Genesis 1

Genesis 1 is the key (and perhaps only) passage in the bible dedicated explicitly to the moment of creation. Yet it doesn’t tell us much about the intricate details of how (or when and what) everything was created. Everything is spoken of in broad terms and human constructs.

Here I would like to detail what we can gather from the passage and contrast it with what we cannot.

What we can conclude from Genesis 1:

  • God was not caused or created
  • God is creator and all else is creation
  • God created everything exactly as He saw fit (purposefully, not accidentally)
  • God who is creator created everything by speaking it into creation
  • There was an order to creation
  • What was created was good
  • God created and enabled reproduction
  • God has a desire and command for man, animals and plants to procreate
  • Mankind was created in God’s image
  • God made distinct separate genders

What we cannot conclude definitively from Genesis 1:

  • The precise state of non-existance prior to all of creation’s existance
  • Exactly how God’s words created things (and meta-matter) out of nothing (this is not to say that this didn’t happen, but the workings of it)
  • The exact duration/time of creation
  • Any prescriptive instruction
  • The power of words
  • Whether the earth was created old or not
  • Whether evolution had any part to play in creation

And one more note on the act of creation: Psalms 102:25, Isaiah 42:5, 45:12 tells us there is much more to creation than we can imagine to understand. Who can understand the workings of God?

Genesis 1 sets the scene very well right from the beginning. God is the sovereign and creator God. He is central, everything else is secondary.

The great blessing

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply! Fill the earth and subdue it! Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and every creature that moves on the ground.” Then God said, “I now give you every seed- bearing plant on the face of the entire earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the animals of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to all the creatures that move on the ground- everything that has the breath of life in it- I give every green plant for food generic cymbalta.” It was so.
God saw all that he had made- and it was very good! There was evening, and there was morning, the sixth day.
Genesis 1:28-31

Notice a the similarities and difference in the “God said” bit (relating to blessing) between v22:

v22: God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply…
v28: God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply…

  • The blessing here is similar to v22, where God’s blessing is directly related to fruitfulness and multiplication. In fact, the blessing here is in the context of reproduction – a blessing to reproduce. And this blessing is in the context of “Fill the earth and subdue it!” The ability to reproduce is needed for filling the earth and ruling over time/generations.
  • God has enabled (given the ability to do) what He has commanded man to do (in this instance)
  • The blessing here is different to v22 in that it was addressed to individuals “to them”. This appears in every translation. When God said to the fish and birds, it reads like a proclamation over the species but here it reads like a command to a few individuals – where the individuals have the capacity to understand the command. Man is distinct over all of creation.

The rulership of man:

  • So far, God created every living thing without mentioning it’s relationship to each other with regards to it’s purpose. Here God purposes created things in relation to one another and begins at the top: man’s purpose is to rule.
  • Although the word “subdue” has a negative connotation of conquered or put in bondage against one’s will. It is used here not to show an opposing or strained relationship but one of dominion. This is clear from the context.
  • When it comes to the rulership of man, God makes no mistake to include everything that man has authority over:
    • The “it” that comes after subdue is obviously the earth – every rock, creek, mountain, land, water, mineral/harvestable resource , etc
    • The three classes of created beings are also placed under man – every fish, bird and land creature. The animals were purposed to be subject to man. Man could harness animals for their benefit. 

The food of man and the rest of created beings:

  • The addition of the word הִנֵה (hinneh), which is often translated as “Behold”, is meant to bring to attention what God is doing in the present time. There could be several reasons why this was pointed out:
    • Because it was a gift: Notice how this part reads like a gift and not a command. God gives mankind the vegetation for food.
    • Because it establishes order in a hierarchy: Notice that there is now a hierarchical in authority – mankind, animals, vegetation with man on top and plants below. God makes clear where vegetation sits in the mix of creation and it’s purpose. This is an extension of man’s rulership.
    • Because it is a divine diet: vegetation is purposed as food for anything that had the “breath of life”. This is the diet that God commanded for all living creatures at this point: man & animals on top, vegetation below. A divine food chain. This is later changed in Genesis 9:3.

