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GENESIS 1:1-2:3


The Creation The History of Creation The Story of Creation The Story of Creation The Creation of the World
(1:1-2:3) (1:2-2:7) (1:1-2:4a) (1:1-2:4a)  
1:1-5 1:1-5 1:1-5 1:1-5 1:1-2
1:6-8 1:6-8 1:6-8 1:6-8 1:6-8
1:9-13 1:9-13 1:9-13 1:9-13 1:9-10
1:14-19 1:14-19 1:14-19 1:14-19 1:14-19
1:20-23 1:20-23 1:20-23 1:20-23 1:20-23
1:24-25 1:24-25 1:24-25 1:24-25 1:24-25
1:26-31 1:26-28 1:26-31 1:26-2:4a 1:26-27
   (27)     1:28-31
The Creation of Man and Woman 1:29-31      
2:1-3 2:1-3 2:1-3   2:1-3
  2:4-7 2:4a   2:4a

 * Although they are not inspired, paragraph divisions are the key to understanding and following the original author's intent. Each modern translation has divided and summarized the paragraphs. Every paragraph has one central topic, truth, or thought. Each version encapsulates that topic in its own distinct way. As you read the text, ask yourself which translation fits your understanding of the subject and verse divisions.
   In every chapter we must read the Bible first and try to identify its subjects (paragraphs), then compare our understanding with the modern versions. Only when we understand the original author's intent by following his logic and presentation can we truly understand the Bible. Only the original author is inspired—readers have no right to change or modify the message. Bible readers do have the responsibility of applying the inspired truth to their day and their lives.
    Note that all technical terms and abbreviations are explained fully in the following documents: Hebrew Grammatical TemsTextual Criticism, and Glossary.

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Bible Interpretation Seminar")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

  1. First paragraph
  2. Second paragraph
  3. Third paragraph, etc.


A. Studying Genesis 1-11 is difficult because:

1. we are all affected by our own life experiences, cultures, and denominational training

2. today several pressures consciously and subconsciously affect our view of "the beginnings"

a. modern archaeology (Mesopotamian parallels)

b. modern science (current theories)

c. the history of interpretation

(1) Judaism

(2) early church

3. this opening literary unit of the Bible is presented as historical narrative, but several things surprise the interpreter

a. striking Mesopotamian and Egyptian parallels

b. eastern literary techniques

c. unusual events

(1) woman created from a "rib"

(2) a talking snake

(3) a boat with two of all the animals on board for a year

(4) mixing of angels and humans

(5) long life of people

d. several word plays on the names of the main characters (cf. K. 3)

4. Christians need to be reminded of how the NT reinterprets Genesis 1 and 2 in light of Christ. He is the Father's agent in creation (cf. John 1:3,10;  1 Cor. 8:6; Heb. 1:2, of both the visible and the invisible realm (cf. Col. 1:16). This new revelation shows the need to be cautious of literalism in Genesis 1-3. The Trinity is involved in creation.

a. God the Father in Genesis 1:1

b. God the Spirit in Genesis 1:2

c. God the Son in the NT by progressive revelation

 This may explain the plurals in Genesis 1:26; 3:22; 11:7


B.  Genesis 1-11 is not a scientific document, but in some ways modern science parallels its presentation (order of creation and geological levels). It is not anti-scientific but pre-scientific. It presents truth:

1. from an earth perspective (a human observer on this planet)

2. from a phenomenological perspective (i.e., the five senses; the way things appear to the human observer)

It has functioned as a revealer of truth for many cultures over many years. It presents truth to a modern scientific culture but without specific explanation of events.

C. It is amazingly succinct, beautifully described and artistically structured.

1. things divide

2. things develop

3. From chaos to a physical planet teeming with life


D. The keys to its understanding are found in

1. its genre

2. its relation to its own day (see John H. Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One)

3. its structure

4. its monotheism

5. its theological purpose

Interpretation must balance:

1. an exegesis of the verses

2. a systematic understanding of all Scripture

3. genre specificity

  It reveals the origin of physical things ("and it was good," cf. Gen. 1:31) and the corruption of these things (cf. chapter 3). In many ways the Christ event is a new creation and Jesus is the new Adam (cf. Rom. 5:12-21). The new age may ultimately be a restoration of the garden of Eden and its intimate fellowship with God and the animals (compare Genesis 1-2 with Revelation 21-22).

E. The great truth of this chapter is not how or when, but the who and why!


F. Genesis reflects true knowledge but not exhaustive knowledge. It is given to us in ancient (Mesopotamian) thought forms and vocabulary, but it is infallible theological truth. It is related to its day, but it is totally unique. It speaks of the inexpressible, yet it speaks truly. Basically it is a worldview (who and why), not a world-picture (how and when). See Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, "Cosmology," pp. 169-174.


G. Without Genesis 1-3 the Bible is incomprehensible. Notice how quickly the story moves from

  1. sin to redemption
  2. humanity to Israel

Creation forms an integral but passing piece of the account of God's choice of Israel for the purpose of world-wide redemption (cf. Gen. 3:15; 12:3; 22:18; Exod. 19:5-6 and John 3:16; Acts 3:25; Gal. 3:8; 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9).

Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redmptive Plan

H. Your answer to the question, "What is the purpose of Inspiration and Revelation?" will affect the way you see Genesis 1. If you see the purpose as the impartation of facts about creation, you will view it one way (i.e. propositional truths). If you see it as conveying general truths about God , humanity, and sin, then possibly you will see it theologically (i.e. paradigmatic). If, however, you view the basic purpose as the establishment of a relationship between God and mankind (i.e., existentially).


I. This section of Genesis is surely theological. As the plagues of the Exodus (cf. Exod. 7-11) showed YHWH's power over the nature gods of Egypt; Genesis 1:1-2:3 may show YHWH's power over the astral gods of Mesopotamia. The main subject is God. God alone did it for His own purposes.


J. I marvel at my own ignorance! I am appalled at my own historical, cultural, and denominational conditioning! What a mighty God we serve! What an awesome God has reached out to us (even in our rebellion)! The Bible is a balance of love and power; grace and justice! The more we know the more we know we don't know!


K. Here are the basic approaches of some helpful books:

1. Genesis 1-2 interpreted along the lines of modern science:

a. Bernard Ramm's The Christian View of Science and Scripture (good scientifically and theologically)

b. Hugh Ross' Creation and Time and The Genesis Question (good scientifically but weak theologically)

c. Harry Peo and Jimmy Davis' Science and Faith: An Evangelical Dialog (very helpful)

d. Darrel R. Falk, Coming to Peace with Science: Bridging the Worlds Between Faith and Biology (evangelical approach to theistic evolution)

e. Francis S. Collins, The Language of God

f. Fazale Rana and Hugh Ross, Who Was Adam?

