Genesis 1:1
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
Jump to: BarnesBensonBICalvinCambridgeClarkeDarbyEllicottExpositor'sExp DctGaebeleinGSBGillGrayGuzikHaydockHastingsHomileticsJFBKDKJTLangeMacLarenMHCMHCWParkerPoolePulpitSermonSCOTTBWESTSK
EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
THE CREATIVE WEEK (Genesis 1:1 to Genesis 2:3).

(1) In the beginning.—Not, as in John 1:1, “from eternity,” but in the beginning of this sidereal system, of which our sun, with its attendant planets, forms a part. As there never was a time when God did not exist, and as activity is an essential part of His being (John 5:17), so, probably, there was never a time when worlds did not exist; and in the process of calling them into existence when and how He willed, we may well believe that God acted in accordance with the working of some universal law, of which He is Himself the author. It was natural with St. John, when placing the same words at the commencement of his Gospel, to carry back our minds to a more absolute conceivable “beginning,” when the work of creation had not commenced, and when in the whole universe there was only God.

God.—Heb., Elohim. A word plural in form, but joined with a verb singular, except when it refers to the false gods of the heathen, in which case it takes a verb plural. Its root-meaning is strength, power; and the form Elohim is not to be regarded as a pluralis majestatis, but as embodying the effort of early human thought in feeling after the Deity, and in arriving at the conclusion that the Deity was One. Thus, in the name Elohim it included in one Person all the powers, mights, and influences by which the world was first created and is now governed and maintained. In the Vedas, in the hymns recovered for us by the decipherment of the cuneiform inscriptions, whether Accadian or Semitic, and in all other ancient religious poetry, we find these powers ascribed to different beings; in the Bible alone Elohim is one. Christians may also well see in this a foreshadowing of the plurality of persons in the Divine Trinity; but its primary lesson is that, however diverse may seem the working of the powers of nature, the Worker is one and His work one.

Created.—Creation, in its strict sense of producing something out of nothing, contains an idea so noble and elevated that naturally human language could only gradually rise up to it. It is quite possible, therefore, that the word bârâ, “he created,” may originally have signified to hew stone or fell timber; but as a matter of fact it is a rare word, and employed chiefly or entirely in connection with the activity of God. As, moreover, “the heaven and the earth” can only mean the totality of all existent things, the idea of creating them out of nothing is contained in the very form of the sentence. Even in Genesis 1:21; Genesis 1:27, where the word may signify something less than creation ex nihilo, there is nevertheless a passage from inert matter to animate life, for which science knows no force, or process, or energy capable of its accomplishment.

The heaven and the earth.—The normal phrase in the Bible for the universe (Deuteronomy 32:1; Psalm 148:13; Isaiah 2). To the Hebrew this consisted of our one planet and the atmosphere surrounding it, in which he beheld the sun, moon, and stars. But it is one of the more than human qualities of the language of the Holy Scriptures that, while written by men whose knowledge was in accordance with their times, it does not contradict the increased knowledge of later times. Contemporaneous with the creation of the earth was the calling into existence, not merely perhaps of our solar system, but of that sidereal universe of which we form so small a part; but naturally in the Bible our attention is confined to that which chiefly concerns ourselves.

Genesis 2:4 to Genesis 3:24;

EXCURSUS B: ON THE NAMES ELOHIM AND JEHOVAH-ELOHIM.

Throughout the first account of creation (Genesis 1:1 to Genesis 2:3) the Deity is simply called Elohim. This word is strictly a plural of Eloah, which is used as the name of God only in poetry, or in late books like those of Nehemiah and Daniel. It is there an Aramaism, God in Syriac being Aloho, in Ohaldee Ellah, and in Arabic Allahu—all of which are merely dialectic varieties of the Hebrew Eloah, and are used constantly in the singular number. In poetry EJoah is sometimes employed with great emphasis, as, for instance, in Psalm 18:31 : “Who is Eloah except Jehovah?” But while thus the sister dialects used the singular both in poetry and prose, the Hebrews used the plural Elohim as the ordinary name of God, the difference being that to the one God was simply power, strength (the root-meaning of Eloah); to the other He was the union of all powers, the Almighty. The plural thus intensified the idea of the majesty and greatness of God; but besides this, it was the germ of the doctrine of a plurality of persons in the Divine unity.

In the second narrative (Genesis 2:4 to Genesis 3:24), which is an account of the fall of man, with only such introductory matter regarding creation as was necessary for making the history complete, the Deity is styled Jehovah-Elohim. The spelling of the word Jehovah is debatable, as only the consonants ( J, h, v, h) are certain, the vowels being those of the word Adonai (Lord) substituted for it by the Jews when reading it in the synagogue, the first vowel being a mere apology for a sound, and pronounced a or e, according to the nature of the consonant to which it is attached. It is generally represented now by a light breathing, thus—Y’hovah, ‘donai. As regards the spelling, Ewald, Gesenius, and others argue for Yahveh; Fürst for Yehveh, or Yeheveh; and Stier, Meyer, &c, for Yehovah. The former has the analogy of several other proper names in its favour; the second the authority of Exodus 3:14; the last, those numerous names like Yehoshaphat, where the word is written Yeho. At the end of proper names the form it takes is Yahu, whence also Yah. We ought also to notice that the first consonant is really y; but two or three centuries ago j seems to have had the sound which we give to y now, as is still the case in German.

But this is not a matter of mere pronunciation; there is a difference of meaning as well. Yahveh signifies “He who brings into existence;” Yehveh “He who shall be, or shall become;” what Jehovah may signify I do not know. We must further notice that the name is undoubtedly earlier than the time of Moses. At the date of the Exodus the v of the verb had been changed into y. Thus, in Exodus 3:14, the name of God is Ehyeh, “I shall become,” not Ehveh. Had the name, therefore, come into existence in the days of Moses, it would have been Yahyeh, Yehyeh, or Yehoyah, not Yahveh, &c.

The next fact is that the union of these two names—Jehovah-Elohim—is very unusual. In this short narrative it occurs twenty times, in the rest of the Pentateuch only once (Exodus 9:30); in the whole remainder of the Bible about nine times. Once, moreover, in Psalm 1:1, there is the reversed form, Elohim-Jehovah. There must, therefore, be some reason why in this narrative this peculiar junction of the two names is so predominant.

