James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.Genesis 1:1-31
CREATION OF THE WORLD
CREATION OF HEAVEN AND EARTH (Genesis 1:1)
Here are three facts. What was done? Who did it? When did it occur? Two words require explanation: “created” and “beginning.” Does the former mean that heaven and earth were created out of nothing? The word (bara, in Hebrew) does not necessarily mean that, but its peculiar use in this chapter suggests that it means that here. It occurs three times, here in (Genesis 1:1, at the introduction of life on the fifth day, and at the creation of man on the sixth day. Elsewhere, where only transformations are meant, another word (asah, in Hebrew) is used, translated “made.” Bara (created) is thus reserved for marking the introduction of each of the three great spheres of existence the world of matter, of animal life and of spirit, all three of which, though intimately associated, are distinct in essence, and constitute all the universe known to us. Professor Guyot adds that whenever the simple form of bara is used in the Bible it always refers to a work made by God and never by man. These considerations, with others, justify the statement that “created” here means created out of nothing.
But when was the “beginning”? The margin indicates a period about 4,000 years before Christ, but these marginal notes are not part of the divine test, but the work of uninspired minds and therefore open to debate. Should science ultimately determine on millions of years ago as the period of the creation there is nothing in this verse of the Bible it would contradict.
MAKING DAY (Genesis 1:2-5)
What was the condition of inert matter as represented in (Genesis 1:2? The first verb “was” has sometimes been translated “became.” Read it thus and you get the idea that originally the earth was otherwise than void and waste, but that some catastrophe took place resulting in that state. This means, if true, that a period elapsed between Genesis 1:1-2, long enough to account for the geological formations of which some scientists speak, and a race of pre-Adamite men of which others speculate. It suggests too that the earth as we now know it may not be much older than tradition places it. The word “earth” in this verse, however, must not be understood to mean our globe with its land and seas, which was not made till the third day, but simply matter in general, that is, the cosmic material out of which the Holy Spirit organized the whole universe, including the earth of today.
“And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” “Moved upon” means brooded over as a bird on its nest. “Waters” means not the oceans and seas as we know them, but the gaseous condition of the matter before spoken of. The Spirit of God moved “upon” the waters, and not inside of them, showing that God is a personal Being separate from His work. As the result of this brooding, what appeared? We need not suppose that God spake just as a human being speaks, but the coming forth of light out of thick darkness would have seemed to a spectator as the effect of a divine command (Psalm 33:6-9). On the natural plane of things vibration is light or produces light, which illustrates the relation between the moving of the Spirit upon inert matter and the effect it produced.
“And God called the light day.” The Hebrew word yom, translated “day,” is used in five different senses in the first two chapters of Genesis. Here it means light without reference to time. Later in the same verse it means the period covered by “the evening and the morning” mentioned, the exact duration of which we do not know. At Genesis 1:14 it stands for what we know as twenty-four hours, at Genesis 1:16 it means the light part of the day of twenty-four hours, and at Genesis 2:4 it means the whole period during which the heaven and the earth were created. All this bears on the question whether creation was wrought in six days of twenty-four hours or six day-periods of unknown length; and it will be seen that one does not necessarily contradict the Bible if he believes the latter. When we recall that days of twelve and twenty-four hours were altogether excluded before the appearance of the sun on the fourth day, the latter hypothesis receives the stronger confirmation.
MAKING HEAVEN (Genesis 1:6-8)
What does God call forth in Genesis 1:6? Firmament might be translated expanse. What was it to divide? Notice that according to our definition of waters, this means a separation of the gaseous matter into which light had now come. What did God call this expanse? Heaven here means not simply the atmosphere around the earth but the greater immensity where the sun, moon and stars are located. Related to this, read Psalm 148:1-14 and notice that there are waters, that is, gaseous matter above the heaven of which this verse speaks, and that the waters below it include the clouds of our atmosphere as well as the oceans and seas we navigate.
