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Genesis 1:1-2:3; God Creates Our World, Part 9

by Karl Kemp  
7/19/2014 / Bible Studies

We continue this study of Gen. 1:1-2:3 here in Part 9.


Excerpts from Henri Blocher, "In the Beginning: The Opening Chapters of Genesis" (Inter-Varsity Press, 1984, pages 49, 50):

I'll quote part of what Blocher says under the heading "The Literary Interpretation," in the chapter titled "The Week of Creation." This is the interpretation Blocher agrees with; he discusses it in some detail in this book. "The literary interpretation takes the form of the week attributed to the work of creation to be an artistic arrangement, a modest example of anthropomorphism [the attributing of human characteristics to God] that is not to be taken literally. The author's intention is not to supply us with a chronology of origins. ... [I believe that this creation account came mostly by revelation from God. Moses, under God, either wrote these chapters or put his stamp of approval on them.]

... [This view] recognizes ordinary days but takes them in the context of one large figurative whole...." Blocher mentions that Augustine, M. J. Lagrange, A. Noordtzij, N. H. Ridderbos, B. Ramm, M. G. Kline, and J. A. Thompson hold to a literary interpretation.

Excerpts from Victor P. Hamilton, "Genesis Chapters 1-17" (Eerdmans, 1990, pages 54-56):

"[One] approach to 'day' in Gen. 1 is the literary interpretation. ... This is a word from God addressed to a group of people [the people of Israel] who are surrounded by nations whose cosmology is informed by polytheism and the mythology that flows out of that polytheism. Much in Gen. 1 is patently anti-pagan. (Hamilton has a footnote: "See G. Hasel, 'The Polemic Nature of the Genesis Cosmology,' 'EvQ' 46, 1974, 78-80.") ...

A literary reading of Gen. 1 still permits the retention of 'day' as a solar day of 24 hours. But it understands 'day' not as a chronological account of how many hours God invested in his creating project [If the days of Gen. 1:1-2:3 are being used in a literary (figurative, non-literal) sense, you can't calculate "how many hours God invested in his creating project" by adding twenty-four hours for each day.].... ((Hamilton has a footnote, "See C. E. Hummel, 'Interpreting Genesis One,' JASA 38 (1986) 175-85, esp. pp. 181-183." I'll quote from this article by Hummel as we continue in Part 9.)) God reveals himself to his people [speaking of the creation account of Gen. 1:1-2:3] in a medium with which they can identify and which they can comprehend. The Creation account portrays a God who speaks, who evaluates, who deliberates, who forms, who animates, who regulates. The intended audience of Gen. 1 will fully identify with that model. The Creation account also portrays a God who created on six days and rested on the seventh. The audience, accustomed to their own workweek, will identify with that model too."

Excerpts from Kenneth A. Matthews, "Genesis 1-11:26" (Broadman & Holman, 2001):

Matthews opts for non-literal days. For one thing, it is difficult to think of twenty-four hour days before the sun is created, and the seventh day is different in that its ending is not mentioned (see his page 149).

"... As a whole [Gen.] 1:1-2:3 shows a proclivity to groups of sevens, which would further suggest that 1:1-2:3 is an inclusive section. ((Matthews has a footnote, " 'The structure of our section is based on a system of numerical harmony. Not only is the number seven fundamental to its main theme, but it also determines many of its details.... [[I'll include several sentences from the 1989 reprint of Cassuto's commentary that Matthews skipped and/or didn't have: "Both to the Israelites and to the was the number of perfection and the basis of ordered arrangement; and particular importance attached to it in the symbolism of numbers. The work of the Creator, which is marked by absolute perfection and flawless systematic orderliness, is distributed over seven days: six days of labour and a seventh day set aside for the enjoyment of the completed task. ..." (page 12).]] This numerical symmetry is, as it were, the golden thread that binds together all the parts of the section and serves as a convincing proof of its unity' (U. Cassuto, 'A Commentary on the Book of Genesis,' Vol. 1, 'From Adam to Noah,' 'Genesis I-VI:8', trans. I. Abrahams [Jerusalem: Magnes, 1961], 12 [12, 15])).