2. Genesis 1-2 interpreted along the lines of ancient Near Eastern parallels

a. R. K. Harrison's Introduction to the Old Testament and Old Testament Times

b. John H. Walton's The Lost World of Genesis One

c. K. A. Kitchen's Ancient Orient and Old Testament

d. Edwin M. Yamauchi's The Stones and the Scriptures

3. Genesis 1-2 interpreted along the lines of theology from LaSor, Hubbard and Bush's Old Testament Survey

a. "Literary device also is found in the names used. The correspondence of the name with the person's function or role is striking in several instances. Adam means "mankind" and Eve is "(she who gives) life." Surely, when an author of a story names the principal characters Mankind and Life, something is conveyed about the degree of literalness intended! Similarly Cain means "forger (of metals)"; Enoch is connected with "dedication, consecration" (4:17; 5:18); Jubal with horn and trumpet (4:21); while Cain, condemned to be a d, a "wanderer," goes to live in the land of Nod, a name transparently derived from the same Hebrew root, thus the land of wandering! This suggests that the author is writing as an artist, a storyteller, who uses literary device and artifice. One must endeavor to distinguish what he intends to teach from the literary means employed" p. 72.

b. the theological implication of Genesis 1-11:

"Implication for Gen. 1-11. Recognizing the literary technique and form and noting the literary background of chs. 1-11 does not constitute a challenge to the reality, the "eventness," of the facts portrayed. One need not regard this account as myth; however, it is not "history" in the modern sense of eyewitness, objective reporting. Rather, it conveys theological truths about events, portrayed in a largely symbolic, pictorial literary genre. This is not to say that Gen. 1-11 conveys historical falsehood. That conclusion would follow only if it purported to contain objective descriptions. The clear evidence already reviewed shows that such was not the intent. On the other hand, the view that the truths taught in these chapters have no objective basis is mistaken. They affirm fundamental truths: creation of all things by God; special divine intervention in the production of the first man and woman; unity of the human race; pristine goodness of the created world, including humanity; entrance of sin through the disobedience of the first pair; depravity and rampant sin after the Fall. All these truths are facts, and their certainty implies the reality of the facts. Put another way, the biblical author uses such literary traditions to describe unique primeval events that have no time-conditioned, human-conditioned, experience-based historical analogy and hence can be described only by symbol. The same problem arises at the end time: the biblical author there, in the book of Revelation, adopts the esoteric imagery and involved literary artifice of apocalyptic" p. 74.

c. If it is true that one language was spoken in Genesis 1-10 (cf. Samuel Noah Kramer, The Babel of Tongues: A Sumerian Version, "Journal of the American Oriental Society, 88:108-11), then it needs to be clearly stated that it was not Hebrew. Therefore, all of the Hebrew word plays are from Moses' day or patriarchal oral traditions. This verifies the literary nature of Genesis 1-11.  Also see John H. Walton, The Lost World of Adam and Eve, pp. 58-62.

4. I would like to make a personal comment. I love and appreciate those who love and appreciate the Bible. I am so grateful for people who take its message as an inspired, authoritative message from the One true God. All of us who study the Scriptures are attempting to worship and glorify God with our minds (cf. Matt. 22:37). The fact that we as individual believers approach the Bible differently is not an aspect of unbelief or rebellion but an act of sincere devotion and an attempt to understand so as to incorporate God's truth into our lives. The more I study Genesis 1-11 and for that matter, much of the book of Revelation, I perceive it is true but literary, not literal. The key in interpreting the Bible is not my applying a personal philosophical or hermeneutical grid over the text but allowing the intent of the inspired original authors to fully express themselves. To take a literary passage and demand it to be literal when the text itself gives clues to its symbolic and figurative nature imposes my biases on a divine message. Genre (type of literature) is the key in a theological understanding of "how it all began" and "how it will all end." I appreciate the sincerity and commitment of those who, for whatever reason, usually personality type or professional training, interpret the Bible in modern, literal, western categories, when in fact it is an ancient eastern book. I say all this to say that I am grateful to God for those who approach Genesis 1-11 with presuppositions that I personally do not share, for I know they will help, encourage and reach people of like personalities and perspectives to love, trust and apply God's Book to their lives! However, I do not agree that Genesis 1-11 or the book of Revelation should be approached literally, whether it is Creation Research Society (i.e. young earth) or Hugh Ross's Reasons to Believe (i.e. old earth). For me this section of the Bible emphasizes the "Who" and "why" not the "how" and "when" of creation. I accept the modern science's sincerity in studying the physical aspects of creation. I reject "naturalism" (i.e. all life is a chance development of natural processes), but surely see process as a valid and demonstrable aspect of our world and universe. I think God directed and used process. But natural processes do not explain the diversity and complexity of life, current and past. To truly understand current reality I need both the theoretical models of modern science and the theological models of Genesis 1-11. Genesis 1-11 is a theological necessity for understanding the rest of the Bible but it is an ancient, literary, succinct, artistic, eastern presentation, not a literal, modern, western presentation.

       Parts of the Bible are surely historical narrative. There is a place for the literal interpretation of Scripture: there was a call of Abraham, an Exodus, a virgin birth, a Calvary, a resurrection; there will be a second coming and an eternal kingdom. The question is one of genre, not reality, of authorial intent, not personal preferences in interpretation.

  L.  Special Topic: The Age and Formation of the Earth


 1In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. 3Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. 4God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.

1:1 "In the beginning" Bereshith (BDB 912) is the Hebrew title of the book. We get the name Genesis from the Septuagint translation. This is the beginning of history but not of God's activity (cf. Matt. 25:34; John 17:5,25; Eph. 1:4; Titus 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:9; 1 Pet. 1:19-20; Rev. 13:8). R. K. Harrison says it should be translated "by way of beginning" (Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 542 footnote 3). John H. Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One says it introduces a period of time (p. 45).

Special Topic: Foundations of the Earth

Verse one tells us what God will do in vv. 3-31. Verse 2 tells us what the earth was like before it was ordered. Notice that the planet with its water was already in existence. This is not an account of the beginning of water but the organization of this planet for human life.

▣ "God" Elohim (BDB 43) is a PLURAL form of the general name for God in the Ancient Near East, El (BDB 42). When referring to the God of Israel the verb is usually (6 exceptions) SINGULAR. The rabbis say that it speaks of God as creator, provider and sustainer of all life on planet earth (cf. Ps. 19:1-6; 104). Notice how often this name for Deity is used in chapter 1.  The ANE's worldview was spiritual not material. These nations shared a worldview that is alien to modern, western, materialistic, cause-and-effect naturalism.

Special Topic: Names for Deity

I believe that this verse is an independent clause: Ibn Ezra says that it is a dependent clause with the emphasis on Gen. 1:2 while Rashi says that Gen. 1:2 is a parenthesis and the emphasis is on Gen. 1:3. Modern dispensational commentators say that Gen. 1:1 is a dependent clause in order to support their view of a previous fall (the gap theory). See a good brief discussion in NIDOTTE, vol. 3, pp. 1025-1026, #2.

The Bible does not discuss or reveal the origin of God. He has always existed (cf. Ps. 90:2). There is surely mystery here. Mankind simply cannot grasp the fullness of God!