A note on the type of vegetation: only “seed bearing” plant and trees with seed in it’s fruit is for food for man and any green plant for food for anything that has life. Does that mean we can’t eat plants that propagate without seed and/or are not green? I’m thinking purple lettuce, seaweed, bamboo, etc (please excuse my ignorance if I’m wrong about some of these plants)

I don’t think this passage was prescriptive that way. The effect one gets from reading the passage is that God has given all creatures (“everything that has the breath of life”) all vegetation (“every green plant”) for food. That is the heart of the message. If we depart from this thought process, then God didn’t create the other planets, birds that swim (i.e. penguins), birds without wings (i.e. Moa) or land creatures that swim (i.e. platypus, seals and otters) because they weren’t specifically mentioned.

Another thing to note is the use of “breath of life”. God has included all animals into those with the breath of life! Here we make a distinction between creatures with an eternal spirit (God’s breath, Genesis 2:7) and creatures who simply are alive and have breath. The word breath in Genesis 2:7 is different from the word breath here.

I love how the passage ends with “And it was so.” This gives the effect that God’s blessing and commandment effected the minute it was said. The blessing on man to multiply, the rulership and hierarchy of man, the food chain of the whole world, all set in place in a split-second!

Lastly, God considered “all that he had made” and proclaimed (using the word hinneh again) “it was very good”. When it says God considered all, it truly means all. All meaning everything. Imagine what it means to perceive, understand, analyse, approve, discern the whole universe (and meta-universe) all at once. Every large thing thing like the sun, to every minute detail like nano thingamajigs. It takes mankind years of collective observation, analysing and discerning before we can understand a little something of creation yet God does so without effort. Truly, only God can. Mind blown.

The proclamation “very good” is not to be missed here. Very good is God’s ultimate stamp of approval. If there some something God was pleased with, it was all of creation. And this was the sixth day.

Day Six

God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: cattle, creeping things, and wild animals, each according to its kind.” It was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the cattle according to their kinds, and all the creatures that creep along the ground according to their kinds. God saw that it was good.
Genesis 1:24-25

What was interesting in this passage was that the structure of this passage is similar but slightly different:

  • God spoke and creation came to be exactly as He spoke
  • The land produced the animals as they did the vegetation (Genesis 1:11)
  • Each classification of animal came to being “according to their kinds”, implying a multitude of variety (Genesis 1:11, 21). We seldom dwell on the magnitude of the multitude of creation. In one sentence, God conceived and created every creature on the land – earthworms to mammoths and the millions of species in between!
  • But God didn’t bless the cattle (domestic animals), creeping things (reptiles) and wild animals (animals of the field/undomestic) to multiply as He had done previously (Genesis 1:22)
  • God observed and pronounced on them “good”

I suspect that multiplication might be somewhat implied from previous verses. At least that is the feeling one gets when reading it. The flow is so similar that it is almost assumed when reading through it casually.

Now we get to the truly interesting part of day six.

Then God said,” Let us make a humankind in our image, after our likeness, so they may rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move on the earth.”

God created humankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them,
male and female he created them.
Genesis 1:26-27

So many juicy bits in this passage, so little time! Lets go.

  • God speaks of himself in plural form. This verse almost stands in direct opposition to the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4). But taken together, this forms the basis of our triune God (http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/articles/what-is-the-doctrine-of-the-trinity).
  • Mankind was made in God’s image. This is repeated in a slightly different but mostly identical way (“Image” and “likeness” are almost the same word, for emphasis perhaps?). It is not stated in this passage what the form of this image is – physical, spiritual, mental, emotional, moral (Ecclesiastes 7:29) or a combination.
  • However, we know that the reason for being made in God’s image is that they may rule – over the rest of creation. This image grants us the unique authority and ability in all creation to rule. In this authority, it is obvious that God is not relinquishing His sovereign authority to us (Ephesians 1:22).

