STUDY FIVE: THE CREATION OF THE WORLD – Genesis 1:1 – 2:4a

© Rosemary Bardsley 2013

I have chosen to include Genesis 2:4a as the final verse of the first ‘creation’ account rather than as the opening verse of the second ‘creation’ narrative. I have done this because it appears to sum up the events of the preceding section, using terminology which is used in the first narrative, but not in the second narrative: ‘the heavens and the earth’ and ‘created’ [Hebrew bara – create out of nothing].

God does not here set out to give us a detailed description of all the processes involved in his creation of the universe: he does not mention a whole plethora of facts – that the earth moves on its axis, that the earth and other planets orbit the sun, that the moon controls earth’s tides, how the law of gravity operates, how our bodily organs function, how our eyes see and our ears hear, and so on. Genesis 1 is not a science textbook. But this does not mean that the facts that it does state are not scientifically true.

Proven science informs us that there are at least twenty factors are necessary for a habitable planet, including:

1.    Liquid water
2.    Orbiting the right kind of star – a star that is not too cool, not too hot
3.    Correct distance from the sun – not too far away, not too close
4.    Right location in the galaxy
5.    Protection by giant planets
6.    Moon to stabilize the tilt of its axis
7.    Terrestrial planet
8.    Thin enough crust to maintain plate tectonics
9.    Heat still in its core to generate a magnetic field from the iron it contains
10.    Atmosphere with enough oxygen to support complex life
11.    Sufficient land to support diverse life.    [Sourced from DVD The Privileged Planet, Illustria Media]

 

The probability of all the factors needed to sustain life being present at the same time in the same place in the universe is extremely small, so small as to render it impossible.

Yet here, in Genesis 1, we read of God creating such a planet [along with the entire universe in which it exists as the solitary inhabited planet] in six days. Everything that God did in those six days, indeed in the first four days, he did with the deliberate intention of creating life on this planet. In the first four days God created, out of nothing, ‘the earth’ – with all the above factors, and more – as a place for human habitation.  

Evolution teaches a purposeless, mindless, random evolution of all that exists. Genesis 1 reveals the deliberate creation of a world suitable for habitation by an innumerable variety of vegetable and animal life forms, and, over and above all, by human beings. This purposefulness of the natural world is referred to by the word teleological – which means ‘with an end/goal/purpose in view’. Step by step, day after day, God deliberately prepares a place for us, then creates us.

This is the significance of Genesis 1:1 – 2:4a.

 

A.    THE WORDS USED


[1] Bara [1:1,21,27; 2:3,4] means to create out of nothing.    It is used of the creation of ‘the heavens and the earth’, birds and animals, humans, everything he had created.

[2] rachaph [1:2] means to move, hover, flutter.

[3] w  a connective meaning ‘and’. Apart from verse 1 (and 27 in English translations) every verse in Genesis 1 begins with this conjunctive ‘and’ connecting each verse in a sequence with the verses before and after, and with the primal act of creation in 1:1.

[4] amar [1:3,6,9,11,14, 20,24,26] means ‘said’. It refers to a deliberate decision and word of God and the accompanying creative action that brought forth various parts of creation.

[5] hayah [1:3,6,14,15] means let it be, let it come into existence. God calling into existence light, the ‘expanse’, the lights in the sky.
 
[6] badal [1:4,7] means to divide, separate.
    
[7] asah [1:7,16,25,31; 2:2,3,4] means made.  Used of God making the ‘expanse’, the lights in the sky, the animals, everything.

[8] yatsar means formed. Not used in Genesis 1:1-2:4.

All of the above points to the validity of the historic Christian belief that Genesis 1:1-2:3(4) recounts the deliberate and decisive creation of all that exists by God in six ordinary days. There is no room here for the ‘natural’ development of additional life forms: every species is created in its specific form immediately by the word and the power of God. In addition, the use of the connective ‘and’ to connect each verse and each part of the creation with that which precedes and that which follows conveys no sense of long periods of waiting for progressive development in between one creative act and the next.

 

B. GENESIS 1:1 – AN ALL EMBRACING SUMMARY

Genesis 1:1 reads: ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.’ At the very least this informs us that before this creative act only the eternal God existed: apart from him there was absolutely nothing – not even the ‘empty’ space that now surrounds us. Here ‘the heavens’ is a comprehensive reference to everything that is not ‘the earth’. 2:1 & 4 again contain this comprehensive sense – that ‘the heavens and the earth’ encompasses the totality of the creative work of God, and therefore the totality of existence, the totality of the universe.