▣ "created" Bara (cf. Gen. 1:1,21,27; 2:3,4) is the Hebrew VERB (BDB 135 I, KB 153, Qal PERFECT) used exclusively for God's creative activity (used most in Isaiah 40-66). Its basic meaning is to fashion by cutting (BDB 135 III, in the Piel stem). God willed into being everything but Himself by a process of dividing, separating, or cutting. Psalm 33:6,9; Heb. 11:3 and 2 Pet. 3:5 present original creation (cosmology) by God's spoken word (fiat) from nothing (ex nihilo, cf. 2 Macc. 7:28). Whatever bara (Qal and Niphal) implies, it accentuates God's activity and purpose! See John H. Walton, The Lost World of Adam and Eve, pp. 29-34.

The Bible asserts that creation has a beginning point. Twenty-first century science would characterize this as the "big bang." Naturalism can now not assert an unlimited regression back in time. However, it is probable that Genesis 1 refers to the beginning of a functioning earth, not the material beginning of matter (see John H. Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One and Genesis 1 As Ancient Cosmology).

▣ "the heavens" The word "heavens" (BDB 1029) may be used in several senses:

  1. it refers to the atmosphere of the earth as in Gen. 1:8 and 20
  2. it may refer to the entire cosmos (i.e., all material existence)
  3. it may refer to the creation of all things visible (material) and invisible (angels, heaven as God's throne)

If option three is true then a parallel would be Col. 1:16. If not, then Genesis 1 focuses only on the organization of this planet. The Bible emphasizes a geocentric perspective (i.e., creation seen as a spectator on this planet would have observed it).

Special Topic: Heaven

▣ "the earth" The term (BDB 75) can refer to a specific land, country or the whole planet. Genesis 1 is admittedly geocentric (cf. Gen. 1:15). This fits the theological purpose of the chapter, not science. Remember that the Bible is written in the language of description for theological purposes. It is not anti-scientific, but pre-scientific.

Special Topic: Land, Country, Earth

John H. Walton, in his new and helpful book, The Lost World of Adam and Eve, describes these terms as expressing the ANE cosmological concept of a pre-creation, non-functioning world, pp. 28-29; also note Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the OT, "Precosmic Condition and Order," p. 187.

1:2 "The earth was" This VERB (BDB 224, KB 243, Qal PERFECT) can only very rarely be translated "became." Grammatically and contextually "was" is preferable. Don't let your (i.e., dispensational premillennial) pre-suppositional theology of two falls (the gap theory) affect the exegesis of the text. See John H. Walton and D. Brent Sandy, The Lost World of Scripture, pp. 284-285.

NASB   "formless and void"
NKJV, Peshitta   "without form, and void"
NRSV, NJB   "a formless void"
TEV   "formless and desolate"
NIV   "formless and empty"
REB   "a vast waste"
LXX   "invisible and unformed"
JPSOA   "unformed and void"
ASV   "waste and void"

These two terms (BDB 1062, KB 1688-1690 and BDB 96, KB 111; NIDOTTE, vol. 1, pp. 606-608) describe a non-functional, nor-ordered planet. These words appear together in Isa. 34:11 and Jer. 4:23. They are used in the Sumerian and Babylonian accounts of creation but in a mythological sense. This state of creation shows that God used a progressive process to an inhabitable earth (cf. Isa. 45:18). These two words describe, not the beginning of matter, but a state of an undeveloped, non-functioning orderly system (John H. Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One p. 49). It is not ready for humanity (cf. Isa. 45:18)! Also note John Walton's Genesis 1 As Ancient Cosmology and Bernard Ramm, Christian View of Science and Scripture.

John H. Walton, in his new and helpful book, The Lost World of Adam and Eve, describes these terms as expressing the ANE cosmological concept of a "pre-creation, non-functioning world," pp. 38-39; also note Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the OT, "Precosmic Condition and Order, p. 187.

▣ "darkness" This term (BDB 365; NIDOTTE, vol. 2, p. 313) does not represent evil, but original chaos. God names the darkness in Gen. 1:5 as He does the light. These two terms, though often used in the Bible to denote spiritual realities, here are representing original physical conditions (i.e., Job 38:8-11).

▣ "the deep" The Hebrew term is tehom (BDB 1062 #3, KB 1690-91; notice the root is very similar to "formless," v. 2). A similar, but different, Semitic root (NIDOTTE, vol. 4, pp. 275-277) is personified as Tiamat in the Sumerian and Babylonian creation myths as the monster of chaos and the mother of the gods, wife of Apsu. She tried to kill all lesser gods that came forth from her. Marduk killed her. Out of her body Marduk fashioned heaven and earth in the Babylonian Genesis called Enuma Elish. The Hebrews believed that water was the beginning element of creation (cf. Job 38:8-11; Ps. 24:1-2; 104:6; 2 Pet. 3:5). It is never said to have been specially called into existence. However, the Hebrew term is MASCULINE, not FEMININE, and it is unrelated etymologically to Tiamat. The Bible uses ANE mythological vocabulary but only in an illustrative sense. The ANE was polytheistic but Israel was strictly monotheistic. See G. B. Caird, The Language and Imagery of the Bible, chapter 13, "The Language of Myth," pp. 219-242.

There are passages in the OT which describe YHWH in conflict with personified watery chaos (cf. Ps. 74:13-14; 89:9-10; 104:6-7; Isa. 51:9-10). However, these are always in poetical, metaphorical passages. Water is a crucial aspect of creation (cf. Gen. 1:2b,6-7).

Special Topic: Waters

NASB, NKJV, TEV, NIV, Peshitta   "the Spirit of God"
NRSV. JPSOA   "a wind from God"
NJB   "a divine wind"
REB   "the spirit of God"
LXX   "a breath of God"

The Hebrew term ruach (BDB 924) and the Greek term pneuma (cf. John 3:5,8) can mean "spirit," "breath" or "wind." The Spirit is often associated with creation (cf. Gen. 1:2; Job 26:13; Ps. 104:29-30; 147:14-18). The OT does not clearly define the relationship between God and the Spirit. In Job 28:26-28; Ps. 104:24 and Pro. 3:19; 8:22-23 God used wisdom (a FEMININE NOUN) to create all things.

It is very possible that the JPSOA "word" may be the ANE thought (i.e., in Enuma Elish, Anu creates four winds that affect the waters). This same imagery is found in Dan. 7:2.

Special Topic: Breath, Wind, Spirit

One of my favorite books on how to understand biblical prophetic or apocalyptic literature is D. Brent Sandy, Plowshares and Pruning Hooks. It lists all the different imagery used to describe Deity's presence (p. 77) in Moses' writings (expanded).

  1. a mother bird hovering over its nest, Gen. 1:2
  2. a human walking, Gen. 3:8
  3. a smoking oven and lighted torch, Genesis 15
  4. a human observer, Gen. 11:5
  5. an angel in Gen. 19:22-33
  6. a person at the top of an angelic ladder, Gen. 28:13
  7. a night wrestler, Gen. 32:22-32
  8. a burning bush, Exod. 3:2-4
  9. a burning pillar of cloud, Exod. 13:21-22; Num. 9:15
  10. a storm, Exod. 19:9,16,18-19; 20:18
  11. a human writer, Exod. 31:18; 32:16; 34:1
  12. also note the military captain of Joshua 5:13-16

What a wide variety of imagery to demonstrate God's presence with His people.

