Christian Articles for All of your Publishing Needs!

Translate this Page Here




Word Count: 4801

Send Article To Friend Print/Use Article

Contact Karl Kemp

Genesis 1:1-2:3; God Creates Our World, Part 7

by Karl Kemp  
7/17/2014 / Bible Studies

We continue with the excerpts from Extended Note E, "A Study of the Hebrew Verb 'Badal,' to Separate, to Divide, to Distinguish Between, to Set Apart," here in Part 7.

Leviticus 20:24, 25 (twice), 26 (I'll quote 20:22-27). "You are therefore to keep all My statutes and all My ordinances and do them, so that the land to which I am bringing you to live will not spew you out. (23) Moreover, you shall not follow the customs of the nation which I will drive out before you, for they did all these things, and therefore I have abhorred them. (24) Hence I have said to you, 'You are to possess their land, and I Myself will give it to you to possess it, a land flowing with milk and honey.' I am the LORD your God, who HAS SEPARATED you from the peoples. (25) You ARE therefore TO MAKE A DISTINCTION [or, TO SEPARATE] between the clean animal and the unclean, and between the unclean bird and the clean; and you shall not make yourselves detestable by animal or by bird or by anything that creeps on the ground, which I HAVE SEPARATED for you as unclean. (26) Thus you are to be holy to Me, for I the LORD am holy; and I HAVE SET you APART [or, I HAVE SEPARATED you] from the peoples to be Mine. (27) Now a man or a woman who is a medium or a spiritist shall surely be put to death. [Being a "spiritist" or a "medium" was a transgression of the law of God, a transgression that called for the death penalty. These things were/are associated with the Satanic kingdom of darkness.] They shall be stoned with stones, their bloodguiltiness is upon them." "Bayin" is used before "the clean animal" in Lev. 20:25 and the Hebrew preposition "le" is used before "the unclean." This is a variation in the Hebrew from using "bayin" twice. We'll see this use again as we continue, and it is used in Gen. 1:6.

1 Kings 8:53. "For You HAVE SEPARATED them [the people of Israel] from all the peoples of the earth as Your inheritance, as You spoke through Moses Your servant, when You brought our fathers forth from Egypt, O Lord GOD."

Ezra 10:11 (with 10:10). "Then Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, 'You have been unfaithful and have married foreign wives adding to the guilt of Israel. (11) Now therefore, make confession to the LORD God of your fathers and do His will; and SEPARATE yourselves from the peoples of the land and from the foreign wives."

Isaiah 59:2. "But your iniquities HAVE MADE A SEPARATION between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear." The iniquities/sins of the people of Israel had separated them from God and from His salvation (cf. Isa. 59:1) and blessings. "Bayin" is used before "you" and "your God."

Ezekiel 22:26. "Her [Israel's] priests have done violence to My law and have profaned My holy things; they HAVE MADE NO DISTINCTION between the holy and the profane, and they have not taught the difference between the unclean and the clean; and they hide their eyes from My sabbaths, and I am profaned among them." "Bayin" is used before "the holy" and "le" before "the profane."

This next set of verses that use "badal" covers much of the same ground as the verses just listed: People, places, things are set apart for God. The primary difference is that for most of the verses listed here the separating, the dividing, the being set apart for God is mostly from the other sons of Israel. The priests, for example, were set apart from the people of Israel, who had already been set apart by God and for God. The priests had a special calling from God. God required them to be separated to a greater extent than the other sons of Israel; for the high priest to a greater extent yet.

The verses listed in this section are quite significant for our study (though not as significant as the verses listed in the preceding section) regarding the use of the verb "badal" in Genesis chapter 1. The separating taking place in these verses isn't a mundane separating of indifferent things; it is a separating that brings some people/things closer to God and the fullness of His light.

Exodus 26:33. "You shall hang up the veil under the clasps, and shall bring in the ark of the testimony within the veil; and the veil SHALL SERVE for you AS A PARTITION [more literally, "will separate" NIV] between the holy place and the holy of holies." "Bayin" is used before "the holy place" and "the holy of holies." There was, of course, a big difference between the holy place and the holy of holies. The only one permitted to enter the holy of holies was the high priest, and that was only once a year, on the Day of Atonement.