The usual answer is that in this section God appears in covenant with man, whereas in Genesis 1:1 to Genesis 2:3 He was the Creator, the God of nature and not of grace, having, indeed, a closer relation to man, as being the most perfect of His creatures (Genesis 1:26), but a relation different only in degree and not in kind. This is true, but insufficient; nor does it explain how Jehovah became the covenant name of God, and Elohim His generic title. Whatever be the right answer, we must expect to find it in the narrative itself. The facts are so remarkable, and the connection of the name Jehovah with this section so intimate, that if Holy Scripture is to command the assent of our reason we must expect to find the explanation of such peculiarities in the section wherein they occur.

What, then, do we find? We find this. The first section gives us the history of man’s formation, with the solemn verdict that he was very good. Nature without man was simply good; with man, creation had reached its goal. In this, the succeeding section, man ceases to be very good. He is represented in it as the object of his Maker’s special care, and, above all, as one put under law. Inferior creatures work by instinct, that is, practically by compulsion, and in subjection to rules and forces which control them. Man, as a free agent, attains a higher rank. He is put under law, with the power of obeying or disobeying it. God, who is the infinitely high and self-contained, works also by law, but it comes from within, from the perfectness of His own nature, and not from without, as must be the case with an imperfect being like man, whose duty is to strive after that which is better and more perfect. Add that, even in the first section, man was described as created “in God’s image, after His likeness.” But as law is essential to God’s nature—for without it He would be the author of confusion—so is it to man’s. But as this likeness is a gift conferred upon him, and not inherent, the law must come with the gift, from outside, and not from himself; and it can come only from God. Thus, then, man was necessarily, by the terms of his creation, made subject to law, and without it there could have been no progress upward. But he broke the law, and fell. Was he, then, to remain for ever a fallen being, hiding himself away from his Maker, and with the bonds of duty and love, which erewhile bound him to his Creator, broken irremediably? No. God is love; and the purpose of this narrative is not so much to give us the history of man’s fall as to show that a means of restoration had been appointed. Scarcely has the breach been made I before One steps in to fill it. The breach had been caused by a subtle foe, who had beguiled our first parents in the simplicity of their innocence; but in the very hour of their condemnation they are promised an avenger, who, after a struggle, shall crush the head of their enemy (Genesis 3:15).

Now this name, Y-h-v-h, in its simplest form Yehveh, means “He shall be,” or “shall become.” With the substitution of y for v, according to a change which had taken place generally in the Hebrew language, this is the actual spelling which we find in Exodus 3:14 : namely, Ehyeh ‘sher Èhyeh, “I shall be that I shall be.” Now, in the New Testament we find that the received name for the Messiah was “the coming One” (Matthew 21:9; Matthew 23:39; Mark 11:9; Luke 7:19-20; Luke 13:35; Luke 19:38; John 1:15; John 1:27; John 3:31; John 6:14; John 11:27; John 12:13; Acts 19:4; Hebrews 10:37); and in the Revelation of St. John the name of the Triune God is, “He who is and who was, and the coming One” (Genesis 1:4; Genesis 1:8; Genesis 11:17). But St. Paul tells us of a notable change in the language of the early Christians. Their solemn formula was Maran-atha, “Our Lord is come” (1Corinthians 16:22). The Deliverer was no longer future, no longer “He who shall become,” nor “He who shall be what He shall be.” It is not now an indefinite hope: no longer the sighing of the creature waiting for the manifestation of Him who shall crush the head of his enemy. The faint ray of light which dawned in Genesis 3:15 has become the risen Sun of Righteousness; the Jehovah of the Old Testament has become the Jesus of the New, of whom the Church joyfully exclaims, “We praise Thee as God: we acknowledge Thee to be Jehovah.”

But whence arose this name Jehovah? Distinctly from the words of Eve, so miserably disappointed in their primary application: “I have gotten a man, even Jehovah,” or Yehveh (Genesis 41). She, poor fallen creature, did not know the meaning of the words she uttered, but she had believed the promise, and for her faith’s sake the spirit of prophecy rested upon her, and she gave him on whom her hopes were fixed the title which was to grow and swell onward till all inspired truth gathered round it and into it; and at length Elohim, the Almighty, set to it His seal by calling Himself “I shall be that I shall be” (Exodus 3:14). Eve’s word is simply the third person of the verb of which Ehyeh is the first, and the correct translation of her speech is, “I have gotten a man, even he that shall be,” or “the future one.” But when God called Himself by this appellation, the word, so indefinite in her mouth, became the personal name of Israel’s covenant God.

Thus, then, in this title of the Deity, formed from the verb of existence in what is known as the future or indefinite tense, we have the symbol of that onward longing look for the return of the golden age, or age of paradise, which elsewhere in the Bible is described as the reign of the Branch that shall grow out of Jesse’s root (Isaiah 11:4-9). The hope was at first dim, distant, indistinct, but it was the foundation of all that was to follow. Prophets and psalmists were to tend and foster that hope, and make it clear and definite. But the germ of all their teaching was contained in that mystic four-lettered word, the tetragrammaton, Y-h-v-h. The name may have been popularly called Yahveh, though of this we have no proof; the Jews certainly understood by it Yehveh—“the coming One.” After all, these vowels are not of so much importance as the fact that the name has the pre-formative yod. The force of this letter prefixed to the root form of a Hebrew verb is to give it a future or indefinite sense; and I can find nothing whatsoever to justify the Assertion that Jehovah—to adopt the ordinary spelling—means “the existent One,” and still less to attach to it a causal force, and explain it as signifying “He who calls into being.”

Finally, the pre-Mosaical form of the name is most instructive, as showing that the expectation of the Messiah was older than the time of the Exodus. The name is really man’s answer to and acceptance of the promise made to him in Genesis 3:15; and why should not Eve, to whom the assurance was given, be the first to profess her faith in it? But in this section, in which the name occurs twenty times in the course of forty-six verses, there is a far deeper truth than Eve supposed. Jehovah (Yehveh) is simply “the coming One,” and Eve probably attached no very definite idea to the words she was led to use. But here He is called Jehovah-Elohim, and the double name teaches us that the coming One, the future deliverer, is God, the very Elohim who at first created man. The unity, therefore, and connection between these two narratives is of the closest kind: and the prefixing in this second section of Jehovah to Elohim, the Creator’s name in the first section, was the laying of the foundation stone for the doctrine that man’s promised Saviour, though the woman’s seed, was an Emmanuel, God as well as man.