In the NT Jesus is said to be God's agent in creation (cf. John 1:1-3; 1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:15-17; Heb. 1:2-3). As in redemption, so too, in creation, all three persons of the Godhead are involved. Genesis 1 itself does not emphasize any secondary cause.

Special Topic: Spirit in the Bible

Special Topic: The Trinity

NASB, TEV   "moving"
NKJV, NIV   "hovering"
NRSV   "swept"
NJB, JPSOA   "sweeping"
LXX   "was being carried along"
Peshitta   "moved"

This term (BDB 934, KB 1219, Piel PARTICIPLE) developed the connotation of "brooding" or "active hovering" (cf. JB). This is bird imagery (i.e., Syrian, "brood," cf. Deut. 32:11; for similar imagery see Exod. 19:4; Isa. 31:5). It is not related to the Egyptian or Phoenician cosmology, which asserts that the earth came from an egg, but a FEMININE metaphor for God's active parental care, as well as His step-by-step development of His creation!

1:3 "God said" This is the theological concept of creation by the spoken word, using the Latin word fiat (cf. Gen. 1:9,14,20,24,29; Ps. 33:6; 148:5; 2 Cor. 4:6; Heb. 11:3; see John H. Walton, The Lost World of Adam and Eve, pp. 33-34). This has often been described as "out of nothing matter came into being," by God's command, using the Latin phrase ex nihilo (cf. II Macc. 7:28). However, it is probable that Genesis 1 is not about the original creation of matter but the organizing of existing matter into a functioning planet (cf. John H. Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One, p. 54ff).

This power of the spoken word can also be seen in:

  1. the patriarchal blessing
  2. God's self accomplishing redemptive word, Isa. 55:6-13, esp. v. 11
  3. Jesus as the Word in John 1:1
  4. Jesus as returning with a two-edged sword in His mouth (cf. 2 Thess. 2:8; Heb. 4:12; Rev. 1:6; 2:12,16; 19:15,21). This is an idiomatic way of creation by God's will through thought and word. What God wants, occurs!

Special Topic: Hebrew and Greek Background of Logos

▣ "Let there be" These are JUSSIVES (cf. Gen. 1:3, 6 [twice], 9 [twice in meaning, not form], 11, 14, 20 [twice in meaning, not form], 22, 24, 26 [in meaning, not form]). God commands and the physical responds.

1:4 "God saw that the light was good" (cf. Gen. 1:4,10,12,18,21,25,31) All creation was "very good" (cf. Gen. 1:31). Evil was not part of God's original creation, but a perversion of the good. "Good" here probably means "fits its purpose" (cf. Isa. 41:7) or "intrinsically without flaw" (BDB 373). Genesis 1 is about an orderly and functioning earth (NIDOTTE, vol. 2, p. 353, #1), not the creation of matter or the cosmos.

▣ "God separated" This VERB (BDB 95, KB 110, Hiphil IMPERFECT with waw) is characteristic of how God develops His creation (cf. Gen. 1:4,6,7,14,18; NIDOTTE, vol.1, p. 604, #1). This act was ANE imagery showing how God brought functionality to His creation.

▣ "light" Remember that there is no sun yet. Be careful not to be dogmatic about the time sequence.

  1. 24 hours for the earth to rotate which may not have been constant throughout earth's history
  2. the speed of light as a reliable constant to date earth years

Light (BDB 21) is a biblical symbol of life, purity, and truth (cf. Job 33:30; Ps. 56:13; 112:4; Isa. 58:8,10; 59:9; 60:1-3; John 1:5-9; 2 Cor. 4:6). In Rev. 22:5 there is light with no sun. Also notice that darkness is created (cf. Isa. 45:7) and named by God (cf. Gen. 1:5) which shows His control (cf. Ps. 74:16; 104:20-23; 139:12).

John H. Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One (p. 55ff), based on Gen. 1:4,5, asserts that this means "a period of light," not the origin of the sun. Remember, Genesis 1 is not primarily about the origin of matter but the functioning of God's ordered world.

1:5 "God called" (Gen. 1:8,10) This naming is an ANE idiom showing God's ownership and control.

▣ "And there was evening and there was morning" This order could reflect the existence of darkness before the creation of light. The rabbis interpreted this as the day beginning in the evening. There was dark and then there was light. This is reflected in Jesus' day also where the new day began at twilight, in the evening. Time, as we experience it, began here (i.e., Gen. 8:22).

▣ "day" The Hebrew term yom (BDB 398) can refer to a period of time (cf. Gen. 2:4; 5:2; Ruth 1:1; Ps. 50:15; 90:4; Eccl. 7:14; Isa. 4:2; 11:10; Zech. 4:10), but usually it refers to a 24-hour day (i.e., Exod. 20:9-10).

Special Topic: Day (yom)

6Then God said, "Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters." 7God made the expanse, and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so. 8God called the expanse heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.

1:6 This verse has two Qal JUSSIVES ("Let...) From the VERB "be" (BDB 224, KB 243). The same construction is in Gen. 1:14 and Gen. 1:22.

NASB, NET, JPSOA  "an expanse"
NKJV, LXX, Peshitta  "firmament"
NRSV, TEV, NAB  "dome"
NJB, REB  "vault"

This term (BDB 956, KB 1290) could mean "to hammer out" or "to stretch out" as in Isa. 42:5. This refers to the earth's atmosphere (cf. Gen. 1:20) depicted metaphorically as an air vault or inverted bowl above the surface of the earth (cf. Job 37:18; Isa. 40:22).

▣ "waters" Fresh water and salt water are important elements in extra-biblical creation accounts, but in the Bible they are controlled by God. There is no distinction in Genesis 1 made between salt water and fresh water. The water in the atmosphere is divided from the water on the earth by the "expanse" (see above, cf. Ps. 148:4). Analysis of Genesis 1 shows that God separates several things as a process to an inhabited earth (light from dark, water above from water below, water below from dry land, sun time from moon time).

Special Topic: Waters

1:7 "separated the waters" God is in control of watery chaos (BDB 95, KB 110, Hiphil PARTICIPLE). He sets their boundaries (cf. Job 38:8-11; Ps. 33:6-7; 104:6-9; Isa. 40:12).

▣ "and it was so" Whatever God willed occurred and occurs (cf. Gen. 1:9,11,15,24,30). There is only one causality in the OT (i.e., 2 Chr. 20:6; Eccl. 7:14; Isa. 14:24-27; 43:13; 45:7; 54:16; Jer. 18:11; Lam. 3:33-38; Amos 3:6).

9Then God said, "Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear"; and it was so. 10God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas; and God saw that it was good. 11Then God said, "Let the earth sprout vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them"; and it was so. 12The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good. 13There was evening and there was morning, a third day.

1:9-10 The initial two VERBS (BDB 876, KB 1082, PLURAL, and BDB 906, KB 1157, SINGULAR) are both Niphal IMPERFECTS used as JUSSIVES. Does this imply one continent (i.e., Pangaea)? The earth is changing form (i.e., tectonic plates) continually. The question again is the age of the earth.

Notice also God controls all natural phenomenon. There are no nature gods!