Numbers 8:14 (I'll quote 8:15-22). " 'Thus you SHALL SEPARATE the Levites from among the sons of Israel, and the Levites shall be Mine. (15) Then after that the Levites may go in to serve the tent of meeting. But you shall cleanse them and present them as a wave offering; (16) for they are wholly given to Me from among the sons of Israel. I have taken them for Myself instead of every first issue of the womb, the firstborn of all the sons of Israel. (17) For every firstborn among the sons of Israel is Mine, among the men and among the animals; on the day that I struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt I sanctified them for Myself. (18) But I have taken the Levites instead of every firstborn among the sons of Israel. (19) I have given the Levites as a gift to Aaron and to his sons from among the sons of Israel, to perform the service of the sons of Israel at the tent of meeting and to make atonement on behalf of the sons of Israel, so that there will be no plague among the sons of Israel by their coming near to the sanctuary.' (20) Thus did Moses and Aaron and all the congregation of the sons of Israel to the Levites; according to all that the LORD had commanded Moses concerning the Levites, so the sons of Israel did to them. (21) The Levites too purified themselves from sin and washed their clothes; and Aaron presented them as a wave offering before the LORD. Aaron also made atonement for them to cleanse them. (22) Then after that the Levites went in to perform their service in the tent of meeting before Aaron and before his sons; just as the LORD had commanded Moses concerning the Levites, so they did to them."

Ezra 8:24. "Then I [Ezra] SET APART twelve of the leading priests, Sherebiah, Hashabiah, and with them ten of their brothers."

Now I'll list and quote a few verses where the separating/setting apart, though still dealing with the things of God, doesn't necessarily involve a separating/setting apart unto greater holiness. None of the verses deal with a separating of mundane things that are indifferent.

Deuteronomy 19:2. I won't quote Deuteronomy 4:41 and 19:7, which are similar to 19:2. "you SHALL SET ASIDE three cities for yourself [for cities of refuge] in the midst of your land, which the LORD your God gives you to possess."

1 Chronicles 12:8. "From the Gadites [from the tribe of Gad] there CAME OVER [SEPARATED; "defected" NIV] to David in the stronghold in the wilderness, mighty men of valor, men trained for war, who could handle shield and spear, and whose faces were like the faces of lions, and they were as swift as gazelles on the mountains."

Ezekiel 39:14. "They WILL SET APART men who will constantly pass through the land, burying those who were passing through, even those left on the surface of the ground, in order to cleanse it. At the end of seven months they will make a search."

"A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament" by William Holladay (Eerdmans, 1971, page 34) lists Gen. 1:4 under the meaning "separate, distinguish between."

I'll quote two paragraphs from what Benedikt Otzen says in the article on "badal" in the "Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament" (Vol. 2 [Eerdmans, 1975], pages 1, 2). "The verb bdl [badal] is used predominantly in the Priestly literature and usually refers to sacral matters. If a writer wishes to describe a separation in a purely secular context, he usually uses the synonym "paradh." Passages that deal with the separation of warriors for or from battle are no exception (1 Chron. 12:9 [Engl. v. 8]; 2 Chron. 25:10). Even in these late texts there is a reminiscence of the idea that mustering for battle was a sacral act.

bdl must be understood in a similar way in the Deuteronomic regulations concerning the setting apart of the cities of refuge (Deut. 4:41; 19:2, 7). Although Deuteronomy strips this institution of its sacral character [I suppose Otzen means that these verses in Deuteronomy don't mention that these cities of refuge were Levite cities (cf. Num. 35:6).], the choice of words would suggest that it originated in a religious context. Finally the verb bdl occurs a couple of times in the Priestly sacrificial regulations with the simple meaning 'to divide asunder' (Lev. 1:17; 5:8)."

Excerpt from "Be Basic - Genesis 1-11" by Warren W. Wiersbe (Cook Communication Ministries, 1998, pages 24, 25.)

"Day one (Gen. 1:3-5). God commanded the light to shine and then separated the light from the darkness. But how could there be light when the light-bearers aren't mentioned until the fourth day? (vv. 14-19) probably came from God Himself who is light (John 1:5) and wears light as a garment (Ps. 104:2; Hab. 3:3-4). The eternal city will enjoy endless light without the help of the sun or moon (Rev. 22:5), so why couldn't there be light at the beginning of time before the luminaries were made?

