CREATION OF THE UNIVERSE
The first verse of the Bible gives us a satisfying and useful account of the origin of the earth and the heavens. The faith of humble Christians understands this better than the fancy of the most learned men.
From what we see of heaven and earth, we learn the power of the great Creator. And let our make and place as men, remind us of our duty as Christians, always to keep heaven in our eyes, and the earth under our feet.
The Son of God, one with the Father, was with Him when he made the world; Although, we are often told that the world was made by Him, and nothing was made without Him.
Oh, what high thoughts should there be in our minds, of that great God whom we worship, and of that great Mediator in whose name we pray!
And here, at the beginning of the sacred volume, we read of that Divine Spirit, whose work upon the heart of man is so often mentioned in other parts of the Bible.
Observe, that at first there was nothing desirable to be seen, for the world was without form, and void; it was confusion, and emptiness.
In like manner the work of grace in the soul is a new creation: and in a graceless soul, one that is not born again, there is disorder, confusion, and every evil work: it is empty of all good, for it is without God; it is dark, it is darkness itself: this is our condition by nature, till Almighty grace works a change in us.
This is one of the most profound statements that has ever been made, and yet we find that it is a statement that is certainly challenged in this hour in which we are living.
I think that this verse is all we have of the actual creation—with the exception, as we shall see, of the creation of man and animals later on in the Book of Genesis.
But this is the creation story, and I’ll admit that it is a very brief story, indeed.
Genesis 1 is the first chapter of what came to be known as the Pentateuch: the first five books of the Bible. Likely written by Moses, Genesis 1 begins the story of God and His relationship with His people Israel.
The role of God as Creator is not only important for setting up His work in later chapters, but also in His supremacy and authority for all of the other words of the Scriptures.
God intends first to be known to all peoples as the Creator of all things—from sun, moon, and stars, to human life itself. And as the Creator, He is owed worship by all He has made, including and especially human beings.
Genesis 1:1-8 KJV
 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first 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 the evening and the morning were the second day.
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
The Bible begins with God, not with philosophic arguments for His existence.
Neither the peoples of the ancient world in general nor the Scriptures in particular assert innumerable beginnings. Only one beginning is in view, and it is that which commences in the first verse of the Bible. The concept of the beginning is not limited to a singular point of time, but rather includes the span of events that are described through Genesis 2:4.
Scripture gives no data for determining how long ago the universe was created.
The Hebrew word translated God is actually plural in form. Some well-meaning believers, knowing that Scripture clearly teaches there is only one true God (Isaiah 46:9; etc.), assert that this plural form demonstrates that God is a trinity.
Unbelievers claim that this plural form indicates that the Old Testament teaches the existence of many gods.
Neither view is necessarily supported by this plural form, for two reasons.
First, though a plural noun in Hebrew may indicate “more than one,” a noun may be plural to signify honor; this is similar to the royal “we” spoken by a king or queen.
Second, the Hebrew behind the verb created is singular, indicating only one subject. The best explanation is that God is viewed as a single essence who is honored above all other beings.
This expression is roughly equivalent to our term universe. In Hebrew, two words with opposite senses are often paired to indicate a totality. For example, “great and small” in 2 Chronicles 34:30 means all kinds of people.
Therefore Genesis 1:1 is expressing quite clearly that all we call “matter” today is not coeternal with God. Rather, God brought it into existence.
The very first book of the Bible begins with two equally enormous claims: There was a “beginning,” and God created everything.
This immediately contradicts the view of an eternal or cyclical universe, and any religious view which takes the universe to be an accident, the product of many gods, or part of some other process. History shows that the idea of a “beginning” is so theologically loaded that secular science resisted it until it literally became impossible to deny.
Genesis 1 is a controversial chapter. Debates rage about the meanings and implications of many words.
How long ago did God create?
How exactly did He create?
What were His methods?
Much has been written to discuss, debate, and illuminate those questions. The primary debate is over the extent to which Genesis 1 is meant to be read as symbolism and poetry, versus being read as unvarnished narrative. To some extent, such arguments are beside the point of this passage.
Those who take the Scriptures as inspired must agree that God means for us to understand Him first and foremost as the Creator.
Of course, everyone does not agree that the Bible is the authoritative and inspired Word of God. This then produces even more controversies regarding Genesis. That, as well, is beyond the scope of this commentary.
For the most part, we will stick to the core, crucial, clear ideas. What’s beyond debate is that the opening words of the Bible clearly claim that God—who we will come to know as the God of Israel—created the heavens and the earth. That is, He created everything in the natural world from the heavens, the sky, and space, to our planet and everything on it.
