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This marvelous chapter is not history, for it provides information concerning events that antedate all history. It is not myth, because it carries within it a credibility that never belonged to any myth. It is not science, because it deals with the BEGINNING, which no science has ever even attempted to describe. It is INSPIRATION, a revelation from Almighty God Himself; and the highest and best intelligence of all ages has so received and accepted it.
For the preposterous and irresponsible fulminations of critical enemies of the Bible, and their utter futility and incompetence to cast any believable shadow upon the sacred truth here revealed, reference is made to the Introduction to Genesis elsewhere. Suffice it to say here that this chapter contains and presents to human intelligence the ONLY believable account of creation ever to receive the serious attention of thoughtful minds.
In this series of commentaries, we are concerned with what the Bible says, because it is the Word of God; and, a single syllable of it outweighs all of the vain speculations of unbelieving and sinful men. If one would know the truth of how our universe began, and of the origin and responsibility of human life upon our planet, let him read it here. He will certainly not find it anywhere else!
THE FIRST DAY
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
There is absolutely nothing either unreasonable or hard to understand about this. That there was indeed a beginning of our universe and the world we live in is absolutely certain. No matter how far back into the mists of prehistoric time men may postulate the point of origin for our universe, it is precisely THERE that they must confront God, the omnipotent, eternal, all-pervading, omniscient First Cause, known to Christians as the God of the Bible.
For example, if some theory regarding how our galaxy (the universe) began from the explosion of a dense star, should be received as true, then how did the dense star begin? The only intelligent answer to questions of this type appears in this verse.
In the beginning…
This says nothing at all of when the beginning occurred, but declares emphatically that there was indeed a beginning, a fact which no reputable science on earth has ever denied. The source of that beginning was in the will and the power of the Eternal God. It was not merely a beginning of life, or of material things, but a beginning of ALL THINGS.
The word for God here is eyhl) ['Elohiym], a plural term, and by far the most frequent designation of the Supreme Being in the O.T., being used almost 2,000 times.F1 Despite the plurality of this name, it is connected with verbs and adjectives in the singular. Thus, in the very first verse of the Bible there would appear to be embedded embryonically in the very name of God Himself a suggestion: (1) of the Trinitarian conception more fully revealed in the N.T., and (2) also a witness of the unity of the Godhead. Some have questioned this, of course; but we have never encountered any other adequate explanation of it.
There are three heavens visible in the Word of God, these being: (1) the earth's atmosphere, where birds of the heaven fly (Jeremiah 15:3); (2) the heaven of the galaxies and constellations (Isaiah 13:10); and (3) the heaven where God dwells (Psalms 11:4). The heavens here include the first two and perhaps others of which we do not know.
And the earth…
If our understanding of the heavens is correct, the earth and all the planets would have to be included also, but the singling out of the earth and its specific designation here would indicate God's special creation of it to be the repository of all life, and of human life particularly. That such a special creation of the earth did indeed occur appears to be absolutely certain, as attested by the utter failure of man to discover any evidence whatever of life anywhere else except upon earth.
Many learned men have written extensively concerning the multitude of physical and environmental factors which appear to be absolutely unique, found upon earth alone, the sum total of which supports and sustains life on our planet. The gravitational influence of the moon, the exact composition of atmospheric gases, the atypical behavior of water when it freezes, the atmospheric mantle of protection, the exact inclination of the earth upon the plane of its orbit giving the seasons, the exact distance of the earth from the sun, etc., etc. -- these and literally hundreds of other peculiar and necessary factors come together to make life possible on earth. And, from this, it is mandatory to conclude that the special mention of "the earth" in this verse indicates the special creation of that essential environment without which life would be impossible, as is the case, apparently, everywhere else in the sidereal universe.
And the earth was waste and void…
This refers to the state of the earth in the first phase of its creation, and it is also an apt description of the other planets as they are observed to continue in our solar system to the present time. Mars, Venus, Mercury, etc. are still waste and void. It is not necessary to postulate billions of years between Gen. 1:1 and Gen. 1:2 in order to help God find the time to do all that He did for our earth. It is true, of course, that no revelation has been given with reference to the time-lag between these verses; but men's imagining that billions or trillions of years elapsed here or there does nothing to diminish the mysterious miracle visible in Genesis. If it should be supposed that God launched a waste and void earth upon a journey that required billions of years to accomplish His wise designs, then, God's power in doing a thing like that is one and the same thing as His ability to have spoken the perfect and completed earth into existence instantaneously.