Special Topic: Age and Formation of the Earth

Special Topic: Waters

1:9 "let the dry land appear" This is similar to the original holy hill emerging from the flood waters of Egyptian cosmology. Another example of this sharing of a common worldview throughout the ANE would be humans created from clay. This is common to the creation accounts of Mesopotamia, Egypt and Israel.

1:10 "God saw" This anthropomorphic language is crucial to the creation account (i.e., God "said," "saw," "caused," "made," "placed," "worked," "rested," "formed," "planted," etc.) because of the monotheistic and personal nature of Israel's God. But we must remember we are speaking of an eternal, holy, spiritual being in temporal, physical, human vocabulary. This language is adequate to communicate truth but it is not literal or exhaustive!

Special Topic: God Described As Human

1:11-12 This was not meant to be a technical description for the origin of all plant life. It seems to refer to three types of plants: grasses, grains, and fruit. The animals will eat the first and second; humans will eat the second and third. God is preparing the earth step by step as a stage or platform on which to fellowship with and sustain His highest creation, mankind.

There have been several modern scientific theories as to the order of the development of plant life. Some scientists would assert this very order. But we must be careful because scientific theories change. Christians do not believe the Bible because science and archaeology confirm a matter. We believe it because of the peace we have found in Christ and the Bible's own statements of inspiration.

1:11 "Let the earth sprout" This is a Hiphel JUSSIVE of the VERB "sprout" (BDB 205, KB 233).

▣ "after their kind" Creation is structured (cf. Gen. 1:12,21,24,25; 6:20; 7:14; NIDOTTE, vol. 2, p. 934) so that once created, plants, animals and humans can reproduce and adapt in and of themselves. God created life to adapt. At this level, evolution to varying conditions surely occurred through time (micro-evolution or horizontal evolution).

There is a growing trend in theology toward the concept of progressive creation which implies that God may have created mankind

  1. in stages
  2. Adam and Eve were created at a later stage, fully developed (cf. writings of Bernard Ramm and Hugh Ross)

In contrast to the ancient Near East where fertility was worshiped as twin gods, this shows the source of life as God, not a sexual act. In many ways this creation account diminishes the gods of the ancient Near East (water; light/dark; heavenly bodies; forces of nature; and fertility gods) as the plagues of the Exodus depreciated the gods of Egypt. The sole initiator is the one and only God!

Special Topic: Monotheism

 14Then God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years; 15and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth"; and it was so. 16God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also. 17God placed them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18and to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good. 19There was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.

1:14 "in the expanse" See note at Gen. 1:6. This hard dome was where

  1. heavenly nights moved
  2. had windows for rain

▣ "for signs and for seasons and for days and years" The heavenly lights were to mark feast days (cf. Gen. 18:14; Leviticus 23; Deut. 31:10) and cycles of rest, work, and worship (cf. Ps. 104:19-23). The sun was created to divide the calendar and each day into segments of time to help humans fulfill all their responsibilities (i.e., physical and spiritual).

Special Topic: Sign (OT)

1:16 "the two great lights. . .He made the stars also" God is creator of the heavenly bodies (cf. Isa. 40:26). They are not deities to be worshiped (Mesopotamian astral worship, cf. Deut. 4:19; 17:3; 2 Kgs. 23:5; Jer. 8:2; Ezek. 8:16) but natural servants (cf. Ps. 19:1-6). This is a theological statement!

Notice the author does not mention by name the "sun" (BDB 1039) or "moon" (BDB 437).

Special Topic: Moon Worship

1:17-18 The parallel structure of the Hebrew implies three purposes (v. 18) in addition to Gen. 1:14.

 20Then God said, "Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens." 21God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind; and God saw that it was good. 22God blessed them, saying, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth." 23There was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.

1:20-23 Invertebrates appear in the Cambrian Period suddenly and in an abundance of forms. There is no physical evidence of a gradual development.

TheVERBS "swarm" (BDB 1056, KB 1655) and "fly" (BDB 733, KB 800) used in Gen. 1:20 are both IMPERFECTs used as JUSSIVES.

1:20 "living creatures" This same word, nephesh (BDB 659), is used of humans (cf. Gen. 2:7) and animals (cf. Gen. 2:19; Lev. 11:46; 24:18). It represents an air-breathing life force (cf. Ezek. 18:4) related to and dependent on this planet. See full notes at Gen. 35:18 and Lev. 17:11.

▣ "birds" Literally this is "flying things" (BDB 733) because in Deut. 14:19-20 it can also refer to insects.

1:21 "created" This is the term bara (BDB 135, KB 153, Qal IMPERFECT) as in Gen. 1:1. It implies divine creation. "Man and the animals" are "made" in Gen. 1:24-25 which implies out of previously existing matter (i.e., dirt). However bara is used for "man" in Gen. 1:27 (three times).

This special term is used of

  1. the universe (or earth) in Gen. 1:1
  2. of the sea creatures in Gen. 1:21
  3. of mankind in Gen. 1:27
NASB, NRSV, TEV, NJB, JPSOA, Peshitta   "the great sea monsters"
NKJV, NIV   "great sea creatures"
LXX, KJV   "great whales"
JB   "great sea-serpents"

This may refer to leviathan (BDB 1072, cf. Ps. 104:26; 148:7; Job 41:1ff). Sometimes the word is associated with Israel's enemies: (1) Egypt, Isa. 51:9; Ezek. 29:3; 32:2 (sometimes referred to as "Rahab," cf. Ps. 89:10; Isa. 51:9) and (2) Babylon, Jer. 51:34. Often it is associated with cosmic/spiritual enemies, Job. 7:12; Ps. 74:13; Isa. 27:1. The Canaanite creation account makes this a god fighting against Baal but in the Bible it is a good creation of the one true God.

Special Topic: Leviathan

▣ "every winged bird" This includes everything that flies, birds and insects (cf. Deut. 14:19-20).

1:22 As the plants were made to reproduce, so too, the animals. God wants His prepared planet filled with life (series of three Qal IMPERATIVES [and one JUSSIVE, referring to birds], cf. Gen. 1:28; 9:1,7). This was one of the rebellion issues (i.e., unwillingness to separate and fill the planet) of the Tower of Babel (cf. Genesis 10-11).

As Gen. 1:7-19 shows God's creating a functional planet, vv. 20-31 show God filling this planet with animal and human life.


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

  1. How is science related to the Bible?
  2. The real questions are the "who" and "why" of creation, not the "how" and "when." If this is true, how then should we interpret Genesis 1-2?
  3. How did God "create" the physical world? Should we push fiat, ex nihilo if this is poetry?
  4. What is the major thrust of Genesis 1?
  5. How is the Bible like/unlike other creation accounts?
  6. Is Genesis 1 related directly to Genesis 2 or is Genesis 2 related directly to Genesis 3?