Genesis 1:1. In the beginning — That is, of this material, visible, and temporal world, (which was not without beginning, as many of the ancient heathen philosophers supposed,) and of time with relation to all visible beings. The creation of the spiritual, invisible, and eternal world, whether inhabited by the holy or fallen angels, is not here included or noticed. God — The Hebrew word אלהיםElohim, here and elsewhere translated God, has been considered by many learned men as signifying God in covenant, being derived from the word אלהAlah, he sware, or bound himself by an oath. It is in the plural number, and must often, of necessity, be understood as having a plural meaning in the Holy Scriptures, being a name sometimes given to the false gods of the heathen, who were many, and to angels and magistrates, who are also occasionally called elohim, gods. When intended, as here, of the one living and true God, which it generally is, it has, with great reason, been thought by most Christian divines to imply a plurality of persons or subsistences in the Godhead, and the rather, as many other parts of the inspired writings attest that there is such a plurality, comprehending the Father, the Word, or Son, and the Holy Spirit, and that all these divine persons equally concurred in the creation of the world. Of these things we shall meet with abundant proof in going through this sacred volume Created — That is, brought into being, gave existence to what had no existence before, either as to matter or form; both making the substance of which the different parts of the universe were formed, and giving them the particular forms which they at present bear. How astonishing is the power that could produce such a world out of nothing! What an object for adoration and praise; and what a foundation for confidence and hope have we in this wonderful Being, who thus calls things that are not as though they were! The heaven and the earth — Here named by way of anticipation, and spoken of more particularly afterward.

The aerial and starry heavens can only be included here. For what is termed by St. Paul the third heaven, 2 Corinthians 12., the place where the pure in heart shall see God, and which is the peculiar residence of the blessed angels, was evidently formed before, (see Job 38:6-7,) but how long before, who can say?1:1,2 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 eye, and the earth under our feet. The Son of God, one with the Father, was with him when he made the world; nay, 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. - Section I-- The Creation

- The Absolute Creation

ראשׁית rḕshı̂̂yt, the "head-part, beginning" of a thing, in point of time Genesis 10:10, or value Proverbs 1:7. Its opposite is אחרית 'achărı̂̂yth Isaiah 46:10. בראשׁית rê'shı̂̂yth, "in the beginning," is always used in reference to time. Here only is it taken absolutely.

ברא bārā', "create, give being to something new." It always has God for its subject. Its object may be anything: matter Genesis 1:1; animal life Genesis 1:21; spiritual life Genesis 1:27. Hence, creation is not confined to a single point of time. Whenever anything absolutely new - that is, not involved in anything previously extant - is called into existence, there is creation Numbers 16:30. Any thing or event may also be said to be created by Him, who created the whole system of nature to which it belongs Malachi 2:10. The verb in its simple form occurs forty-eight times (of which eleven are in Genesis, fourteen in the whole Pentateuch, and twenty-one in Isaiah), and always in one sense.

אלהים 'ĕlohı̂̂ym, "God." The noun אלוה 'elôah or אלה 'eloah is found in the Hebrew scriptures fifty-seven times in the singular (of which two are in Deuteronomy, and forty-one in the book of Job), and about three thousand times in the plural, of which seventeen are in Job. The Chaldee form אלה 'elâh occurs about seventy-four times in the singular, and ten in the plural. The Hebrew letter ה (h) is proved to be radical, not only by bearing mappiq, but also by keeping its ground before a formative ending. The Arabic verb, with the same radicals, seems rather to borrow from it than to lend the meaning coluit, "worshipped," which it sometimes has. The root probably means to be "lasting, binding, firm, strong." Hence, the noun means the Everlasting, and in the plural, the Eternal Powers. It is correctly rendered God, the name of the Eternal and Supreme Being in our language, which perhaps originally meant lord or ruler. And, like this, it is a common or appellative noun. This is evinced by its direct use and indirect applications.

Its direct use is either proper or improper, according to the object to which it is applied. Every instance of its proper use manifestly determines its meaning to be the Eternal, the Almighty, who is Himself without beginning, and has within Himself the power of causing other things, personal and impersonal, to be, and on this event is the sole object of reverence and primary obedience to His intelligent creation.

Its improper use arose from the lapse of man into false notions of the object of worship. Many real or imaginary beings came to be regarded as possessed of the attributes, and therefore entitled to the reverence belonging to Deity, and were in consequence called gods by their mistaken votaries, and by others who had occasion to speak of them. This usage at once proves it to be a common noun, and corroborates its proper meaning. When thus employed, however, it immediately loses most of its inherent grandeur, and sometimes dwindles down to the bare notion of the supernatural or the extramundane. In this manner it seems to be applied by the witch of Endor to the unexpected apparition that presented itself to her 1 Samuel 28:13.

Its indirect applications point with equal steadiness to this primary and fundamental meaning. Thus, it is employed in a relative and well-defined sense to denote one appointed of God to stand in a certain divine relation to another. This relation is that of authoritative revealer or administrator of the will of God. Thus, we are told John 10:34 that "he called them gods, to whom the word of God came." Thus, Moses became related to Aaron as God to His prophet Exodus 4:16, and to Pharaoh as God to His creature Exodus 7:1. Accordingly, in Psalm 82:6, we find this principle generalized: "I had said, gods are ye, and sons of the Highest all of you." Here the divine authority vested in Moses is expressly recognized in those who sit in Moses' seat as judges for God. They exercised a function of God among the people, and so were in God's stead to them. Man, indeed, was originally adapted for ruling, being made in the image of God, and commanded to have dominion over the inferior creatures. The parent also is instead of God in some respect to his children, and the sovereign holds the relation of patriarch to his subjects. Still, however, we are not fully warranted in translating אלהים 'ĕlohı̂ym, "judges" in Exodus 21:6; Exodus 22:7-8, Exodus 22:27 (Hebrew versification: 8, 9, 28), because a more easy, exact, and impressive sense is obtained from the proper rendering.