The text begins by saying that God created “in the beginning.”
Even conservative, Christian scholars come to slightly different conclusions based on that verse, depending on how they understand the original Hebrew language was intended to be read.
Was this beginning the instant of “time zero,” when there was no “before?”
Or, is this a reference to “the beginning [of God’s creative work],” or the “season of creation”?
However we answer that question, it is an awesome thought that one being created all of our universe. Only God could do such a thing. The following verses will add details to God’s work as Creator, crediting Him with forming various aspects of the universe.
This is crucial not only as a means of giving God due credit, but also for dispelling suggestions that God was uninvolved or disinterested in these creations. And, these words will counter claim that the stars, planets, or plants or animals, are themselves divine and worthy of worship.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
Two main interpretations have been advanced to explain the expression “without form, and void” (Hebrew tohu and bohu).
The first, which may be called the Original Chaos interpretation, regards these words as a description of an original formless matter in the first stage of the creation of the universe.
The second, which may be called the Divine judgment interpretation, sees in these words a description of the earth only, and that In a condition subsequent to its creation, not as it was originally (see Isa. 45:18, note; compare also notes at Isa. 14:12; Ezek. 28:12).
To begin with, look out upon this vast creation—something has happened to it!
Man’s trip to the moon reveals nothing in the world but a wasteland up there.
How did it get that way?
Maybe there was a catastrophe in God’s universe.
That is specifically mentioned in regard to the earth because this is to be the place where man lives, and so the earth is described as being “without form and void.”
“Darkness was upon the face of the deep” indicates the absence of God, of course.
We move to the description of the situation after the creation of matter in verse 1. The exact phrase (in the original Hebrew) of earth’s description without form, and void also occurs in Jeremiah 4:23.
There it describes the moral chaos of a chosen people who do not know the Lord, who do not know how to do good, and who are wise only in knowing how to do evil. The phrase seems to describe a situation that is without moral boundaries.
In parallel, Genesis 1:2 implies that physical boundaries are not yet fully defined (compare 1:4).
Here, the word darkness communicates the absence of light in a physical sense. Later writers and Jesus himself will use this word to communicate the absence of light in a moral sense (Isaiah 9:2; 50:10; Matthew 4:16; John 1:5; 12:46; etc.). It also comes to be used in contexts that call for the punitive acts of God (Amos 5:20; Zephaniah 1:15).
Regarding Genesis 1, the literal, physical sense is clear. But as we read the Old Testament in light of the New Testament, our understanding of figurative uses of the word darkness is enhanced.
The word translated Spirit is elsewhere translated “breath” (Genesis 6:17), “wind” (8:1), “spirit” (45:27), “courage” (Joshua 2:11), and others.
Regarding a choice between translations of Spirit or spirit, the translators were faced with a difficulty in that the Hebrew language does not distinguish between uppercase and lowercase letters.
So translators must interpret the meaning, and they capitalize when the reference is to God personally as divine being.
As a result, the phrases Spirit of God and spirit of God occur 10 and 4 times respectively in the King James Version of the Old Testament. Many Christians think the phrase Spirit of God always refers to the Holy Spirit. But passages where the identical Hebrew is properly not translated that way are 1 Samuel 16:15, 16, 23; 18:10.
The phrase Spirit of God in the passage before us refers to the same one known as “the Spirit of the Lord.” This Spirit can be present (Judges 11:29), take action (13:25), speak messages (2 Samuel 23:2), and depart (1 Samuel 16:14). These are the qualities of a personal being, not an impersonal force.
Genesis 1:1 announced that God created everything: “the heavens and the earth.” Verse 2 begins to describe the process of that creation.
According to this text, the earth was empty and literally in chaos. The Hebrew words used here are tōhu and bōhu, translated as “formless” and “void.” Segments of Bible scholarship disagree about whether this “formlessness” was the state of the earth immediately after the initial creation, or the result of some events between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2.
In either case, at this point in the story, the earth is covered with deep waters. A darkness was over the surface, and the Spirit of God was over the waters.
Light will not be created until the following verse. There can be only darkness at this point. Still, God’s Spirit is moving in this darkness. God is preparing to speak, to act with great power to bring order and light to this chaos.
CONSTRUCTION OF THE EARTH
We have seen the construction of the universe in verse 1, the convulsion of the earth in verse 2, and now we come to the construction of the earth in six days (vv. 3–31). I believe what we have here is this development.