And darkness was upon the face of the deep…
This is a reference to the state of the earth when it was waste and void. The melancholy waste of the mighty seas; and it is not necessary to understand this as a reference to the molten, superheated earth, in which metals, earth and all elements, with the abundant waters might be referred to collectively as the deep. In such a condition all waters would have been driven into the earth's atmosphere. The big thing that appears in this verse is the abundant water supply, one of the principle prerequisites of life in any form. This water supply was evidently part of the special creation benefiting our earth, making the passage a further detail of God's creating the earth (Genesis 1:1).
And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters…
Significantly, the Third Person of the Godhead appears here alongside God Himself. Whitelaw assures us that the term for moved actually means brooded as in the older versions; and it means to be tremulous with love.F2 The Spirit here is the Blessed Holy Spirit, concerning whom much more information appears in the N.T. The primeval chaos that characterized this early phase of our planet is most significant. The complex, systematic order that characterized it later could never have evolved from chaos. Without the fiat of Almighty God, the unaided chaos would have become more and more chaotic. The Second Law of Thermodynamics is absolutely irreversible. Only creation could have changed chaos into order and symmetry. God made all things ex nihilo.
And God said…
The language here indicates that the stupendous acts of Creation were performed by fiat. God spoke the word, and it was done. Could any process of creating light gradually even be imagined? Any chain of events leading to the development of light is inconceivable, the very thought of such a thing being rejected by the intelligence. Primeval darkness demands just the fiat revealed in this verse as the only possible solution for it.
And God saw the light that it was good…
The intelligence of the Supreme Being, His concern with and His interest in the affairs of His creation, and His personal preference for that which is good appear as legitimate deductions from what is revealed here. It seems highly improbable that the creation of light merely means the making of light visible upon the earth. The text does not state that God made light visible, but that He created it.
And God divided the light from the darkness…
This statement is enigmatical, and that should not surprise us. It was inevitable that in the creation of all things there were countless facts about it that were incapable of being revealed to the finite intelligence of mortal man. God's dividing the light from the darkness simply indicates a time previously when they were mingled; and there is no rational understanding on the part of men with reference to that prior state of mingled darkness and light. The very presence of light dispels darkness. The diurnal revolution of the earth, excluding the sun's light at night, is usually cited as the explanation of this; but we reject such an explanation, preferring to view it as something beyond the ability of men to understand it. Besides, the relationship between sun, moon, and the earth did not appear until the fourth day, and this is the first day.
Although this verse appears to mean that the separation of light and darkness was the same as creating Day and Night, this meaning is not consistent with the appearance of the sun and moon on the fourth day. It is likely that light and darkness in some cosmic sense were divided on the first day.
And there was evening and there was morning, one day…
This is generally hailed as requiring that the days of Gen. 1 be understood strictly as twenty-four hour periods of time, answering in every way to our days of the week in an ordinary sense, but tremendous words of caution against such a view are thundered from the pages of inspiration. The very basis for calculating days and nights did not appear in this narrative until the fourth day; and that forbids any dogmatic restriction based upon our methods of calculating days and nights. It certainly did not require any twenty-four hours for God to say, Let there be light, and our understanding that God's creation was by fiat, that He spoke the worlds into existence, and that all things appeared instantly upon the Divine word, forbid any notion that Almighty God required a time budget in any of His creative acts. Certainly, we reject any view that puts God to work for uncounted billions of years in the production of that creation which is now visible to man. We find no fault whatever with the view that the days here were indeed very brief periods such as our days. For ages, devout souls have taken exactly that view of them; and no one can prove that they were wrong.
However, "days" are surely mentioned here; and before deciding that we know exactly the duration of them, there is a point of wisdom in remembering that God has revealed some things in the Bible which shed a great deal of light upon this very question:
"But forget not this one thing, beloved, that ONE DAY is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as ONE DAY" (2 Peter 3:8). For a thousand years in thy sight are but as YESTERDAY when it is past, and as a watch in the night (Psalms 90:4). The apostle Paul referred to the entire present dispensation of the grace of God as "the DAY of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:2).
There is also another N.T. passage in Heb. 4:4-6ff:
"For he hath said somewhere of the seventh day on this wise, God rested on the seventh day ... seeing therefore that it remaineth that some should enter thereinto ... let us therefore give diligence to enter into that rest (Hebrews 4:4,6,11).