MAKING EARTH AND SEAS (Genesis 1:9-13)
What command goes forth from God on the third day (Genesis 1:9)? What did He call the result (Genesis 1:10)? Heaven, or the firmament, had divided the cosmic or gaseous matter on the second day. Motion was now everywhere, and gravitation and chemical forces tended to concentrate this matter under the firmament around particular centers, one of which became our globe. A cooling process set in, shrinking and folding its surface into great wrinkles, the shrinking of some parts furnishing basins for oceans or seas and the projection of other parts bringing continents into view. Thus would astronomers and geologists comment on these verses.
But another work than the formation of the globe was accomplished on this day (Genesis 1:11-12). A principle superior to matter begins to govern its particles, and they assume new forms. What does the earth put forth? Which came first, the plant or the seed? “The plant is not yet life,” says Guyot, “but the bridge between matter and life.”
MAKING LIGHTS (Genesis 1:14-19)
What command went forth on the fourth day? For what six purposes were these lights made (Genesis 1:14-15)? What discrimination is made between the two greater lights (v. 16)? Where were the lights placed (Genesis 1:17)? What special purpose of their making is emphasized in Genesis 1:17-18? It is well to keep in mind that light itself was made on the first day, and that these lights of the fourth day were (so to speak) light-holders. It is of course unnecessary to state how they divide the day from the night, and in what sense they are for signs and seasons, as every one knows the first result is secured by the daily rotation of the earth among them on its own axis, and the second by its annual revolution around the sun. It is presumable that originally their light was merged in that of the earth’s own outer covering of light, and that as her luminous envelope disappeared they became visible, and she came to depend on them for both light and heat.
CREATING ANIMAL LIFE (Genesis 1:20-25)
What is the command of Genesis 1:20? The waters here referred to are our oceans and seas. The Revised Version corrects the misapprehension that fowl came forth from the water. What word in Genesis 1:21 indicates that we have now entered on a new sphere of existence? What was the nature of the blessing on the fish and fowl (Genesis 1:22)? What was the further work of creation on this day (Genesis 1:24-25)? It is interesting to note: (a) that this peopling of the water, the air and the land is in the precise order indicated by the science of geology; (b) that the plant life of the third day was the preparation for the animal life of the fifth day; (c) that the plant is now in the animal shaped into new forms, and subservient to higher functions than it could ever perform by itself; (d) that two powers which place the animal on a higher platform than the lower grades of existence are sensation, by which it perceives the world around it, and will, by which it reacts upon it.
This is life, and is not the result of chemical elements left to themselves, but the effect of previously existing life. Thus, the Bible and science agree in declaring that “spontaneous generation is an untenable hypothesis,” and only life begets more life.
CREATING MAN (Genesis 1:26-31)
What word in Genesis 1:26 suggests more than one person in the Godhead? What dignity is given to man above every other work of creation?
What dignity in his position? What word in (Genesis 1:27 shows that in his creation we have entered another new sphere of existence? What blessing is bestowed on man in (Genesis 1:28? How does it differ from that bestowed on the lower animals? What provision has God made for the sustenance of man and beast?
1. that the consultation in the Godhead regarding man’s creation foreshadows the New Testament doctrine of the Trinity; that the “image of God” may mean the trinity in man represented by body, soul and spirit (Genesis 2:7; 1 Thessalonians 5:23), but especially that moral image suggested in Colossians 3:10; that the dominion of man over the lower creation has in some measure been lost through sin, but will be restored again in Christ (Psalm 8:1-9); and
2. that the creation of matter, of life and of man are three distinct creations out of nothing, and that God’s action in them is direct, hence evolution from one into the other is impossible. There may be evolution within any one of these systems of existence considered by itself, but this is different from that other evolution which would make man the descendant of an ape and rule God out of the universe which He made.
3. What does create probably mean in this chapter? Why do you think so?
4. When may the beginning have been?
(1) What does “earth” mean in Genesis 1:2?
(2) What word in Genesis 1:2 opposes pantheism by showing God to be a person?
(3) If the creation days were not limited to twenty-four hours, why do you think so?
(4) What does “heaven” of the second day stand for?
(5) What two works were accomplished on the third day?
(6) What two powers in the animal define life?
(7) Quote Colossians 3:10(8) How would you distinguish between a rationalistic and a possibly Biblical evolution?