I understand this verse to be an introductory summary statement prefacing the first creation narrative, which is paralleled by the concluding summary statements in 2:1 & 4; and also that it is an essential part of the description of what God did on Day One, informing us that God created everything ‘out of nothing’.

Kiel/Delitszch comment on the significance of this verse:

‘The statement, that in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth, not only precludes the idea of the eternity of the world a parte ante (without limits in the past), but shows that the creation of the heaven and the earth was the actual beginning of all things.  … Hence, if in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth, “there is nothing belonging to the composition of the universe, either in material or form, which had an existence out of God prior to this divine act in the beginning” … it is evident that the void and formless state of the earth was not uncreated, or without beginning.’  

Note that reference to ‘the heavens’ is frequent in this section of Genesis. In the Hebrew it occurs in the following verses: 1:1, 8, 9,14, 15, 17, 20, 26, 28, 30; 2:1, 4. In all of these it is plural. English versions are not consistent in their translation of this word.

In Genesis 1:6-8, God creates ‘the expanse’ and calls this expanse ‘the heavens’ [NIV = ‘sky’].
In Genesis 1:14,15, God creates the sun, moon and stars and sets them in ‘the heavens’.
In Genesis 1:20 the birds are created to fly across the expanse of ‘the heavens’.

We learn here that the term ‘the heavens’ can refer to anything from deep space to the air that surrounds us where the birds fly.

Thus ‘the heavens and the earth’ is an all-inclusive term covering the totality of the natural universe.

Alternative view:

It is possible that ‘the heavens and the earth’ in Genesis 1:1 includes not only the physical ‘heavens’ identified by God when he created the ‘expanse’ on Day 2, where the sun, moon, stars and birds were later placed, but also the place we currently refer to as ‘heaven’ – meaning where God is. In this interpretation God’s creation of ‘the heavens’ would include the creation of the celestial (non-physical) beings who inhabit this non-physical realm. They were certainly not there before ‘the beginning’. But just what form or mode of being this ‘heavens’ has can only be a speculation on our part. [See E below.]

 

C. THE SIX DAYS OF CREATION

The account of each of the six days of creation ends with the formula “And there was evening, and there was morning – Day One (etc)’ [Genesis 1:5, 8, 15, 19, 23, 31]. [Note that this formula changes slightly in 1:31 to ‘…the sixth day’.] The natural meaning of the Hebrew text is exactly what is says. The reference to ‘evening’ and ‘morning’, ‘day’ and ‘night’, ‘darkness’ and ‘light’, and the numbering of each ‘day’ all point naturally to the meaning of ordinary ‘days’. There is nothing in the Hebrew to suggest that ‘day’ means anything other than an ordinary ‘day’. To interpret ‘day’ as an undefined long age can only be arrived at by imposing outside presuppositions and meaning onto the text.

Task #1: What did God create on each of the days?

Day One:

Day Two:

Day Three:

Day Four:

Day Five:

Day Six:


Day one – Genesis 1:1-5:
Genesis 1:2 informs us that the earth was ‘formless and empty’ at this point: a dark, formless, lifeless, watery mass, upon which the Spirit of God was actively moving with his transforming, creative, life-giving power, which was being energised, and therefore given form and motion, by the action of his Spirit. [Not an eternal, self-existing ‘something’ from which all else eventually arose by some means; rather this is the state of the original stuff God created from nothing, to which he began, on the very first day, to give form and light.]

[Note that it is between verses 1 and 2 that some Christians, including Schofield in his highly popular and influential Reference Bible, insert the ‘gap theory’ in a compromise with the long ages taught by geologists. See Study 5.]

Genesis 1:3-5: By his word God then called light into existence; he separated the light from the darkness, and called the light ‘day’ and the darkness ‘night’.

[Note: it has long been understood that the sun, moon and stars are not the light source. The actual light source is photons.]

Henry Morris makes this comment on the creation events of Day One:

‘All the types of force and energy which interact in the universe involve only electromagnetic, gravitational, and nuclear forces; and all of these had now been activated. Though no doubt oversimplified, this tremendous creative act of the Godhead might be summarized by saying that the nuclear forces maintaining the integrity of matter were activated by the Father when He created the elements of the space-mass-time continuum, the gravitational forces were activated by the Spirit when He brought form and motion to the initially static and formless matter, and the electromagnetic forces were activated by the Word when He called light into existence out of the darkness.’ [P56 The Genesis Record]

Day two – Genesis 1:6-8:
Genesis 1:6-8 describes the creation of ‘the expanse’ [vault, firmament] – the ‘sky’ – and the separation of the water into water above this expanse and water below this expanse – by the power of God’s word.  