The arrangement of the passage consists of an introduction and seven paragraphs. [Matthews goes on the mention the introduction (verses 1, 2); six days of creation (verses 3-31) and the seventh day (2:1-3).] The presentation of each creation day follows a predictable order: (1) 'God said,' (2) command given, (3) the fact of creation, (4) God's evaluation, (5) the boundaries of the created element, and (6) the naming. This pattern is not slavish; there is variation, but this does not distract from the impression of the general pattern, namely, that the creation is shaped by a supreme Overseer" (pages 114, 115).

"... ...the narrative has the repeated use of the number 'seven' and multiples of seven, followed in frequency by the use of 'three's' and 'ten's.' (Matthews has a footnote: "See Cassuto, 'Genesis,' [pages] 12-15.") [[I'll include an interesting excerpt from Cassuto (pages 13-15): "In view of the importance ascribed to the number seven generally, and particularly in the story of Creation, this number occurs again and again in the structure of our section. The following details are worthy of note: (a) After the introductory verse (1:1), the section is divided into seven paragraphs, each of which appertains to one of the seven days. An obvious indication of this division is to be seen in the recurring sentence, 'And there was evening and there was morning, such-and-such a day.' ... (b-d) Each of the three nouns that occur in the first verse and express the basic concepts of the section, viz 'God'...'heavens'...'earth'...are repeated in the section a given number of times that is a multiple of seven: thus the name of God occurs thirty-five times [five times seven] ...'earth' is found twenty-one times [three times seven]...'heavens' (or 'firmament...) appears twenty-one times. (e) ... (f) The terms 'light' and 'day' are found, in all, seven times in the first paragraph, and there are seven references to 'light' in the fourth paragraph. (g) 'Water' is mentioned seven times in the course of paragraphs two and three. (h) ... (i) The expression 'it was good' appears seven times (the seventh time - 'very good'). (j) The first verse has seven words. (k) The second verse contains fourteen [two times seven] words.... (l) In the seventh paragraph, which deals with the seventh day, there occur the following three consecutive sentences (three for emphasis), each of which consists of seven words.... (m) The words in the seventh paragraph total thirty-five.... To suppose all this is a mere coincidence is not possible." (This completes the excerpt from Cassuto, now back to Mathews.)]] ... This numerical repetition speaks to the literary unity of the narrative and emphasizes the idea of perfection and completion in God's finished creation" (pages 120, 121).

Excerpts from Ronald F. Youngblood, "The Book of Genesis" (Second edition, Baker, 1991):

"Ancient Near Eastern literature, particularly from Mesopotamia and Canaan, provides numerous examples of the use of seven days as a literary framework to circumscribe the completion of a cataclysmic or cosmic event. The pattern in these works runs uniformly as follows: 'One day, a second day, so and so happens; a third day, a fourth day, such and such occurs; a fifth day, a sixth day, so and so takes place; then, on the seventh day, the story comes to its exciting conclusion.' ((Youngblood has a footnote, "For examples, see E. A. Speiser, 'Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament,' ed. J. B. Pritchard (Princeton University Press, 1955), 94; H. L. Ginsberg, 'Ancient Near Eastern Texts,' 134, 144, 150."))

Genesis 1:1-2:3 exhibits a subtle and highly sophisticated modification of that literary device. ... Exodus 20:8-11, after reminding the Israelites that they were to work six days and rest on the seventh because that is what God did, made the connection between the seventh day and the Sabbath day explicit by paraphrasing Genesis 2:3 slightly: 'Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath and made it holy' (Exod. 20:11)" (pages 31, 32).

Excerpts from Lee Irons with Meredith G. Kline, "The Framework View" ("Genesis Debate: Three Views on the Days of Creation," edited by David G. Hagopian [Crux Press, 2001]):

The "framework view" comes in a variety of forms. Irons and Klein maintain that Gen. 1:1 speaks of "the original ex nihilo event" (page 298). They say that "the text cannot be used to determine how much time has elapsed since the creation" (page 218), but they also say, "Although many who hold the framework interpretation today are also persuaded by the current evidence for an old earth/universe, such a stance is not a necessary complement of the framework interpretation itself" (page 218).