The passage breaks out into a little bit of poetry.

God created humankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them,
male and female he created them.
Genesis 1:27

This bit of poetry is not just an inspired expression of the writer. It is truth. The word “created” is used three times here, giving us 3 great truths:

  • God is the creator, mankind is creation. This truth should never be turned on it’s head. We should never assume the position of creator. 
  • God’s image is the template for mankind. Again, this truth should never be turned around. We should never conjure up gods or assume God in our image.
  • God created both male and female. Mankind wasn’t created gender-less (androgynous). This gender distinction is vitally important and God created and ordained.

Just a word on the last point. There are a number of implications that the distinction between “male and female” is where it is:

  • It is important. Important enough to be mentioned right at the beginning.
  • It is defining. Man has so far been defined as not the creator (1), having God’s image (2), having the responsibility to rule over creation (3) and now as male or female (4).
  • Both bear God’s image. This verse gives light to the rest of the passage because the word for mankind is “adam” and the name of the first man is Adam. This verse provides clarity to the fact that both man and women bear God’s image.

Perhaps it could also mean that both male and female exist in our God, even though God at this point is genderless. The bible uses expressions that depict God as both a man (Isaiah 54:5; 61:10; 62:5) and a woman (Isaiah 49:15; 66:13). Note however that the depiction of God as a woman is often descriptive (“I am like…”) or used as an expression of feelings or actions (“I will cry like a woman in labour”), whereas the depiction of Him as a man is direct (“I am…”). Again, this reinforces the fact that gender types are distinct. Manhood and womanhood are different. This has implication when we deal with sexual and gender issues (or preferences as they now call it).

There is more! But so little time. I’ll be back.

As I think more about the creation story, two things dawn on me:

  1. Mankind is unique in that we bear God’s image. No other of His creation is given such an honour. Not the light or darkness, not the sun, land or sea, nor any plant, fish, bird, land creature or anything else is created to have His image.
  2. I was reading this feed http://wtfevolution.tumblr.com and came across this snippet:

    From an evolutionary standpoint, reproducing is the single most important thing you can do in your time on this planet. In fact, it’s the only thing that really matters at all.

    It crossed my mind that reproduction is the most important function for anything. The ability to reproduce, each “according  to their kind” enables the continued existence of God’s creation. God gave creation the ability to persist in existing.

Mind. Blown.

Day Four

God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them be signs to indicate seasons and days and years, and let them serve as lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth.” It was so. God made two great lights – the greater light to rule over the day and the lesser light to rule over the night. He made the stars also. God placed the lights in the expanse of the sky to shine on the earth, to preside over the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. God saw that it was good. There was evening, and there was morning, a fourth day.
Genesis 1:14-19

In Day One, light itself was created and it was separate(d) from darkness visit their website. Now in day four, lights were placed in different positions/times and given a role of separating day and night. Light for the night and light for the day to indicate (not create) seasons, days and years. The lights were to “rule over” (the word here means to have dominion/jurisdiction) the day and night respectively. Here He also made the stars.

Here, I have a few strange observations:

  • The lights were positioned IN the sky – not outside, so they were underneath the “waters above” (Genesis 1:6-8). The stars were also in the “waters above”. This is a prehistoric (pre-scientific) view of the world.
  • The lights weren’t named! Naming happeneed in the first three days – day, night, sky, land and sea, but on the fourth day, no naming was done. Scholars suggest that this is to de-personify and de-deitify the sun and moon since other pagan civilisations were deeply involved in sun/moon worship and these elements were personified as deities (such as the Egyptian deities). There is also a long exposition about the creation of these lights, ensuring that the reader gets the point that these were created things and God (Elohim) is the creator.
  • For the second time, light is separated from darkness (Genesis 1:4). It appears that God really wants light to be apart from darkness.