Without any doubt whatever, the last of the passage cited above denominates all of the period of time following the sixth day of creation and reaching all the way to the final Judgment as "the seventh day." When it is considered that the very same day mentioned here in Genesis and called here the "seventh day," using the very same word for "day" as was used for the other six days, there appears to be imposed upon us the utmost restraints and caution with reference to any dogmatic postulations about exactly HOW LONG any of those days was. The Bishop of Edinburgh's comment on the above passage from Hebrews is an emphatic statement of what this writer believes the passage means: "From this argument, we must conclude that the seventh day of God's rest, which followed the six days of His work of creation, is not yet completed."F3 "And there was evening and there was morning, one day ..." There are many views of what this means:
Significantly, the entire six days of creation are spoken of as a SINGLE DAY in Gen. 2:4, In the day that Jehovah God made earth and heaven. There are serious objections to receiving any of the explanations mentioned above. Any basis for dogmatic assurance concerning exactly what is meant by the days of this chapter has eluded us; and we therefore leave it as one of the secret things which belong unto Jehovah our God (Deuteronomy 29:29). There is certainly no impediment to a childlike acceptance of the days of Genesis as ordinary days in exactly the same manner that the first generation to receive this revelation in all probability accepted them, as most of our parents understood them, and as every soul humbled by a consciousness of the phenomenal ignorance of mankind may also find joy in believing and accepting them, fully aware, of course, that there may be, indeed must be, oceans of truth concerning what is revealed here that men shall never know until we see our Savior face to face.
THE SECOND DAY
And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.
The creation of the earth's atmosphere was God's work on the second day of creation. Jamieson pointed out that the term "firmament" carries the meaning of "an expanse ... the beating out as of a plate of metal,"F5 suggesting the utility of a shield, an apt figure indeed when it is recalled that the earth would long ago have been destroyed by showers of meteorites (as upon the moon) had it not been for the protection of our atmosphere.
Divide the waters from the waters…
Water exists upon earth in both liquid and vapor forms, and it is precisely the atmosphere which separates these. Again from Jamieson:
"By the creation of an atmosphere, the lighter parts of the waters which overspread the earth's surface were drawn up and suspended in the visible heavens, while the larger and heavier mass remained below. The air was thus `in the midst of the waters.'"F6
Men should marvel indeed at this creation, when it is remembered that millions and billions of tons of water are constantly suspended in the atmosphere in the form of clouds; and of course being much heavier than the atmosphere, only an act of creation could have accomplished such a thing. The patriarch Job marveled at this wonder:
"Dost thou know the balancing of the clouds,
The wondrous works of Him who is perfect in knowledge?"-- Job 37:16
Some have considered it strange that such an expression as, "divide the waters from the waters" should have been used here, but, as it must be true in countless other instances, God was limited in His communication with mankind, not by any limitation within Himself, but by the limitations within man. In the days when this revelation was given, "The Hebrew had no word for gas (vapors)."F7 Therefore, God said, "Divide the waters (liquid) from the waters (gaseous)."
And God called the firmament Heaven…
This is the lower heaven of the earth's atmosphere. See under Gen. 1:1.
THE THIRD DAY
Verses 9, 10
And God said, Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.
There is far more than sufficient water upon the earth to inundate all of the continents and the highest mountains; and it took an act of creation to separate the dry land from the seas. Nothing is revealed here as to HOW God did this. Many things might have entered into it. The stacking of water miles deep upon the polar caps of the earth, the fracture of the earth's crust by mighty cracks, and earthquakes thrusting above the primeval seas, the continents, and the mighty mountain systems are things which men suppose took place.
Let the waters be gathered together. unto one place ..…
One who examines a global map of the earth will see that the oceans are all connected literally, in one place. And yet a division among the seas is inherent in the very word seas (plural). There can be no adequate explanation of this accuracy apart from understanding it as inspired of God. Neither Moses, nor any other writer of that ancient time, had any personal knowledge that could have led to such a statement.
It is the entire kingdom of plant life, or vegetation, that appeared on the third day, not simultaneously with the divisions of the seas and dry land, but in a separate creative act.
Yielding seed. after their kind ..…
Here is the law that like produces like. This eternal law of God regarding life yielding seed after their kind has never been repealed. The mutations that men are able to induce, or that infrequently appear of their own accord, are overwhelmingly inclined to be harmful and not helpful, frustrating completely the theories of evolution which are totally inadequate as an explanation of various species of either plants or animals.
And God saw that it was good…
This statement occurs seven times in this dignified, compact narrative. All of God's creative actions were well-pleasing to their Creator; and God recognized them as perfect and entire. The completeness of these actions is also inherent in such a statement as this.
THE FOURTH DAY
And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years: and let them be for lights in the firmament of heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. And God made the two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: [he made] the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of heaven to give light upon the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.