Life as we know it could not exist without the light of the sun. Paul saw in this creative act [of God's bringing forth light in Gen. 1:3] the work of God in the new creation, the salvation of the lost. 'For it is God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ' (2 Cor. 4:6, NKJV). 'In Him [God the Son] was life; and the life was the light of men' (John 1:4).

In Scripture, light is associated with Christ (John 8:12), the Word of God (Ps. 119:105, 130), God's people (Matt. 5:14-16; Eph. 5:8), and God's blessing (Prov. 4:18), while darkness is associated with Satan (Luke 23:53; Eph. 6:12), sin (Matt. 6:22-23; John 3:19-21), death (Job 3:4-6, 9), spiritual ignorance (John 1:5), and divine judgment (Matt. 8:12). THIS EXPLAINS WHY GOD SEPARATED THE LIGHT FROM THE DARKNESS, FOR THE TWO HAVE NOTHING IN COMMON. GOD'S PEOPLE ARE TO 'WALK IN THE LIGHT' (1 John 1:5-10), FOR WHAT COMMUNION HAS LIGHT WITH DARKNESS?' [my emphasis] (2 Cor. 6:14-16; Eph. 5:1-14)."

This completes the excerpts from Extended Note E, "A Study of the Hebrew Verb 'Badal,' to Separate, to Divide, to Distinguish Between, to Set Apart."


If we want to understand the Scriptures, it is extremely important for us to rightly discern symbolic/spiritual language, and it isn't always easy, as the divisions in the body of Christ regarding the interpretation of many passages of Scripture (including Genesis chapters 1-3 and the book of Revelation) demonstrate. Some miss the balance by not recognizing language that is symbolic. Some have the idea that if it is possible to take a passage literally, then it should be understood that way. I don't believe that rule is adequate. Our goal must be to interpret each passage the way intended by the author/Author. (I had a footnote: One reason that I added the word "Author," referring to God, is that there are many passages in the Bible that contain revelation, sometimes total revelation, where the human "author" was just passing on what God gave him to pass on. In such cases the author had no input as to whether to use symbolic language, or not.)

I'll quote a few sentences from C. John Collins that deal with this issue ("How Old Is the Earth?" "Presbyterion" 20/2 [1994], page 112). "The first principle of Bible interpretation is, 'take the text on its own terms': that is, we adjust ourselves to the author's perspective, and try to discern what questions they were answering, and what understanding and conventions they shared with their addressees. We may not assume that they are necessarily answering our questions or following our conventions." In a footnote Collins says, "Surely stating the principle this way is far superior to the misleading 'take it literally unless context requires otherwise,' which seems to be the popular way of describing the grammatical-historical hermeneutic. We may not pre-judge what literary types and forms God 'must' use in order to communicate with us; and even in straight prose we make room for idioms, hyperbole, round numbers, anthropomorphisms, statement of a general principle without stopping to discuss nuances and exceptions, and other rhetorical devices. 'The first qualification for judging any piece of workmanship from a corkscrew to a cathedral is to know what it is - what it was intended to do and how it is meant to be used' (C. S. Lewis, 'Preface to Paradise Lost,' 1); as for judging, so also for interpreting."

Some miss the all-important balanced truth in the other direction; they find symbolic language where it was not intended by the author/Author. A prime example (from my point of view), a very important example, is the interpretation of Revelation chapter 20. Instead of seeing a literal millennium on the earth at the end of this age, they take the language as symbolic. I don't believe they have an adequate basis for taking that chapter as symbolic; their interpretations are very strained. Such interpreters typically find very few literal prophecies in the Bible dealing with what will come to pass at the end of this age; they mostly find only what they are looking for: general truths and principles that apply to this entire age.