The word מלאך mel'āk, "angel," as a relative or official term, is sometimes applied to a person of the Godhead; but the process is not reversed. The Septuagint indeed translates אלהים 'ĕlohı̂ym in several instances by ἄγγελοι angeloi Psalm 8:6; Psalm 97:7; Psalm 138:1. The correctness of this is seemingly supported by the quotations in Hebrews 1:6. and Hebrews 2:7. These, however, do not imply that the renderings are absolutely correct, but only suffiently so for the purpose of the writer. And it is evident they are so, because the original is a highly imaginative figure, by which a class is conceived to exist, of which in reality only one of the kind is or can be. Now the Septuagint, either imagining, from the occasional application of the official term "angel" to God, that the angelic office somehow or sometimes involved the divine nature, or viewing some of the false gods of the pagan as really angels, and therefore seemingly wishing to give a literal turn to the figure, substituted the word ἄγγελοι angeloi as an interpretation for אלהים 'ĕlohı̂ym. This free translation was sufficient for the purpose of the inspired author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, inasmuch as the worship of all angels Hebrews 1:6 in the Septuagintal sense of the term was that of the highest rank of dignitaries under God; and the argument in the latter passage Hebrews 2:7 turns not on the words, "thou madest him a little lower than the angels," but upon the sentence, "thou hast put all things under his feet." Moreover, the Septuagint is by no means consistent in this rendering of the word in Similar passages (see Psalm 82:1; Psalm 97:1; 1 Samuel 28:13).

With regard to the use of the word, it is to be observed that the plural of the Chaldee form is uniformly plural in sense. The English version of בר־אלהין bar-'elâhı̂yn, "the Son of God" Daniel 3:25 is the only exception to this. But since it is the phrase of a pagan, the real meaning may be, "a son of the gods." On the contrary, the plural of the Hebrew form is generally employed to denote the one God. The singular form, when applied to the true God, is naturally suggested by the prominent thought of his being the only one. The plural, when so applied, is generally accompanied with singular conjuncts, and conveys the predominant conception of a plurality in the one God - a plurality which must be perfectly consistent with his being the only possible one of his kind. The explanations of this use of the plural - namely, that it is a relic of polytheism, that it indicates the association of the angels with the one God in a common or collective appellation, and that it expresses the multiplicity of attributes subsisting in him - are not satisfactory. All we can say is, that it indicates such a plurality in the only one God as makes his nature complete and creation possible. Such a plurality in unity must have dawned upon the mind of Adam. It is afterward, we conceive, definitely revealed in the doctrine of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

שׁמים shāmayı̂m, "skies, heavens," being the "high" (shamay, "be high," Arabic) or the "airy" region; the overarching dome of space, with all its revolving orbs.

ארץ 'erets, "land, earth, the low or the hard." The underlying surface of land.

The verb is in the perfect form, denoting a completed act. The adverbial note of time, "in the beginning," determines it to belong to the past. To suit our idiom it may, therefore, be strictly rendered "had created." The skies and the land are the universe divided into its two natural parts by an earthly spectator. The absolute beginning of time, and the creation of all things, mutually determine each other.

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" Genesis 1:1. This great introductory sentence of the book of God is equal in weight to the whole of its subsequent communications concerning the kingdom of nature.

continued...

The Old Testament

THE FIRST BOOK OF MOSES, CALLED GENESIS. Commentary by Robert Jamieson

CHAPTER 1

Ge 1:1, 2. The Creation of Heaven and Earth.

1. In the beginning—a period of remote and unknown antiquity, hid in the depths of eternal ages; and so the phrase is used in Pr 8:22, 23.

God—the name of the Supreme Being, signifying in Hebrew, "Strong," "Mighty." It is expressive of omnipotent power; and by its use here in the plural form, is obscurely taught at the opening of the Bible, a doctrine clearly revealed in other parts of it, namely, that though God is one, there is a plurality of persons in the Godhead—Father, Son, and Spirit, who were engaged in the creative work (Pr 8:27; Joh 1:3, 10; Eph 3:9; Heb 1:2; Job 26:13).

created—not formed from any pre-existing materials, but made out of nothing.

the heaven and the earth—the universe. This first verse is a general introduction to the inspired volume, declaring the great and important truth that all things had a beginning; that nothing throughout the wide extent of nature existed from eternity, originated by chance, or from the skill of any inferior agent; but that the whole universe was produced by the creative power of God (Ac 17:24; Ro 11:36). After this preface, the narrative is confined to the earth.The whole visible creation asserted in general, Gen 1:1. Showed in particular the condition of the rude matter of it, Gen 1:2. The formation of the several creatures on the several days.

(1.) Light produced by the powerful word of God, Gen 1:3; approved and separated from the darkness, Gen 1:4; named, and the first day declared, Gen 1:5.

(2.) The firmament formed, its use, name, and time, Gen 1:6-8.

(3.) The waters separated from the earth; sea and dry land named and approved, Gen 1:9-10. The earth brings forth grass, herbs, and trees; approved, and time declared, Gen 1:11-13.

(4.) The firmament furnished with sun, moon, and stars; their uses assigned, their names, with approbation, and time of doing, declared, Gen 1:14-19.

(5.) Waters and air furnished, approved, blessed, and time of it declared, Gen 1:20-23.

(6.) The earth furnished with living creatures sensitive, and approved, Gen 1:24-25. Rational man in both sexes created upon consultation, according to God's image, with dominion over the other creatures; and blessed, Gen 1:26-28. Food appointed for man, Gen 1:29; for beasts, Gen 1:30: the whole approved on the sixth day.

BC 4004

In the beginning, to wit, of time and things, in the first place, before things were distinguished and perfected in manner hereafter expressed. Or the sense is this, The beginning of the world was thus. And this phrase further informeth us, that the world, and all things in it, had a beginning, and were not from eternity, as some philosophers dreamed.