Here we are taught that God created the ‘space’ – that even empty space (it’s not really empty, it just looks empty to the naked eye) did not exist before God created it. About this ‘space’ Genesis 1:14 & 17 teach us that God put the sun, moon and stars in it, and verse 20 tells us that God created birds to fly across it. Hence the ‘expanse’ includes the ‘space’ very close to the earth, and the ‘space’ very, very far away from the earth.

People have various opinions about ‘the expanse’ and where the upper-level water actually was, and whether or not this was the source of the rain at the time of the flood, and was it the factor enabling tropical vegetation all over the earth in the pre-flood era. Such questions need not bother us.

Here in 1:6-8 God is in stage two of his preparation of a habitable planet: a planet he was about to plant with vegetation, and surround by the galaxies, and fill with life: a planet with an atmosphere containing the elements necessary to sustain life. In other words, what God here created included the ‘air’ without which no life can exist. This air around us is not ‘empty’, it is not ‘nothingness’, it is not uncreated. It is full of invisible molecules created by God here on Day 2.

Day three – Genesis 1: 9-13:
On this day God first of all commanded the gathering of the waters under the atmosphere and the resultant appearance of dry land. Having done this God then commanded the production of vegetation from the land, which would from that point onwards reproduce itself because God created it to bear seeds.

Day four – Genesis 1:14-19:
By the word of God the sun, moon and stars were created. They were created with purpose: to separate the day from the night, the light from the darkness; to govern both the day and the night; to serve as signs to mark seasons, days and years. [Which they are still doing today; also ‘months’, but this is not mentioned, unless it is included in ’seasons’.]

Day five – Genesis 1:20 – 23:
On this day, by his word, God created the different kinds of sea creatures and the different kinds of birds. God blessed both of these, commanding them to ‘be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas and let the birds increase on earth’.

Here we have the creation of ‘living creatures’ – creatures with ‘life’ – Hebrew nephesh. The earth is no longer empty.

Day six – Genesis 1:24 – 2:1
Day six continues the habitation of the earth with the creation of all kinds of land creatures.


Task #2: Up to verse 25, God has affirmed five times ‘it was good’. What creative action preceded each of these?

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

Continuing on Day Six God created the first two human beings. In 1:26-27 we read that God said ‘Let us make man in our own image, in our likeness’. [We will look further at this below and in subsequent studies.]

Having created ‘man’, and given the birds, the animals and man the plants for food, God saw that it was ‘very good’ [1:31]. This ‘very good’ excludes the possibility of billions of years of death and suffering as the process culminating in this point. It confirms the insistence of Genesis 1 that each step in this brief creative week was the decisive and deliberate action of God – not a process – either random [atheistic, naturalistic evolution] or guided [theistic evolution], but an authoritative action of the eternal, sovereign, Creator God.

 

Task #3: Discuss God’s step by step preparation of a planet suitable for human habitation.

 

 

 

D. THE BLESSING OF GOD ON THE ORIGINAL CREATION

[1] To the sea creatures and the birds [1:22]: The blessing of God comprised the command/responsibility of being fruitful and multiplying. This blessing/command is not something dependent on the recipients’ choice to obey – rather this ability to reproduce is a blessing embedded in the natural instincts of these creatures by the power of the divine word.

[2] To the land creatures: no blessing is stated.

[3] To man [1:28]: There is a repetition of a blessing/command similar to that given to the birds and fish, with two additions: ‘fill the earth and subdue it’, and ‘Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground’. As we will see later, this blessing/command can be interfered with and disobeyed.

[4] The seventh day [2:3]: The blessedness of the seventh day consists in God sanctifying it, that is, declaring it holy – set apart, ‘clean’, not for common use. This blessedness/sanctity of the seventh day forms the basis of the fourth commandment, and anticipates our ‘rest’ in Christ.

 

Task #4: Discussion point: to what extent is this blessedness still with us today?

 

 

 

E. WHAT ABOUT SATAN AND THE ANGELS?

God has not given us much information regarding the creation of Satan, angels and evil spirits.  Obviously this is not something that we ‘need to know’.  But there are some things that we do know, or can deduce from other truths in the Scripture.

They were all created by God, and were all good when God created them
We know from Scripture that angels, spirits/demons and Satan are created beings, and subject to God:

Colossians 1:16: ‘For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.’