I acknowledge that at first reading the fact that the darkness and light spoken of in Gen. 1:2-5 have a strong symbolic component may not necessarily jump out at you. ((You could at least make sense of the passage thinking only of physical darkness and light. [I had a footnote: It's very easy for most interpreters to think only of literal darkness and light because they (wrongly) approach Genesis chapter 1 expecting and looking for God's revelation of physical/natural scientific details regarding His creation of the universe. Throughout this paper I try to show that that approach is defective. For one thing, I don't believe God chose to reveal hardly any scientific details in Genesis chapter 1. For a start see what I said on this topic in the Introduction of this paper.])) The more you get into the details of Gen. 1:1-2:3, however, and the more you incorporate what you learn as you continue with Genesis and the rest of the Bible, the more the strong symbolic component of the darkness and light spoken of in Gen. 1:2-5 begins to assert itself. Many passages in the Bible were written in a way that they could not be understood, or fully understood, without the light contained in other parts of the Bible. Sometimes God's people had to wait for subsequent revelation to understand, or fully understand, what was written. Furthermore, we are very dependent on the ministry of the Holy Spirit to understand God's Word.

As we continue with Genesis chapters 1-3, we find (I believe) some heavy-duty symbolic language. The three prime examples are the two very special trees in the middle of the garden (the "tree of the knowledge of good AND EVIL," which can also be called "the tree of death," and the "tree of life") and the "serpent" (a symbol for Satan, not a literal serpent that the devil spoke through). Many have pointed out that the first three chapters of the Bible have much in common with the last two chapters of the Bible, Revelation chapters 21, 22.

[[I had a four paragraph footnote: In some ways Revelation 21, 22 picture a return to the garden of Eden before the fall (cf., e.g., the "tree(s) of life" [Rev. 22:2]), but Revelation chapters 21, 22 go very far beyond the state/glory pictured in Genesis chapters 1-3. For example, Adam, even before the fall, had a body created of the elements of this world and designed for life in this world; in the eternal state our bodies will be glorified (cf., e.g., 1 Cor. 15:45-53). The glory of the garden of Eden can hardly be compared with the exceeding glory of the eternal state pictured in Revelation chapters 21, 22.

I'll quote a large part of what J. Sidlow Baxter says in a subsection titled "Genesis and the Apocalypse [the book of Revelation]" when discussing the book of Genesis ("Explore the Book" [Zondervan, 1966], pages 25-27). "It is important to recognize the relationship between Genesis and the last book of Scripture. There is a correspondence between them which at once suggests itself as being both a proof and a product of the fact that the Bible is a completed revelation. There is no adequate understanding of either of them [Genesis or the book of Revelation] without the other; but taken together they are mutually completive. ... In broad outline and majestic language Genesis answers the question: 'How did all begin?' ...Revelation answers the question: 'How will all issue [end]?' All that lies between them is development from the one to the other. ...

Mark the contrasts between the one book and the other. In Genesis we see the first paradise closed (3:23); in Revelation we see the new paradise opened (21:25). In Genesis we see dispossession through human sin (3:24); in Revelation we see repossession through Divine grace (21:24). In Genesis we see the 'curse' imposed (3:17); in Revelation we see the 'curse' removed (22:3). In Genesis we see access to the tree of life disinherited, in Adam (3:24); in Revelation we see access to the tree of life reinherited, in Christ (22:14). In Genesis we see the beginning of sorrow and death (3:16-19) [We see the beginning of sorrow and death for man, not the ultimate beginning of sorrow and death. Baxter, who holds the gap view of Genesis chapter 1, would agree with this detail.] ... In Genesis we see the evil triumph of the Serpent (3:13); in Revelation we see the ultimate triumph of the Lamb (20:10; 22:3). ...

... In Genesis we have the sentence passed on Satan; in the Apocalypse we have the sentence executed. In Genesis we are given the first promise of a coming Saviour and salvation; in the Apocalypse we see that promise in its final and glorious fulfilment. Genesis causes anticipation; the Apocalypse effects realization. Genesis is the foundation stone of the Bible; the Apocalypse is the capstone. (This is the end of the four-paragraph footnote.)]] Those chapters from the book of Revelation, which are discussed in a verse-by-verse manner in some detail in my paper on Revelation chapter 20-22 on my internet site, are full of symbolic language, including (but not at all limited to) the symbolic numbers for the dimensions of new Jerusalem and the wall of that city; the "river of the water of life, clear a crystal" flowing from the throne of God the Father and God the Son (the "river of the water of life" surely serves as a symbol for the Spirit of life); and the "tree[s] of life" along the banks of this "river," which is the equivalent of the "tree of life" spoken of in Gen. 2:9; 3:22, 24 and in other verses; to partake of the fruit of that tree is to partake of spiritual/eternal life.