God created the heaven and the earth; made out of nothing, either,

1. The heaven and earth as now they are with their inhabitants. So this verse is a summary or brief of what is particularly declared in the rest of this chapter. Or,

2. The substance and common matter of heaven and earth. Which seems more probably by comparing this verse with the next, where the earth here mentioned is declared to be without form, and the heavens without light; as also with Gen 2:1, where the heavens and the earth, here only said to be created, are said to be finished or perfected. Yet I conceive the third heaven to be included under the title of the heaven, and to have been created and perfected the first day, together with its blessed inhabitants the holy angels, as may be collected from Job 33:6-7. But the Scripture being written for men, and not for angels, the Holy Ghost thought it sufficient to comprehend them and their dwelling-place under that general term of the heavens, and proceedeth to give a more particular account of the visible heavens and earth, which were created for the use of man. In the Hebrew it is, the heavens and the earth. For there are three heavens mentioned in Scripture: the aerial; the place of birds, clouds, and meteors, Mat 26:64 Rev 19:17 Rev 20:9. The starry; the region of the sun, the moon, and stars, Gen 22:17. The highest or third heaven, 2Co 12:2; the dwelling of the blessed angels.

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. By the heaven some understand the supreme heaven, the heaven of heavens, the habitation of God, and of the holy angels; and this being made perfect at once, no mention is after made of it, as of the earth; and it is supposed that the angels were at this time created, since they were present at the laying of the foundation of the earth, Job 38:6 but rather the lower and visible heavens are meant, at least are not excluded, that is, the substance of them; as yet being imperfect and unadorned; the expanse not yet made, or the ether and air not yet stretched out; nor any light placed in them, or adorned with the sun, moon, and stars: so the earth is to be understood, not of that properly so called, as separated from the waters, that is, the dry land afterwards made to appear; but the whole mass of earth and water before their separation, and when in their unformed and unadorned state, described in the next verse: in short, these words represent the visible heavens and the terraqueous globe, in their chaotic state, as they were first brought into being by almighty power. The prefixed to both words is, as Aben Ezra observes, expressive of notification or demonstration, as pointing at "those" heavens, and "this earth"; and shows that things visible are here spoken of, whatever is above us, or below us to be seen: for in the Arabic language, as he also observes, the word for "heaven", comes from one which signifies high or above (a); as that for "earth" from one that signifies low and beneath, or under (b). Now it was the matter or substance of these that was first created; for the word set before them signifies substance, as both Aben Ezra and (c) Kimchi affirm. Maimonides (d) observes, that this particle, according to their wise men, is the same as "with"; and then the sense is, God created with the heavens whatsoever are in the heavens, and with the earth whatsoever are in the earth; that is, the substance of all things in them; or all things in them were seminally together: for so he illustrates it by an husbandman sowing seeds of divers kinds in the earth, at one and the same time; some of which come up after one day, and some after two days, and some after three days, though all sown together. These are said to be "created", that is, to be made out of nothing; for what pre-existent matter to this chaos could there be out of which they could be formed? And the apostle says, "through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear", Hebrews 11:3. And though this word is sometimes used, and even in this chapter, of the production of creatures out of pre-existent matter, as in Genesis 1:21 yet, as Nachmanides observes, there is not in the holy language any word but this here used, by which is signified the bringing anything into being out of nothing; and many of the Jewish interpreters, as Aben Ezra, understand by creation here, a production of something into being out of nothing; and Kimchi says (e) that creation is a making some new thing, and a bringing something out of nothing: and it deserves notice, that this word is only used of God; and creation must be the work of God, for none but an almighty power could produce something out of nothing. The word used is Elohimö, which some derive from another, which signifies power, creation being an act of almighty power: but it is rather to be derived from the root in the Arabic language, which signifies to worship (f), God being the object of all religious worship and adoration; and very properly does Moses make use of this appellation here, to teach us, that he who is the Creator of the heavens and the earth is the sole object of worship; as he was of the worship of the Jewish nation, at the head of which Moses was. It is in the plural number, and being joined to a verb of the singular, is thought by many to be designed to point unto us the mystery of a plurality, or trinity of persons in the unity of the divine essence: but whether or no this is sufficient to support that doctrine, which is to be established without it; yet there is no doubt to be made, that all the three Persons in the Godhead were concerned in the creation of all things, see Psalm 33:6. The Heathen poet Orpheus has a notion somewhat similar to this, who writes, that all things were made by one Godhead of three names, and that this God is all things (g): and now all these things, the heaven and the earth, were made by God "in the beginning", either in the beginning of time, or when time began, as it did with the creatures, it being nothing but the measure of a creature's duration, and therefore could not be until such existed; or as Jarchi interprets it, in the beginning of the creation, when God first began to create; and is best explained by our Lord, "the beginning of the creation which God created", Mark 13:19 and the sense is, either that as soon as God created, or the first he did create were the heavens and the earth; to which agrees the Arabic version; not anything was created before them: or in connection with the following words, thus, "when first", or "in the beginning", when "God created the heavens and the earth", then "the earth was without form", &c (h). The Jerusalem Targum renders it, "in wisdom God created"; see Proverbs 3:19 and some of the ancients have interpreted it of the wisdom of God, the Logos and Son of God. From hence we learn, that the world was not eternal, either as to the matter or form of it, as Aristotle, and some other philosophers, have asserted, but had a beginning; and that its being is not owing to the fortuitous motion and conjunction of atoms, but to the power and wisdom of God, the first cause and sole author of all things; and that there was not any thing created before the heaven and the earth were: hence those phrases, before the foundation of the world, and before the world began, &c. are expressive of eternity: this utterly destroys the notion of the pre-existence of the souls of men, or of the soul of the Messiah: false therefore is what the Jews say (i), that paradise, the righteous, Israel, Jerusalem, &c. were created before the world; unless they mean, that these were foreordained by God to be, which perhaps is their sense.

