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1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth- Genesis 1 begins with the summary statement that God created “in the beginning”. But this Hebrew word reshit can refer to a period of time at the beginning, rather than a specific moment in time (see Job 8:7; Gen. 10:10; Jer. 28:1). If a single moment of time was intended, then other Hebrew words could have been used, e.g. rishonah. How long this period was, or the processes used, are simply not spoken about. I suggest that “heavens and earth” is a merism, i.e. putting two words together in order to describe something greater. I don’t believe, therefore, that we are to divide the term into “heavens” and “earth”. This verse is a simple statement that in the beginning, perhaps over a period, all things were created by God. The process used is not commented upon.

But the zoom of the record then focuses upon the preparation of the eretz / the “earth”. Analysis of Gen. 1:2-2:4 demonstrates that we are reading here of the “earth” being prepared, rather than created. Sure, God created planet earth and all things else, that much is stated in 1:1. But the focus of all the cosmos is upon the eretz , and the structure of the record goes further and reveals that the pinnacle of that creation was in the man formed on the sixth day. Significantly, the Pentateuch begins with the account of the creation of “heaven and earth” and concludes with Moses appealing to the “heavens and earth” of Israel (Dt. 32:1; 33:28).

The Hebrew for "beginning" is very often translated "firstfruit". The suggestion may be that the creation we are to now read of is but a firstfruit; and indeed, James 1:18 appears to allude here in saying that through the creative word, we are "a kind of firstfruits of all His creations". The implication straightaway is that this creation is but a firstfruit, with far greater promise implied in future ages.

"Created" doesn't have to mean 'from nothing'. You can create something, without that 'creation' implying that you brought matter into existence. The Genesis record of creation is alluded to so often, especially in Psalms, Isaiah and Paul' writings, as being the basis for God's creation of a new creation of persons; re-working the chaos and disorder of their lives into something beautiful and to His glory. Later usages of "create" are paralleled with 'calling forth / into visibility', and especially "forming" or moulding. This, I suggest, is what the "creation" here may refer to. And yet there is indeed the visual impression given of a creation from nothing, ex nihilo. That would be because effectively the new creation, the re-ordering and re-building of human life, is tantamount to something totally new.

One of the most fundamental differences with the creation myths is that Genesis 1 presents God as uncreated, having no beginning, and focuses upon what He created- whereas the other records seek to explain where their gods came from and how they were created: “These foreign creation myths recount not only the origins of the visible world, but, at the same, of the gods. Genesis 1, however, distinguishes itself radically from these all sincere there is no such theogony. This observation indicates the grandeur of Israel’s religion” (Hermann Gunkel, Genesis (Macon: Mercer University Press, 1997) p. 126).

1:2 Now the earth was formless and empty; darkness was on the surface of the deep and God’s Spirit was hovering over the surface of the waters-There is fair debate over whether Gen. 1:2-2:4 is poetry or not. Redneck creationists argue it is not- because they consider this is a literal  scientific account of creation. But there is fair evidence that it is in fact poetry- although the rhyme is in terms of the ideas rather than assonance of the words. The material is based around the number seven. Gen. 1:1 has seven Hebrew words, 1:2 has fourteen; 2:1-3 has 35 words [5x7]; Elohim is used 35 times; “firmament” and “earth” 21 [3x7] times each; and “it was so” and the comment that God saw “good” in it occur seven times each. The numerical value of the Hebrew words is also full of ‘seven’ patterns. This isn’t quite what one would expect in a scientific account. And what was God intended to do in explaining origins? To explain them in scientific terms comprehensible and acceptable to a modern person? Or in terms acceptable to a primitive Israelite? I suggest He avoids that conundrum by presenting the creation account as limited only to eretz Israel, and presenting it as a drama, a kind of Divine slideshow.

The speeches in the book of Job are likewise poetry; these were therefore surely not the words that literally fell from the lips of Job and his friends. But that does not mean that the words are not inspired, nor does it make them myth. The poetic structure of Genesis 1:2-2:4 can be seen reflected even in translation; the work of each day is described within the same rubric: “There was evening and morning… God said… It was so… God saw that it was good… there was evening and morning”. The account of creation is not evenly balanced, i.e. there is more detail given to some things than to others. This isn’t what we would expect if the text is intended to provide a literal account of creation. The Bible uses various genres- it is a collection of poetry, direct statement, history, letters etc. Inspiration and revelation are two different things. All the Bible is inspired, but not all of it is a specific “Thus says the Lord…”. The words of Job’s friends are recorded by inspiration, but God Himself says that they were not all true. We are to interpret, to perceive the genre, the essence being communicated. And nowhere is that more true that in the creation record.

So I suggest that we should read Genesis neither as literal history, nor as myth. It is a dramatic presentation of the origin of Israel, produced in a particular context at a specific time, and re-worked in the context of Judah’s captivity and God’s intention to re-create Israel at the restoration. The entire text from Gen. 1:1-2:4 is poetic; this itself surely warns us not to read this as a literal, blow by blow account of historical creation. If such a historical account was provided, we surely would find description and argumentation employed. But instead, we have a kind of poetry. Victor Hamilton has spotted many examples of chiastic structure within the section, and also within the individual verses. Take Gen. 1:5- Hamilton translates this as “God named the light ‘Day’; the darkness he named ‘Night’”; and he observes that the structure of verb- indirect object / indirect object – verb in the Hebrew text is essentially poetic. (Victor Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1–17 (Eerdmans, 1990) p. 118).

The earth- I will be arguing that eretz  here, as in much of Genesis and the Hebrew Bible, refers specifically to the land of promise. I have elsewhere discussed the definition of eretz at length- see The Last Days Digression 3 ‘The earth- land- eretz’. The Spirit “flutters” over the waters in Gen. 1:2, just as God like an eagle [a symbol of the Spirit] “flutters” over Israel in bringing about their creation as a nation (Dt. 32:1). The point is, what God did at creation, He can do at any time.

Understanding eretz as referring to the land promised to Abraham enables us to read the account of the flood as describing a local event in that area. The watery formless waste of the Genesis 1 creation drama is repeated in the flood; a re-creation occurs, with Noah taking the role of Adam. I suggest that the same geographical area is in view- eretz Israel, rather than the entire planet. Likewise the events of Babel and confusion of languages make more sense if they refer to a localized situation within the eretz of greater Israel; the list of nations descended from Noah’s sons in Genesis 10 all refer to the peoples within eretz Israel, rather than having any global reference. The nations mentioned there are found elsewhere in the Bible- and they refer to peoples within the land promised to Abraham, and not outside of it. No comment is made about e.g. Aborigines, African tribes or American Indians. Note also that later Biblical allusions to the flood speak of it as representative of God’s judgments upon Israel; and this has an added appropriacy if the reference is to the same geographical territory. Noah was to take both clean and unclean animals into the ark, and we are surely intended to think that the later classification of clean and unclean animals was used. But that classification concerns animals known in eretz Israel. The intention was to keep life going on the eretz after the flood. There was no classification of all the animals of Australasia or the Amazon into clean or unclean, and no special comment on specific animals from those regions; the special comments on clean or unclean animals were all concerning animals known within the eretz.

The sons of God marrying the daughters of men resulted in the eretz falling into sin; I suggest this refers to the people of God who had been placed in the eretz marrying the other surrounding peoples. The language used about the state of things in the eretz is exactly that used by the later prophets concerning the situation in Israel. The people were frightened by the "giants" they met in the land of Canaan (Num. 13:33), likely connecting them with superhuman beings. These nephilim [LXX gigantes] had their origin explained by Moses in Genesis 6- the righteous seed intermarried with the wicked outside of the eretz, and their offspring were these nephilim, mighty men of the world.

We read that people moved eastward and settled in Shinar before building Babel (Gen. 11:2); but ‘east’ is relative to a fixed, defined area on earth. If we insist that it means the entire planet, then it’s hard to conceive where ‘east’ would be on a sphere like planet earth which is rotating on its own axis. But it makes sense within the boundaries of the eretz promised to Abraham. The same can be said of the account of Adam and Eve leaving Eden and moving east (Gen. 3:24), and the rejected Cain likewise heading east (Gen. 4:16).

Jer. 27:5 alludes to the creation record in speaking of how God had ‘made’ [the Hebrew word means more ‘prepared’ than ‘to create’] “earth” and would give it to the king of Babylon: "I have made the earth, the men and the beasts which are on the face of the earth by My great power and by My outstretched arm, and I will give it to the one who is pleasing in My sight”. It’s significant that Gen. 1:1 speaks of God creating all things- bara. But this word is paralleled in the later account with another word which has the sense of 'making' / preparing. The “earth” was to be given to Nebuchadnezzar- clearly it is the specific eretz of Israel which is in view, and not the entire globe. Jer. 27:6 actually defines the eretz as also including Ammon, Moab, Sidon and Tyre- all areas within the eretz promised to Abraham.

If we understand Eden as being within the eretz Israel, then the Biblical predictions that the ravaged land of Israel would become as Eden take on an obvious appropriacy (Is. 51:1; Ez. 36:35; Joel 2:3). It is the same geographical area in view. Note that the garden was in Eden (Gen. 2:8), on the east of Eden. Adam and Eve were sent forth from the garden to the east- in the direction of Babylon (Gen. 11:1), which was built east of Eden. This clearly looks forward to the expulsion of Israel from their land, to Babylon, and confirms the equation of Eden and eretz Israel. Adam’s place in Eden was dependent upon him obeying the “commandment” of Gen. 2:16, and a related word is used of how Israel’s place in the land / eretz was also contingent upon their obedience to Divine commandment (Dt. 30:16).

Now the earth was formless and empty- This Hebrew phrase tohu wabohu is important in defining the “earth” spoken of as Israel. The Hebrew better means an "uninhabitable wilderness", although there is the idea of chaos also present. The same phrase is used in  Jer. 4:23-26 about the state of eretz Israel after Israel had been exiled from it and it had been judged by God. There are other creation allusions in that passage: "I looked on the earth, and behold, it was formless and void (tohu wabohu); and to the heavens, and they had no light (cp. Gen. 1:2… the fruitful land was a wilderness… there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens had fled”. The first audience of Genesis 1 was Israel, as they were travelling through a wilderness to the promised eretz.  It has been claimed that tohu means “deserted”, and this would have relevance for the Jews in exile in Babylon, where Genesis was likely edited, being encouraged that God could indeed re-form the eretz they had left, and turn chaos into the beauty of His Kingdom.  Note how the NASB margin offers “wasteland” for “formless”. The same word is used in Dt. 32:10 about the wasteland where Israel were located when Genesis was first given- for their instruction. Dt. 32:11 continues the creation allusion by speaking of God as a bird ‘hovering over’ Israel- the same word used to describe how God’s Spirit hovered over the surface of the waters (1:2).