There are several things here that I would like to call to your attention. In Exodus 20:11, it reads “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is. . . .” There is nothing in that verse about creating.
It says “made”; God is taking that which is already formed and in these six days He is not “creating” but He is recreating. He is working with matter which already exists, out of the matter which He had called into existence probably billions of years before.
God created life and put it on the earth, and for the earth He created man. That is the creature we are interested in because you and I happen to be one of those creatures. This makes the Genesis record intensely important for us today.
God said, Let there be light; He willed it, and at once there was light. Oh, the power of the word of God! And in the new creation, the first thing that is wrought in the soul is light: the blessed Spirit works upon the will and affections by enlightening the understanding.
Those who by sin were darkness, by grace become light in the Lord. Darkness would have been always upon fallen man, if the Son of God had not come and given us understanding. The light which God willed, He approved of.
God divided the light from the darkness; for what fellowship has light with darkness?
In heaven there is perfect light, and no darkness at all; in hell, utter darkness, and no gleam of light.
The day and the night are the Lord’s; let us use both to His honor, by working for Him every day, and resting in Him every night, meditating in His law both day and night.
And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
Neither here nor in vv. 14-18 is an original creative act implied. A different word is used. The sense is made to appear, made visible.
The sun and moon were created “in the beginning.” The light came from the sun, of course, but the vapor diffused the light. Later the sun appeared in an unclouded sky.
Creation begins! The phrase And God said occurs at the beginning of each day of creation, and here it serves to separate Genesis 1:3 and following from 1:1, 2. Let there be is a command or desire for something to take place.
Presumably those hearing this command are the inhabitants of Heaven, the abode of God.
The first thing created is light. Since the sun, moon, and stars are not created until the fourth day, some think that the light referred to here may be what scientists call energy. Perhaps this light-as-energy, if that is what it is, is a new creation out of nothing.
Or perhaps matter that God previously created is now turned into energy, a concept absent from the ancient mind. Addressing such an issue is not the aim of the book of Genesis. The stress, rather, is that light stands in positive contrast to darkness (next verse).
This verse records God’s first spoken words in the Bible: words of creation. God literally speaks light into existence in the universe. As used in this form, in this passage, this is meant to be understood as natural light.
While aspects of Genesis chapters 1 and 2 are often debated, this is clearly not intended as a metaphor for spiritual light or something else. Before this moment, light did not exist in the physical universe (Genesis 1:2).
God intends for us to understand Him as the Creator even of light itself. Without Him, there would be only darkness.
Some might object to the idea of light existing before stars or the sun. As an interesting scientific point, though, secular models such as the Big Bang themselves theorize that light—photons—actually existed before complex forms of matter.
In other words, just as the Bible stated that there was “a beginning” long before secular science admitted the same, the Bible also said that light existed before stars, well in advance of secular science coming to the same conclusion.
And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
God acts in and on His creation, and His light pushes back the darkness. The word good describes the value of the light. It may also include the excellence of figurative ideas associated with light.
The Scripture may be using the acts of creation to teach a spiritual lesson in addition to the material events of creation.
If that’s the case, then the lesson is that there is a difference between good and evil just as clearly as there is a difference between physical light and darkness.
Foolish, sinful humans will later blur those distinctions. “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20).
This is the first of several times in the creation account where God will pronounce what He has just made as “good.” He made light, and He approved of it. Pointedly, God did not call the darkness good.
In Hebrew philosophy, “light” was the ultimate ideal, and a symbol of wisdom, goodness, and knowledge. There is powerful symbolism in God’s choice to create light among the darkness of the universe.
This verse begins a pattern repeated for the rest of the passage. In each of the next days of creation, God will speak something into existence, see the effect it has, declare it good, and then the text will declare the number of the day.
Here, God is said to have separated darkness and light. The two would exist in the world separately from each other, with light being the dominant force.
To the extent that light appears, darkness will always disappear. Darkness has no defense against light, since “darkness” does not really exist, in and of itself. It is simply the absence of light.
And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
From the perspective of the ancient world, naming brings things into existence; unnamed things do not exist. Modern, scientific ideas about the nature of light are not in view.
Just as darkness is merely the absence of light, and light is the creation of God, so also Day and Night are portrayed as impersonal creations rather than as rival gods or the forces used by other gods. In naming light and darkness, God exercises His authority and power as Creator.
The meaning of day has been interpreted in various ways to calculate the age of the earth. The word day in some contexts refers to the part of a 24-hour period that has light (Exodus 13:21).