  1. Objections Sustained by Phillip Johnson
  2. Darwin on Trial by Phillip Johnson
  3. Creation and Time by Hugh Ross
  4. The Creator and the Cosmos by Hugh Ross
  5. The Genesis Question by Hugh Ross
  6. The Christian View of Science and Scripture by Bernard Ramm
  7. The Scientific Enterprise and Christian Faith by Malcolm A. Jeeves
  8. Coming to Peace with Science by Darrel R. Falk
  9. The Language of God by Francis S. Collins
  10. Who was Adam? by Fazale Rana and Hugh Ross
  11. The Lost World of Genesis One, IVP (2009) by John H. Walton
  12. Genesis 1 As Ancient Cosmology, by John H. Walton



  1. In the past two centuries, OT scholars have often asserted that Genesis records two creation accounts by different authors, using different names for God. However:
    1. this may be typical eastern literary form of a general account followed by a more specific account
    2. Genesis 1:1-2:3 may be a summary account of the creation of this planet with all its inhabitants, and Gen. 2:4-25 refers to the creation of the first couple or archetypical couple
    3. this may reflect the different aspects of God's character (i.e., rabbinical, see Special Topic: Names for Deity, C. and D.)
      1. Elohim ‒ creator, provider and sustainer of all life, i.e., Gen. 1:1
      2. YHWH ‒ savior, redeemer and covenant God of Israel, i.e., Gen. 2:4

  2. There seems to be a distinction made between God creating out of nothing and created things bringing forth. Example: God created in Gen. 1:21 yet in Gen. 1:20 the water produces; in Gen. 1:25 God made yet in Gen. 1:24 the earth produced. Augustine noticed this distinction and postulated two acts of creation:
    1. matter and spiritual beings
    2. their organization and diversification

  3. This passage clearly teaches that humans are like the higher land animals:
    1. both have nephesh, Gen. 1:24 and 2:7
    2. both were created on the sixth day, Gen. 1:31
    3. both were created from the ground, Gen. 2:19
    4. both eat plants for food, Gen. 1:29-30
    5. both procreate
      However, humans are also like God:
    1. special creation, Gen. 1:26; 2:7
    2. made in the image and likeness of God, Gen. 1:26
    3. have dominion, Gen. 1:26,28

  4. Genesis 1:26 "Let us . . . " (cf. Gen. 1:26; 3:22; 11:7; Isa. 6:8) has been greatly discussed. Several theories have emerged:
    1. The PLURAL OF MAJESTY (but no early example in the Bible or in rabbinic literature)
    2. God speaking of Himself and the heavenly court of angels, 1 Kgs. 22:19; 2 Chr. 18:18; Dan. 7:9,10; (also note Ps. 29:1; 149:1)
    3. Points toward plurality in God, and therefore, foreshadowing of the Trinity, see Special Topic: The Trinity, Gen. 3:22;11:7; Isa. 6:8. It is to be noted that
      1. Elohim is PLURAL
      2. divine persons are mentioned in Ps. 2:2; 110:1,4: Zech. 3:8-10

  5. Theories as to the meaning of image and likeness:
    1. Irenaeus and Tertullian:
      1. Image ‒ physical aspects of humanity
      2. Likeness ‒ spiritual aspects of humanity
    2. Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Athanasius, Hilary, Ambrose, Augustine, and John of Damascus
      1. Image ‒ non-physical characteristics of man
      2. Likeness ‒ aspects of man that can be developed such as holiness or morality, and if not developed then are lost
    3. The Scholastics (Thomas Aquinas)
      1. Image ‒ mankind's rational ability and freedom (natural)
      2. Likeness ‒ original righteousness and supernatural gifts that were lost at the fall
    4. The Reformers
      1. All basically denied any distinction between the terms (Gen. 5:1; 9:6).
      2. Luther and Calvin both express this concept in different terms, but basically expressed the same truth.
    5. I think that they refer to our
      1. personality
      2. consciousness
      3. language skills
      4. volition
      5. morality

 Humans are uniquely prepared for fellowship with God. They are physically similar to animals but with a special element from God.

F. See Special Topic: Natural Resources


 24Then 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. 25God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good.

1:24 "Then God said" Elohim (BDB 43) is the ancient PLURAL name for God which dominates chapter 1. The etymology is uncertain. See Special Topic: Names for Deity, C. The rabbis say that it shows God as creator, provider and sustainer of all life on planet earth. The PLURAL seems to be theologically significant when connected with Gen. 1:26; 3:22; 11:7 and the plurality of the word "one," which is found in the great prayer of monotheism (Shema), Deut. 6:4-6. When used of the God of Israel the VERB is almost always SINGULAR. The term elohim in the OT can refer to

  1. angels (cf. Ps. 8:5)
  2. human judges (cf. Exod. 21:6; 22:8,9; Ps. 82:1)
  3. other gods (cf. Exod. 18:11; 20:3; 1 Sam. 4:8)

▣ "Let the earth bring forth" This (BDB 422, KB 425) is a Hiphil JUSSIVE. There is a distinction made in Genesis 1 between God creating by the spoken word out of nothing and that which He created, reproducing (i.e., adapting). Compare Gen. 1:20 and 21 with Gen. 1:24 and 25.

▣ "living creatures after their kind" Genesis 1:24-25 describes the land animals both large and small, domestic and wild. Notice the term "living creatures"(BDB 659 and 311) is based on the term nephesh, which is the word used for humans in Gen. 2:7. It is obvious that the uniqueness of mankind is not found in the term nephesh. See note at Gen. 35:18 and Lev. 17:11. Also note there are no "clean" or "unclean" animals at this point (cf. Gen. 9:3) but a distinction will occur in Gen. 7:2,8,20.

▣ "creeping things" Literally this refers to "gliding," or "sliding" (BDB 943). This is the same word that is used in Gen. 1:21, "that moves." It seems to refer to all animals which do not walk on their legs or that they have such short legs that they are unnoticeable.

▣ "and it was so" God's desires became reality! See note at Gen. 1:7.

1:25 "and God saw that it was good" God's creation was good (BDB 373) and is proclaimed to be "very good" in Gen. 1:31. This may be a Hebrew idiom meaning adequate for an assigned purpose or function.

 26Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." 27God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28God blessed them; and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth." 29Then God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; 30and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food"; and it was so. 31God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

1:26 "Let Us make" The form (BDB 793, KB 889) is Qal IMPERFECT, but is used in a COHORTATIVE sense. There has been much discussion over the PLURAL "us" (cf. Gen. 3:22; 11:7).

  1. Philo, Eben Ezra, and F. F. Bruce say it is "the PLURAL OF MAJESTY," but this grammatical form does not occur until much later in Jewish literary history (NET Bible says it does not occur with VERBS, p. 5).
  2. Rashi says that it refers to the heavenly court (cf. 1 Kgs. 22:19-23; Job 1:6-12; 2:1-6; Isa. 6:8), but this cannot imply that angels had a part in creation, nor that they have the divine image.
  3. Others assume that it is an incipient form of the concept of a Triune God. See Special Topic: Trinity.

Interesting is the fact that in the Mesopotamian accounts of creation the gods (usually linked to individual cities) are always contending with one another but here not only is monotheism evident but even in the few PLURAL expressions there is harmony and not capricious discontent.

