Matthew Poole's Commentary
In the beginning God created the heaven and 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.
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.
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.The same confused mass or heap is here called both
earth, from its most solid and substantial part; and the
deep, from its vast bulk and depth; and waters, from its outward face and covering. See Psa 104:6 2Pe 3:5.
Without form and void; without order and beauty, and without furniture and use.
Upon the face, the surface or uppermost part of it, upon which the light afterward shone. Thus not the earth only, but also the heaven above it, was without light, as is manifest from the following verses.
The Spirit of God; not the wind, which was not yet created, as is manifest, because the air, the matter or subject of it, was not yet produced; but the Third Person of the glorious Trinity, called the Holy Ghost, to whom the work of creation is attributed, Job 26:13, as it is ascribed to the Second Person, the Son, Joh 1:3 Col 1:16-17 Heb 1:3, and to the First Person, the Father, every where.
Upon the face of the waters, i.e. upon the waters, to cherish, quicken, and dispose them to the production of the things after mentioned. It is a metaphor from birds hovering and fluttering over, and sitting upon their eggs and young ones, to cherish, warm, and quicken them.
And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.He commanded, not by such a word or speech as we use, which agreeth not with the spiritual nature of God; but either by an act of his powerful will, called the word of his power, Heb 1:3 or, by his substantial Word, his Son, by whom he made the worlds, Heb 1:2 Psa 33:6, who is called: The Word, partly, if not principally, for this reason,
Joh 1:1-3, Joh 1:10.
There was light; which was some bright and lucid body, peradventure like the fiery cloud in the wilderness, giving a small and imperfect light, successively moving over the several parts of the earth; and afterwards condensed, increased, perfected, and gathered together in the sun.
And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.He observed with approbation that it was pleasant and amiable, agreeable to God’s purpose and man’s use; and made a distinction or separation between them in place, time, and use, that the one should succeed and shut out the other, and so by their vicissitudes make the day and the night.
And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.It is acknowledged by all, that the
evening and the morning are not here to be understood according to our common usage, but are put by a synecdoche each of them for one whole part of the natural day. But because it may be doubted which part each of them signifies, some understand by
evening, the foregoing day; and by
the morning, the foregoing night; and so the natural day begins with the morning or the light, as it did with the ancient Chaldeans. Others by
evening understand the first night or darkness which was upon the face of the earth, Gen 1:2, which probably continued for the space of about twelve hours, the beginning whereof might fitly be called
evening; and by
morning the succeeding light or day, which may reasonably be supposed to continue the other twelve hours, or thereabouts. And this seems the truer opinion,
1. Because the darkness was before the light, as the
evening is put before the
morning, Gen 1:5, Gen 1:8, and afterwards.
2. Because this best agrees both with the vulgar and with the Scripture use of the terms of
evening and morning.
3. Because the Jews, who had the best opportunity of knowing the mind of God in this matter by Moses and other succeeding prophets, begun both their common and sacred days with the evening, as is confessed, and may be gathered from Lev 23:32.
Were the first day; did constitute or make up the first day; day of being taken largely for the natural day, consisting of twenty-four hours: these were the parts the first day; and the like is to be understood of the succeeding days. Moreover, God, who could have made all things at once, was pleased to divide his work into six days, partly to give us occasion more distinctly and seriously to consider God's works, and principally to lay the foundation for the weekly sabbath, as is clearly intimated, Gen 2:2-3 Exo 20:9-11.
And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.A firmament; or, an extension, or a space or
place extended or stretched out, and spread abroad like a tent or curtain, between the waters, though not exactly in the middle place; as Tyrus is said to sit, or be situated in the midst of the seas, Ezekiel 28:2, though it was but a little space within the sea. But of these things see more in Genesis 1:7.
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.The firmament here is either,
1. The starry heaven; so called, not from its solidity, but from its fixed, durable, and, in a sort, incorruptible and unchangeable nature. Or,
2. The air; called here, the expansion, or extension, because it is extended far and wide, even from the earth to the third heaven; called also the firmament, because it is fixed in its proper place, from whence it cannot be moved, unless by force.
The waters under the firmament are seas, rivers, lakes, fountains, and other waters in the bowels of the earth.