The heavens were created on Day 1, and this means that the sun, moon and stars were already created when this fourth day began. Thus, there is a recapitulation in Day 4 regarding the making of the sun, moon, and stars, the creation of Day 4 being the placement of them. This is a most enlightening consideration, as we shall point out in a moment. The treatment of these days as chronologically in sequence requires this understanding. Some scholars think they have the solution to the meaning of those evening and morning days in the application of them to the successive tableaux or visions by which they were revealed to the author of Genesis, instead of accepting them as a chronological blueprint of successive events in creation, but there are grave difficulties in accepting such a viewpoint.
The more reasonable interpretation, it appears to us, is that of understanding this Day 4 as a record of God's positioning celestial bodies already created on Day 1 in such a manner as to make possible the creation and sustenance of human life on earth. That such a special act of this nature is meant appears from the declaration in Gen. 1:17 that "God set them in the firmament of heaven to give light upon the earth." Note that it definitely is NOT said that God made them in this statement of their utility, but that He SET them, or PLACED them. The importance of this is not offset by the fact that it is also declared here specifically that God made the sun, the moon, and the stars. This is partial recapitulation of what was revealed in Day 1, but that part must be considered parenthetical in meaning.
Based upon what the holy text says, the creative act of Day 4 was the positioning of our solar system by Divine fiat in such a manner as to provide the environment for humanity. Who could know how God did such a thing? That He did indeed do it is evident in the results. Where else in the billions of galaxies all around us in space is there another planet of suitable size, placed at suitable distance from its mother star, inclined at exactly the proper angle upon the plane of its orbit, possessing precisely the kind of satellite needed, as in the case of our moon, possessing the necessary water supply, the proper atmosphere with its delicately-balanced percentages of the component elements, performing continually the diurnal revolutions upon its own axis to give succession of day and night, and constantly moving in the annual revolutions around the sun in the plane of its own orbit, providing the seasons and marking the years? If this exceedingly complex and precise placement of the earth was not a special act of God, why is it, as far as can be determined, absolutely unique? Significantly, such things as signs, day and night, seasons, and years are categorically mentioned as the result of creation on Day 4. Therefore, we identify the placement that made all such things possible as the creative accomplishment of this day.
Of course, this is precisely the point in the sacred account that, "The average modern man parts company with Genesis."F8 He thinks it is absurd that the sun, moon, and stars came into being after the earth. And, the normal conservative answer that the sun, moon, and stars had been there all the time, obscured by the primeval mists, and that they were made visible by the creative actions of Day 4 is purely speculative and unprovable, such explanations being considered implausible by skeptics. As is always the case, skepticism and unbelief are due to ignorance. The holy record does not teach that the sun, moon, and stars were created on Day 4, but that they were SET, or PLACED, so as to achieve the necessary environment upon the earth. If God did not indeed do this, then who did? Only a fool could deny that it was done! The sacred account before us is the only intelligent answer as to the reason for our earth's existence as it is.
In the record of this day, there appears an impassable gulf separating Biblical truth from the pagan superstitions and beliefs of ancient times. In those days, men worshipped the sun, moon, and stars. "In pagan thought the divine stars controlled human destiny."F9 But in this Biblical account, the celestial bodies do not control men, they serve men. The earth, not the galaxies, appears here as the object of God's special care and providence.
THE FIFTH DAY
And God said, Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. And God created the great sea-monsters, and every living creature that moveth, wherewith the waters swarmed, after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind: and God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth. And there was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.
Just as Day 4 was parallel with Day 1, Day 5 is parallel with Day 2. Just as the waters and the firmament were in focus there, so are they here. This parallelism does not deny the chronological sequence of the six days. But, the creation of Day 1 of the heavens and the earth was followed by a special creation regarding the earth and its solar system in Day 4. In like manner, the seas and the dry land of Day 2 are on Day 5 endowed with the life for which they had been designed previously.
The great message of this day is that God created life, there being utterly no other possible source of it. The plain and simple implication of the passage is that God created all of the species of life mentioned here simultaneously. The balance in creation that is still witnessed by the ecological systems in nature could not have come into being except by fiat. Nothing is more unreasonable and ridiculous than the various hypotheses of evolution. If it could be proved, which is impossible, that all life originated from a single one-celled creature in some pre-Azoic sea, the existence of that one-celled creature with the potential to produce all that is alleged to have come out of it, in any such postulation, GOD ALMIGHTY is just as necessary to get that one-celled beginning; and it would have been in every way a creation just as magnificent and glorious as the simultaneous creation of myriad forms of life by one Divine fiat. Evolution as a means of getting rid of God is a false crutch indeed!
It is clear in this six-day sequence that, "The progress of God's creative activity was upward toward man."F10 In fact, the special thrust of this entire creation narrative is pointed squarely at the emergence of man upon earth as the crowning act of all creation!
