slave and themselves return to Canaan safely. That way, he ensures that either he gets to keep Benjamin with him (if his brothers treat Benjamin like a dispensable family member, as they treated Joseph years ago), or his brothers show sufficient Character Development by refusing to leave Benjamin in Egypt, in which case he reconciles with all of them and brings his entire clan over to Egypt. Fortunately for all future Israelites, the latter plan eventuates.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Joseph's brothers make the dreams he has that he will rule over his brothers come true by their very efforts to put an end to them (along with him).
  • You Can't Go Home Again:
    • The Garden of Eden is forever closed for Adam and Eve and their descendants after they have been expelled from it.
    • Jacob never saw his parents again after stealing Esau's inheritance.
  • Youngest Child Wins: A recurring theme, though Ishmael, Esau, and Joseph's older brothers all got nice inheritances too. Also, Midian and Benjamin were each born later, eventually respectively bumping Isaac and Joseph into the second-youngest place.

Alternative Title(s): Genesis

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Literature/BookOfGenesis