I'll quote part of what the authors say under the subheading "The Nonliteral Element" (pages 219, 220): "A nonliteral approach to the text is not, as many assume, a recent innovation devised to accommodate modern geological and astronomical evidence for an old earth/universe. Augustine held a nonliteral interpretation of the days, and he was followed by Anselm, Peter Lombard, and others. one can deny that nonliteral approaches to the creation days have a venerable place in the history of Christian interpretation. ((They have an endnote, "C. J. Collins, 'How Old Is the Earth? Anthropomorphic Days in Genesis 1:1-2:3,' 'Presbyterion,' vol. 20, no. 2 (1994), p. 125; Jack P. Lewis, 'The Days of Creation: An Historical Survey of Interpretation,' 'Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society,' vol. 32, no. 4 (Dec. 1994), pp. 433-55; Robert Letham, ' "In the Space of Six Days": The days of Creation from Origen to the Westminster Assembly,' 'Westminster Theological Journal,' vol. 61, no. 2 (Fall 1999), pp. 149-74."))

...the framework interpretation [The authors are speaking for themselves, not for every person who holds some form of the framework interpretation.] maintains the historicity of Genesis, which contains the presuppositional foundations for the subsequent unfolding of progressive revelation. Because of our firm commitment to the historicity of Genesis, the framework interpretation militantly resists all attempts to relegate the creation to the status of myth or saga or any category other than that of a history of events that actually transpired in space and time. In other words, by interpreting the days of creation in a nonliteral manner, we do not in any way, deny their historicity. We affirm a historical creation, a historical Adam, and a historical Fall. Genesis 1-3 is a historical narrative of events that actually took place in space and time with the angels of God as 'eyewitnesses' of everything but the initial ex nihilo creation event" (210-220).

"Clearly, this structuring of the creation narrative according to a seven-day scheme is an intentional literary device" (page 227).

Excerpts from Charles E. Hummel, "Interpreting Genesis One" ("Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation," Vol. 38, No. 3, September 1986. This same article is included as chapter 10, "Genesis One: Origin of the Universe," in the book, "The Galileo Connection" by Chares E. Hummel [Inter-Varsity Press, 1986].):

"Once for all we need to get rid of the deep-seated feeling that figurative speech is inferior to literal language, as if it were somewhat less worthy of God. The Hebrew language is rich in figures of speech. Scripture abounds with symbols and metaphors which the Holy Spirit has used to convey powerfully and clearly the message he intended. ... Genesis 1 is 'historical' in the sense of relating events that actually occurred. ..." (page 177).

"In both its overall structure and use of numbers the writer paid as much attention to the form as to the content of the narrative, a fact which suggests mature meditation. [Hummel makes it clear in this article that he believes the Pentateuch came as revelation from God through Moses.] The 'historico-artistic' interpretation of Genesis 1 [Genesis 1 is a 'historical' account of creation, but the account is presented in an 'artistic' framework.] does justice to its literary craftsmanship, the general biblical perspective on natural events and the view of creation expressed by other writers in both Old and New Testaments" (page 179).

"Preoccupation with how long it took God to create the world, in days or epochs, deflects attention from the main point of Genesis 1. Such 'scientific' concerns run interpretation onto a siding, away from the main track of God's revelation. Once we get past arguments over the length of the days, we can see the intended meaning of these days for Israel. First, their significance lies not in identity, a one-to-one correlation with God's creative activity, but in an analogy that provides a model for human work. The pattern of six plus one, work plus rest on the seventh day, highlights the sabbath. ... Made in the image of God, and given rule over the world, man and woman are the crown of creation. They rest from their labor on the sabbath, which is grounded in the creation (Gen. 2:2; Ex. 20:11).

"... God's people do not need to know the how of creation; but they desperately need to know the Creator. [They desperately need to understand things like sin and righteousness, like the reality of the devil and his kingdom of darkness and evil, and the reality of eternal salvation and eternal judgment.] Their God, who has brought them into covenant relationship with himself, is no less than the Creator and Controller of the world. ... He is...the only One worthy of their worship and total commitment. ...." (page 183). If your God is the One who created everything that exists, He is the One true God, and He is well able to overpower all opposition and to bring His people to full and final salvation, in accordance with His covenant promises. Of course His people must do the things required of them (from the heart by God's enabling grace), as they are spelled out in His covenant(s).

Excerpts Showing the Views of Philo and Clement of Alexandria Regarding the "Days" of Creation (I'm taking these quotations and comments from "Creation and Time" by Hugh Ross [NavPress, 1994], pages 16-18):

"Philo [about 20 BC to AD 45, a Jew from Alexandria] expressed the notion that God created everything instantaneously and that the six days were figurative, a metaphor for order and completeness:

'He [Moses] says that in six days the world was created, not that its Maker required a length of time for His work, for we must think of God as doing all things simultaneously, remembering that "all" includes with the commands which He issues the thought behind them. Six days are mentioned because for the things coming into existence there was need of order.' (("Philo, Judaeus of Alexandria, 'De Opificio Mundi' (On the Account of Creation Given by Moses), [in] 'Philo,' vol. I, trans. F. H. Colson and G. H. Whitaker (...Harvard University Press, 1949), page 13."))

