This book plumbs the first book of the Bible for insights into the nature of God, the meaning of good and evil, the power of blessings and curses, and the essential mystery of life that both tantalizes and pesters us. The author of A History of God (1993) and Jerusalem (1996) expands on some of the ideas she put forward on the TV series Genesis: A Living Conversation with Bill Moyers.

Armstrong believes that we must bring to our study of this complex text "the same kind of meditative and intuitive attention that we give to a poem." She has some interesting things to say about creation, the fall, Cain and Abel, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, and Joseph. Armstrong respects the fact that the patriarchs are presented not as saints but as flawed human beings. And she is deeply moved by the portrait of the Creator in Genesis as "a shocking God about whom it is impossible to make pious predictions."