In other contexts it refers to entire 24-hour periods of time (Genesis 7:10). In still other contexts, day refers to a longer period of time (Genesis 2:4).
The proposal that the phrase the evening and the morning naturally suggests a 24-hour day is met with the observation that the sun—the rising and setting of which establish evening and morning—is not created until the fourth day.
One commentator has identified 20 creation accounts in the Bible. In so doing, he notes that the main emphasis across these is “the who” of creation—namely God. Secondarily, the Bible writers address “the how” of creation. Of least importance to them is “the when.” The goal of the authors is not to
describe the age of the earth, but rather to describe the orderliness of creation and the lordship of the Creator over all that exists.
The word “day” is used in Scripture in four ways:
(1) that part of the solar day of twenty-four hours which is light (Gen. 125,14; In. 11:9);
(2) a period of twenty-four hours (Mt. 17:1; Lk. 24:21);
(3) a time set apart for some distinctive purpose, as ”day of atonement” (Lev. 23:27); and
(4) a longer period of time, during which certain revealed purposes of God are to be accomplished.
The use of “evening” and ”morning” may be held to limit “day” to the solar day; but the frequent parabolic use of natural phenomena may warrant the conclusion that it simply means that each creative day was a period of time marked off by a beginning and ending. In any event the sun did not become a measure of time be fore the fourth day, as seen in vv. 14-18.
Genesis is a book of firsts. In verse 3, we heard God’s first recorded words in the Bible: “Let there be light.” We saw God’s first approval of something as “good.” Now, in verse 5, we see God name something for the first time.
God named the light day and the darkness “night.” Naming things is a significant act in the book of Genesis, as well as in the rest of the Bible. Naming something, in the ancient mindset, is a claim to ownership.
Having the right to name something means claiming sovereignty over that thing. Later, God will task Adam to name the animals as part of his human work in ruling and subduing the earth.
In part, then, we see that God means to remain Lord over night and day. He created them. He intended for day and night to exist; they are not merely an accidental consequence of the natural world.
Another way to apply this point is that God is not merely creating and then allowing this creation to spin out of control. What He has created, He still maintains authority over.
Finally, the verse ends with the blueprint used for the description of each of the six days of creation: There was evening and there was morning, the first day.
From very early on, the people of Israel thought of a day as beginning in the evening, at sunset, and continuing until the sun set on the following day. That may explain the wording in Genesis 1 of “evening and morning.”
Some scholars suggested that these days need not have been strict 24 hour days in the sense that we think of them. As noted before, there is nothing explicit in the text to dispute or support this claim.
Nor is there anything which explicitly proves or disproves that they are most certainly 24-hour days.
The God who is capable of speaking light into the world is certainly capable of creating as much as He would choose to in a 24-hour period of time, or of creating using a longer process.
The important details are those which God has actually given: He created light, and called it “good.”
THE CONCEPT OF TIME
The Natural Day was from sunrise to sunset.
The Natural Night was from sunset to sunrise.
The Civil Day was, at least in later times in Israel, from sunset one evening to sunset the next: for ”the evening and the morning were the first day.”
First watch (Lam. 2:19) until about midnight.
Middle watch (Jud. 7:19) including midnight (Ex. 11:4) until 3 A.M.
Morning watch (Ex. 14:24) until 6 A.M.
Night (New Testament)
First watch, evening = 6 to 9 P.M.
Second watch, midnight = 9 to 12 P.M.
Third watch, cock-crow = 12 to 3 A.M.
Fourth watch, morning = 3 to 6 A.M.
Morning: until about 10 A.M.
Heat of the day: until about 2 P.M.
Day’s decline: until about 6 P.M.
Evening or cool of the day: after 6 P.M.
Day (New Testament)
Third hour = 6 to 9 A.M.
Sixth hour = 9 to 12 midday
Ninth hour = 12 to 3 P.M.
Twelfth hour = 3 to 6 P.
DAY TWO—AIR SPACES
The earth was emptiness, but by a word spoken, it became full of God’s riches, and His they are still. Though the use of them is allowed to man, they are from God, and to His service and honor they must be used.
The earth, at His command, brings forth grass, herbs, and fruits. God must have the glory of all the benefit we receive from the produce of the earth.
If we have, through grace, an interest in Him who is the Fountain, we may rejoice in Him when the streams of temporal mercies are dried up.
What does that mean?
Well, God first divided the waters perpendicularly.