As to whether there were previous creations before our own, my basic sense is 'Yes, probably there were'. The earth being "without form and void" (Gen. 1:2) uses a phrase elsewhere used to describe the judgment that has come on an order of things (Jer. 4:23; Is. 24:10; 34:11). It may be, therefore, that there was a previous creation on earth which was destroyed in judgment. John Thomas in the first section of Elpis Israel suggests (without much direct support from the Hebrew, it must be admitted) that the command to Adam to " replenish the earth" (Gen. 1:28) implies to re-fill, as if there had been a previous creation that was destroyed, presumably by water. "In the beginning" , perhaps a huge period of time ago, God created the heavens and earth. But the present creation can be seen as being constituted some time later, after the previous creations. When during the six days of creation He said " Let there be light" this may not have necessitated the actual manufacture of the sun; this was presumably done "in the beginning" . But the sun was commanded to shine out of the darkness (2 Cor. 4:6), and therefore from the viewpoint of someone standing on the earth, it was as if the sun had been created. The earth was covered with water at the time the present creation began (Gen. 1:2). This would mean that the destruction of the earth by the flood in Noah's time was actually a repeat of something God had previously done. This sheds light on His promise to never again destroy the earth with water: "I will stablish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth" (Gen. 9:11). This sounds as if destruction of the earth by flooding had happened several times before. It's almost as if the God of all grace is showing Himself progressively gracious to earth's inhabitants: 'I've done it before several times, but now I promise you humans, you new race of inhabitants upon whom my special love is to be shown through My Son, that I'll never do it again'.  

Formless- Later allusions to the creation record parallel God’s creation with His forming or molding. Isaiah’s descriptions of God forming and molding the earth to be inhabited by His people clearly refer to His creation of the specific land of Israel, to be inhabited by the returning exiles (Is. 43:1,7,10,21; Is. 44:2,21,24; Is. 45:18). The drama starts off with the land of promise being formless, waiting for God to form it into something habitable. I suggest we have here a kind of prologue to the Pentateuch. The creation is described as a series of six events, observed by someone standing on earth with it happening all around them. This is how Job begins. Clearly the book of Job is poetry, it is drama, and whilst Job was a historical person [at least, other Scripture alludes to him in this way], it is unlikely that the friends literally spoke in poetry, or that his loss of children was balanced out by gaining new ones, as if the pain of the loss was thereby compensated. And so the drama of creation is a poetic way of explaining to Israel in the wilderness where their promised land had come from. Just as it would be unwise to push the prologue of Job into a strictly literal framework of interpretation, so with the drama of creation which we have in early Genesis. The promised land being initially empty and formless speaks directly to the situation of the land when Israel first heard these words of Moses; they were travelling towards that land, whilst God was preparing it. Creation is therefore described in these terms, to remind them that the God of the cosmos was no less powerful in creating Israel. This is the sense of the many creation allusions in the restoration prophets. The deserted, abandoned land was to be re-formed by the same creative power which made it in the first place. The Babylonian invasion had made the land formless, empty and dark (Jer. 4:23), using the very words of Gen. 1:2 about the land before God began to prepare it for His people.

The surface of the deep- The usage of the more poetic “deep” rather than “sea” sets up allusion to how the Israelites came out of the deep to enter the land (Ps. 106:9; Is. 51:10; Is. 63:13), just as the ‘land’ is portrayed in this drama as it were emerging from the deep. “The surface of the deep” occurs only three times in the Hebrew Bible, and one of them suggests that at this time, God was preparing the land for His people: “When he prepared the heavens… when he set a compass upon the face of the depth” (Prov. 8:27). The allusion to Genesis 1 presents God as preparing rather than creating ex nihilo. He as it were is marking out with a pencil how He is going to prepare the material. And the focus of all His creative work was the earth, the land, and the people upon it, i.e. Israel.

God’s Spirit was hovering over the surface of the waters- This rare word translated ‘hovering’ is to be found in the description of God hovering over the wilderness / formless land from whence He took His people (Dt. 32:11). The point is, what God did at creation, He can do at any time in the creation / formation of His people. In almost every phrase of the creation account, there appears reference to the creation of Israel. The land and people of Israel are frequently identified- appeals for the land to mourn obviously refer to the people. The later allusions to the creation record are therefore far more than simply allusions to God’s creative power; they are so frequent because the same eretz or land is in view as that which is centre stage in the drama of creation  which opens the history of Israel. And out of our formless and chaotic lives, the Spirit brings forth a new creation. The Genesis account of creation is very much of re-creation and re-ordering, forming beauty out of pre-existing chaos brought about by judgment. And this is what the Spirit is doing in the lives of all those born of the Spirit. The way the Spirit hovered above the waters of baptism at the Lord's baptism clearly alludes here; and His baptism is programmatic for our baptism of water and Spirit. The language of Jn. 3:3-5 about being born out of water and Spirit may well allude here too; as the land arose from the waters, so the new life arises from the waters of baptism, with the gift of the Spirit from then onwards forming the new creation in that reformed, recreated life and person.

In the first group of three days, we read of things appearing in the sky (days one and two), then the seas (day three), and then the land (days three and four). In the second three days, things again appear in the sky (days four and five), then the seas (day five), and then the dry ground (day six). This strengthens the impression that we are being presented with a dramatic presentation, rather than a strictly literal, historical account of events. I write of ‘impressions’, and of course the interpretation of any Bible passage is in a sense deeply subjective and personal. I can only say that reading Genesis 1 and 2 as literature, I don’t get the impression that this is symbolic; it isn’t a case of dragons with stars on their tails as we have in the book of Revelation. I also do not get the impression that there is an attempt to provide a scientific explanation of the creation process; neither in ancient nor modern terms. I do get the impression that we are to read the record literally, and later Scripture clearly takes Adam as a literal person- I don’t see the days as being presented as anything less or more than literal days. This is evidenced by the fact Adam was created on the sixth day but died at less than a thousand years old at some time after the seventh day. And yet clearly the record has elements of drama to it. I prefer therefore to liken the ‘creation’ account to a Divine drama or slideshow, observed by someone on the eretz. The events literally happened, in this dramatic presentation which serves as a prologue to the Pentateuch; just as the events of Job 1 are a prologue to the book, and are clearly drama. They happened literally enough- in the drama. But that is not to say that they are strictly literal, historical, verbatim  

1:3 God said- The creation record emphasizes that God spoke, and it was done. Creation was through a spoken word. This contrasts with the creation myths, which nearly all claim that the present world emerged from conflict between good and bad gods; or that the world came forth as a kind of self-birth or self-reproduction [the pagan forerunner of atheistic evolution], or the gods playing with dust in their hands. The Biblical record is strikingly different, demonstrating that God is omnipotent of Himself, His word is all powerful, and there is no personal Satan or other cosmic force of evil. The new creation likewise comes about through the word of the Gospel.

Let there be light, and there was light- The sun was ‘created’, or appeared, on the fourth day. It has been argued that this light was therefore the shekinah glory of God. But I think that is an unnecessary argument. “Let there be light” doesn’t have to mean that light or the sun was then created, because I suggest the creation of all things in the cosmos was already touched on in 1:1. If we understand the whole record as a drama unfolding before an observer, we are to imagine dawn breaking, light appearing- and then on day four we find that this light comes from the sun. The same term describes the appearance of light at sunrise; and the sun or light isn’t created at a sunrise, but it is observed as appearing (s.w. Gen. 44:3; Ex. 10:23; Neh. 8:3). But in the Divine drama now unfolding, light as it were appears upon the eretz like a spotlight shining on a dark stage. Paul powerfully uses this image to speak of the light of Christ breaking into our otherwise chaotic and formless lives to re-work that same material into something beautiful. The “heavens and earth” were already in existence (1:1); therefore all we now read about can’t refer to their creation, but rather their appearance in the drama which is being unfolded. The whole language of “let there be light” doesn’t sound as if the creation of light is in view; but rather pre-existing light is summoned to appear. Rev. 22:5 pictures a return to beginnings in saying that there will be light in the new Jerusalem, but no need of the sun [not ‘no sun’, but no need of it]. We see here how the provenance of ‘creation’ in Gen. 1:2- Gen. 2:4 is paralleled with the new Jerusalem, suggesting that the old creation drama was likewise centered around the old Jerusalem.

"Let there be" and "and there was..." translate the same Hebrew word, used twice in the sentence. The idea presented is that the Divine word of command was its fulfilment. The new creation is brought about by that same word of total power. What God says is as good as done. This explains why the Bible often uses language beyond and outside of our conceptions of linear time. The future is now. To the eye of faith.

It would seem from later Scripture that the orders and intentions outlined by God on the six literal days are still being fulfilled. Take the command for there to be light (Gen. 1:3,4). This is interpreted in 2 Cor. 4:6 as meaning that God shines in men's hearts in order to give them the knowledge of the light of Christ. The command was initially fulfilled by the Angels enabling the sun to shine through the thick darkness that shrouded the earth; but the deeper intention was to shine the spiritual light into the heart of earth-dwellers. And this is still being fulfilled. Likewise the resting of God on the seventh day was in fact a prophecy concerning how He and all His people will enter into the "rest" of the Kingdom. The Lord  realized this when He said that even on Sabbath, God was still working (Jn. 5:17). The creation work had not really been completed in practice, although in prospect it had been. In this very context the Hebrew writer comments that although we must still enter into that rest, "the works were finished from the foundation of the world" (Heb. 4:3).  

The Genesis creation account repeatedly alludes to the Baal myths of creation- in order to show that it is God and not Baal who controls the cycles of nature and has brought an ordered creation out of chaos. Moses states early on in his inspired account that God created light. The Egyptians considered that light was in itself a great god, Re. And “in Persian cosmology…light…is uncreated and eternal” (J. Skinner, Commentary On Genesis (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1956)). So to say that the one true God created light, and light is not a god in itself, was a radical thing. And hence the account of the fourth day of creation is longer than the accounts of the other days; because the sun, moon and stars were seen as gods in themselves. The moon god, Sin, was thought to be the one who “fixes day, month and year”. But Genesis 1 teaches that it is the one God who created the moon, who set the moon and stars to define time periods. There was only one God, one creator. We are to look beyond all created things to the Creator behind them. The peoples around the Israelites worshipped created things as if they were God. Moses was teaching that no, there is only one God, and we must primarily worship Him rather than anything which He has made. Paul brings out the error of worshipping the created rather than the Creator. And this echoes down to our day; where we can so easily worship the ‘idols’ of which this world is so full, rather than the ultimate Creator. That there is only one Divine Creator is a challenge to any form of idolatry.

