Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
Ge 1:1, 2.
1. In the beginning--a period of remote and unknown antiquity,
hid in the depths of eternal ages; and so the phrase is used in
Pr 8:22, 23.
God--the name of the Supreme Being, signifying in Hebrew,
"Strong," "Mighty." It is expressive of omnipotent power; and by its
use here in the plural form, is obscurely taught at the opening
of the Bible, a doctrine clearly revealed in other parts of it, namely,
that though God is one, there is a plurality of persons in the
Godhead--Father, Son, and Spirit, who were engaged in the creative work
Joh 1:3, 10;
created--not formed from any pre-existing materials, but made
out of nothing.
the heaven and the earth--the universe. This first verse is a
general introduction to the inspired volume, declaring the great and
important truth that all things had a beginning; that nothing
throughout the wide extent of nature existed from eternity, originated
by chance, or from the skill of any inferior agent; but that the whole
universe was produced by the creative power of God
After this preface, the narrative is confined to the earth.
2. the earth was without form and void--or in "confusion and
emptiness," as the words are rendered in
This globe, at some undescribed period, having been convulsed and
broken up, was a dark and watery waste for ages perhaps, till out of
this chaotic state, the present fabric of the world was made to arise.
the Spirit of God moved--literally, continued brooding over it,
as a fowl does, when hatching eggs. The immediate agency of the Spirit,
by working on the dead and discordant elements, combined, arranged, and
ripened them into a state adapted for being the scene of a new
creation. The account of this new creation properly begins at the end
of this second verse; and the details of the process are described in
the natural way an onlooker would have done, who beheld the changes
that successively took place.
3. God said--This phrase, which occurs so repeatedly in the
account means: willed, decreed, appointed; and the determining will of
God was followed in every instance by an immediate result. Whether the
sun was created at the same time with, or long before, the earth, the
dense accumulation of fogs and vapors which enveloped the chaos had
covered the globe with a settled gloom. But by the command of God,
light was rendered visible; the thick murky clouds were dispersed,
broken, or rarefied, and light diffused over the expanse of waters. The
effect is described in the name "day," which in Hebrew signifies
"warmth," "heat"; while the name "night" signifies a "rolling up," as
night wraps all things in a shady mantle.
4. divided the light from darkness--refers to the alternation or
succession of the one to the other, produced by the daily revolution of
the earth round its axis.
5. first day--a natural day, as the mention of its two parts
clearly determines; and Moses reckons, according to Oriental usage,
from sunset to sunset, saying not day and night as we do, but evening
6. firmament--an expanse--a beating out as a plate of metal: a
name given to the atmosphere from its appearing to an observer to be
the vault of heaven, supporting the weight of the watery
clouds. 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," that is,
separated them; and this being the apparent use of it, is the only one
mentioned, although the atmosphere serves other uses, as a medium of
life and light.
9. let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one
place--The world was to be rendered a terraqueous globe, and this
was effected by a volcanic convulsion on its surface, the upheaving of
some parts, the sinking of others, and the formation of vast hollows,
into which the waters impetuously rushed, as is graphically described
[HITCHCOCK]. Thus a large part of the earth was
left "dry land," and thus were formed oceans, seas, lakes, and rivers
which, though each having its own bed, or channel, are all connected
with the sea
11. let the earth bring forth--The bare soil was clothed with
verdure, and it is noticeable that the trees, plants, and grasses--the
three great divisions of the vegetable kingdom here mentioned--were not
called into existence in the same way as the light and the air; they
were made to grow, and they grew as they do still out of the
ground--not, however, by the slow process of vegetation, but through
the divine power, without rain, dew, or any process of labor--sprouting
up and flourishing in a single day.
14. let there be lights in the firmament--The atmosphere being
completely purified, the sun, moon, and stars were for the first time
unveiled in all their glory in the cloudless sky; and they are
described as "in the firmament" which to the eye they appear to be,
though we know they are really at vast distances from it.
16. two great lights--In consequence of the day being reckoned
as commencing at sunset--the moon, which would be seen first in the
horizon, would appear "a great light," compared with the little
twinkling stars; while its pale benign radiance would be eclipsed by
the dazzling splendor of the sun; when his resplendent orb rose in the
morning and gradually attained its meridian blaze of glory, it would
appear "the greater light" that ruled the day. Both these lights may be
said to be "made" on the fourth day--not created, indeed, for it is a
different word that is here used, but constituted, appointed to the
important and necessary office of serving as luminaries to the world,
and regulating by their motions and their influence the progress and
divisions of time.
The signs of animal life appeared in the waters and in the air.
20. moving creature--all oviparous animals, both among the finny
and the feathery tribes--remarkable for their rapid and prodigious
fowl--means every flying thing: The word rendered "whales,"
includes also sharks, crocodiles, &c.; so that from the countless
shoals of small fish to the great sea monsters, from the tiny insect to
the king of birds, the waters and the air were suddenly made to swarm
with creatures formed to live and sport in their respective
A farther advance was made by the creation of terrestrial animals, all
the various species of which are included in three classes: (1) cattle,
the herbivorous kind capable of labor or domestication.
24. beasts of the earth--(2) wild animals, whose ravenous
natures were then kept in check, and (3) all the various forms of
creeping things--from the huge reptiles to the insignificant
26. The last stage in the progress of creation being now
reached--God said, Let us make man--words which show the
peculiar importance of the work to be done, the formation of a
creature, who was to be God's representative, clothed with authority
and rule as visible head and monarch of the world.
In our image, after our likeness--This was a peculiar
distinction, the value attached to which appears in the words being
twice mentioned. And in what did this image of God consist? Not in the
erect form or features of man, not in his intellect, for the devil and
his angels are, in this respect, far superior; not in his immortality,
for he has not, like God, a past as well as a future eternity of being;
but in the moral dispositions of his soul, commonly called original
As the new creation is only a restoration of this image, the history of
the one throws light on the other; and we are informed that it is
renewed after the image of God in knowledge, righteousness, and true
28. Be fruitful, &c.--The human race in every country and age
has been the offspring of the first pair. Amid all the varieties found
among men, some black, some copper-colored, others white, the
researches of modern science lead to a conclusion, fully accordant with
the sacred history, that they are all of one species and of one family
What power in the word of God! "He spake and it was done. He commanded
and all things stood fast"
"Great and manifold are thy works, Lord God Almighty! in wisdom hast
thou made them all"
We admire that wisdom, not only in the regular progress of creation,
but in its perfect adaptation to the end. God is represented as pausing
at every stage to look at His work. No wonder He contemplated it with
complacency. Every object was in its right place, every vegetable
process going on in season, every animal in its structure and instincts
suited to its mode of life and its use in the economy of the world. He
saw everything that He had made answering the plan which His eternal
wisdom had conceived; and, "Behold it was very good"