▣ "man" This is the Hebrew word "Adam" (BDB 9), which is an obvious play on the Hebrew term for ground, adamah (BDB 9, cf. Gen. 1:9). The term may also imply "redness" or "blood" (BDB 10).  Many scholars believe that this refers to humanity being formed out of the red clods or clay of the Tigris/Euphrates River valley (cf. Gen. 2:7). Only in Gen. 4:25; 5:1,3,4,5 is the Hebrew term "Adam" used as a proper name (also note 1 Chr. 1:1). The Septuagint uses the word anthropos to translate this term, which is a generic term referring to men and/or women (cf. Gen. 5:2; 6:1,5-7; 9:5-6). Most often in the MT the root "Adam" has the DEFINITE ARTICLE, which should be translated "the man" (cf. Gen. 1:27; 2:7,8,15,16,18,19,20,21,22,23,25; 3:8,9,12,20,22,24; 6:1,2,3,4,5,6,7). In Gen. 4:1 it could be either, but in 5:1 it is both a name and generic. The reason this is important is the question in chapter 1 about the creation of humanity as a species. Could it be that even in chapter 2, it is not about the creation of Adam and Eve as persons (thought they surely are) but as archetypical representatives of all humanity (see John H. Walton, The Lost World of Adam and Eve)? If this is true, the questions about human origins are simply not addressed in Genesis 1! Genesis is about a functioning planet not ontology! The ancient Israelites who read/heard this account would think of function not ontology. Wow, what a new thought; a way to view this Hebrew text. The intent of the original inspired author and the original hearers must drive interpretation.

The more common Hebrew term for man or husband is ish (BDB 35, cf. Gen. 2:23 the etymology is unknown) and ishah (BDB 61) for woman or wife.

At this point in my theological understanding it is very difficult to relate the Bible's account of the creation of the original pair with the fossil remains of several types of bi-pedal Homo erectus. Some of these ancient grave sites include the burial of items apparently connected to a belief in an after life. I am not offended by evolution (but by naturalism). If this is true, then Adam and Eve are primitive humans and the historical time-frame of Genesis 1-11 must be radically expanded. But what if the Genesis text is about function and not ontology!

Possibly God created Adam and Eve at a much later period of time (i.e., progressive creationism), making them "modern" humans (Homo sapiens). If so, then their relationship to Mesopotamian civilization demands a special creation sometime close to when ANE (i.e., Sumerian) culture begins. I want to emphasize that this is just speculation at this point in time. There is so much moderns do not know about the ancient past. Again, theologically, the "who" and "why of creation," not the "how" or "when" are crucial!

I wrote this Genesis 1-11 commentary in 2001; since then I have been greatly encouraged by two developments.

  1. the mapping of human DNA, which shows an obvious relationship between all living cells. The book from a Christian biologist that has helped me is Coming to Peace With Science, by Darrel R. Falk. I am not a scientist but I am not at war with science either. I remember how blessed I was by Bernard Ramm's book, The Christian View of Science and Scripture.
  2. I am committed to the hermeneutical principle that an ancient text, or any text, must be interpreted in light of the original author's intent and how the first hearers would have understood his/her message. With this in mind, John H. Walton has written several books which try to relate Genesis to its own day. This has proven to be a wonderful eye-opening experience. His writings have (in my opinion) calmed the questions of "the age of the earth," "the process of evolution," "the origin of man," and "how the Genesis account relates to other ANE cosmologies." Wow! These are some big questions. I hope you will look at his books.
    1. The Lost World of Genesis One
    2. Genesis 1 As Ancient Cosmology
    3. The Lost World of Adam and Eve
    4. The Lost World of Scripture (also authored by D. Brent Sandy)

Be ready to be blessed and challenged.

▣ "in Our image, according to Our likeness" The term "image" can also be found in Gen. 5:1,3; 9:6. It is often used in the OT to denote idols (KB 1028 II). Its basic etymology is "to hew into a certain shape." There has been much discussion in the history of interpretation to identify the exact meaning of image (BDB 853, KB 1028 #5) and likeness (BDB 198). Comparable Greek terms are found in the NT to describe humanity (cf. 1 Cor. 11:7; Col. 3:10; Eph. 4:24; James. 3:9). In my opinion, they are synonymous and describe that part of humanity that is uniquely capable of relating to God. The Incarnation of Jesus shows the potential of what humanity could have been in Adam and will be one day will be through Jesus Christ. See Who was Adam? by Fazale Rana and Hugh Ross, p. 79 and John H. Walton, Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the OT, pp. 212-213.

▣ "let them rule" This is literally "trample down" (BDB 921, KB 1190, Qal IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense). This is a strong term that speaks of mankind's dominion over nature (cf. Ps. 8:5-8). This same concept is found in Gen. 1:28. The two terms, "rule" in Gen. 1:26 and 28, and "subdue" in Gen. 1:28 have the same basic etymology which means "to tread upon" or "trample." Although these VERBS seem hard they reflect the image of God's reign. Mankind has dominion over the created earth because of his/her relationship to God. They were to reign/dominate as His representatives, in His character. Power is not the theological issue, but the way it is exercised (for self or for the good of others)!

Notice the PLURAL, which implies mutual dominion of male and female (cf. Gen. 5:2). Also notice the PLURAL IMPERATIVES of Gen. 1:28. The submission of the woman comes only after the Fall of Genesis 3. The real question is, "Does this submission remain after the inauguration of the new age in Christ"?

See the new book, Discovering Biblical Equality, IVP Academic, 2005

Special Topic: Women in the Bible

1:27 "God created" There is a threefold use (Qal IMPERFECT with waw followed by two Qal PERFECTS) of the term bara (BDB 135, KB 153) in this verse, which functions as a summary statement as well as an emphasis on God's creation of humanity as male and female. This is printed as poetry in NRSV, NJB and acknowledged so in NIV footnote. The term bara is only used in the OT for God's creating. See full note at Gen. 1:1.

▣ "in His own image" It is extremely interesting that the PLURAL of Gen. 1:26 is now a SINGULAR. This encompasses the mystery of the plurality, yet the unity, of God. God's image (BDB 853) is equal in men and women! Genesis 1 may be the creation of humans as a species and Genesis 2-3 the human experience (i.e., archetypical, see John H. Walton, The Lost World of Adam and Eve).

▣ "male and female He created them" Our sexual aspect relates to the needs and environment of this planet. God continues to separate (see note at Gen. 1:4). Notice the mutuality here, in Gen. 2:18 and 5:2. Our divine image allows us to uniquely relate to God. We are created as companions for God. We are hard wired for Him. We can find no peace and fulfillment apart from Him.

1:28 "God blessed them . . . Be fruitful and multiply" Part of God's blessing (BDB 138, KB 159, Piel IMPERFECT with waw; NIDOTTE, vol. 1, pp. 757-767) was procreation (cf. Deut. 7:13). This blessing was both on the animals (cf. Gen. 1:22) and on man (cf. v.28;9:1,7). In the Mesopotamian creation accounts the noise of the overpopulation of humans is the reason for the gods' destruction of humanity. The Genesis account urges population growth. It is surprising that one of the first acts of rebellion (cf. Genesis 10-11) was mankind's reluctance to separate and fill the earth.