1:4 God saw the light, and saw that it was good- This shouldn't be read as meaning that God looked at what He had created, and was impressed by His own handiwork when He saw it in physical existence. That would seem strange for an omnipotent and omniscient God. The idea could equally be that God looked at the light because it was good, recognizing it was good, whereas He doesn't look at the darkness; His looking at the light as it were made it "good". The light of the new creation is clearly presented in John's gospel as the Lord Jesus, who was alone "good" in God's eyes. Seeing or looking in Hebrew thought is connected with presence. The Father in that sense cannot look upon evil (Hab. 1:13), but He looks upon the Son, and we are in Him, and thereby in His presence acceptably.  

God divided the light from the darkness- This is the language of God’s ‘creation’ of Israel when He gives them light and divides them from the darkness of Egypt (Ex. 10:21; 14:20). The division of light from darkness was the prelude to Israel’s inheritance of the prepared land; and thus it was at the beginning of creation. Likewise, prior to their entrance to the land, they heard the voice of God Himself coming out of the thick darkness (Dt. 5:23) just as it did in this record of the creation of the land. Judah in Babylon were in darkness (Is. 42:7); a darkness created by God just as much as the light (Is. 45:7). They were brought to light in their return to a restored land: “Darkness shall cover the land, and gross darkness the peoples; but Yahweh will arise on you, and His glory shall be seen on you” (Is. 60:2). This imagery is taken directly from the drama of creation, and the same ‘land’ is surely in view. The connections between the restoration prophecies and the creation record are so strong that my personal belief is that Moses’ initial creation account was re-written in Babylon, under inspiration. I suggest Moses was the original inspired author because of the way parts of the Pentateuch are attributed to him in other Scripture, and because of the obvious relevance of the work for Israel in the wilderness, whom he was leading and teaching.

The idea of "division" is of separation; it is the word used of how God separates His people unto Himself. The division was in that God proclaimed a difference between light and darkness; what previously had been an apparent mixture of light and darkness is now clearly divided. This is helpful to all those who are part of the new creation. Outside of the Spirit's creative work, all seems an endless blur of grey. Moral truth and error is not apparent; people live according to feelings, or what society at their time defines as light and dark, good or bad. In the new creation, we progressively come to perceive light and darkness, and the chasmic difference between them.

1:5 God called the light day, and the darkness He called night- To name something was understood as effectively creating it (see on 2:20). So this naming was not per se creating these things, for they were already created in 1:1. Likewise Adam’s naming of the animals didn’t literally create them, but effectively brought them into known existence. And again likewise with God’s calling or naming of things in the creation account after 1:1. As noted on Gen. 1:4, in the new creation, there is a labelling and crystal clear definition of light and darkness; darkness and light are called out for what they are. No longer are we left in the endless shades of grey which arise from human reflection upon ethical and moral issues. And the calling out of those things is in His word. Just as it was His voice which declared what was light and darkness.

There was evening and there was morning, one day- Many have wondered why the Hebrew day begins at sunset and ends in the morning. The answer presumably goes back to the timing of creation- implying God started work on day one in the darkness, and the evening and the morning became the first day (Gen. 1:5)- and the sequence thus continued. God's creative activity begins with all of us in the darkness, and creatively works to bring us through to the light. Interestingly, ehad, translated "first" in Gen. 1:5, can imply 'unified'. The two periods- day and night- become united into one "day". The light and the dark, the created and the not yet created, the achieved and not yet achieved, are somehow united in God's understanding of our 'days'.

Paul, writing to those who thought they believed in the unity of God, had to remind them that this simple fact implies the need for unity amongst us His children, seeing He treats us all equally as a truly good Father: " If so be that God is one... he shall justify the circumcision by faith, and [likewise] the uncircumcision through faith" (Rom. 3:30 RV). Unity amongst us is inspired by the fact that God seeks to be one with us, exactly because He is Himself 'unity', one in Himself. The Rabbis have always been at pains to point out the somewhat unusual grammar in the record of creation in Genesis 1, which literally translated reads: "One day... a second day... a third day", rather than 'One day... two days... three days', as we'd expect if 'Day one' solely referred to 'firstness' in terms of time. "The first day" (Gen. 1:5) therefore means more strictly 'the day of unity', in that it refers to how the one God sought unity with earth. "Yom ehad, one day, really means the day which God desired to be one with man... the unity of God is a concern for the unity of the world" (Abraham Heschel, Man is Not Alone (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1979) p. 123). The spoken word of God is what brought light and darkness together in some meaningful synthesis; as noted on Gen. 1:4 and above on :5, there are now no longer the endless shades of grey in our lives. There is clear definition of right and wrong. And it is only God's creative work which enables us to synthesize the light and darkness into daily understanding. The Hebrew for "night" can suggest that which turns away [from the light]. This is very much the conception of John's gospel, presenting the Lord Jesus as the light, and all else as a turning away from that light, because of a preference to remain in evil deeds.

1:6 God said, Let there be an expanse in the middle of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters- The language of "an expanse"  is to me one of the clearest evidences that we are reading a reported drama and not a scientific, historical account of creation. Some creationists claim that it refers to a water or ice canopy which came to earth at the flood. But this just will not do, for the same word translated “expanse” or “firmament” occurs later in the Bible, as if it still existed (e.g. Ps. 19:1; Ps. 150:1; Dan. 12:3). And the water released at the flood came from the clouds as well as from beneath the earth; there is no mention of this ‘firmament’ dissolving. God had already created the heavens and earth in Gen. 1:1, so the ‘firmament’ cannot refer to space or the atmosphere; that was already there if the heavens were already created. Further, the Hebrew word itself refers to something which is beaten out, a dome covering the land. It was intended to separate the waters from the waters, and something solid is implied by that alone. If it were indeed a canopy of water, then it would not be separating the upper waters from the lower waters- because it would itself be water. Gen. 1:20 in Hebrew speaks of the birds flying on the face or surface of this ‘firmament’, as if it were a constraining dome. We are invited to picture the clouds pinned to it above, and birds constrained by it beneath. Seeing that birds can fly through clouds, it will not do to claim that this “firmament” is merely the sky or a water canopy. A water canopy would have made the earth too hot for humans to live on. Why use the unusual and hard to define Hebrew term translated “expanse” or “firmament” if in fact merely the sky or atmosphere was intended? And why use a word which implies something tangible and material? There are other Hebrew words which mean ‘space’ as in the gap between two objects; but they aren’t used here [consider the Hebrew words used for ‘space’ in Gen. 32:16; Josh. 3:4; 1 Sam. 26:13]. Rather is there the idea of a “firmament”; this is not the same as saying ‘there was a space’. Job 37:18 uses the verb related to the noun “firmament” in saying that God “spread out [‘firmamented’] the sky, which is strong, as a molten looking glass”. The allusion is clearly to a common Ancient Near Eastern belief that there was such a dome over the earth. But later Biblical allusions to the firmament state that it is the platform upon which God sits and His cherubim ride (Ez. 1:23,25,26; 10:1 etc.). The firmament was understood as a solid structure and not simply the atmosphere. Is. 40:22 continues this understanding, although in the context of Israel, by saying that God “stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in”. Moses saw God Himself enthroned upon such a blue firmament. My suggestion is that this was a prop, as it were, in the drama of creation; and above it is enthroned God and the Angels. But they are enthroned upon and over Israel. That is the point. Perhaps this is why day two of creation is the only one which lacks the Divine comment, that He saw what He had made and it was good. This expanse / firmament was part of the furniture on the stage, as it were, and not a reference to anything which He had materially created. The description in :14 and :17 of the planets as “lights” firmly located or “set” within this ‘firmament’ again gives the impression of a fixed dome, into which the lights are inset like spotlights shining down on a stage. And again, this is all appropriate to a person standing upon earth; for in reality, the planets are located at vastly differing distances from planet earth. We have similar language in Ezekiel 32, where we read of a kind of de-creation of Egypt, with the lights in her firmament going out as if they were strobe lights being turned off over a stage: "When I shall extinguish you, I will cover the sky and make its stars dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud and the moon shall not give its light. All the bright lights of the sky will I make dark over you and set darkness on your land, says the Lord Yahweh" (Ez. 32:7,8).

The restoration prophets speak of how God will as it were re-create Israel when He restores His people to their land. And the verb raqa, to spread out, to ‘firmament’, is used about the earth / land of Israel, paralleling the spreading out of the land to the spreading out of the heavens above it: “He that created the heavens, and stretched them out; He that spread forth the land” (Is. 42:5); “He that stretches forth the heavens alone, that spreads abroad the earth / land by Himself” (Is. 44:24); “Him that stretched out the land / earth” (Ps. 136:6). Clearly, the ‘firmament’ was seen as a dome over the land of Israel; what was seen in the drama of creation was going to be repeated at Israel’s restoration. That restoration will not involve a literal creation of land out of nothing.

The idea of the creation scene occurring beneath a covering is one of many connections between the creation record in Genesis 1, and the tabernacle. There are so many points of contact:

-        As creation was achieved by a series of successive Divine commands being fulfilled, so the tabernacle was created in obedience to Divine commands, and was inspected by God and found good, and was blessed (Gen. 1:31 = Ex. 39:43).

-        The creation was “completed” (Gen. 2:1) as the tabernacle was (Ex. 39:32).

-        God finished His creation work (Gen. 2:2), as the tabernacle was a “work” that was “finished” (Ex. 40:33).

-        The completed creation and tabernacle were both Divinely blessed (Gen. 2:3 = Ex. 39:43); and creation and tabernacle were both “sanctified” on completion (Gen. 2:3 = Ex. 40:9).

-        The tabernacle was built in response to seven successive Divine speeches to Moses, each beginning with “The Lord spoke to Moses” (Ex. 25:1; 30:11,16,22,34; 31:11,12). This obviously connects with the seven days of creation, and some Jewish commentators perceive similarities between the events of the creation days, and the material constructed for the tabernacle in each of the matching sections of Ex. 25-31. Thus “sea” was created on the third day (Gen. 1:9-11), and it was in the third command that the bronze laver or “sea” was commanded (Ex. 30:16-21). And the seventh speech (Ex. 31:12-17) mentions the need to keep the Sabbath, which was the theme of the seventh day of creation.