I’ve found a pretty good picture of what creation looks like on day four according to the account in Genesis (taken from http://www.scienceblogs.com):

The Cosmos according to Genesis

Talk about unscientific. But that really isn’t the point here. Genesis isn’t as much a book about accurate scientific descriptions as it is about representing the beginning of earth and mankind. It has mild themes of science, but the message that Genesis is really getting at here is that God is the sovereign creator… not the scientific creator. That is not to say that He isn’t scientific but that really isn’t the point of Genesis. 

Now we get the feeling that the world is ready for some living and breathing animals. Thats up next.

Day Two

God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters and let it separate water from water. So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expense from the water above it. It was so. God called the expanse “sky”. There was evening, and there was morning, a second day.

God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place and let dry ground appear.” It was so. God called the dry ground “land” and the gathered waters he called “seas”. God saw that it was good.
Genesis 1:6-10

On day zero, God created the God created the universe. And on the second day, He made light and time. He also defined light and darkness, distinguishing between them. We must remember that these things didn’t exist before God came along and light and darkness wasn’t defined. Everything was pretty much an undefined mess of stuff before day one.

Now on day two, God created again with just His speech. This time, God created the sky. This he created as a separation between the waters above and below. And on day three, God gathered the waters below into seas so that dry ground appeared. At the end of the third day, the planet is ready to support life. It seemed that this has been the plan all this while. God considered again and concluded that His creation was good.

Pause for awhile and think:

  • God separated the water. God gathered the water. In that way He created sky and land. His creative work isn’t restricted to creating something out of nothing. Here he manipulates a single substance, creating two different things. In three days, He has displayed three different ways of creating.
  • First God considered the light good. Now, He considered the sky, land and sea good. This was God’s reflection of His own work. It was good simply because it was His own work. Creation didn’t need to be complete (we know now that he wasn’t done creating at this point) for it to be good. It simply needed to be His handiwork.

We start seeing the trend here: he creates out of nothing (before this, there was no expanse), he then defines and names. All the while showing God is the central character in creation. It all begins with Him and He is sovereign over all of creation.

Day One

Now the earth was without shape and empty, and the darkness was over the surface of the watery deep, but the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the water. God said, “Let there be light.” And there was light! God saw that the light was good, so God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day” and the darkness “night”. There was evening, and there was morning, marking the first day.
Genesis 1:2-5

Where Genesis 1:1 is the title of the chapter, Genesis 1:2 sets the scene for the coming narrative. This verse can be seen as a prologue for God to take center stage in his act of creating.

The earth here is described as “without shape and empty, and darkness was over the surface of the watery deep”. This is the state of the earth in it’s primitive stage after being created (Genesis 1:1); not that it had no shape or is empty (matter less), but it was without structure and formless. It was no more than a ball of mass covered in deep abyss like water without any light. The picture it paints is a dark, depressing and meaningless place – nothing happening, not going anywhere.

That is precisely the state of our lives before God comes along. The scene of our lives before God is primitive, meaningless and dark. But God isn’t absent, He is there even in this meaningless state. God isn’t observing in the distance, He is right there on the surface of the water – moving. In that word carries the sense of God preparing and incubating for His work of creation.

In God’s time, at His own pace, He then does the act of creating through his spoken word. When the Creator calls creation into existence, the calling is fulfilled immediately and completely in the creation’s existance. There is no gap between his Words and the existance of what is created. And the first thing that the Creator corrects with His creative power is the darkness. He created light where there was none.

When He saw the light that He had created, He considered it good. The words here means that God reflected on and concluded that the light he had created is good. What we have is a record of God’s personal opinion that light is good, and not darkness. And so God made a distinction between them. In the act of creating, He didn’t remove the darkness that was there (Genesis 1:2), instead it was separated from the light. This separation is important and is a theme that runs through Genesis and the rest of Scriptures.

