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Genesis 1:1-2:3; God Creates Our World; Part 8
by Karl Kemp
7/18/2014 / Bible Studies
We continue this verse-by-verse rather detailed study of Gen. 1:1-2:3 here in Part 8. We are still under Gen. 1:2.
BRIEF DISCUSSION REGARDING THE MORE TRADITIONAL INTERPRETATION OF THESE VERSES:
I'll quote a few sentences from Gordon J. Wenham ("Genesis 1-15" (1987 by Word, Inc., now published by Thomas Nelson) to introduce this discussion. Wenham favors the more traditional view. On page 11 he lists four possible ways to understand Gen. 1:1 with 1:2, 3. The first two ways both start the translation of 1:1 with the words, "In the beginning WHEN God created...." Regarding the third way, which I believe is the correct way, Wenham says, "Verse 1 is a main clause, summarizing all the events described in vv 2-31. It is a title to the chapter as a whole...." And regarding the fourth way, he says, "Verse 1 is a main clause describing the first act of creation [[In other words, God BEGAN to create, at the absolute beginning of creation. Bruce Waltke (see the excerpt from from him near the beginning of the discussion of Gen. 1:1 in this paper) commented that the verb for create doesn't fit the idea of begin to create. I believe he is right.]]. ... Theologically these [four] different translations [based on the four ways to understand Gen. 1:1-3] are of great consequence, for apart from #4, the translations all presuppose the existence of chaotic preexistent matter before the work of creation [or, recreation] began." Wenham then goes on for two pages discussing these four viewpoints. I'll just quote half a sentence from what he says, "The traditional interpretation supposes that God first created chaos and then ordered it..." (page 13).
Before making a few comments, I'll quote a few sentences from what Wenham says under Gen. 1:2 a few pages later. First I'll give his translation for the first part of Gen. 1:2, "Now the earth was total chaos, and darkness covered the deep. ... This FRIGHTENING [my capitalization for emphasis] disorganization is the antithesis to the order that characterized the work of creation when it was complete. Here and in Isa 34:11 and Jer 4:23 'tohu' is coupled with 'bohu' 'void' where, as the context shows, the DREADFULNESS OF THE SITUATION [my emphasis] before the divine word brought order out of CHAOS [my emphasis] is underlined. [Significantly, as I have pointed out, Isa. 34:11 and Jer. 4:23 both use "tohu" and "bohu" to speak of the chaos and emptiness that come as a result of God's judgments.]
The same point is made in another powerful image in the next clause, 'darkness covered the deep.' 'Choshek' [a Hebrew noun] 'darkness' is another evocative word in Hebrew. IF LIGHT SYMBOLIZES GOD, DARKNESS EVOKES EVERYTHING THAT IS ANTI-GOD: THE WICKED (Prov 2:13), JUDGMENT (Exod 10:21), DEATH (Ps 88:13). SALVATION IS DESCRIBED AS BRINGING LIGHT TO THOSE IN DARKNESS [my emphasis] (Isa 9:1, etc.). ... " (pages 15, 16).
My comments in this paragraph are not aimed at Wenham, but at what seems to me to be a rather overwhelming problem for those holding the more traditional view of Gen. 1:1-3 (Wenham's view #4, which he embraces). Is it really all that obvious and reasonable to think that God, in His first step/phase of creation, would create such a frightening, dreadful, chaotic mess. I'm trying to ask a serious question, not to insult anyone. Are we really supposed to think that God initially said something like, "Let matter be created in a totally chaotic form, with total darkness (which, as Wenham says, symbolizes "everything that is anti-God."), and let there be far-too-much water, a destructive amount of water, on the earth, with literally everything on the earth being covered by it."
