Here, we report a high-quality genome sequence of sesame assembled de novo with a contig N50 of 52.2 kb and a scaffold N50 of 2.1 Mb, containing an estimated 27,148 genes. The results reveal novel, independent whole genome duplication and the absence of the Toll/interleukin-1 receptor domain in resistance genes. Candidate genes and oil biosynthetic pathways contributing to high oil content were discovered by comparative genomic and transcriptomic analyses. These revealed the expansion of type 1 lipid transfer genes by tandem duplication, the contraction of lipid degradation genes, and the differential expression of essential genes in the triacylglycerol biosynthesis pathway, particularly in the early stage of seed development. Resequencing data in 29 sesame accessions from 12 countries suggested that the high genetic diversity of lipid-related genes might be associated with the wide variation in oil content. Additionally, the results shed light on the pivotal stage of seed development, oil accumulation and potential key genes for sesamin production, an important pharmacological constituent of sesame.