It is very important for the reader to understand that when I say Genesis chapters 1-3 and Revelation chapters 21, 22 contain quite a bit of symbolic/spiritual language I am not at all saying that these passages speak of things that are not real. (Actually, the entire book of Revelation is packed with symbolic language, but probably not to the extent of the last two chapters of that book.)

[[I had a two-paragraph footnote: One passage that especially impresses me in the book of Revelation is Revelation chapter 12, but I am extremely impressed with the entire book of Revelation. (Revelation chapter 12 is discussed in some detail in my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture" and my recently published e-book, "Introduction to the Mid-Week Rapture." Both books are available at The entire book of Revelation is discussed verse-by-verse in those books, or in papers that are available on my internet site.) Once we understand the symbolic language of those verses (other passages in the Bible explain and confirm what many/most of the symbols mean), we can see that those verses say more about salvation, sin, the devil and his angels, the history of the people of God, the timing (mid-week) of the resurrection, rapture, and glorification of the people of God, and the conversion of the end-time remnant of Israel (with a three and one-half year period of trials for this remnant, accompanied with great blessings) than could possibly be communicated as effectively with the same number of words without using symbolic language. Symbolic/spiritual language can communicate in effective, powerful ways, as it does, for example, throughout Revelation chapter 12. For one thing, as they say, a picture can sometimes communicate more than a thousand words.

I'll give a very obvious example of symbolic language from the book of Revelation. "And I saw...a Lamb standing, as if slain [The Lamb is, of course, the Lord Jesus Christ who was slain to overthrow sin and Satan and to save us. When John sees Him, He is no longer dead; He has been raised from the dead victorious over all the enemies of God; He is in heaven on the throne of God, with God the Father.] having seven horns [The number seven symbolizes perfection. John's seeing the Lamb with seven horns symbolizes that the Lamb has perfect/complete dominion and power to reign and subdue every enemy.] and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth [The seven eyes symbolize the Lamb's ability to see what is happening everywhere in the universe in every dimension by the Holy Spirit, who is referred to in a symbolic way here as "the seven Spirits of God" (cf., e.g., Rev. 1:4; 3:1; 4:5)]. There's no way we can understand the seven horns and seven eyes in a literal sense (or the fact that the Son of God became the Lamb of God).) (This is the end of the two-paragraph footnote.)]] Genesis chapters 1-3 and Revelation chapters 21, 22 certainly deal with things that are real. The creation was real; the life of God (which was symbolized by the river of the water of life and the tree(s) of life), and the absence of God's life (spiritual death) are real; sin and Satan are real; Adam and Eve were real; the garden of Eden was real; God's plan of salvation (cf. Gen. 3:15) was/is real; etc.; and the new heaven and new earth with its new Jerusalem will be real. By using symbolic language these chapters are able to say more, in more powerful ways, and with fewer words than if no symbolic language had been used. When it comes to describing the new heaven and new earth of Revelation chapters 21, 22, symbolic language is especially helpful. The new earth with its new Jerusalem will be in a different dimension than the one we live in now; it will be in the heavenly, glorified dimension, a dimension that, for one thing, is beyond the physical elements of the present, temporary, physical world.

One last comment here, I certainly am not attacking Christians who don't see a symbolic component for the words darkness and light in Gen. 1:2-5. I must say, however, that I don't believe we can adequately understand the creation account of Gen. 1:1-2:3 if we don't see this strong symbolic component. I'll be saying a lot more as we continue that will help substantiate what I have already said regarding the interpretation of Gen. 1:1-2:3. (Now I'll quote the rest of Gen. 1:2, the part that comes after the word "darkness," which we have been discussing, along with the word "light," in some detail.)]] was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving [I prefer "hovering" (cf. Deut. 32:11).] over the surface of the waters. [[The "deep" here speaks of the "waters" that were covering the earth when God began His work of creation (recreation) spoken of in Gen. 1:1-2:3. At that time, according to this account, the "deep" was extra deep, covering everything on the earth (cf., e.g., Gen. 1:9), as it would again at the time of Noah's flood. A major aspect of God's work for the second day of creation (Gen. 1:6-8) was to remove the large amounts of excess water from the earth. Genesis 1:7 says, "God made the expanse [firmament], and separated the waters which were below the expanse [firmament] from the waters which were above the expanse [firmament]." First He made the firmament; then He removed the large amounts of excess water from the earth and put them "above the firmament." He couldn't remove the large amounts of excess water and put them above the firmament until He had made the firmament.

