A quick way to remember the geographical landscape of the 49 chapters of Genesis is as follows:
The first 11 chapters are set in Babylonia.
The last 12 chapters are set in Egypt.
Everything in between occurs in the geographical terrain between the two countries, namely the broad stretch of Syria-Palestine.
Now why is knowing this so important?
The answer is simple. Because, culture, language, and location go hand-in-hand. Unless you are an ancient Middle Easterner who has suddenly been transported to the 21st century via a time machine, you are NOT going to have a hope in heaven of being able to really understand the Bible the way it was meant to be understood unless you understand the culture of the ancient Middle East. Period.
I’m currently living in Tokyo, Japan and have been here for over 10 years now. Even though I’m half-Japanese (my mom’s French), in the beginning I struggled to get along with the Japanese. My brusque American ways were always butting heads with everybody. I was too direct and outspoken. I was too impatient. I didn’t understand why it was so important to always have to use honorific Japanese with a coworker just because he had been working at the same company longer than me.
My frustrations didn’t decrease until I reached a level of cultural understanding sophisticated enough to perceive the whys behind the whats. Once I achieved that level of understanding, I then had the power to work within and around the culture to my advantage. Before that, I was just an angry and irritated man surrounded by people who I thought were weirdos.
The same positive paradigm shift will occur in your struggles to understand the Bible once you unlock its underlying cultural mindset. It will cease to be inscrutable. It will cease to be ancient and irrelevant.
Never forget this. If you had a choice between being taught the Bible by a seminary professor with a string of degrees after his name or an ancient Middle Easterner who had magically been transported by a time machine into your neighborhood, go with the Middle Easterner. He’ll be a much better teacher. Even if he is just a fisherman.