The waters above the firmament, or above the heavens, as they are called, Psa 148:4, are either,
1. A collection or sea of waters placed by God above all the visible heavens, and there reserved for ends known to himself. Or rather,
2. The waters in the clouds; for the clouds are called waters, Psa 18:11 Psa 104:3, and are said to be in heaven, 2Sa 21:10 Mat 24:30, and the production thereof is mentioned as an eminent work of God's creation, Job 35:5 Job 36:29 Psa 147:8 Pro 8:28; which therefore it is not credible that Moses in his history of the creation would admit, which he doth, if they be not here meant; and these are rightly said to be above the firmament, i.e. the air, because they are above a considerable part of it. As God commanded and ordered it, so it was done and settled.
And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.The waters under the heaven; both the great abyss, or deep of water which is shut up in the bowels of the earth, Gen 7:11 Psa 24:2 Psa 33:7 Psa 136:6; as also the sea and rivers, all which are here said to be gathered together into one place, because of their communication and mixture one with another.
Let the dry land appear; for hitherto it was covered with water, Gen 1:2 2Pe 3:5.
And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.He called them not sea, but seas; because of the differing quantity and nature both of several seas, and of the rivers, and other lesser collections of waters, all which the Hebrews call seas.
The separation of the waters was begun on the second day, Genesis 1:6, &c., but not perfected till this third day; therefore God’s approbation of that work is not mentioned there, but here only.
And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.Let the earth bring forth; the sense is: For the present let it afford matter, out of which I will make grass (as man’s rib afforded matter, out of which God made woman); and for the future let it receive virtue or power of producing it out of that matter which I have made, and suited to that end.
Grass; that which groweth of itself without seed or manuring, and is the food of beasts.
The herb yielding seed, for the propagation of their several kinds, to wit, mature and perfect herbs, which alone yield seed. So afterwards God made man, not in the state of children, but of grown and perfect age.
After his kind, i.e. according to the several kinds of fruits.
Whose seed is in itself; now is by my constitution, and shall be for the future. In some part of itself, either in the root, or branch, or leaf, or bud, or fruit. The sense is, which is sufficient of itself for the propagation of its kind, without any conjunction of male and female.
And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.This clause is so often added, to show that all the disorders, evil and hurtful qualities, that now are in the creatures, are not to be imputed to God, who made all of them good; but to man’s sin, which hath corrupted their nature, and perverted their use.
And the evening and the morning were the third day.
And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:Let there be lights; to wit, more glorious lights than that created the first day, which probably was now condensed and reduced into these lights; which are higher for place, more illustrious for light, and more powerful for influence, than that was. Note here, that herbs and trees were created before the sun, whose influence now is necessary for their production, to show that God doth not depend upon the means or upon the help of the creatures in his operations.
The day, i.e. the artificial day, reaching from sun-rising to sunsetting.
Let them be for signs; for the designation and distincton of times, as months, weeks, &c.; as also for the signification of the quality of the weather or season, by the manner of their rising and setting, Mat 16:2; by their eclipses, conjunctions, &c. And for the discovery of supernatural and miraculous effects; of which see Jos 10:13 Isa 38:8 Luk 21:25-26 Act 2:19-20.
And for seasons, and for days, and years:
1. By their motions and influences to produce and distinguish the four seasons of the year, mentioned Gen 8:22. And to show as well the fit times and seasons for sowing, planting, reaping, navigation, &c., as for the observation of set and solemn feasts, or other times for the ordering of ecclesiastical or civil affairs.
2. By their diurnal and swift motion to make the days, and by their nearer approaches to us, or further distances from us, to make the days or nights either longer, or shorter, or equal. He speaks here of natural days, consisting of twenty-four hours.
3. By their annual and slower motion to make years.
And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so.
And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.Two great lights, or, enlighteners, as the word properly signifies. The sun, which is really and considerably greater than the moon, or any of the stars, or the whole earth. And the moon, called here the lesser light, is greater than any of the stars, not really, but in appearance, and in clearness and light, in respect of which it is called great in this place, and both are much greater in efficacy and use than any of the stars.
To rule the day; either,
1. To influence the earth and its fruits with heat or moisture, and to govern men’s actions and affairs, which commonly are transacted by day; for the word day is sometimes put metonymically for the events of the day, as Proverbs 27:1 1 Corinthians 3:13. Or,
2. To regulate and manage the day; by its rise to begin it, by its gradual progress to carry it on, even to the mid-day, and by its declination and setting to impair and end it. Which seems most probable, because the moon is in like manner said to rule the night, which is meant of the time, and not of the actions or events of the night.