I believe the view that Gen. 1:2 describes the state of the earth after God judged an earlier rebellion is far more reasonable and far more satisfying than the more traditional view, and significantly, the more traditional view regarding God's creation of Gen. 1:1-2:3 fails to account for the fall of Satan and the judgment that fell on him and his followers. (The more traditional view assumes that the cherubim, angels, etc. were created in Gen. 1:1; you have to strain to see their creation in that verse.) I believe, in agreement with many, that they were created, fell, and were judged before Gen. 1:1. The fall and judgment of Satan and his followers are extremely important for the book of Genesis (very much including chapters 1-3) and for the unfolding story of the Bible. God's angelic court is mentioned in Genesis chapter 1 (verse 26), and Satan plays a major role in Genesis chapter 3 as a subtle, determined, already fallen enemy of God and of man. ((I had a footnote: Many details about Satan and his highly organized worldwide kingdom that extends into the heavenly places are not revealed until we get to the New Testament, but we learn quite a bit about this enemy of God and of man in the Old Testament. In Genesis chapter 6, we read of the extremely sinful exploits of some of the angels; undoubtedly they were part of the angels that followed Satan in his initial rebellion against God (cf. Rev. 12:4, 7-9; 2 Pet. 2:4; and JUDE 1:6, 7). (It is clear that the fall of Satan took place before he tempted Eve in Genesis chapter 3. As I mentioned, I believe he fell and that he and his followers were judged before Gen. 1:1 and that that judgment left the earth in the desolate, chaotic state pictured in Gen. 1:2.) Satan is mentioned, using the name "Satan," in 1 Chron. 21:1; quite a few times in Job chapters 1, 2; and in Zech. 3:1, 2. In Dan. 10:13, 20 we learn of the powerful princes of Persia and Greece who are arrayed against God and His people. Undoubtedly they were evil angels under Satan. In Lev. 17:7; Deut. 32:17; and Psalm 106:37, we read of demons. In 1 Sam. 16:15, 16, 23; and 18:10, we read of evil spirits. In Leviticus chapter 16, which deals with the all-important sacrifices of the Day of Atonement, we learn of "Azazel," who represents Satan, or an evil angel under him. (On "Azazel" see pages 17, 18 of my book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin.") ))
The fact that Gen. 1:28 speaks of the need for man to subdue/conquer the earth serves as a strong confirmation of the reality of the existence of Satan and his kingdom of darkness that must be subdued by man. ((I had a footnote: I'm not suggesting that Adam and Eve knew all about Satan and his kingdom of evil before their fall, or that they knew that God would use man to subdue and overthrow that kingdom. God's revelation is progressive, but they certainly knew enough to avoid rebelling against God and being subdued by sin and Satan through eating of the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge of good AND EVIL (the tree of death).)) Satan and his kingdom of darkness were not part of the creation of Gen. 1:1-2:3, which was all good, and they had no authority over man, not until man joined the devil in his rebellion against God, but their existence was/is very real and they must be subdued by man; eventually they will be totally subdued and removed by God's judgment through the Lord Jesus Christ and His people (Gen. 3:15).
If we interpret Gen. 1:2 as I believe we should, God is revealing some very important information, the kind of information that we must have to understand our world, sin, and salvation. It is typical for the Bible that God is very much more interested in teaching us about things that pertain to sin and salvation from sin (things that we couldn't know apart from His revelation) than in teaching us about far-less-important things like scientific details.
We learn a quite a bit about God's angels, and we learn a lot about Satan and his highly organized kingdom of fallen angels and demons in the Bible (especially in the New Testament), but Gen. 1:2 (with some confirmation from Ezek. 28:12-15) is unique in giving us insight into the fact that Satan apparently had a kingdom on the earth that was destroyed by God in judgment after the rebellion led by Satan. This viewpoint is the only one I know of that offers a good explanation for where the demons (who definitely exist on the earth in extremely large numbers) came from. We have discussed these things already in this paper (See the excerpts from G. H. Pember that deal with Ezekiel chapter 28 and where demons come from at the end of the Introduction for this paper), and I'll say quite a bit more as we continue with Gen. 1:1-2:3 that will help confirm what I have said already. Now we are ready to go on to Gen. 1:3.]] (3) Then God said, 'Let there be light'; and there was light. [[This is the first creative act of God mentioned in Genesis chapter 1. Many commentators make this point. As we discussed above, physical light was included, but the emphasis seems to fall on the symbolic/spiritual component of light here. In verse 4 we are informed that the light was good, but this is not said of the darkness, and we are informed that the light must be kept separate from the darkness (we must distinguish between the light and the darkness). These facts serve as a strong confirmation of the symbolic/spiritual use of the words light and darkness in these verses.