God then named light and darkness. This is a sovereign act of defining and showing himself sovereign over light and darkness. Stop and think about the fact that God is sovereign over darkness and that he defined darkness. That is where our comfort lies in times of dispair and darkness. We rest in the fact even then, God is sovereign.

Day Zero

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Genesis 1:1

The beginning was no simple matter. Genesis wasn’t the beginning of the world, the universe or time. It was simply the beginning; the absolute state of beginning. And right at the beginning was God.

This says so much about God. This isn’t about the beginning of God, He doesn’t have a beginning. It simply states that at the absolute beginning, God was. God exist without having any cause and apart from the idea of a cause. Elohim, the plural form of God is used here, expressing his triune nature and ultimate sovereignty as the “God of gods”.

Creation is God’s first piece of work. Here creation is the act of making something entirely new and perfect, not necessarily creating out of nothing, but certainly making anew or reforming into something new. This new thing is “the heavens and the earth”, representing the earth or land and all that is above it – the universe. This is the beginning of the visible and invisible – matter and meta-matter.

This is an amazing truth. That God, the uncaused cause, created everything. And thats where it all starts and revolves around – God. He is central to the whole universe.

Thats where a whole bunch of man’s problems lie. We imagine ourselves to be the center of our own universe. We imagine ourselves to be the creator of our own destiny. We lift mankind (and ourselves) up to be like gods and refuse to acknowledge our Creator. Thats whats wrong, we’re not acknowledging the Creator.

Glory and redemption

When Jesus had finished saying these things, he looked upward to heaven and said, “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, so that your Son may glorify you – just as you have given him authority over all humanity, so that he may give eternal life to everyone you have given him. Now this is eternal life – that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you sent. I glorified you on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me at your side with the glory I had with you before the world was created.
John 17:1-5

God’s glory has a central role in every redemptive action. First, we look at the redemptive and glorifying role that Christ plays. Here are the things we see here:

God’s glory in Christ 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was fully God… Now the Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We saw his glory – the glory of the one and only, full of grace and truth, who came from the Father.
John 1:1, 14

God’s glory began before all of creation – before the world was created. Jesus Christ was not the start or cumulation of God’s glory. Christ has always existed with God. He is the same presence of God, the same fullness of eternal glory. In fact, glory resides inherently within God (and Christ). The words “by your side” is better translated as “in your presence”. God and His glory are inseparable, wherever God is there is His glory. When God’s presence manifested on Mount Sinai, His glory was there (Exodus 24:16-17). When He met in the tent with Moses, His glory was there (Exodus 40:34). When His presence was with the Ark of Covenant, His glory was there (1 Samuel 4:21-22). When the temple built by Solomon was dedicated to the Lord, His glory was there (1 Kings 8:11-12).

God’s glory amplified in Christ

I am the Lord! That is my name!
I will not share my glory with anyone else,
or the praise due me with idols.
Isaiah 42:8 (See also Isaiah 48:9-11)

God is jealous for His glory. He wants all of it and He doesn’t take it lightly. All of creation is marked with His glory (Psalm 19:1), even man is created for His glory (Isaiah 43:7). If His glory is diminished, God is insulted. That is why His glory needs to be amplified.

Here Jesus, being fully God and is the fullness of God’s glory asks to be glorified for the expressed purpose of glorifying God back. Imagine a feedback loop getting louder and louder forever; this is the complete amplification of God’s glory – the Son glorifying the Father, who glorifies the Son. It is no wonder that Jesus is entirely glorifying to Him because that is all that Christ does (John 5:19)!

God’s glory amplified in Christ’s redemption

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
John 3:17 (See also John 4:34, 5:36)

When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
John 19:30

It is no secret. Jesus was sent on a mission. His mission is clear in John 17:3 – to bring his own to eternal life by restoring the relationship between man and God (John 17:22-24). That is what it means to “know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you sent”. The knowledge here isn’t just an intellectual knowledge, but an experiential and spiritual one. John tells us specifically that the completion of this redemptive work brings glory to God.

