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The Oxford Bible Commentary Line-by-line commentary for the New Revised Standard Version Bible.

The Date of Genesis.

Nothing in the book directly indicates the time when it reached its final shape. However, many passages reflect episodes and situations of post-patriarchal times: the tradition of a nation comprising twelve tribes ( 49:16, 28 ); the Exodus from Egypt ( 15:13–14 ); the future possession of Canaan and the areas occupied by the various tribes ( 15:17–20; 17:8; 28:4 ); the predominance of the tribe of Judah ( 49:10 ) and of the Joseph tribes (especially Ephraim ( 48:17–20 )); and the Davidic monarchy ( 49:10 ). There are also anachronisms such as the references to the ‘land of the Philistines’ ( 21:32, 34 ), whose arrival in Canaan was roughly contemporary with that of the Israelites, and to the Chaldeans ( 11:28, 31; 15:7 ), a people of southern Mesopotamia whose names do not appear in historical records before the time of the neo-Assyrian empire (from the 8th cent. BCE) and who were otherwise unknown to the OT before the sixth century BCE. Other features of the book—for example the constantly reiterated theme of the promise of possession of the land of Canaan—are perhaps best understood as particularly relevant to a time when the nation had been dispossessed from the land—that is, either the Babylonian exile during the sixth century BCE or the ensuing period when the Jewish community living in and around Jerusalem were once more, like the patriarchs of Genesis, aliens in the land, needing encouragement to hope that God would enable them to throw off the yoke of Persian domination and would restore to them the fullness of his blessing as the rightful owners of the land which he had promised long ago to them.

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