Special Topic: Celibacy and Marriage

Special Topic: Human Sexuality

▣ "subdue it; and rule" There are two commands in the Hebrew text which are parallel to "Be fruitful and multiply" (series of three Qal IMPERATIVES). This makes both human sexuality and human control God's will.

Both the Hebrew VERBS, "subdue" (BDB 461, KB 460) and "rule" (BDB 921, KB 1190), can have a negative (i.e., cruel domination) connotation. The specific context must determine whether the meaning is benign or aggressive. Humans are God's representatives to care for and protect His creation (cf. Gen. 2:15).

Special Topic: Natural Resources

1:29 The plant kingdom is divided into three different groups. The food chain begins with photosynthesis in plants. All earthly animal life depends on the miracle of plant life. In this verse, mankind is given the grains and the fruits for his food (cf. Gen. 2:16; 6:21), while the third group, the grasses, is given to the animals. It was not until after the flood that humans were allowed to eat flesh (cf. Gen. 9:3). This may be connected with the fact that there was no harvest possible that year. It is theologically inappropriate to draw universal dietary food laws from Genesis 1.

It is also possible that this description is only related to the Garden of Eden. Death and carnivores go back to the earliest fossils relating to the Cambrian layer 500,000 years ago where the fossilized record of life begins with profusion.

1:30 "I have given every green plant for food" The thrust of this statement is that all life is based on the process of photosynthesis (i.e., the food chain).

1:31 "it was very good" This is an extremely important conclusion to creation because in later Gnostic Greek thought, which asserted matter is evil and spirit is good. In this Greek system (as well as some Mesopotamian texts) both matter and spirit are co-eternal which serves as their explanation of the problems on earth. But the Hebrew account is very different. Only God is eternal and matter is created for His purpose. There was no evil in God's original creation, only "freedom"! See John H. Walton, The Lost World of Adam and Eve, pp. 53-57.

Special Topic: Gnosticism

▣ "there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day" It is important to note that, like the third day, the sixth day has two creative acts, so there are eight creative acts in six days. The rabbis begin the new day at twilight which is based on this phrase, "evening and morning."

Special Topic: DAY (yom)

 1Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts. 2By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. 3Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.

2:1 "the heavens" Here this term (BDB 1029) refers to the atmosphere above the earth. In some contexts it refers to the starry heavens beyond the atmosphere. See note at Gen. 1:1.

Special Topic: Heaven

▣ "and the earth were completed, and all their hosts" God's physical creation had reached functioning maturity (BDB 477, KB 476, Pual IMPERFECTwith waw, Gen. 2:1 and Piel IMPERFECTwith waw, Gen. 2:2). It was now ready for human habitation. Each level of creation has its proper inhabitants (i.e., "hosts" BDB 838). This does not specifically refer to the creation of angels (unless Gen. 1:1 includes it). This text is dealing with physical aspects of this planet.

The Hebrew term "hosts," in some contexts, refers to

  1. Mesopotamian idolatry connected to the heavenly lights (i.e., sun, moon, planets, comets, constellations, cf. Deut. 4:19)
  2. YHWH's angelic army (cf. Jos. 5:14), but here to all the different kinds of created life

Special Topic: Lord of Hosts

2:2 "By the seventh day God completed His work" This is very anthropomorphic but does not imply that God was tired or that He ceased permanently from His active involvement with creation and mankind. This is a basic pattern set for mankind who needs regular rest and worship.

Special Topic: Symbolic Numbers in Scripture, #4

Special Topic: God Described As Human

▣ "He rested" This is the same Hebrew root as "Sabbath" (BDB 991, KB 1407, Qal IMPERFECT with waw, cf. Exod. 20:11; 31:12-17). The "rest" is not a cessation of activity but a completion of God's creative/organizing work. The earth has been prepared for human populationl God's desire is a place of intimate fellowship with His highest creation, mankind. "Rest" implies a prepared place of

  1. security
  2. care
  3. orderliness
  4. productivity

Earth is fully functioning! The term "rest" is a common element in other ANE cosmology accounts, where it refers to temple life and worship. The deity inhabits his/her temple. The seven days of bringing order to this planet is often matched by a seven-day inauguration ceremony where God comes and indwells His new home (cf. 1 Kgs. 8:65). Solomon's prayer of 1 Kings 8 clearly shows the restorative, redemptive nature of the temple.

The first temple (i.e., John H. Walton calls it "sacred space") was

  1. the earth (Genesis 1)
  2. Eden and its garden (Genesis 2)
  3. the tabernacle (Exodus 25-30; 36-40)
  4. David's dream temple built by Solomon (2 Samuel 7; 1 Kings 5-8)
  5. the post-exilic temple (Ezra - Nehemiah; Zerubbable ‒ Joshua)
  6. Jesus as the new temple (Matt. 12:6; John 2:19-21)
  7. believers in fellowship with Jesus became part of Him as living stones (cf. 1 Pet. 2:4-5)
    1. individually (1 Cor. 3:16)
    2. corporately (2 Cor. 6:16)
  8. ultimately God Himself is the temple (Rev. 21:22,23); "temple" is ANE imagery for God's presence (i.e., John 4:21)

Regular fellowship between God and mankind is the unstated, but contextually central, purpose of creation! God's presence in the created order is the key point. We are not alone on this planet. This planet has a larger, spiritual purpose! This term is used in several different ways, particularly in the NT book of Heb. 3:7-4:11 and its interpretation of Ps. 95:7-11. In Hebrews this term "rest" applies both to the Sabbath rest, the Promised Land, and fellowship with God (heaven).

▣ "the seventh day" Days 1-6 begin with evening and close with morning (cf. Gen. 1:31), but the seventh day's morning is never mentioned. Therefore, the rabbis and also the NT author of Hebrews ( Heb. 3:7-4:11) use this to conclude that God's rest is still available (cf. Ps. 95:7-11).

For full note on the different meanings of "rest" see Hebrews 3-4.

2:3 "Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it" The term "sanctified" means "made holy" (BDB 872, KB 1073, Piel IMPERFECT with waw). This term is used in the sense of setting something apart for God's particular use. Very early God established a special, regular day for Himself and humanity to commune. This does not mean that all days do not belong to God, but one is uniquely set aside for communion, worship, praise, and energizing rest.

The origin of the seven day week is shrouded in antiquity and mystery. One can see how the month is related to the phases of the moon and how the year is related to seasonal changes, but a week has no obvious source. However, every ancient culture that we know of seems to have known about it when their written history began.

Special Topic: Worship

▣ "made" This is literally "making." God's creative acts continue (BDB 793 I, KB 889, Qal INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT, a common VERB with large semantic rance, John H. Walton, The Lost World of Adam and Eve, pp. 30-34, says it carries the connotation of causality). God created organic creatures to develop. The repeated phrase "be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth" reflects God's design and plan. God created living creatures (including mankind) which reproduce themselves after their kind. The very act causes variations.

For the VERBS "created" (BDB 135, KB 153, Qal perfect) and "made" (BDB 793, KB 889, Qal INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT), see notes at Gen. 1:1 and John H. Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate, pp. 36-43.

See Discussion Questions at the end of chapter 2.

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