And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth,
And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.This clause was omitted in the first day’s work, but is added here, because the light was then but glimmering and imperfect, which now was made more clear and complete.
And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.
And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.The moving creature, or, creeping thing. A word which belongs to all those living creatures who move with their bellies close to the element they move in. Hence it is used both of birds which fly in the air, Leviticus 11:20, and of things creeping upon the earth, as Genesis 1:24, and of fishes that swim in the sea, as here.
And fowl that may fly above the earth. The particle that or
which is oft wanting, and to be understood in the Hebrew language, as Genesis 39:4 Job 41:1 Isaiah 6:6: according to this translation the fowl have their matter from the water as well as the fishes; which seem most probable, as from this, so also from the following verses, in which they are both mentioned together, as made of the same materials, and as works of the same day, and both are blessed together, and both are distinguished and separated from the production of the earth, which were the works of the sixth day, Genesis 1:24, &c. And whereas it is said, Genesis 2:19, Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; it may be answered, That the word ground or earth may be there understood more largely, as it is confessedly in some other places of Scripture, for the lower part of the world, consisting of earth and water. For it is most reasonable to expound that short and general passage from the foregoing chapter, wherein the original both of beasts and fowls are largely and distinctly described. Moreover, the fowl seem to have been made of both these elements, viz. of soft and moist earth, possibly taken from the bottom of the water, in which case they were brought forth by the water, as is said here, and formed out of the ground, as there. As Eve is said to be made of Adam’s bone and rib, Genesis 2:21; and of his flesh Genesis 1:23. Which shows that with the rib flesh was taken from Adam, though it be not said so, Genesis 1:21. So here, the fowl were made both of water and earth, as their temper and constitution shows, though but one of them be here expressed. But these words are by some translated thus,
and let the fowl fly. But according to that translation, the mention of the fowl, both here and in Genesis 1:21, seems to be very improper and forced. For it is preposterous, and contrary to the method constantly used in this whole chapter, to speak of the motion of any living creature, and the place thereof, before its original and production be mentioned. Besides, either the original of the fowls is described here, or it is wholly omitted in this chapter, which is not credible.
And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.God created, i.e. produced out of most unfit matter, as if a man should out of a stone make bread, which requires as great a power as that which is properly called creation.
Great whales; those vast sea monsters known by that name, though elsewhere this word be applied to great dragons of the earth.
After his kind; in such manner as is declared in the first note upon Genesis 1:20. See Poole on "Genesis 1:20".
And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.He gave them power of procreation and fruitfulness, which is justly mentioned as a great blessing, Psa 128:3-4.
Fill the waters in the seas; and consequently in the rivers, which come from the sea, and return into it.
Let fowl multiply in the earth, where they shall commonly have their habitation, though they had their original from the waters; of which see Poole on "Gen 1:20".
And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.
And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.1. Those living creatures hereafter mentioned, whose original is from the earth, and whose habitation is in it.
2. Those tame beasts which are most familiar with and useful to men for food, clothing, or other service.
3. Creeping thing; to wit, of the earth, of a differing kind from those creeping things of the water, Genesis 1:20.
4. The wild beast, as the Hebrew word commonly signifies, and as appears further, because they are distinguished from the tame beasts, here called cattle.
And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.God had now prepared all things necessary for man’s use and comfort. The plurals us and our afford an evident proof of a plurality of persons in the Godhead. It is plain from many other texts, as well as from the nature and reason of the thing, that God alone is man’s Creator: the angels rejoiced at the work of creation, but only God wrought it, Job 38:4-7. And it is no less plain from this text, and from divers other places, that man had more Creators than one person: see Job 35:10 John 1:2-3, &c.; Hebrews 1:3. And as other texts assure us that there is but one God, so this shows that there are more persons in the Godhead; nor can that seeming contradiction of one and more being in the Godhead be otherwise reconciled, than by acknowledging a plurality of persons in the unity of essence. It is pretended that God here speaks after the manner of princes, in the plural number, who use to say: We will
and require, or, It is our pleasure. But this is only the invention and practice of latter times, and no way agreeable to the simplicity, either of the first ages of the world, or of the Hebrew style. The kings of Israel used to speak of themselves in the singular number, 2 Samuel 3:28, 1 Chronicles 21:17, 1 Chronicles 29:14, 2 Chronicles 2:6. And so did the eastern monarchs too, yea, even in their decrees and orders, which now run in the plural number, as Ezra 6:8, I (Darius) make a decree; Ezra 7:21, I, even I Artaxerxes the king, do make a decree. Nor do I remember one example in Scripture to the contrary. It is therefore a rash and presumptuous attempt, without any warrant, to thrust the usages of modern style into the sacred Scripture. Besides, the Lord doth generally speak of himself in the singular number, some few places excepted, wherein the plural number is used for the signification of this mystery. Moreover, this device is utterly overthrown by comparing this text with Genesis 3:22:
The Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us. Therefore there are more persons than one in the Godhead. How many they are other texts plainly inform us, as we shall see in their proper places. And whereas he saith not now as he did before: Let the earth or waters
bring forth, but, Let us make; this change of the phrase and manner of expression shows that man was, as the last, so the most perfect and the chief of the ways and works of God in this lower world.