(a) "altus fuit, eminuit", Golius, col. 1219. (b) "quicquid humile, inferum et depressum" ib. Colossians 70. Hottinger. Smegma Orient. c. 5. p. 70. & Thesaur. Philolog. l. 1. c. 2. p. 234. (c) Sepher Shorash. rad. (d) Moreh Nevochim, par. 2. c. 30. p. 275, 276. (e) Ut supra. (Sepher Shorash.) rad. (f) "coluit, unde" "numen colendum", Schultens in Job. i. 1. Golius, Colossians 144. Hottinger. Smegma, p. 120. (g) See the Universal History, vol. 1. p. 33. (h) So Vatablus. (i) Targum Jon. & Jerus. in Genesis 3.24. T. Bab. Pesachim, fol. 54. 1. & Nedarim, fol. 39. 2.

In the {a} beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

The Argument - Moses in effect declares three things, which are in this book chiefly to be considered: First, that the world and all things in it were created by God, and to praise his Name for the infinite graces, with which he had endued him, fell willingly from God through disobedience, who yet for his own mercies sake restored him to life, and confirmed him in the same by his promise of Christ to come, by whom he should overcome Satan, death and hell. Secondly, that the wicked, unmindful of God's most excellent benefits, remained still in their wickedness, and so falling most horribly from sin to sin, provoked God (who by his preachers called them continually to repentance) at length to destroy the whole world. Thirdly, he assures us by the examples of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the rest of the patriarchs, that his mercies never fail those whom he chooses to be his Church, and to profess his Name in earth, but in all their afflictions and persecutions he assists them, sends comfort, and delivers them, so that the beginning, increase, preservation and success of it might be attributed to God only. Moses shows by the examples of Cain, Ishmael, Esau and others, who were noble in man's judgment, that this Church depends not on the estimation and nobility of the world: and also by the fewness of those, who have at all times worshipped him purely according to his word that it stands not in the multitude, but in the poor and despised, in the small flock and little number, that man in his wisdom might be confounded, and the name of God praised forever.

(a) First of all, and before any creature was, God made heaven and earth out of nothing.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1–5. The Beginning of all Things, and the First Creation Day

1. In the beginning] B’rêshîth: LXX ἐν ἀρχῇ: Lat. in principio. This opening word expresses the idea of the earliest time imaginable. It contains no allusion to any philosophical conception of “eternity.” The language used in the account of Creation is neither that of abstract speculation nor of exact science, but of simple, concrete, and unscientific narrative.

The opening words of John’s Gospel (ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, Genesis 1:1) are based upon this clause. But, whereas St John refers to the Word’s eternal pre-existence before time, the Hebrew writer simply speaks of “the beginning” of the universe as the historic origin of time and space.

In the Hebrew Bible the book of Genesis is called “B’rêshîth,” deriving its title from this first word.

God] Elohim: LXX ὁ Θεός: Lat. Deus. See Introduction on “The Names of God.” The narrative begins with a statement assuming the Existence of the Deity. It is not a matter for discussion, argument, or doubt. The Israelite Cosmogony differs in this respect from that of the Babylonians, Phoenicians, Egyptians, &c. The Cosmogonies of the ancients were wont to be preceded by Theogonies. The existence and nativities of the creating divinities were accounted for in mythologies which were often highly complicated, and not seldom grotesque. The Hebrew narrator, by beginning with the Creation, emphasizes his entire freedom from, and exclusion of, polytheistic thought. If Polytheism had existed in the earliest Hebrew times, it had been abandoned in the growing light of the Israelite religion. “God” is infinite; He was before all time: “In the beginning God created.” Upon the subject of the Divine Existence prior to “the beginning” the writer does not presume to speculate. That Israelite imagination did not wholly avoid the subject, we know from Job 28:25-28, Proverbs 8:22-30, Wis 9:9, Sir 24:9.

Concerning the Israelite conception of God (Elohim), we learn (1) from the present verse, that He (i) is a Person, and (ii) exists from all eternity; (2) from the whole passage, Genesis 1:1 to Genesis 2:4 a, that He is (i) supreme in power, and (ii) perfect in wisdom and goodness. The attribute of power is shewn in creative omnipotence; that of wisdom in the orderly sequence of creation; that of goodness in the benevolent purpose which directed its successive phases.

created] The word so rendered (bârâ, LXX ἐποίησεν, Lat. creavit) is used especially of the acts of God, in doing, or calling into existence, something new or marvellous: cf. Exodus 34:10, “I will do marvels such as have not been wrought (Heb. created) in all the earth”: Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart.” In the present section it occurs again in connexion with (1) the creation of living organisms (Genesis 1:21); (2) the creation of man (Genesis 1:27); (3) the creation of the whole universe (Genesis 2:3-4). It is used in Psalm 148:5, “He commanded, and they were created,” where the reference is to this section.

A different word, “made” (‘âsâh), is used in connexion with the “firmament” (Genesis 1:7), the heavenly bodies (Genesis 1:16), the terrestrial animals (Genesis 1:25).

It is, however, a mistake to suppose that the word bârâ necessarily means “to create out of nothing.”

the heaven and the earth] These words express the Hebrew conception of the created universe. They do not denote, as has of late been suggested, “matter” in the mass, or in the rough. They embrace sky, earth, and ocean: cf. Genesis 14:19; Genesis 14:22, Genesis 24:3; Deuteronomy 3:24.

Attention should be called to an alternative rendering of this verse, preferred by many eminent commentators. It turns upon the grammatical point that the first word of the verse, “B’rêshîth,” means literally “In beginning,” not “In the beginning,” which would be “Bârêshîth.” Consequently, it is contended that “B’rêshîth,” being grammatically in “the construct state,” should be translated “In the beginning of,” or “In the beginning when”; and not, as if in “the absolute state,” “In the beginning.” If this contention, i.e. that b’rêshîth is in the construct state, be correct, Genesis 1:1 will be the protasis; Genesis 1:2 will be a parenthesis; Genesis 1:3 will be the apodosis: “In the beginning when God created the heaven and the earth (now the earth was waste, &c.… upon the face of the waters), then God said, ‘Let there be light.’ ”

In comparison with our familiar translation (in both R.V. and A.V.) the alternative rendering seems to present the serious disadvantage of opening the book with a long, cumbrous, and involved sentence. The reply, that the second creation narrative (Genesis 2:4-7) opens with a similarly long sentence, hardly meets the objection. The opening words of the whole book can hardly be compared with the opening words of a subsequent section.