-        The significant theme of ‘separation’ in creation (Gen. 1:4,6,7,14,18) is reflected in the ‘separation’ of holy and less than holy in the tabernacle (Ex. 26:33) and the associated legislation regarding separating clean from unclean.

-        Both creation and the construction of the tabernacle were the work of God’s Spirit (Gen. 1:1; Ex. 31:3; 35:31).

-        The tabernacle was finished as the new started (Ex. 40:17), continuing the connection between tabernacle and creation.

-        The “firmament”, literally ‘the beaten thing’, uses the same word found in Ex. 39:3 and Num. 16:39 for the beating of metals into material for tabernacle usage. The precious stones of Gen. 2:12 are the very stones found in the breastplate.

-        Adam’s role was to dress and keep the garden (Gen. 2:15); but the Hebrew words used are elsewhere used for “worship” and for dressing and keeping the tabernacle. The whole phrase “Behold I have given you…” (Gen. 1:28) occurs later when the Priests are told what God has given them (Ex. 31:6; Lev. 6:10; Num. 18:8,21; Dt. 11:14).

- As God walked in the garden of Eden (Gen. 3:8), so He would walk in the midst of the camp of Israel in the wilderness (Dt. 23:15).

The point is that the eretz and Eden were presented as God’s tabernacle, with the man of the eretz, Adam the first Israelite, intended to keep God’s ways and do His service within it. My point is that the focus of Genesis 1 is upon Israel and God’s people within that eretz, rather than being a literal account of the creation of the cosmos from nothing.

We note again as on Gen. 1:4,5 the idea of division; as light was separated from darkness, so the waters were divided. The new creation is very much about division and separation- not simply from evil, but more positively, unto God's things.

1:7 God made the expanse- A different word to that translated “created” in 1:1. It has been well observed that in the six days of creation God is preparing this land for man and not creating it. Indeed, the Hebrew word translated ‘made’ in the context of creation can be used just as in English we speak of ‘making a bed’. We don’t mean we created a bed, but that we prepared the existing materials for usage. The Hebrew word is used in just this sense in places like Dt. 21:12 [to ‘make’ fingernails]; 2 Sam. 19:25 [to ‘make’ feet] and 2 Sam. 19:24 [to ‘make’ a beard]. And this is exactly relevant to Israel in the wilderness being led to a land which their God had prepared for them. The eretz is presented to us in terms of its relation to the seas (:10) and sky (:20)- rather than with reference to the further cosmos, stars etc., as would be required if the eretz referred to the whole planet.

And divided the waters- A phrase repeatedly used of the dividing of the Red Sea so that Israel could pass on “dry land” (:9). The creation and formation of Israel is consistently described in creation language- because it was exactly their creation which the creation drama speaks of. And the new creation likewise in each heart is to modelled on this same huge creative, re-ordering power seen here.

Which were under the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse- Such references to location ("under... above") imply a flat surface is in view, from the viewpoint of a person standing on the earth.

 And it was so- There is a very positive feel in the record of the natural creation- each creative action is concluded with the comment “And it was so”- literally, “it was Yes” (Hebrew). This same positive upward spiral will be found in lives which submit to God’s new creation.  

1:8 God called the expanse sky. There was evening and there was morning, a second day- The Hebrew means to call out, to proclaim. This fits the idea of a Divine drama unfolding, with the voice of God as the narrator. The idea of a drama or slideshow helps us better address the question as to whether the events of Genesis 1 literally happened. ‘What happened in the film’. ‘What happened next in the slideshow?’- such questions have a ‘literal’ answer. The observer, in whose shoes we are placed by the drama, saw these things literally happen as they were presented to him. Whether that is what literally happened in order to create the cosmos is not the question in view. The creation of all things was briefly addressed in 1:1, and then the spotlight moved on to eretz Israel. Likewise the New Testament presents Adam as the first man, and yes indeed he is presented as the first man in the Genesis record. But that record is a drama of creation, focusing specifically on eretz Israel and the man and people of God upon it. No attempt is made at wider explanations concerning the rest of the planet or indeed the cosmos. The things recorded were indeed literally seen by the observer; I am not much attracted by attempts to make the events all purely symbolic or mythical. They are presented as literal events.

1:9 God said, Let the waters under the sky be gathered together to one place- See on 2:24. "One place" means just that, and the term often refers to the Jerusalem sanctuary or tabernacle. The reference does not fit comfortably with the idea of all water on the globe being gathered into the various ocean basins. Which is how we have to read this if we want to understand the record here as explaining the literal  creation of planet earth. There are inland seas, and the distribution of the oceans hardly fits the idea of "one place" as it is Biblically used. The gathering of the seas or peoples is envisioned as being to "one place", the sanctuary of Yahweh.

Let the dry land appear- This hardly sounds like the actual creation of the dry land; rather does it fit admirably with the idea of a drama or slow motion slide show [as it were] being recorded in words, from the standpoint of an observer. The events of the various days of creation are visions, acts in a drama, whereby the eretz of promise appears, as it were, out of the sea; the mist covering it is gathered up into clouds, the dry land appears etc. The drama is recorded from the standpoint of a human standing on the already created earth, watching it happen. This was God’s creation story; it was how He wished Israel to dramatically conceive of the creation of their land, as opposed to accepting the fanciful creation myths they had encountered in Egypt. The “seas” are spoken of in the plural whereas the eretz is singular. There are various islands and continents on planet earth; the focus is on a particular land mass, the eretz of Israel. If we wish to read this as referring to the emergence of the continents, then "land" would have to be in the plural; but it isn't. A particular land is in view.  

1:10 God called the dry land earth- This does not specifically state that the earth is flat, but it’s significant that there is no mention of it being a sphere; and the words would rather suggest that a flat earth was in view. But this makes sense if the “land” in view is that of Israel. This would also explain why there is no obvious reference in Genesis 1 to the ‘earth’ as being spherical, which we would rather expect if the global planet was in view. This explains why Is. 40:28 speaks of ‘God creating’ (the same words as in Genesis 1) “the ends of the earth / land”. The Hebrew for “ends” means a frontier, a border, a corner. If we are insistent upon understanding the eretz as referring to the whole planet, then we are left with the conclusion that the Bible speaks of a flat earth, with literal ends and boundaries to it. I suggest however that Isaiah is understanding the Genesis creation as referring specifically to the bringing about of the land of Israel. The borders were created, in that they were defined by God and then the enclosed territory was promised to Israel. In the same way we read of God creating the north and south- of the land of Israel. We have similar language in Is. 45:18, where the ‘creation of heaven and earth’ is cited as evidence that God didn’t therefore create the earth / land in vain, but to be inhabited; and this is in the context of God assuring Judah that they would return to their land, for He had created the heavens and land of Israel in order that the land should not remain waste, for that would have meant creation in vain, but rather to be inhabited- by the returned exiles. The new ‘heavens and earth’ which were to be created are defined specifically as being Jerusalem and a restored Judah (Is. 65:17,18).

The gathering together of the waters He called seas- Perhaps a reference to the three ‘seas’ which are spoken of in Israel, the Dead Sea, the Sea of Galilee and the “Great Sea”, the Mediterranean. Waters and flooding are Biblical symbols of judgment. God can be seen as gathering together the previous judgments, and bringing order and beauty out of condemnation. Which is exactly why the creation narrative is so repeatedly used as the pattern for our transformation by the work of the same Spirit.

God saw that it was good- This comment is specifically about the earth / eretz which has now ‘appeared’. The eretz is very often called the “good” land, using the same Hebrew word translated “good” in the repeated declarations that the created eretz and all in it was “good” (Gen. 49:15; Ex. 3:8; Num. 14:7; Dt. 1:25,35; 3:25; 4:21,22; 6:18; 11:17 and many other times). The making "good" of the land can be understood as a function of God's seeing or looking upon it. The land was in His eyes, in His presence, as the idiom can mean.

 

1:11 God said, Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed- The same words used in Amos 7:2 for how the “grass of the earth”, i.e. the land of Israel, was eaten up by her invaders. The emphasis is upon how the eretz was to be filled with vegetation as a result of seed being distributed. This lays the basis for the promises to Abraham concerning the spread of His seed throughout the eretz.

And fruit trees bearing fruit after their kind, with its seed in it, on the earth; and it was so- This particular emphasis upon fruit trees with edible fruit appears strange if the whole planet is in view. But it suddenly makes sense if the eretz in view is in fact the garden, to which we will be introduced in Genesis 2. That garden was full of fruit trees which had fruit on them. Likewise the reference to “grass” is relevant to the land of Israel; for not all areas of planet earth have grass or fruit trees.

1:12 The earth sprouted vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind- Again this is not the language of creation from nothing. Rather is the visual impression given of vegetation arising, having already been created and now planted in the earth of the eretz.

And trees bearing fruit, with its seed in it, after their kind; and God saw that it was good- The record focuses on the grass and fruit trees- characteristic of Israel. There is no attempt to mention every aspect of the plant and animal creation, but only those things which are felt to characterize Israel. There is no focus upon the creation of bushes, or even trees generally; the focus is on fruit trees. The text is clearly not even attempting a scientific explanation; rather are we seeing something impressively visual, fruit trees, appearing on the stage in the drama being unfolded. As noted on :11, the language of seed and fruit is full of spiritual imagery. It is the people of Israel who were to fill the face of the earth with (spiritual) fruit (Is. 27:6).

1:14 God said, Let there be lights in the expanse of sky to divide the day from the night- The Hebrew idea is: 'Let the lights in the expanse be for separating the day and night...'. The actual planets, sun and moon etc. were already created in the “beginning” (1:1); but now in this Divine slideshow presentation, they play a specific role over the eretz of Israel. The stars do not of themselves divide day from night. God had already divided light from darkness in :4; now we learn how He did it. Again, we are not being given a blow by blow account of strict chronological creation.

Let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years- This is the language of the Mosaic feasts. The GNB offers “religious festivals” as a fair translation here. The stars were placed in order to tell Israel beneath them when to perform the rituals of Divine worship. Again, we are invited to see the ‘land’ upon which these heavenly bodies shined as the land of Israel, inhabited by God’s people.