And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
“God said, Let there be a firmament”—the Hebrew word for firmament is raqia, meaning air spaces. “Let it divide the waters from the waters.”
There is water above us and water beneath us.
The word firmament refers to the bowl-like dome, 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.
Of particular interest here is the firmament’s function as a boundary to divide the waters from the waters.
Genesis chapter 1 follows a rigid structure, according to a very specific pattern. God will create something through His words, observe it, declare it good, and then Scripture will indicate the number of that creative day.
The first half of these moments—days one, two, and three—prepare creation for some future component. The corresponding days in the second half—days four, five, and six—show the creation of that new thing.
In the prior verses, God completed the first day of creation, making light, day, and night. Here, God turns to the waters.
Verse 2 indicated that the earth was formless, void, and covered by deep waters. Now God issues a command about those waters: separate them.
More specifically, God calls for something to be placed between the waters: a space or firmament or vault or sky or heaven (depending on the translation). The Hebrew term is rā’qi’a, which implies something solid and supportive.
The word-picture offered here seems to be of raising up the top part of the waters and inserting an open area: what we would usually think of as the “air” above the sea or land.
But what about the top layer, the “waters” above the sky?
Some scholars suggest those are the clouds of the upper atmosphere or simply the atmosphere itself. Others have speculated that a water “canopy” once existed in the upper atmosphere that is no longer there in our day.
In any case, the larger point of the verse is that God’s power includes the ability to order even the oceans to do His bidding and breathable air to come into existence on the earth. Once again, God and God alone is credited with creating the world as we know it.
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.
Those waters which were under the firmament are all the bodies of water on the earth and below the earth (rivers, lakes, oceans, aquifers). The waters which were above the firmament refer to the clouds from which rain falls.
In the previous verse, God spoke words of creation, and in this verse He fulfills those words exactly. Throughout the Bible, God speaking a thing and doing a thing are inseparable.
In this case, that created thing is the atmosphere, or sky, or vault, or heaven, depending on the translation, which is placed between the seas below and some layer of “waters” above.
The Hebrew term used in both verses is rā’qi’a, implying something which lifts or supports. The image of Hebrew thinking was waters below, and waters above, separated by the “firmament” of the sky.
Scholars have offered various interpretations of what the waters above the firmament are meant to represent.
The ability of God to create is understated here using the Hebrew phrase wa yehi kēn, literally meaning, “and it was so.” As much as God’s existence is treated as obvious and necessary (Exodus 3:14), His power and ability is also not given much detail.
Rather, the focus is simply on the basic fact: God intended to create, stated His intention, and then what He intended to occur actually occurred. Regardless of interpretation, this basic idea cannot be separated from the biblical text.
And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
The word translated Heaven can be used for the air where the birds fly (Genesis 1:20); the location of sun, moon, and stars (Deuteronomy 4:19); or the abode of God and other heavenly beings (1 Kings 22:19; compare 2 Corinthians 12:2). In any case, again God asserts His authority by naming.
Paul Kissling notes that this serves to oppose the ancient Near East belief that creation of the firmament is a battle between warring gods. Instead, the Bible depicts the unique Creator God calmly forming everything as He alone wills.
“God called the firmament Heaven.” This is not heaven as you and I think of it. Actually, there are three heavens that are mentioned in Scripture. The Lord Jesus spoke of the birds of heaven, and I think that is the heaven mentioned in this verse.
Then there are the stars of heaven, meaning the second heaven, and there is the third heaven where God dwells.
So the first layer up there, the first deck, is the deck where the clouds are and where the birds fly.
The description of creation given in Genesis follows a poetic but very firm pattern. For each of the first three days of creation, God modifies the world in preparation for some new thing.
Then, in each of the corresponding second three days, He creates that new thing and places it in the world. In each case, God observes His work and declares it “good,” and the day is given a number.
The previous two verses detail the creation of an expanse between the waters of the sea and some upper layer of waters. Now, in verse 8, God names that space.
In Hebrew, the name He gives to it is sā’mā’yim. Bible scholars translate this term as “sky,” or “heaven,” or “air.” In Hebrew, the word can be applied to any of these, based on context.
It’s not likely that the word means heaven in the sense that we normally think of it in our day. This heaven is very likely “the heavens,” or the atmosphere: the “empty” space above the sea.
The primary message is that, on creative day two, God formed an open space and named it. As with other aspects of creation, this counters any claim that the air, wind, or skies are themselves divine.
Even the sky and atmosphere around us are an intentional part of God’s creation of the earth.
I hope that you have really enjoyed this post,
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