The simplicity and dignity of the short opening sentence in the familiar translation impress themselves upon every reader. The author of the Fourth Gospel was evidently conscious of it.

The force of the grammatical objection is weakened by the parallel case of the anarthrous use of b’rêshîth in Isaiah 46:10. It is doubtful whether rêshîth is found with the article. In the present instance, it may be pleaded that the absence of the article lends a significant indefiniteness. The rendering of the LXX, in ἐν ἀρχῇ ἐποίησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν, which supports the anarthrous b’rêshîth (ἐν ἀρχῇ, not ἐν τῇ ἀρχῇ), was evidently the traditional rendering of the Jews in at least the third century b.c. The rendering of the Targum of Onkelos, “In the first times” (b’qadmin), supports it in the second century a.d.Verse 1. - In the beginning, Bereshith, is neither "from eternity," as in John 1:1; nor "in wisdom" (Chaldee paraphrase), as if parallel with Proverbs 3:19 and Psalm 104:24; nor "by Christ," who, in Colossians 1:18, is denominated ἀρχὴ; but "at the commencement of time." Without indicating when the beginning was, the expression intimates that the beginning was. Exodus 20:11 seems to imply that this was the initiation of the first day's work. The formula, "And God said," with which each day opens, rather points to ver. 3 as its proper terminus a quo, which the beginning absolute may have antedated by an indefinite period. God Elohim (either the highest Being to be feared, from alah, to fear, - Hengstenberg, Delitzsch, Keil, Oehler, &c., or, more probably, the strong and mighty One, from aul, to be strong - Gesenius, Lange, Tayler Lewis, Macdonald, Murphy, &c.) is the most frequent designation of the Supreme Being in the Old Testament, occurring upwards of 2000 times, and is exclusively employed in the present section. Its plural form is to be explained neither as a remnant of polytheism (Gesenius), nor as indicating a plurality of beings through whom the Deity reveals himself (Baumgarten, Lange), nor as a plural of majesty (Aben Ezra, Kalisch, Alford), like the royal "we" of earthly potentates, a usage which the best Hebraists affirm to have no existence in the Scriptures (Macdonald), nor as a cumulative plural, answering the same purpose as a repetition of the Divine name (Hengstenberg, Dreschler, and others); but either

(1) as a pluralis intensitatis, expressive of the fullness of the Divine nature, and the multiplicity of the Divine powers (Delitzsch, Murphy, Macdonald); or,

(2) notwithstanding Calvin s dread of Sabellianism, as a pluralis trinitatis, intended to foreshadow the threefold personality of the Godhead (Luther, Cocceius, Peter Lombard, Murphy, Candlish, &c.); or