1:15 Let them be for lights in the expanse of sky to give light on the earth- The “lights” in view are hardly the entire cosmos, because not all planets shed light upon planet earth. The stars likewise are spoken of giving light on earth (:16,17). If we are going to limit the reference of the lights and stars to those relevant to planet earth, we are tacitly admitting that the creation record is not speaking of the creation of literally all planets, or all things. It is therefore no problem, surely, to accept that in fact the record here may not be speaking simply of part of the cosmos, i.e. planet earth, but of a part of the planet, the eretz promised to Abraham. We note that God “prepared” the “light [s.w.] and the sun” (Ps. 74:16). This is a direct statement that the ‘creation’ record in Genesis 1 speaks of the preparation of things rather than their creation ex nihilo. Note that the moon is not of itself a light source- it reflects light. Yet in this drama of creation, the moon over the eretz is presented as a bulb which is switched on, thus giving light on eretz Israel. These lights were intended to give light on the eretz. Perhaps believers or Angels are in view. The idea of giving light is clearly suggestive of sharing the light of God's word. It may be that these lights don't refer to the stars, because they are "made" in :16. In this case, Moses is seeing a special creation around the eretz, and the lights in view here are not referring to literal planets.

1:16 God made the two great lights- I have noted earlier that ‘made’ is used in the sense of ‘preparing’, as in ‘making a bed’. The heavens and earth, a merism for ‘everything’, had already been created in 1:1. We are to imagine at this stage of the drama the preparation of two great lights, and then placing them inset into the ‘firmament’ or dome (:17). The plants and vegetation had already appeared on the previous day, which would have been impossible without the sun. Their appearance was apparently instantaneous. Clearly this is all part of a drama which we are invited to watch unfolding, entering into the man standing on earth seeing it all come about, rather than seeking to read all this as literal acts of the historical creation. This answers the obvious objection: "How could light be produced on the first day, and the sun, the fountain of it, not be created till the fourth day?". In the drama presented, the sun is only revealed on ‘Day Four’. This is strong evidence for thinking that the whole drama is being recorded from the viewpoint of a person standing on earth. It is not, therefore, a literal explanation of the historical creative process.

 The sun and moon are only “great” relative to the earth; so we are not reading here of an explanation of the cosmos, but are seeing things described from the viewpoint of a person on earth.

Having recently left Egypt, the Israelites had been exposed for 400 years to the idea that Ra, the sun God of Egypt, was ruling the world. But Gen. 1:16 teaches that the God of Israel created the sun, the sun was not uncreate as the Israelites had been taught, and he ruled only by God's fiat and allowance. Even if people wanted to believe in a sun God who ruled- the point being made was that the God of Israel was far above that sun god, had created the sun, and given it power to 'rule'.  

It’s possible to perceive significance in the colours of the things created. The record starts with black and white, day and night; then the blue sea and sky; then green grass; now yellow sun; and finally man is created from the adamah, the red soil. This would then complete a rainbow, and we note a rainbow appears when God as it were re-creates the eretz after making it a watery mass again at the flood. Again we are invited to see the provenance of the flood as being that of the eretz of Genesis 1, and there are good reasons for believing the eretz of the flood to refer to a specific part of the Middle East rather than the entire planet.

The greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night- Rulership of day and night is hard to apply to the literal sun and moon. The concept of rulership suggests we are to see something more than literal creation here.

He also made the stars- This is added as an afterthought, almost. The focus is upon sun and moon. Seeing sun and moon are almost insignificant compared to the other stars in the cosmos, we are obviously being given a very earth-centred account, rather than an explanation of the entire cosmos. The pagan creation myths gave priority to the stars, which they considered critical in determining human fortune; but God’s account says that He brought them into being, but gives no great emphasis to them. Joel 3:15 speaks of the sun, moon and stars no longer shining when Israel is overcome by; again, the message is that the creation record is focused upon eretz Israel. The literal stars are billions of light years away, and if they were suddenly created, they would not be immediately observed by an observer standing on earth. Again it stands to reason that we are not reading a literal account of creation, but rather a dramatic presentation of how things appeared to an observer on eretz Israel.

For want of a better way of putting it, the spiritual culture of God comes through so sublimely in these records. He began His written revelation with the comment, as an almost throw-away clause, that "He made the stars also" (Gen. 1:16). The vastness of that creation, far more wondrous and extensive than just this planet, is treated en passant. The actual resurrection of the Lord Jesus is likewise not recorded; we only learn of it from the recorded witness of those who went to the tomb, and who later met the Lord.

1:17 God set them in the expanse of sky to give light to the earth- The stars don't really give light to the earth as in the entire planet. This strengthens my suggestion that the account of creation here refers to a vision seen, and the focus is upon eretz Israel rather than the globe. The lights which are placed in the material "firmament" or "expanse" are as it were spotlights fitted into a stage set, giving light in various forms upon the specific territory defined as the "earth" or eretz which is the stage  upon which our attention is focused. We are as the stars (Dan. 12:2) in giving light to others. The mediation of light was therefore through various heavenly bodies, of different magnitudes and each giving light in a different way. And this is exactly how God's self revelation operates towards His people, coming through people, prophets, leaders and Angels.

1:18 And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness. God saw that it was good- The sun, moon and stars do not literally divide light from darkness. This would support my suggestion that Genesis 1 describes a kind of slideshow of creation, with a material dome in which the planets are set. The planets all being set within the same dome, or firmament, they divided light from darkness in that they were located on the dome [“firmament”] which did so. This all sounds like a description of some kind of model, a theatrical set above which lights appear, waters gather, land appears, grass shoots forth etc. The language of 'ruling over' nudges us to see in it something symbolic. For the sun and moon do not in any literal sense 'rule over' day and night.

God had divided light from darkness in Gen. 1:4; now we read that He created or better "made" the solar system  in order to divide light from darkness. So clearly we aren't reading a chronological account of creation. At best we are reading what He "did" on one "day", and then how this came about on a later "day".

1:19 There was evening and there was morning, a fourth day- The Divine concept of "day" is the very inverse of how humans would intuitively understand a day- beginning with dawn and ending with night. His day begins with the evening of darkness, and concludes with the light. Out of our darkness, He creates eternal light, and that is how His eternal day concludes- in light, not in the closure of darkness. This is the dramatic inversion of all evil which is the ultimate hope exhibited in the gospel of God's Kingdom.

1:20 God said, Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures- “Swarm” translates a word implying that the waters “brought forth” these creatures. The literalist reading, following the KJV, would have to conclude that the creatures somehow originated from H2O. The sentence makes more sense surely if we read this as drama- the spectator saw the creatures swarming out of the water. This was how it appeared, visually, to the observer. But that was for the purpose of the dramatic scene, and shouldn’t be read to mean that the creatures evolved as it were out of water.  

The creation account was the basis for the de-creation, if you like, of Egypt through the plagues. The same Hebrew term for ‘the waters swarming’ is used in Ex. 8:3 about how the Nile water swarmed with frogs. As He made the waters “swarm” in Gen. 1:20, so He made the waters of the Nile “swarm” with frogs (Ex. 7:28) in order to save His people from a no-hope, chaotic, disordered, hopeless situation.

The idea of the Hebrew word for "swarm" is of "abundance. We have been given life in Christ, and “life more abundant” (Jn. 10:10)- an allusion to how the natural creation brought forth life ‘abundantly’ (Gen. 1:20). Those who have become part of the new creation are to experience this same ‘abundance’ of life- whether trapped in poverty, difficult family situations, ill health or even clinical depression. The ‘abundance’ of our lives is to be what makes us different from those in the world- we are to salute not only our brethren because we are living “more [same Greek word translated ‘abundantly’] than others (Mk. 5:47). There is a power at work in us which does “exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20).

And let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of sky- The idea is that the birds arose out of the water. This is clearly not a scientific statement, but rather a visual account of how the scene looked to the observer of the drama. The AV more correctly reflects the Hebrew word for “firmament”: “fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven”. The birds are described in Hebrew as flying ‘across the face of’ the “firmament” rather than “in” it. This further supports the idea of a dome, arching across an area of flat land, with the birds moving across the surface of it- the same surface where the planets are spoken of as being “set”. This is clearly not a literal scientific explanation of material creation, but rather does it seem to describe the appearance seen by the observer of this Divine drama in which the dome or firmament is a major stage prop.

1:21 God created- Again, the idea is that He "made" things, but 'making' is used about making things out of pre-existing material, rather than creation from nothing, ex nihilo.

The large sea creatures- Most of the other Biblical occurrences of the Hebrew word refer to large creatures which live in rivers- serpents, crocodiles etc. Why the strange focus upon just one kind of water creature? Surely because the record is focusing upon the animals of the eretz which lived in the rivers which formed the boundaries of eretz Israel. Remember that “sea” can refer to any body of water, and not necessarily a saltwater ocean.

And every winged bird after its kind. God saw that it was good- It might seem axiomatic that birds have wings, but the stress upon wings may well be because of the pagan, and Babylonian specifically, belief in winged gods. This is another reason for believing that the Genesis record was edited, under inspiration, whilst the Jews were in Babylon. The point being that it was Israel’s God who had created all winged beings.

1:22 God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas- This is presented as a command which the animals, especially fish, had the capacity to understand and choose to obey. For the same language will later be used in the command to Adam and Eve. Again we are being nudged to perceive that this record of creation is intended to be understood as having a strong figurative element to it. For fish in their literal sense do not listen to Divine commandment and then decide as to whether or not to obey. If there is no element of choice implied, then the concept of commandment seems misplaced and inappropriate. 

And let birds multiply on the earth- The same words used about the multiplication of animals in the land / earth which had been the territory affected by the flood (Gen. 8:17; 9:1). This command of God to animals surely wasn’t understood by them; it makes more sense as part of a dramatic presentation, where Yahweh’s voice addresses the scene rather than literally the animals. The specific command is for birds to multiply on the earth; when birds typically live above the earth in nests on trees. The idea is that the multiplication on earth, in obedience to Divine commandment, results in birds flying above, higher than, where they began. The command to multiply on the eretz is going to be used later about the multiplication of Abraham's seed on the eretz, with the implication they had the potential to arise so much higher.

1:23 There was evening and there was morning, a fifth day- As noted on :19, the Divine concept of "day" is the very inverse of how humans would intuitively understand a day- beginning with dawn and ending with night. His day begins with the evening of darkness, and concludes with the light. Out of our darkness, He creates eternal light, and that is how His eternal day concludes- in light, not in the closure of darkness. This is the dramatic inversion of all evil which is the ultimate hope exhibited in the gospel of God's Kingdom.