Philo amplified his reasoning in a later work:

'It is quite foolish to think that the world was created in six days or in a space of time at all. Why? Because every period of time is a series of days and nights, and these can only be made such by the movement of the sun as it goes over and under the earth; but the sun is a part of heaven, so that time is confessedly more recent than the world. It would therefore be correct to say that the world was not made in time, but that time was formed by means of the world, for it was heaven's movement [the movement of the sun] that was the index of the nature of time. When, then, Moses says, "He finished His work on the sixth day," we must understand him to be adducing not a quantity of days, but a perfect number, namely six' (("Philo, Judaeus of Alexandria, 'Legum Allegoria' (Allegorical Interpretations of Genesis II, III, Book I, section 2), in 'Philo,' vol. I, pages 146-149.")). ...

'Clement of Alexandria (about AD150-254) [a Christian scholar] echoed Philo's belief that the Genesis creation days were not literal, twenty-four-hour days (("Clement of Alexandria, 'The Stromata,' Book VI, 'Clement of Alexandria: A Study in Christian Platonism and Gnosticism,' by Salvatore R. C. Lilla (...Oxford University Press, 1971), pages 198-199; 'The Stromata,' book VI, Chapter XVI, 'Ante-Nicene Fathers,' vol. II, pages 512-514.")). He claimed that the creation days communicated the order and priority of created things but not the time. As he understood it, creation could not take place in time since 'time was born along with things which exist' ("Clement of Alexandria, page 513")." (Now that we have completed the six pages of excerpts from 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," we are ready to go on to Gen. 1:6.)]] (6) Then God said, 'Let there be an expanse [firmament] in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.' [[The Hebrew could be translated, "Let it separate ["badal"] between ["bayin"] the waters and ["le"] the waters." ((I had a footnote: Sometimes the Hebrew uses the preposition "bayin" followed by the preposition "le" instead of using "bayin" twice. For examples of this usage, see Lev. 20:25; Ezek. 22:26; and 42:20 in Extended Note E.)) The fact that the Hebrew verb badal, which was used in verse 4 (for separating, or distinguishing between, the light from the darkness), was used here, and in the following verse, and even more so since "bayin" and "le" were used too (bayin and bayin are used with badal in the following verse), strongly suggests that we should expect an important reason for separating these two waters, and for keeping them separate. Above (under Gen. 1:2, under the words "was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving [hovering] over the surface of the waters"), I discussed the need to separate these two waters from one another. This wasn't a mundane separating of waters from waters. This was the separating off of the large quantity of excess waters, with which God had (apparently) flooded the earth in an earlier judgment, as part of His creative work that would prepare the earth for man.

The separating off of the waters of judgment was a good and necessary thing. If these waters had not been separated off, man could not have lived on the earth. At the time of Noah's flood, God apparently used those same waters to destroy mankind from the earth (with the exception of Noah and his family, who were preserved through the ark), because of the rebellion of man as they aligned themselves closely with the devil in his rebellion and darkness.

2 PETER 3:5-7 are an important cross-reference; these verses explain why God created our world (Gen. 1:1-2:3) with a large quantity of excess waters above the firmament. I'll include a brief discussion of 2 Pet. 3:5-7 here. (These verses are discussed in some detail in my verse-by-verse study of 2 Peter on my internet site.) In context Peter was refuting mockers who were saying, "all continues just as it was from the beginning," while denying the coming of judgment day at the end of this age (2 Pet. 2:16-21; 3:3-18).