After our likeness. Image and likeness are two words noting the same thing, even exact likeness. For both of them are used of Adam, Genesis 5:3:
He begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and they are separately and indifferently used in the same sense, man being said to be made in the likeness of God, Genesis 5:1, and in the image of God, Genesis 9:6.
Quest. Wherein doth the image of God in man consist?
Answ. 1. It is in the whole man, both in the blessedness of his estate, and in his dominion over the rest of the creatures.
2. It shines forth even in the body, in the majesty of man’s countenance, and height of his stature, which is set towards heaven, when other creatures by their down-looks show the lowness and meanness of their nature, as even heathens have observed.
3. It principally consists and most eminently appears in man’s soul.
1. In its nature and substance, as it is, like God, spiritual, invisible, immortal, &c.
2. In its powers and faculties, reason or understanding, and freedom in its choice and actions.
3. In the singular endowments wherewith God hath adorned it, as knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness, in which St. Paul chiefly placeth this image, Ephesians 4:24 Colossians 3:10.
The male and female are both comprehended in the word man, as is expressed, Genesis 1:27, together with their posterity.
Over the cattle; by which he understands either,
1. Both tame and wild beasts, the same word being used here in a differing sense from what it hath Genesis 1:25, as is frequent in Scripture. Or,
2. Tame beasts, which are particularly mentioned, because they are more under man’s dominion than the wild beasts, and more fitted for man’s use and benefit, though the other be not excluded, but comprehended under the former, as the more famous kind, as is usual in Scriptures and other authors.
Over all the earth; over all other creatures and productions of the earth, and over the earth itself, to manage it as they see fit for their own comfort and advantage.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.Not both together, as some of the Jews have fabled, but successively, the woman after and out of the man, as is more particularly related, Genesis 2:21, &c., which is here mentioned by anticipation. Albeit the woman also seems to have been made upon the sixth day, as is here related, and as the following blessing showeth, which is common to both of them, though the particular history of it is brought in afterwards, Genesis 2:1-25, by way of recapitulation or repetition.
And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.Having blessed them with excellent natures, and heavenly gifts and graces, he further blesseth them with a special and temporal blessing expressed in the following words.
Replenish the earth, with inhabitants to be begotten by you.
Question. Whether this be a command obliging all men to marriage and procreation? So the Hebrew doctors think. It may be thus resolved:
1. It is a command obliging all men so far as not to suffer the extinction of mankind: thus it did absolutely bind Adam and Eve, as also Noah, and his sons and their wives, after the Flood.
2. It doth not oblige every particular person to marry, as appears both from the example of the Lord Jesus, who lived and died in an unmarried state, and from his commendation of those who made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of God, Matthew 19:12; and from St. Paul’s approbation of virginity, 1 Corinthians 7:1, 1 Corinthians 7:8, 1 Corinthians 7:26-27, 1 Corinthians 7:32, &c.
3. It is here rather a promise or benediction than a command, as appears both from Genesis 2:22, where the same words are applied to the brute beasts, who are not subject to a command; and because if this were a command, it would equally oblige every man to exercise dominion over fishes and fowls, &c., which is absurd. It is therefore a permission rather than a command, though it be expressed in the form of a command, as other permissions frequently are, as Genesis 2:16 Deu 14:4.
And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.It is neither affirmed nor denied that flesh also was granted to the first men for food, and therefore we may safely be ignorant of it. It is sufficient for us that it was expressly allowed, Genesis 9:3.
And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.No notes from Poole on this verse.
And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.No notes from Poole on this verse.