1:24 God said- One major difference between Genesis and the pagan creation myths was that Moses told the Israelites that God created everything by His word. He spoke, and it was done. This was markedly different to the [then] popular myths of gods hatching eggs, or procreating to produce the world. Repeatedly, later Scripture alludes to the fact that it was by the word of God that the world was created; and that same powerful, re-forming, saving word was and is that heard by His people still (Ps. 33:6,9; 104:7; 147:15-18; 148:3-5; Is. 40:26; 44:23; 48:13; 50:2; 55:10). A. Heidel comments: “The word of the Babylonian deities was not almighty. On the contrary, the word of the creator in Gen. 1 is almighty. He commands and the result is in perfect conformity to his command…there is a profound difference between the Bible and non-biblical religions” [on this point of the word being the agency of creation]. This feature of Genesis 1 paves the way for Ex. 25:1 and many other passages later in the Pentateuch recording how “God said…”, and Israel therefore ought to obey His word of command in ‘creating’ the tabernacle out of existing materials. Thereby they would show themselves at one with the Angel-elohim, who had earlier likewise obeyed God’s word of command in creating the world. God spoke, and it was done. And so when God speaks now to His elohim, His people- it ought likewise to be done.

Let the earth produce living creatures after their kind, livestock, creeping things- The Hebrew translated “produce” has a wide range of meaning. The account of the emergence of animals from Noah’s ark is clearly intended to be understood as a re-creation on the eretz. The same word is used of how the animals ‘came out of’ the ark and likewise began to reproduce abundantly in the earth (Gen. 8:17,19; 9:10). This doesn’t mean they were created ex nihilo, they appeared on the eretz; and that is the same picture we have here in Genesis 1. The word is used of how rivers were produced, or sprung out, of the land of Israel (Dt. 8:7), and frequently of the ‘coming forth’ of Israel from Egypt. So I suggest the drama of creation at this point saw the animals of the eretz arising out of the eretz. This is not to say that animals were created from dust, because that would require a different Hebrew word. Here, eretz, the land, is used.

God created matter. Ultimately, all that exists was made by Him; and by faith we believe that things which now exist were not made from what already existed apart from God. The Genesis record of creation, however, emphasizes how God brought order out of chaos. He brought this present world of beauty and order out of a darkness that brooded upon a sea, and from an earth that was “without form and void”, the Hebrew images behind the words implying ‘a chaos’. The frequent references to the earth and sea ‘bringing forth’ (e.g. Gen. 1:12,24 "produce") use a Hebrew word which means ‘to let something which is within to come out’. The present world was created by a re-organization of things which existed in some form before. This means that when our own lives, or the collective life of God’s people, appears to be in chaos- then we can in faith reflect that God has brought beautiful order out of chaos, and He can likewise powerfully bring order to what seems hopeless. This is the context of the creation allusions in the laments of Ps. 74:12-17; 89:10-15; Is. 51:9 etc.

And animals of the earth after their kind; and it was so- We can understand this as the observer of the drama viewing specifically the animals native to the earth / land of Israel appearing; likewise the birds which appeared on the eretz in :22 would refer specifically to birds known to eretz Israel. Likewise the lists of clean and unclean animals we encounter later in the Pentateuch are all animals known within eretz Israel, they are not a global list. If the intention of the record is to describe the entire animal stock of the planet, the emphasized additional phrase “of the earth” would appear superfluous. This would explain too why there is particular emphasis upon fruit trees. Such trees are not in every land of planet earth, but they were characteristic of Israel.

1:25 God made the animals of the earth after their kind, and the livestock after their kind- As noted on :24, the reference here is to the specific animals of the eretz, the land promised to Abraham. The command in :24 to "let the earth produce..." these animals is now put into operation by God. The idea is that He states  His intention, and then puts His word into operation on the ground. The impression is given that His word is then operationalized. And His spoken word to this day has that same pregnancy of power. The oft repeated "after their kind" suggests that all the various animals within their respective families were created. The impression is of the creation of families, even within the animal kingdom. And as we will see later in the Genesis record, the creative purpose of God operates through families.

And everything that creeps on the ground after its kind. God saw that it was good- The same word used later in the Pentateuch for the “creeping” animals which were unclean. But here we learn that even those ‘creepers’ were created by God and pronounced “good”. Hence Paul argues that there is nothing unclean in itself (Rom. 14:14). The distinctions between clean and unclean were therefore purely for teaching purposes, and not because the "unclean" were unclean of themselves; for here they are pronounced "good" because of their very presence or 'seeing' before God. Here, then, we see the great hope of the Gospel- the unclean were created by God and can be "good" in His presence or eyes.

1:26 God said, Let us make man- Adam is presented as the first man, and the genealogies of Genesis 5 and 10 trace the developments of genealogy from him. But the list of nations in Genesis 10 relate specifically to the peoples found in the land promised to Abraham. This relieves us from worrying about whether there were other people around before Adam, or from where his children found marriage partners. The focus of the account is upon the land promised to Abraham; and the later Biblical mentions of Adam as the first man can be understood as continuing this Israel-centered focus which we find throughout the Bible. The Bible is the Divine history of His relationship with His people and their land; it doesn’t attempt to chronicle human or global history beyond that.

The elohim in view here can be understood as an intensive plural referring to God Himself. But the word is once translated "angels" in the KJV. In this case, man is made in the image and likeness of God, as manifested through the angels. Thus man is made in the image and likeness of God, as manifested through the Angels. These words cannot apply to man's mental image, because by nature our minds are totally distanced from God and in many ways fundamentally opposed to His righteousness. " For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Is. 55:8,9). Therefore the image and likeness which we share with God must be in physical image. Whenever Angels have been seen on earth they are described as having the form of men - e.g. Abraham entertained Angels unaware, thinking that they were ordinary men. Our creation in the image of God surely means that we can infer something about the real object of which we are but an image. Thus God, whom we reflect, is not something nebulous which we cannot conceive of.

"Let us make man" (Gen. 1:26), "Behold, the man has become like one of us" (Gen. 3:22) and "Come, let us go down" (Gen. 11:7) are examples from early Genesis of a plural being used about God. Franz Delitzsch  analyzes the Hebrew constructions here at great length, concluding that these verses manifest a "communicative plural", implying God conferring with His council. Perhaps here we have the Angels making a joint decision, as they did at Babel: "The LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the children of men builded (again, the language of limitation, as if God had to make closer inspection- the 'LORD' must therefore be the Angels). . Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language" (Gen. 11:5,7). And in Gen. 18 we have an example of Angels discussing their policy with regard to one of their charges in the physical presence of the saint: . . "and Abraham went with them (the Angels) to bring them on their way (they were therefore in his presence). And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do? For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him. . " (v. 17-19). This conversation was presumably inaudible to  Abraham. Who knows what conversations go on between our guardians as we sit with Bibles in our hands, obedient to God, and our Angels decide how much to reveal to us in accord with how they know we will behave in the future? The cherubim and living creatures are representative of the Angels. See on Ez. 3:13.

 

I note that Trinitarians are increasingly recognizing that their standard arguments are weak. There was a time when Gen. 1:26 would be often quoted to support the Trinity. But it's now widely recognized that there are several Hebrew words which have plural endings, and yet refer to a singular entity- e.g. panim means "face". Nearly always, elohim is referred to in the singular by the grammar surrounding it. Thus "Christians have traditionally seen this verse as [proving] the Trinity. It is now universally admitted that this was not what the plural means to the original author" (G.J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15 (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1997) p. 27). The note in the NIV Study Bible likewise takes the approach that this passage refers to Angels: "God speaks as the Creator-King, announcing his crowning work to the members of his heavenly court".

The Hebrew construction used here has been described as “a plural of deliberation”. C. Brockelmann describes it as “a form of speech which occurred primarily in self-deliberation”. In other words, an individual may use a plural to describe his or her decision. Take David’s words in 2 Sam. 24:14: “Let us fall into the hand of the Lord…but let not me fall into the hand of man”. Ezra 4:18 has a King saying: “The letter ye sent unto us hath been plainly read before me”. In Is. 6:8 we read the same of God Himself: “Whom shall I [singular] send, and who will go for us?”. And this would enable us to better understand God’s decision making in Gen. 11:7: “Go to, let us go down, and there confound their speech”. The same sort of thing occurs in modern English slang: “Let’s see…” = ‘let me personally consider’; ‘Give us that pen’ = ‘Give me that pen’; ‘We was just…’ = ‘I was just…’. So “Let us make man…” may refer to God’s personal self-deliberation in making human beings; to a Semitic reader of the original, it would emphasize the vast passion which God Almighty put into this decision. And it therefore follows, that He passionately wishes to have a very definite purpose with us, that He so loves us, and wishes only our eternal good.

In our image- The kings of Babylon and the ancient world were called ‘the image of God’. Here we see the huge value ascribed by God to the human person. It’s not at all that the leaders are God’s image and the rest of humanity of no significance. All God’s people are His king-priests to reign on the earth (Rev. 5:10). Many of the creation myths emphasize the infinite gap between the gods and man, and how this was particularly manifest at creation. But the true account of creation emphasizes God’s closeness to man and His particular focus upon not only the earth and solar system, but specifically eretz Israel.

When we read that we are made in God’s image, the Hebrew word for ‘image’ is that to be used later throughout the Old Testament concerning the ‘images’ of idols. Hence the awfulness of Israel making images of the false gods, in human likeness (Ez. 16:17)- because this was a studied statement that they rejected the one true God as their creator, in His image. If we are made in God’s image, then we simply cannot admit the existence of any other image of God- which, in the end, is what all the gadgetry and idols of this world amount to.

After our likeness- James 3:9 speaks of “...men, which are made in the similitude of God.” Our creation in the image of God surely means that we can infer something about the real object of which we are but an image. Thus God, whom we reflect, is not something nebulous of which we cannot conceive. Ezekiel saw God enthroned above the cherubim, with the silhouette of “the likeness of a man” (Ez. 1:26; 10:20); it is God Himself who is located above the cherubim (2 Kings 19:15 RV). All this has a practical import; because we are in the image of God, because it is imprinted on every part of our bodies, we must give that body to God, just as men were to give the penny which had Caesar’s image on it to Caesar (Lk. 20:25). Commenting on this matter in relation to Gen. 1:26,27, Risto Santala writes: “There are two Hebrew words here, tselem, ‘image’ (in modern Hebrew ‘photograph’), and demuth, ‘figure’ or ‘similitude’… these expressions are very concrete. God is a person and he has a definite form and being” (The Messiah In The Old Testament In The Light Of Rabbinical Writings (Kukkila, Finland: BGS, 1992), p. 63).