THE SIXTH DAY
Verses 24, 25
And God said, Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind, cattle, and creeping things, and beasts of the earth after their kind: and it was so. And God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creepeth upon the ground after its kind: and God saw that it was good.
The parallelism between the last three and the first three days of the creation continues to be visible in the fact that God began the cycle of life by the creation of the vegetable world on Day 3, and here upon Day 4 that cycle is completed in the creation of the larger animals and of mankind (Genesis 1:26-31).
The recurring mention of "after their kind" forbids the notion that various species upon the earth from themselves produced other species. It is still true that if one desires to raise a long-handled gourd, he must plant the seed from a long-handled gourd, and there is no other way to get it. The fidelity of each species to this God-ordained law is constant.
The sheer supernaturalism of this entire narrative is its principal characteristic. The teeming myriads of earth's creatures, including man, are all here as a result of the creative and active will of the eternal God Himself. This account does not allow any thought of so-called "spontaneous" or "naturally developed" life. God alone is revealed here as the Source of life as well as the Source of all material things.
And God said, Let us…
The plural word [~'Elohiym] is used here; and the most logical understanding of it is that of seeing in it a foreshadowing of the doctrine of the Trinity revealed ages afterward in the N.T. Such views as making it like an editorial we, or the majesterial plural, or as an inclusion of angelic hosts or other heavenly beings are totally inadequate. It cannot be believed that God discussed the creation with the angels and included them as participants in His decision to create man. John 1:1, which affirms that the Word was God, and in the beginning with God, and that without Him there was nothing made that hath been made, supports the thought that both Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit (revealed in Gen. 1:2 as active in the creation) should be understood as included in us and our here. Thus, it appears from the very beginning that God is represented as a compound unity.
Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…
It is the kinship of humanity to God Himself that shines in this, a conception that is launched here and is never diminished until the God-Man Himself, The Lamb standing as though it had been slain (Revelation 5:6), is seen in the very midst of the throne of God! The great Christian doctrines of the Incarnation and the Virgin Birth are part and parcel of this.
As to the manner in which God made man in His image, it is significant that man himself is a trinity -- having mind, spirit, and body. Three classes of institutions are required in human societies to deal with human disease or failure in these three specific areas: penal institutions for gross spiritual failures, hospitals for the diseases or injuries of bones and joints, and psychiatric wards for the mentally deficient. Other phases of human likeness to God are seen in such things as freedom of will, moral responsibility, intellectual achievement, and creativity. Needless to say, the divine image has been grossly eroded in many of Adam's rebellious and sinful children. Nevertheless, even in his fallen state, man retains something of the image of God, for every human being is potentially the beneficiary of the blood of Christ and an heir of everlasting life.
And let them have dominion…
This is another quality of man's kinship with the Eternal. The intention of Almighty God in the creation of man is revealed to have been the placement of man over the earth and all that is in it, an intention frustrated in part by man's rebellion in Eden, but finally realized despite all hindrances and delays in the era of the new heavens and the new earth. Thou madest him (man) a little lower than the angels; Thou crownest him with glory and honor, and didst set him over the works of thy hands (Hebrews 2:5-7). This passage, of course, refers to the humiliation of Christ, whose being made a little lower than angels actually means made lower for a little while, i.e., in the matter of his passion and death; for the same passage indicates that man, as he was created, ranked higher than angels, for, Not unto angels did he subject the world to come, an honor reserved for man. See more on this in my commentary on Heb. 2. As Christ came into our world without sin, his true rank therefore was that of Adam, as God had created Adam, and before the Fall. Following Christ's humiliation for a brief time in the passion and death, he ascended to the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens; and thus, in the person of Christ, man has already achieved the dominion mentioned here, a dominion to be more completely realized in the final resurrection.
In the image of God. male and female created he them ..…
This means that woman also is made in the image of God.
And God blessed them, and said. Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth ..…
The procreation and nurture of the continuing generations of mankind upon earth is a God-ordained privilege and commandment.
Replenish the earth…
This does not envision a re-population of the earth, but the spread of mankind throughout all the world. There is no record of previous populations that sometimes are alleged from what is written here to have existed prior to humanity. The passage should be translated, Fill the earth and subdue it.F11
The dominion of mankind over the animate creation was summarized in Gen. 1:28f; and here that dominion was extended to the vegetable world also. The lesser dominion of the animals over the vegetable world was also noted in Gen. 1:30.
And, behold, it was very good…
The goodness and wisdom of God are thus attested by the goodness of his creation. Finding fault with some of God's created things is wrong and fails to take into account the curse later imposed upon creation for Adam's sake (Genesis 3:17).
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.