The account of Noah's flood (Genesis chapters 6-8) yields important information that helps us understand the picture here in Gen. 1:2-8. Before Noah's flood, large amounts of water were stored above the firmament. At the time of the flood, "the floodgates of the sky [or, "the windows of the heavens"] were opened" (Gen. 7:11). It began to rain, and the water rose on the earth until it was fifteen cubits (some twenty-two and one-half feet) above the tops of the mountains (Gen. 7:20). Finally "the floodgates of the sky were closed" (Gen. 8:2). Genesis 7:11 informs us that the same day the floodgates of the sky were opened, "all the fountains of the great deep burst open"; Gen. 8:2 mentions the closing of the fountains of the deep along with closing the floodgates of the sky.

It seems significant that the same Hebrew verb ("badal") that we discussed above (including the excerpts from Extended Note E), the verb that was used for God's SEPARATING the LIGHT from the DARKNESS (or, DISTINGUISHING BETWEEN the LIGHT and the DARKNESS) in Gen. 1:4, is also used for His SEPARATING the WATERS from the WATERS: "Then God said, 'Let there be an expanse [firmament] in the midst of the waters, and LET IT SEPARATE the waters from the waters.' (7) God made the expanse [firmament], and SEPARATED the waters which were below the expanse [firmament] from the waters which were above the expanse [firmament]." The separating off of these large amounts of excess water was a good and necessary step in preparing (recreating) the earth for man. This wasn't a mere separating of mundane things that were indifferent. Apparently we are supposed to understand that the excess water on the earth pictured in Gen. 1:2 had come as part of God's judgment of the earlier Satanic rebellion that we spoke of above. (I don't mean to suggest that Gen. 1:2, by itself, indicated where the chaotic, dead, dark, empty state pictured in that verse came from.)

The "Spirit of God was moving ["hovering"] over the surface of the waters." The Spirit of God was on the scene ready and waiting for God's creative Word to be spoken. With His infinite wisdom, energy, and power, the Spirit of God will bring to pass what is spoken. "In the Old Testament the Spirit is a term for God's outgoing energy, creative and sustaining (cf. Job 33:4; Psalm 104:30)" (Derek Kidner, "Genesis" (Inter-Varsity Press, 1967), page 45).

We will start Part 8 with a section titled, "Brief Discussion Regarding the More Traditional Interpretation of these Verses."

Copyright by Karl Kemp Karl Kemp worked as an engineer in the space field throughout the 60s. He became a born-again Christian in 1964. He received an MA in Biblical Studies in 1972. He has been a Bible teacher for 45 years. See the website for more info on his books, papers, etc.

Article Source: WRITERS

If you died today, are you absolutely certain that you would go to heaven? You can be! Click here and TRUST JESUS NOW

Read more articles by Karl Kemp

Like reading Christian Articles? Check out some more options. Read articles in Main Site Articles, Most Read Articles or our highly acclaimed Challenge Articles. Read Great New Release Christian Books for FREE in our Free Reads for Reviews Program. Or enter a keyword for a topic in the search box to search our articles.

User Comments

Enter comments below. Due to spam, all hyperlinks posted in the comments are now immediately disabled by our system.

Please type the following word below:

Not readable? Change text.

The opinions expressed by authors do not necessarily reflect the opinion of

Hire a Christian Writer, Christian Writer Wanted, Christian Writer Needed, Christian Content Needed, Find a Christian Editor, Hire a Christian Editor, Christian Editor, Find a Christian Writer

Main FaithWriters Site | Acceptable Use Policy

By using this site you agree to our Acceptable Use Policy .

© All rights reserved. Free Reprint Articles - Your place for Christian articles, Christian poems, Christian stories and much more.