Furthermore, the fact that, in this creation account, the light comes forth before the sun is created serves as a strong confirmation that the light has a strong symbolic/spiritual component. The light of Gen. 1:3-5 doesn't come from the sun (since it hasn't been created yet). I assume that God Himself is the source of this light. ((We have discussed this point already. Commenting on the word "light" of Gen. 1:3, Bruce K. Waltke ("Genesis" [Zondervan, 2001]) says, "Light symbolizes life and blessings of various sorts (cf. Ps. 19:1-6; 27:1; 49:20 ; 97:11). Since the sun is only later introduced...the text emphasizes that God is the ultimate source of light ..." (page 61).)) God certainly isn't dependent on the sun for light; the last two chapters of the Bible show that the light of the new heavens and new earth with its new Jerusalem will emanate from God the Father and the Lamb of God: "And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb" (Rev. 21:23). "And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun because the Lord God will illumine them; and they [true Israel, which includes all true Christians] will reign forever and ever" (Rev. 22:5). These two verses from the book of Revelation (along with the other verses that are discussed in Extended Note D; I included extensive excerpts from Extended Note D earlier in this paper) help confirm the symbolic/spiritual component of the words "light" and "darkness" (and the words "day" and "night") here in Genesis chapter 1. (Now Gen. 1:4.)]] (4) God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. [[See under Gen. 1:2, 3. As Extended Note E shows (I included quite a few excerpts from Extended Note E earlier in this paper), these last words could also be translated, "and God MADE A DISTINCTION between the light and the darkness." The Hebrew preposition "bayin" that means "between" is used before the Hebrew words translated "the light" and "the darkness." ((I had a footnote: The other verses in the Old Testament that use "bayin" with "badal" are significant cross-references for understanding the use of these words here in Genesis chapter 1 ("badal" and "bayin" are also used in Gen. 1:6, 7, 14, and 18). Those other verses, which are quoted and briefly discussed in Extended Note E, are Lev. 10:10; 11:47; 20:25; Isa. 59:2; Ezek. 22:26; and 42:20.)) The twenty-one uses of the Hebrew verb "badal" (which means to separate, divide, distinguish between, set apart) that are quoted in the first section of Extended Note E are especially relevant to the use of the Hebrew verb here in Gen. 1:4 (and in Gen. 1:6, 7, 14, and 18). The verses quoted in that first section demonstrate that the most common use for this Hebrew verb is to separate things that must be separated and kept separate (the holy from the unholy, the clean from the unclean).
Essentially every other use of this Hebrew verb in the Old Testament (it was used thirty-six times apart from the five uses found here in Genesis chapter 1, for a total of forty-one) fits into a similar category where people or places are set apart in some special way for God; many of those remaining verses deal with the setting apart of the priests and Levites. "Badal" is not used of a mundane separating of indifferent things in any of the other thirty-six uses of this verb in the Old Testament. The usage and meaning of badal in the Old Testament serves as a strong confirmation of the strong symbolic/spiritual component of the words light and darkness here in Genesis chapter 1, and all the more so since all five of the uses of the verb here in Genesis chapter 1 are accompanied by the preposition bayin.]] (5) God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. [[Based on what I said above (and in Extended Notes A-E), I believe there is a strong symbolic/spiritual component for the words "light," "day," "darkness," and "night" here, along with the literal component for these words.] And there was evening and there was morning, one day. [[Let's discuss the meaning of the word "day" for the seven days of the creation week of Genesis 1:1-2:3. (God didn't create on the seventh day.) In agreement with many (but probably not the majority), I don't believe these are literal twenty-four hour days, but this point isn't a big deal to me (it doesn't affect what I say in this paper hardly at all). ((I had a two-paragraph footnote: I don't have much insight as to how much time passed from the time God began His recreation of the earth (starting with His "Let there be light" on the first day of creation; the first day begins with the light that God called forth in Gen. 1:3) to the time He finished this recreation (at the end of the sixth day). If it was a very short time it would be easier to understand Gen. 1:29, 30. Anyway, I'm not at all sure that it was a short time. As I discuss in some detail in this paper, I don't believe God has chosen to reveal hardly any scientific details in Genesis chapter 1, including the amount of time that God used here.