And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the sky, and over the livestock, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth- This continues the use of royal language which we noted in the idea of the image of God. It was royalty who ‘exercise dominion over’, but here that invitation is to Adam. And it is to us too, insofar as we dominate the natural mind and extend Kingdom rule over all creation. The language of "dominion" is used of how Israel were to subject the peoples living in the land / eretz. They failed to do so, and were therefore dominated by them. The animals of the eretz are thereby presented as symbolic of the inhabitants of the land, whom Israel were to provide light to, care for and lead / be masters over. We can reason back that Adam and Eve failed in this, being dominated by the serpent rather than dominating it. Right at the beginning of the Bible, the "beast" is therefore introduced as symbolic of the entities dwelling within the eretz promised to Abraham, who were to be dominated and cared for by God's special creation, Israel His people. And this symbolism continues and recurs in later Scripture, particularly in Daniel and Revelation. Misunderstanding or ignoring Genesis has led to all manner of fanciful historical interpretations of the beast. 

 

1:27 God created man in His own image- The impression is again given that God states His word of intention, and then fulfils it. His word is, therefore, pregnant with power and certain of fulfilment. This is the inspired narrator’s comment upon the preceding account of how God had decreed “Let us make man in our image”. This comment shows that the elohim in view amount to God Himself personally- not so much Angels, and certainly not a Trinitarian godhead, which is unknown to the Bible text. If any plurality was in view, the narrator here would have written of God creating man ‘in our image’. The plural I therefore take as being an insight into God’s mind, just a man may say to Himself “Let’s [‘let us’] see… let me just make this…’.

In God’s image He created him; male and female He created them- This comment seeks to show in what we are differentiated from God. And in contrast to the animals, there are no species of human beings, all humans are one and the same.

The creation of man is clearly given special attention; the word ‘create’ is clustered three times in that one verse alone: “God created man in His own image. In God’s image He created him; male and female He created them” (Gen. 1:27). God addresses man directly, in a way He is not recorded as doing to the other created things and animals (Gen. 1:28,29). The Pentateuch, and the book of Isaiah, repeatedly insists that Israel are not to have images of God; the reason is that they have an image of God constantly before them, in their own bodies. We are to share God’s immense human focus, perceiving the unique value and meaning of the human person. In passing, focus upon the welfare of the rest of creation is all well and good, but it must not lead us away from God’s emphasis upon the unique value of human beings. God is, if you like, the humanist par excellence. Unlike the emperors of Babylon and the ancient world, the one true God doesn’t need to have images of himself built throughout his empire, as evidence of His ownership; we humans are witnesses to Him. And moreso in the new creation, made spiritually after the image of the Lord Jesus, who in spiritual terms was the exact replica of His Father (2 Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15).

The Babylonian Marduk myth and Ras Shamra epic has the creation story reaching a climax and crowning conclusion with a temple being built for Marduk the creator. The Biblical record is quite different- the climax to the story is the creation of a man. We see in this the supreme importance attached to humanity by the one true God; and this tacitly paves the way for the explicit New Testament teaching that the human body is the temple of God (1 Cor. 6:19)- supremely of course demonstrated in the Lord Jesus, who was in person the temple (Jn. 2:21).

1:28 God blessed them- No pagan creation myth includes the idea of the Divine Creator then blessing His creation. Here we see the surpassing grace of God. He lavishes His love upon what He created. None of the creation myths include such a wonderful feature. Within Genesis, this idea of blessing of course paves the way for God promising to “bless” the children of Abraham, and the blessings upon them with which Deuteronomy concludes (see too Lev. 9:22; Num. 6:22-24). The pagan creation stories sometimes spoke of the things created by the gods then blessing them. The Sumerians recorded that at ‘creation’, “The whole universe, the people in unison, to Enlil in one tongue gave praise” (S.N. Kramer, Sumerian Literature and the Bible (Rome: Pontificio Instituto Biblica, 1959) p.107). But the true God, the God of all grace, not only creates His people and other creatures, but then blesses them! And the spirit of that grace should be seen in all our relationships. The Sumerian and Babylonian myths speak of people being created in order to serve the gods, “to bear the yoke of the gods” (S.G.F. Brandon, op cit p. 115), to relieve them in their everyday work. But the Genesis creation has God creating man and giving him great freedom, and blessing him. It has often been rightly observed that the first use of a word in Scripture should influence how we later understand it as we read through the Bible. ‘Blessing’ in Gen. 1 is clearly related to the ideas of fertility and reproducing. When we later read that God has ‘blessed’ us His people with the Abrahamic blessing of forgiveness (Acts 3:24-26), the implication is that this must lead to some bringing forth of fruit. We can’t simply be passive to what we’ve received. We must go forth and multiply it, in sharing it with others, in bringing forth spiritual children, in creatively forgiving others…

 

And God said to them, Be fruitful, multiply- This contrasts sharply with the pagan ideas that fertility and reproduction required rites and sacrifice. The silence of the Biblical record about anything like this stands in opposition to this. The simple statement is that human reproduction is a result of God’s gracious blessing of man, and requires no ritual to realize it. “Be fruitful, multiply, replenish the earth” is the language of Israel multiplying in the land of Israel (Dt. 6:3; 30:5,16; Josh. 24:3). Adam, the first Israelite, was intended to do this; but like Israel, he was distracted by the serpent, whom he failed to dominate and subdue as commanded.

What happened in Eden was that the garden was planted, Adam was placed in it, and commanded not to eat of the tree of knowledge. The animals are then brought before him for naming; then he is put into a deep sleep, and Eve is created. Then the  very first command Adam and Eve jointly received was to have children, and go out into the whole earth (i.e. out of the garden of Eden) and subdue it to themselves (Gen. 1:28). The implication is that this command was given as soon as Eve was created. There he was, lying down, with his wife beside him, " a help meet" ; literally, 'an opposite one'. And they were commanded to produce seed, and then go out of the garden and subdue the earth. It would have been obvious to him from his observation of the animals that his wife was physiologically and emotionally designed for him to produce seed by. She was designed to be his 'opposite one', and there she was, lying next to him. Gen. 2:24 implies that he should have cleaved to her and become one flesh by reason of the very way in which she was created out of him. And yet he evidently did not have intercourse with her, seeing that they failed to produce children until after the fall. If he had consummated his marriage with her, presumably she would have produced children (this deals a death blow to the fantasies of Adam and Eve having an idyllic sexual relationship in Eden before the fall). Paul saw Eve at the time of her temptation as a virgin (2 Cor. 11:2,3). Instead, Adam put off obedience to the command to multiply. There seems an allusion to this in 1 Cor. 7:5, where Paul says that married couples should come together in intercourse " lest Satan (cp. the serpent) tempt you for your incontinency". Depending how closely one reads Scripture, there may be here the suggestion that Paul saw Adam's mistake in Eden as not 'coming together' with his wife.  

As Adam and Eve were to "be fruitful and multiply" in the land / Garden of Eden (Gen. 1:28), so Noah and his sons were to do just the same in the same land after the flood (Gen. 9:7); and the children of Abraham were promised that they would do likewise in the very same land (Gen. 35:11).

Replenish the earth, and subdue it- I suggest that this is parallel to caring for the garden of Eden, which is therefore the eretz. See on 2:15. The only other references to ‘subduing’ in the Pentateuch are to Israel subduing eretz Israel (Num. 32:22,29; Josh. 18:1). The eretz was to be understood as Israel. As to whether "replenish" implies a previous creation, see on 1:2. Adam and Eve were disobedient; because the serpent subdued them, rather than they having dominion over it. And Israel likewise were subdued by the inhabitants of Canaan, rather than subduing them. The descriptions of the promised land, covered with good trees, whose fruit could be freely eaten, were reminiscent of the descriptions of Eden. Israel were to enter that land and tend it, as Adam should've done; they were to learn the lesson of Adam and Eve's failure in their possession of Eden. But as Eve lusted after the fruit, so Israel lusted after the fruits of Egypt. As Adam and Eve failed to "subdue" the garden of Eden (Gen. 1:28), so Israel failed to fully "subdue" [s.w.] the tribes of the land (Num. 32:22). They subdued a few local to them; but they never really rose up to the reality of being able to have the whole land area promised to Abraham subjected to them. And so Lev. 26 and Dt. 28 promised a curse to come upon the land [of Eden / Israel] for their failure within it, just as happened to Adam and Eve; and of course ultimately they were driven out of the land just as Israel's very first parents had been.

There is good internal reason to think that the Pentateuch likewise was re-written in places to bring out the relevance of Israel's past to those in captivity. Consider the use of the word pus, 'scatter'. It was God's intention that mankind should scatter abroad in the earth and subdue it (Gen. 1:28); but it required the judgment of the tower of Babel to actually make them 'scatter' (Gen. 11:4). Thus even in judgment, God worked out His positive ultimate intentions with humanity. And this word pus is the same word used with reference to Judah's 'scattering' from the land into Babylonian captivity (Ez. 11:17; 20:34,41; 28:25). The intention, surely, was to show the captives that they had been scattered as the people had at the judgment of Babel / Babylon, but even in this, God was working out His purpose with His people and giving them the opportunity to fulfil His original intentions for them.

 

Have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth- The Hebrew word for "dominion" likewise elsewhere refers to having dominion over eretz Israel by driving out or conquering the peoples who lived there (1 Kings 4:24). The Messianic King was to have dominion over the land promised to Abraham, the eretz (Ps. 72:8). The “fear and dread” of humans which fell on the animals after the flood is clearly linkable with the “fear and dread” which was to come upon the inhabitants of Canaan due to the Israelites (Gen. 9:2 = Dt. 1:21; 3:8; 11:25). But as Adam failed to have dominion over the serpent, so Israel failed to subdue the land and its inhabitants.

The most basic principle behind the symbolism of the beast is found in Gen. 1:28, where man is told to " have dominion over" (Heb. 'to break to powder', cp. Dan. 2:35) the beasts.   This was to teach him the need to dominate the bestial instincts of the flesh.   Thus the beasts are set up as representative of the flesh.   Indeed, Strong defines the Hebrew word for 'beast' as fundamentally meaning 'raw flesh'.   It is therefore understandable that the devil (sin), the beast and the serpent are linked in Rev. 12:9, and that Prov.28:15 parallels " a wicked ruler" with a wild bear or lion; the beast epitomizes the sinful person who controls it.   The Apocalyptic beast of the earth (Rev. 13:11) must look back to the common phrase " beast of the earth" in Genesis (e.g. Gen. 1:25).