We tend to think that God did it all for us. We think that it was entirely for us that Christ came and for us that He died (John 3:16). We tend to place ourselves in the center of the story of redemption. But the truth is that God is at the center of redemption. God brought Israel out of Egypt for His name’s sake (Isaiah 49:3). He brought Israel out of captivity for His name’s sake (Ezekiel 36:22-23). God forgives our sin for His name’s sake (Isaiah 43:25). We don’t motivate God to redeem us, because we have no merit or strength that God might be motivated by. The only thing that could motivate God is God Himself.

Time to get off our high horse and put God in the center of redemption.

Temples and service

The God who made the world and everything in it, who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives life and breath and everything to everyone.
Acts 17:24-25

After Paul had spent a considerable time considering the sanctuaries and religious rites of the idols worshipped by the men of Athens, he came to this one conclusion: their understanding of god is small. In his opening address to the Council at Areopagus, he sought to expand their minds with the glory of Jesus. He spoke of God who is not constrained by altars, temples or sanctuaries. This God is the creator of all the world and all that is in it, encompassing even the worship places built for Him (Colossians 1:15-17). He spoke of God whom human hands can do no favors for. Because even the hand that seek to serve Him are made and sustained by Him and for Him. Human service only offers Him what already belongs to Him (1 Corinthians 4:7)!

For in him we live and move about and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, For we too are his offspring.
Acts 17:28

Yet because He sustains all of creation, all of creation is indebted to Him. We are accountable and responsible to God. And we owe it to Him not to fashion God from our feeble hands or minds as if He was the created and we are the creator!

Heres the Christian oxymoron: How do we as debtors repay what we owe when the lender needs none of it back?

Stone’s Praise

“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
Luke 19:40

Jesus said this to the Pharisees who were trying to silence the crowd giving praise to Jesus. Now even if the whole Israel was silenced from praise, why would the stones cry out to God and sing praises to Him? Simple, because they were created for that purpose (Psalm 19:1, 96:11-13, 145:10, 148:3-4,7-10; Numbers 14:21). All of creation reveals God’s glory and praise. The beautiful scenery and landscape we admire, the flowers that perfume our gardens, the delicious meat that is on our plate, the majestic whales that sing in the ocean, the constant sunset and sunrise that brings us into a new day all speaks of God’s wonder! Even the rocks, void of breath and voice, would shout praises to Him given the slightest chance to!

The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;
Psalm 24:1

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

Our self-centered hearts would like to think that the rest of creation was made for our enjoyment or betterment, but the truth is that we are no more than stewards or managers of creation (Genesis 1:28, 2:15); The whole of creation was made by God and for God. He gave us the right to manage it, but God still maintains ownership over creation. God owns all of the real estate in the universe (and sub-universes and parallel-universes, depending on what you believe), including all the assets of that real estate. He deemed that all of it is to bring Him praise. He then put us, His prized creation, in charge of His assets and real estate to care for it. Not that He doesn’t care for it Himself, but He gave us the right to use His assets and real estate to our benefit with the responsibility of caring for it. The rights come with a responsibility, but the purpose remains the same – praise.

We need to get it out of our head that the world is ours. It isn’t. The world is not our oyster. The resources of this world is not for us to abuse. It is our duty to enable praise to happen. It is our duty to care for the things that praise God – including ourselves and each other. It is our duty to love the environment we live in and care for it. Since our God is in the job of reconciling everything to Himself. Our job then is to enable this reconciliation to happen, to bring all of this broken creation (Isaiah 51:6) into the fulfillment of it’s primary purpose – praise. Yes, it is an uphill battle because the earth just wasn’t meant to last (2 Peter 3:10-13; Revelation 21:1), but until the time when God calls for a new heaven and new earth, this is all we have. We have our work set out for us, let us love on creation – the animals, the plants, the rocks, all that is in it.

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
Colossians 1:19-20