Many commentators who believe that the days of creation week were literal twenty-four hour days do not believe that the universe and earth are young. There are several ways to see long periods of time before God said "Let there be light" on the first day of creation. As we have discussed, I believe there was a gap before Gen. 1:1. Also, as we have discussed, there are many who agree with the young-earth creationists that creation began at Gen. 1:1 and that the days were twenty-four hours, but they see a gap between Gen. 1:1 and 1:2 (see the Introduction of this paper).)) I agree with the commentators (and there are many) who understand the seven days to be an artificial literary framework used by the author/Author. See Extended Note F, "The Use of 'Day' and the 'Seven Days' in the Creation Account of Genesis 1:1-2:3, Using an Artificial Literary Structure." For one thing, the number seven frequently serves as a symbol for perfection and completeness in the Bible, and significantly, the creation account of Gen. 1:1-2:3 provided the scriptural foundation for Israel's seven-day week, with six days of work followed by a day of rest.
The seven-day format of Gen. 1:1-2:3 was apparently designed so that Moses' readers could identify with and imitate God's pattern. ((I had a footnote: I assume the format came from God. If it didn't, He at least put His stamp of approval on Moses' use of the format. The account of the six days of creation followed by a day of rest and the fact that Israel had a seven-day week with the seventh day set aside for rest and worship both originated with God. Under Gen. 2:3 I'll include some excerpts which show that the seventh day sabbath was unknown in the ancient world and that there is a good possibility that the seven-day week originated with Israel (by God's revelation) too.)) Significantly, Gen. 2:3 informs us that "God blessed the seventh day AND SANCTIFIED IT [He "made it holy" (NIV)], because in it He rested from all His work which [He] created and made."
SOME KEY REASONS FOR NOT SEEING LITERAL TWENTY-FOUR HOUR DAYS IN THIS PASSAGE:
1. It is very significant that the sun (and the moon and stars) were not created, according to this account of creation, until the fourth day. ((I had a two-paragraph footnote: I realize that some commentators argue that the sun, moon, and stars were actually created before the fourth day and that all this passage says is that they first became visible on the earth on the fourth day. I don't believe there's any chance that this is what was intended by the author/Author. It seems clear to me that in the creation account of Gen. 1:1-2:3 the Hebrew verb "asah," which is used of the creation of the sun and moon (and stars) in Gen. 1:16, is often used interchangeably with the verb "bara" (the verb used for creation in 1:1, 21, 27; and 2:3).
The interchangeability of the two verbs in this creation account is demonstrated by the usage of these two verbs throughout this account: Gen. 1:16 says, "God made ["asah"] the two great lights" (He created them) after saying in 1:14, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens." Gen. 1:17 goes on to say, "God placed them in the expanse [firmament] of the heavens." The "expanse [firmament]" was created/made (asah) on the second day (1:7). The verb asah is used for creation in Gen. 1:7, 16, 25, 26 (Gen. 1:26 says, "Let us make [asah] man"; Gen. 1:27 continues, "God created ["bara"] man"), 31 ("God saw all that He had made [asah]"); 2:2 ("By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done [asah], and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done [asah]"), 2:3 ("Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created [bara] and made [asah]"). Also, compare the use of bara in Gen. 1:1 with the use of asah in Ex. 20:11 ("For in six days the LORD MADE the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.); and in Neh. 9:6.)) Our twenty-four hour day-and-night cycle depends on the sun. Genesis 1:14 even says of the sun, moon, and stars, "Let them be for signs and for seasons and FOR DAYS, and years. I certainly don't believe we are supposed to think of God's having provided an alternative before He created the sun (as I mentioned, I assume that God Himself was the source of this light) to cause a twenty-four hour light and darkness cycle for the first three days of creation.