1:29 God said, Behold, I have given you every herb yielding seed, which is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree, which bears fruit yielding seed. It will be your food- Surely this doesn’t mean that Adam was to literally eat of every tree and herb on the planet. Adam was invited to eat from all the plants which were on the surface of the eretz. Unlike in the present creation, they were all edible by him. Again we have the implication that we are not reading here of how our current planet came about, but of something more specific and local, with especial reference to Adam. The parallel account in chapter 2 says “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat” (Gen. 2:16). I suggest that the eretz in view is the garden of Eden. See on Gen. 2:19. Not all plants on the surface of the planet are edible, and so this sits more comfortably with reference to a specific, localized area of planet earth. The objection of course is that such inedible plants were a result of the fall. But the Biblical record of the fall doesn’t say anything to the effect that once Adam sinned, the Angels, as it were, sped around the planet smashing the place up and making many plants inedible. This is an argument from silence. The Genesis record doesn’t state that- although it is required by those who believe that the eretz includes the whole planet, and that references to all plants and animals on “earth” is to be read on a global level. This creates all manner of practical and moral difficulties; were the Siberian tigers only created after the fall, when their habitat had become cold and inhospitable, etc etc. For the record stresses that everything was created according to its species, both plant and animal, before the fall. It is far more natural to read the changes required by the fall as applying to Eden / eretz Israel, rather than the whole planet.  The whole phrase “Behold I have given you…” occurs later when the Priests are told what God has given them (Ex. 31:6; Lev. 6:10; Num. 18:8,21; Dt. 11:14). We see here a hint that the situation before Adam's personal fall can be partially restored in the experience of God's obedient people.

1:30 To every animal of the earth, and to every bird of the sky, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food; and it was so- The animals and birds were given all the leafy plants of the earth as food, whereas Adam was given all the fruit bearing plants to live from (:29). This sounds like a special situation in a localized area. Because some species are designed to eat other animals, some plants aren’t edible by animals, and some fruit bearing plants aren’t edible by man; some birds only eat fish, not plants. To argue that this was all a result of the curse means that we are positing that new species were created after the fall. But the record appears to disallow that. I suggest all manner of logical and scientific problems are avoided by reading the “earth” here as a specially designated area on the planet, where there were special conditions. The message seems to be that in the eretz, which I suggest was the same as Eden, there were only herbivores. When Adam sinned and was exiled from the garden and eretz Israel, the carnivores from the surrounding world moved in. And that is exactly what happened when Israel sinned “like Adam” and were exiled from their land; the carnivorous beasts moved in. And the beasts of Daniel and Revelation refer, I suggest, to Israel’s enemies moving in upon her land and sanctuary.

1:31 God saw everything that he had made- The “everything” refers to the creation of man on the sixth day. Man was God’s “everything”; the rest of creation had been described as “good” in God’s eyes, but man was seen as “very good”. The drama of creation has come to a climax. Gen. 1:1 begins with the comment that God created literally all things, and then from Gen. 1:2 the focus is upon the creation of eretz Israel, and now the focus narrows down to man within that land- God’s people. And we sense the especial Divine focus and thrill in Adam.

And, behold, it was very good- Adam alone was "not good" . Adam and Eve together are described as "very good" (Gen. 1:31). Paul seems to have this in mind when he says three times that "it is good" to be single (1 Corinthians 7:1,8,26). But what's the point of this paradox? Perhaps Paul's point is: 'In the old, natural creation, it wasn't good that a man should be alone. But now, in the new creation, it's good that a man does try to live a single life, because as Adam married Eve, so we are now married to Christ'. Or it may be that attention is being drawn to the fact that God's provision of Eve was  the first of God's countless concessions to human need. It was God's intention, ideally, that Adam be single, therefore he was potentially "good" in his single state. But he couldn't handle it, therefore God made him a partner. And therefore Paul says that to live the single life is "good" . But in the same way as God made a concession to Adam, so He does to believers now; "but if they cannot contain, let them marry".

"Behold" invites us to look upon this creation as God did; to see the goodness in it, particularly in mankind whom He created; to take a positive rather than a negative view.

There was evening and there was morning, a sixth day- The English translations generally miss the point that days one to five are described as e.g. ‘a second day’, ‘a third day’. But the determinate “the sixth day” (Hebrew-missed by many translations, including NEV) is different, to highlight the importance of the creation of Adam. This is yet another reflection of the supreme value and meaning God attaches to the human person. And His perspective is to be ours.

Previous Creations

As to whether there were previous creations before our own, my basic sense is 'Yes, probably there were'. The earth being " without form and void" (Gen. 1:2) uses a phrase elsewhere used to describe the judgment that has come on an order of things (Jer. 4:23; Is. 24:10; 34:11). It may be, therefore, that there was a previous creation on earth which was destroyed in judgment. John Thomas in the first section of Elpis Israel suggests (without much direct support from the Hebrew, it must be admitted) that the command to Adam to " replenish the earth" (Gen. 1:28) implies to re-fill, as if there had been a previous creation that was destroyed, presumably by water. " In the beginning" , perhaps a huge period of time ago, God created the heavens and earth. But the present creation can be seen as being constituted some time later, after the previous creations. When during the six days of creation He said " Let there be light" this may not have necessitated the actual manufacture of the sun; this was presumably done " in the beginning" . But the sun was commanded to shine out of the darkness (2 Cor. 4:6), and therefore from the viewpoint of someone standing on the earth, it was as if the sun had been created. The earth was covered with water at the time the present creation began (Gen. 1:2). This would mean that the destruction of the earth by the flood in Noah's time was actually a repeat of something God had previously done. This sheds light on His promise to never again destroy the earth with water: " I will stablish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth" (Gen. 9:11). This sounds as if destruction of the earth by flooding had happened several times before. It's almost as if the God of all grace is showing Himself progressively gracious to earth's inhabitants: 'I've done it before several times, but now I promise you humans, you new race of inhabitants upon whom my special love is to be shown through My Son, that I'll never do it again'.  

All That Fall

It was presumably in one of the previous creations that the Angels were developed. They have knowledge of good and evil, just as fallen man has (Gen. 3:22). This could suggest that they too had the experience of temptation and choice between sin and obedience. Job speaks of the angels who were charged with folly as if this fact was well known (Job 4:18). Bro. Thomas suggests that the " angels that sinned" in 2 Pet. 2:4 lived at this time. There is no doubt that this passage in Peter, and the parallel in Jude, has some reference to Korah's rebellion. However, there are many such warnings to God's people which combine reference to more than one historical event, and it could be the same here: as if to say, 'History repeats itself. The angels that sinned so long ago went through in principle the same process of apostasy as Korah's company, and you too are capable of falling from grace in the same basic way'.  

Apostasy has a long continuity; all who fall follow a similar pattern, ultimately sharing the same apotheosis. It could even be that the fall of the Kings of Tyre and Babylon (Is. 14; Ez. 28) are recorded in the language of an angel / " anointed cherub" who wanted superiority over the others, and who then fell from Heaven (Ez. 28:14; Is. 14:13,14 cp. Eph. 4:10). There are strong similarities between these passages and the Jewish understanding of Angels that sinned before creation. These similarities would be in order to show the same kind of historical continuity: between the Angels who once sinned, and spiritually blessed men who turned away from what they could have had. The fact that all the Angels now are righteous and incapable of sinning (cp. Lk. 20:35,36) doesn't mean that Angels never sinned in a previous creation. But the point to note is that they are now in the grave, chained in darkness- not running around as evil spirits causing mischief. They are " reserved unto judgment" (2 Pet. 2:4),  when " we shall judge angels" (1 Cor. 6:3).  

The Wonder Of It All

From these thoughts comes a powerful devotional point. God, who existed from eternity, has doubtless been active from eternity. He is Spirit, and His Spirit is essentially His power in action. There was at least one previous creation, involving the Angels. The fossil record, if indeed it can be taken seriously, would suggest that there were plants and animals (e.g. dinosaurs) which lived millions of years ago. These may have been part of those previous creations. And yet Adam was the first human being (1 Cor. 15:45), created around 6,000 years ago. 

The human race which descended from him has generally rejected God. The majority of His chosen people, Israel, rejected Him to the point of crucifying His Son. But for such a small group of people, existing at such a small time and in such a tiny physical area in the perspective of infinite time and space, God gave His only begotten Son. The Lord Jesus didn't physically exist before His birth; He wasn't some kind of time traveller who had shown up in previous creations. The only begotten Son of God was born for the very first time. This is the pure wonder of the narratives of His birth. He was a human being, not an Angel, because He shared the nature of those He came to redeem (Hebrews 2 develops this at length). The only and begotten Son of God was a human being because He came to save just a few million (or however many) little human beings on this little insignificant planet, a pin prick in the vastness of space even within this present creation, people who lived out their history for just a few thousand years compared to infinity. And this only son of His was born to an illiterate young girl, and then the crying, gurgling Son of God was laid down in a cattle stall (Luke, the doctor who appreciated the need for hygiene, so emphasizes this: Lk. 2:7,12,16), because the other guests in that cheap hotel couldn't make space for a heavily pregnant woman (again, Luke the sometime-gyn doctor would've sensed the shame of it).  And this was the beginning of the only and ever begotten Son of God, who dwelt light years away from that humble barn. It's almost too wonderful to believe. There will be many " ages" to come, as there have doubtless been many " ages" of previous creations already (Rom. 1:25; 9:5; Heb. 13:8); but for our " age" alone was the only begotten Son of God given as a representative of us, the humans who live in this brief " age" . God thus describes Himself as a first timer falling in love with His people; as a young marries a virgin, so God marries us (Is. 62:5); Israel were as the lines graven on a man's palm, with which he was born (Is. 49:16). Thus from absolute eternity, we were the great " all things" to Almighty God, the God of all, all past and future creations.  

We may well ask why space is so big, why there were countless previous creations, why out of all the teeming species and forms of life on this planet  (and perhaps others), God's salvation in Christ is only for human beings, whom He represented in His very nature; why out of all humans, only a few are called, and why out of those few called are even fewer chosen; why in the past  He delighted to chose Israel, one of the smallest and unlovely nations, and their small, despised land, as His land and His people (and in principle He has done the same in His calling of the new Israel)... and the answer may be that God has arranged it this way in order to show us the magnitude of His humanly senseless love; that He has given so much, even His Only Son, for so very few in such a very small geographical area in such a very short time span.  Brethren, think on these things. Look up at the night sky and like father Abraham, struggle, successfully, to believe the wonder of it all.