In the synoptic Gospels evil spirits fearfully acknowledge the authority of Jesus Christ, and know that they have no choice but to do whatever he says.

Angels worship the Son [Hebrews 1:6] and are ‘ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation’ [Hebrews 1:14].

We can assume with certainty that whenever and wherever they were created they were at that time ‘very good’ irrespective of whether or not they are included in the general phrase ‘the heavens and the earth’, because God, because of his very nature, does all things well.

 

We are not told when God created the angels, including Satan and demons
The Bible does not tell us when these non-physical beings were created. They are certainly not mentioned in the creation narratives. The only living creatures mentioned are those with physical bodies that inhabit the waters, the air and the land created by God in the six days.

[Some commentators understand the KJV rendering of Genesis 2:1 ‘… and all the host of them’ to refer to the angelic spirit beings elsewhere called ‘the hosts of heaven’ or ‘the heavenly hosts’, and this indeed could be what is intended here, but there is nothing in the Genesis context to require this interpretation. It could simply mean, as the NIV presents it, ‘in all their vast array’. The writer is certainly making it inescapably clear that everything on the earth, and in the physical ‘heaven’ (the sky, space), was created in the six days just described. It is possible that all the angelic hosts are also included.]

The only insight the Bible gives us about when these celestial beings were created is found in Job 38:7, where it is obvious that the angels were present and watching when God created the earth:

 ‘… the morning stars sang together
and all the angels (KJV: sons of God) shouted for joy’ [verse 7]

This teaches us that the angelic beings (including Satan – see Job 1:6 where he is among the angels) were pleased observers when God did to the earth all that is listed in Job 38:4-7. This fact may give some support to those who interpret ‘the heavens’ in Genesis 1:1 to refer to what we would today call ‘heaven’ along with all of its spirit inhabitants, rather than being a reference only to the physical sky, space etc that are part of the universe.

See Psalm 103:20,21 where angels are called ‘mighty ones who do his bidding’, ‘his heavenly hosts’ and ‘his servants who do his will’.  In this Psalm the angels are exhorted to praise God. The context is his mercy to sinful human beings.

 

Satan
While in retrospect we know that Satan was present in the snake in Genesis 3, the first mention of Satan, by name, is in 1Chronicles 21:1, if we go by the biblical ordering of the books, or Job 1:6, if we go by the antiquity of the story. The only other places where the Old Testament specifically mentions ‘Satan’ are Psalm 109 and Zechariah 3. It would seem Satan was not commonly thought about in the Old Testament era, whether or not his existence was commonly acknowledged.

When we come to the New Testament we find that Jesus said of Satan ‘He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies’ [John 8:44]. And the apostle John comments that ‘the devil has been sinning from the beginning’ and that ‘the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.’ [1John 3:8].

Here we must ask ‘what did Jesus and John mean by ‘the beginning’?’ – the absolute beginning? The beginning of Satan? Or that era of beginning in which we could include Genesis 3 as well as Genesis 1 and 2? Given that the whole book of Genesis is ‘the beginning’ [‘genesis’ means ‘beginning’] it is not unreasonable to deem Genesis 3 part of what could be called ‘the beginning’. Indeed Jesus calls what happened on Day 6 and in Genesis 2 [the creation of male and female and the establishment of marriage] as occurring in ‘the beginning’ in Matthew 19:4.

As mentioned above, ‘all the angels’ rejoiced when God’s created the earth; if this is intended to include Satan, then he was not anti-God at that time.

 

Angels and spirits
The first mention of angels is Genesis 16:7. They are mentioned in the Old Testament over one hundred times. The first mention of a spirit is in Judges 9:23, but it is possible that this simply means a bad feeling. Spirits do not attract much attention in the Old Testament; there are seven references to a ‘familiar’ spirits, one to an ‘unclean’ spirit, none to ‘demons’. There are references to the ‘evil spirit from God’ that bothered Saul; and two references to a ‘lying spirit’, but these could simply refer to the propensity for specific humans to tell lies, not to a specific deceitful spirit being.

What was said in reference to the creation of Satan above, can be said also of the angels [which then included the now fallen angels, later called ‘spirits’ or ‘demons’]. They were there joyful observers when God created the earth. That some of the angels subsequently fell is obvious:

‘For is God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment …’ [2Peter 2:4]

‘And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home – these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day’ [Jude 6].

Given Satan’s subversive activity in Genesis 3 it is obvious that his rebellion and fall occurred somewhere between the creation stories of Genesis 1 and 2, and his temptation of Eve in Genesis 3.