2. Based on what I said under number 1 regarding the non-literal (non twenty-four hour) nature of the first three days of the creation week, it doesn't seem reasonable to expect that the fourth through the seventh day would be literal twenty-four-hour days. As I mentioned, I agree with those who understand the seven days to be an artificial literary structure designed by the Author/author.
3. The fact that there is a strong symbolic component for the words "darkness" and "light" and that the symbolic component is much more important than the physical component of these words in Gen. 1:2-5 lends rather strong support to the concept that the seven days of the creation week are to be understood in non-literal fashion.
4. It is very significant, as many have pointed out, that the seventh day in which God rested (Gen. 2:1-3) still continues - the seventh day wasn't, therefore, a twenty-four hour day. ((I had a footnote: Genesis 1:1-2:3 show that God finished His work of creation before the seventh day began. To say that His day of rest (which started when His work of creating was finished) will last forever must be qualified: At the end of this age, He will CREATE the "new heaven and new earth" (Rev. 21:1). Furthermore, His CREATIVE work of saving and judging continues throughout this age.)) Genesis 2:1-3 don't mention that the seventh day ended, and the formula "And there was evening and there was morning, the seventh day" which was there for the other six days, was not included for the seventh day. Hebrews 4:1-10 (especially 4:3, 10) confirm that God entered His rest (not that He is resting/inactive in every sense; far from it). I'll quote Heb. 4:3, "For we who have believed [The writer of Hebrews is speaking of born-again Christians] enter that rest [[In agreement with many, I believe we should translate "ARE ENTERING that rest," or the equivalent. The writer of Hebrews isn't speaking here of Christians entering God's rest by casting our cares upon Him and walking in His grace by faith, as important as that type of rest is. He is speaking of our entering the eternal, heavenly rest of God AFTER we have faithfully finished our work, at the end of our race. We will then enter God's rest (which is spoken of throughout Heb. 4:1-11), the rest that God entered when He finished His work.]], just as He said, 'AS I SWORE IN MY WRATH, THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST' [The writer of Hebrews quoted Psalm 95:11 to demonstrate that, although some fail through unbelief and rebellion to enter God's rest, that rest is available for those who will enter on God's terms.], although His works were finished from the foundation of the world [and He entered His rest at that time]."
5. As many have pointed out, when we read all that took place on the sixth day in Genesis chapters 1 and 2, it provides another strong reason for understanding the days in a non-literal sense.
I'll quote a long paragraph from Wayne Grudem that rather effectively deals with this point ("Systematic Theology" [Zondervan, 1994], page 294). Grudem, by the way, doesn't come to a final conclusion regarding the length of the days of Genesis chapter 1. "An additional argument for a long period of time in these 'days' is the fact that the sixth day includes so many events that it must have been longer than twenty-four hours. The sixth day of creation (Gen. 1:24-31) includes the creation of animals and the creation of man and woman both ('male and female he created them,' Gen. 1:27). It was also on the sixth day that God blessed Adam and Eve and said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth' (Gen. 1:28). But that means that the sixth day included God's creation of Adam, God's putting Adam in the Garden of Eden to till it and keep it, and giving Adam directions regarding the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:15-17), his bringing all the animals to man for them to be named (Gen. 2:18-20), finding no helper fit for Adam (Gen. 2:20), and then causing a deep sleep to fall upon Adam and creating Eve from his rib (Gen. 2:21-25). The finite nature of man and the incredibly large number of animals created by God would by itself seem to require that a much longer period of time than part of one day would be needed to include so many events - at least that would be an 'ordinary' understanding of the passage for an original reader, a consideration that is not unimportant in a debate that often emphasizes what an ordinary reading of the text by the original readers would lead them to conclude. [[Those who insist that God created everything in six twenty-four hour days are the ones who often speak of what an 'ordinary' reading of the text by the original readers would conclude. Grudem has a footnote. "Advocates of a twenty-four-hour day can give scenarios whereby Adam only named representative types of animals or named them rapidly without any observation of their activities or abilities, but both suggestions are much less likely interpretations in view of the importance attached to naming in the Old Testament.]] If the sixth day is shown by contextual considerations to be considerably longer than an ordinary twenty-four-hour day, then does not the context itself favor the sense of 'day' as simply a 'period of time' of unspecified length?" (Now we'll continue with reason 5.)