(3) both. The suggestion of Tayler Lewis, that the term may be a contraction for El-Elohim, the God of all superhuman powers, is inconsistent with neither of the above interpretations That the Divine name should adjust itself without difficulty to all subsequent discoveries of the fullness of the Divine personality and nature is only what we should expect in a God-given revelation. Unless where it refers to the angels (Psalm 8:5), or to heathen deities (Genesis 31:32; Exodus 20:3; Jeremiah 16:20), or to earthly rulers (Exodus 22:8, 9), Elohim is conjoined with verbs and adjectives in the singular, an anomaly in language which has been explained as suggesting the unity of the Godhead. Created. Bara, one of three terms employed in this section, and in Scripture generally, to describe the Divine activity; the other two being yatzar, "formed," and asah, "made" - both signifying to construct out of pre-existing materials (cf. for yatzar, Genesis 2:7; Genesis 8:19; Psalm 33:15; Isaiah 44:9; for asah, Genesis 8:6; Exodus 5:16; Deuteronomy 4:16), and predicable equally of God and man. Barn is used exclusively of God. Though not necessarily involved in its significance, the idea of creation ex nihilo is acknowledged by the best expositors to be here intended. Its employment in vers. 21, 26, though seem ugly against, is really in favor of a distinctively creative act; in both of these instances something that did not previously exist, i.e. animal life and the human spirit, having been called into being. In the sense of producing what is new it frequently occurs in Scripture (cf. Psalm 51:12; Jeremiah 31:12; Isaiah 65:18). Thus, according to the teaching of this venerable document, the visible universe neither existed from eternity, nor was fashioned out of pre-existing materials, nor proceeded forth as an emanation from the Absolute, but was summoned into being by an express creative fiat. The New Testament boldly claims this as a doctrine peculiar to revelation (Hebrews 11:3). Modern science explicitly disavows it as a discovery of reason. The continuity of force admits of neither creation nor annihilation, but demands an unseen universe, out of which the visible has been produced "by an intelligent agency residing in the unseen," and into which it must eventually return ('The Unseen Universe,' pp. 167, 170). Whether the language of the writer to the Hebrews homologates the dogma of an "unseen universe" (μὴ φαινομένον), out of which τὸ βλεπόμενον γεγονέναι, the last result of science, as expressed by the authors of the above-named work, is practically an admission of the Biblical doctrine of creation. The heavens and the earth (i.e. mundus universus - Gesenius, Kalisch, &c. Cf. Genesis 2:1; Genesis 14:19, 22; Psalm 115:15; Jeremiah 23:24. The earth and the heavens always mean the terrestrial globe with its aerial firmament. Cf. Genesis 2:4; Psalm 148:13; Zechariah 5:9). The earth here alluded to is manifestly not the dry land (ver. 10), which was not separated from the waters till the third day, but the entire mass of which our planet is composed, including the superincumbent atmosphere, which was not uplifted from the chaotic deep until the second day. The heavens are the rest of the universe. The Hebrews were aware of other heavens than the "firmament" or gaseous expanse which over-arches the earth. "Tres regiones," says Poole, "ubi ayes, ubi nubes, ubi sidera." But, beyond these, the Shemitie mind conceived of the heaven where the angels dwell (1 Kings 22:19; Matthew 18:10), and where God specially resides (Deuteronomy 26:15; 1 Kings 8:30; Psalm 2:4), if, indeed, this latter was not distinguished as a more exalted region than that occupied by any creature - as "the heaven of heavens," the pre-eminently sacred abode of the Supreme (Deuteronomy 10:14; 1 Kings 8:27; Psalm 105:16). The fundamental idea associated with the term was that of height (shamayim, literally, "the heights" - Gesenius, Furst). To the Greek mind heaven meant "the boundary" (οὑρανος, from ὁρος - Arist.), or, "the raised up" (from ὀρ - to be prominent - Liddell and Scott). The Latin spoke of "the con cavity" (coelum, allied to κοῖλος, hollow), or "the engraved" (from coelo, to engrave). The Saxon thought of "the heaved-up arch." The Hebrew imagined great spaces rising tier upon tier above the earth (which, m contradistinction, was named "the flats"), just as with regard to time he spoke of olamim (Gr. αἰῶνες). Though not anticipating modern astronomical discovery, he had yet enlarged conceptions of the dimensions of the stellar world (Genesis 15:5; Isaiah 40:26; Jeremiah 31:37; Amos 9:6); and, though unacquainted with our present geographical ideas of the earth's configuration, he was able to represent it as a globe, and as suspended upon nothing (Isaiah 40:11; Job 26:7-10; Proverbs 8:27). The connection of the present verse with those which follow has been much debated. The proposal of Aben Ezra, adopted by Calvin, to read, "In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was" is grammatically inadmissible. Equally objectionable on the ground of grammar is the suggestion of Bunsen and Ewald, to connect the first verse with the third, and make the second parenthetical; while it is opposed to that simplicity of construction which pervades the chapter. The device of Drs. Buckland and Chalmers, so favorably regarded by some harmonists of Scripture and geology, to read the first verse as a heading to the whole section, is exploded by the fact that no historical narration can begin with "and." To this Exodus 1. It is no exception, the second book of Moses being in reality a continuation of the first. Honest exegesis requires that ver. I shall be viewed as descriptive of the first of the series of Divine acts detailed in the chapter, and that ver. 2, while admitting of an interval, shall be held as coming in immediate succession - an interpretation, it may be said, which is fatal to the theory which discovers the geologic ages between the creative beginning and primeval chaos. "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." - Heaven and earth have not existed from all eternity, but had a beginning; nor did they arise by emanation from an absolute substance, but were created by God. This sentence, which stands at the head of the records of revelation, is not a mere heading, nor a summary of the history of the creation, but a declaration of the primeval act of God, by which the universe was called into being. That this verse is not a heading merely, is evident from the fact that the following account of the course of the creation commences with w (and), which connects the different acts of creation with the fact expressed in Genesis 1:1, as the primary foundation upon which they rest. בּרשׁיח (in the beginning) is used absolutely, like ἐν ἀρχῇ in John 1:1, and מראשׁיח in Isaiah 46:10. The following clause cannot be treated as subordinate, either by rendering it, "in the beginning when God created ..., the earth was," etc., or "in the beginning when God created...(but the earth was then a chaos, etc.), God said, Let there be light" (Ewald and Bunsen). The first is opposed to the grammar of the language, which would require Genesis 1:2 to commence with הארץ ותּהי; the second to the simplicity of style which pervades the whole chapter, and to which so involved a sentence would be intolerable, apart altogether from the fact that this construction is invented for the simple purpose of getting rid of the doctrine of a creatio ex nihilo, which is so repulsive to modern Pantheism. ראשׁיח in itself is a relative notion, indicating the commencement of a series of things or events; but here the context gives it the meaning of the very first beginning, the commencement of the world, when time itself began. The statement, that in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth, not only precludes the idea of the eternity of the world a parte ante, but shows that the creation of the heaven and the earth was the actual beginning of all things. The verb בּרא, indeed, to judge from its use in Joshua 17:15, Joshua 17:18, where it occurs in the Piel (to hew out), means literally "to cut, or new," but in Kal it always means to create, and is only applied to a divine creation, the production of that which had no existence before. It is never joined with an accusative of the material, although it does not exclude a pre-existent material unconditionally, but is used for the creation of man (Genesis 1:27; Genesis 5:1-2), and of everything new that God creates, whether in the kingdom of nature (Numbers 16:30) or of that of grace (Exodus 34:10; Psalm 51:10, etc.). In this verse, however, the existence of any primeval material is precluded by the object created: "the heaven and the earth." This expression is frequently employed to denote the world, or universe, for which there was no single word in the Hebrew language; the universe consisting of a twofold whole, and the distinction between heaven and earth being essentially connected with the notion of the world, the fundamental condition of its historical development (vid., Genesis 14:19, Genesis 14:22; Exodus 31:17). In the earthly creation this division is repeated in the distinction between spirit and nature; and in man, as the microcosm, in that between spirit and body. Through sin this distinction was changed into an actual opposition between heaven and earth, flesh and spirit; but with the complete removal of sin, this opposition will cease again, though the distinction between heaven and earth, spirit and body, will remain, in such a way, however, that the earthly and corporeal will be completely pervaded by the heavenly and spiritual, the new Jerusalem coming down from heaven to earth, and the earthly body being transfigured into a spiritual body (Revelation 21:1-2; 1 Corinthians 15:35.). Hence, if in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth, "there is nothing belonging to the composition of the universe, either in material or form, which had an existence out of God prior to this divine act in the beginning" (Delitzsch). This is also shown in the connection between our verse and the one which follows: "and the earth was without form and void," not before, but when, or after God created it. From this it is evident that the void and formless state of the earth was not uncreated, or without beginning. At the same time it is obvious from the creative acts which follow (vv. 3-18), that the heaven and earth, as God created them in the beginning, were not the well-ordered universe, but the world in its elementary form; just as Euripides applies the expression οὐρανὸς καὶ γαῖα to the undivided mass (οπφὴμία), which was afterwards formed into heaven and earth.
Links
Genesis 1:1 Interlinear
Genesis 1:1 Parallel Texts


Genesis 1:1 NIV
Genesis 1:1 NLT
Genesis 1:1 ESV
Genesis 1:1 NASB
Genesis 1:1 KJV

Genesis 1:1 Bible Apps
Genesis 1:1 Parallel
Genesis 1:1 Biblia Paralela
Genesis 1:1 Chinese Bible
Genesis 1:1 French Bible
Genesis 1:1 German Bible

Bible Hub
Revelation 22:21
Top of Page
Top of Page