To see all that took place on the sixth day, read Gen. 1:24-31; 2:7-25. God could, of course, have accomplished everything mentioned there in twenty-four literal hours (or in less time if He chose to), even though Adam was directly involved with much of the activity mentioned in Gen. 2:7-25. I don't get the impression, however, that God was in a hurry or felt a need to do something miraculous to squeeze all that is mentioned as happening on the sixth day into a twenty-four hour period. Anyway, based on what has already been said under numbers 1-4, I wouldn't be expecting a literal twenty-four hour day for any of the days, very much including the sixth day.
6. And, lastly, as many have pointed out, the fact that the word "day" is used in Gen. 2:4 to cover all the creation that took place throughout the six days of Genesis chapter 1 lends rather strong support for the idea that the word day isn't being used in a literal twenty-four hour sense in the creation account of Gen. 1:1-2:3.
(We are still under Gen. 1:5.) Let's discuss the meaning of the words, "And there was evening, and there was morning, one day." (As I mentioned, the words "And there was evening, and there was morning" are used at the end of each of the first six days, but not for the seventh.) I'll quote what Bruce K. Waltke says here ("Genesis," pages 61, 62). "One might translate this, 'Evening came, and then morning....' The idea, as expressed by the Hebrew, is that the first day ends when the darkness of the evening is expelled by the morning light." With the morning light, the second day begins, just as the first day began when God created light with His words, "Let there be light."
Many think the first day ends when the light of the first day ends. One reason for that view is the idea that for Israel the day ends and a new day begins when the sun goes down. (I'll deal with that issue in the next paragraph.) Another reason many opt for that view is the widespread (but I believe mistaken) idea that the six days of creation include what happens in Gen. 1:1, 2. The first day could then be said to begin with the darkness mentioned in Gen. 1:2; I'm confident, however, that the six days of creation begin when God says, "Let there be light." As we discussed, Gen. 1:1 serves as a title or summary for God's week of creation; furthermore, as we have discussed, the darkness pictured in Gen. 1:2 wasn't part of God's work of creation (that chaotic, dead, darkness was the reason a new creation/recreation was needed); the darkness (with some emphasis on the symbolic/spiritual component of the darkness) was already there when He began His work of creation (recreation) spelled out in Genesis chapter 1.
I'll quote a part of what Ronald B. Allen says in the article on "ereb," the Hebrew noun translated "evening," in the "Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament," Vol. 2 (Moody Bible Institute, 1980, page 694.) "The phrase 'there was an evening and there was a morning' occurs six times in the creation narrative (Gen. 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31), delimiting the six days of divine creative activity. This phrase would indicate that in ancient Israel a day began with sunrise. Some have felt this at variance with the Jewish practice of regarding sunset as the beginning of the next day. Cassuto [a highly respected Jewish scholar], after dealing with the biblical data and the Jewish custom, concludes that there was 'only one system of COMPUTING time: the day is considered to begin in the morning; but in regard to the festivals and appointed times, the Torah ordains that they shall be observed also on the night of the PRECEDING DAY' (U. Cassuto, "Genesis," Vol. I, p. 29 [Cassuto's emphasis]). ...."
Part 9 of the study of Gen. 1:1-2:3 will begin with "Excerpts from Extended Note F, 'The Use of "Day" and the "Seven Days" in the Creation Account of Genesis 1:1-2:3, Using and Artificial Literary Structure.' "
Copyright by Karl Kemp
http://www.karlkempteachingministries.com 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.
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