I'll quote 2 Pet. 3:5-7 and make some comments in brackets, "For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that [The NIV seems better, "But they deliberately forget that"] by the word of God [cf. Gen. 1:1-10] the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water [[I would translate something like, "and the earth existing out of water [referring to the dry land that existed after the waters left on the earth were gathered together in Gen. 1:9, 10] and between water [between the water stored above the firmament and the water stored in the fountains of the great deep, with which the world was flooded in Noah's day.]"]], through which [The Greek word behind "which" is plural. I believe it refers to the waters above and the waters below that God used to flood the earth in Noah's day.] the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. [[Noah's flood demonstrated, for one thing, that what the mockers were saying wasn't true: Things hadn't always continued the same since creation. And they were wrong in denying that the Lord is coming to judge the world at the end of this age. The flood of Noah's day took place, and it foreshadowed God's end-time judgment of the world (cf. 1 Pet. 3:20, 21; 2 Pet. 2:5).]] (7) But [or, And] by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. [On the "fire," cf. 2 Pet. 3:10. I prefer a translation like, "are stored up with fire." Just as the ancient world was stored up with waters that were to be used in judgment (by God's creative design), the present heavens and earth are stored up with fire that is to be used in His end-time judgments (by His creative design).

The primary point I want to make here is that 2 Pet. 3:5-7 help confirm that the excess waters existed above the firmament, by God's creative design, in preparation for the flood of Noah's day. God, through His foreknowledge, knew of the intense rebellion that would take place on the earth in the days before Noah's flood. He knew it was coming, and He was prepared for it (as He always is prepared for everything). I'm not denying, of course, that beneficial rains fall on the earth from above; I have just been dealing with the large quantity of excess waters.]] (7) God made the expanse ["firmament"; the KJV and NKJV have "firmament" here and in the verses that follow throughout this chapter; the NASB has, "or, firmament" in the margin; see under Gen. 1:8 on the meaning], and separated the waters which were below the expanse [firmament] from the waters which were above the expanse [["firmament"; compare Psalms 104:3 ((I had a footnote: I'll give Mitchell Dahood's translation for the first line of Psalm 104:3, "Who stored with water his upper chambers ("Psalms III 101-150" [Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1970], page 31). I'll also quote a small part of what he says regarding this translation when discussing this verse on page 32, "From this proposed translation naturally follows the sequel in vs. 13 [Psalm 104:13], 'Who waters the mountains from his upper chambers....' " I'll quote part of what A. F. Kirkpatrick says under Psalm 104:3 ("Book of Psalms" [1982 Baker reprint of the 1902 edition], page 606). Kirkpatrick speaks of "the mysterious reservoir of waters, which was imagined by the ancient Hebrews to exist above the 'firmament' (Gen. 1:7; Ps. 29:3; 148:4).... The line is an echo of Amos 9:6, 'he that buildeth his upper chambers in the heavens.' ")); 148:4. The Hebrew here in Gen. 1:7 could be translated, "He separated ["badal"] between ["bayin"] the waters which were below the firmament and ["bayin"] the waters which were above the firmament." It is clear that God couldn't separate off the waters which were to be above the firmament until He had made/created the firmament.]]; and it was so. (8) God called the expanse [firmament] heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day. [[Genesis chapter 1 has quite a bit to say about the "firmament" (Hebrew "raqia"). It was used to separate the waters below from the waters above (Gen. 1:6, 7). In Gen. 1:8 "God called the expanse [firmament] heaven." (The Hebrew word for heaven is plural; the NIV translates "called the expanse sky.") In Gen. 1:14, 15, and 17 we read that God created the lights (sun, moon, and stars) and placed them "in the expanse [firmament] of the heavens." In Gen. 1:20 we read of the birds flying above the earth "in the open expanse [firmament] of the heavens." I strongly prefer the more literal translation of the NKJV, "across the face of the firmament of the heavens"; the birds could not fly "in the firmament."

For the word "expanse" the NASB has the alternative translation "firmament" for each of these verses in Genesis chapter 1 (1:6, 7, 8, 14, 15, 17, and 20). Many agree with the viewpoint presented in the BDB Hebrew Lexicon for the meaning of "raqia" in these verses, "the vault of heaven, or 'firmament,' regarded by the Hebrews as solid, and supporting 'waters' above it...." (I believe this is the meaning intended by the author/Author.) Regarding the meaning of this noun, BDB also says, "extended surface, (solid) expanse (as if 'beaten out'; cf. Job 37:18 ["Can you, with Him, spread out the skies (or, heavens), strong as a molten mirror?"])." The verb this Hebrew noun (raqia) was derived from was sometimes used for beating out metal plates. Isaiah 40:22b says, "Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain ["canopy" NIV] And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in." Revelation 6:14, speaking of God's end-time judgment of the world, says, "The sky [or, heavens] was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up." It is not difficult to picture a relatively thin, solid firmament (which was viewed as a foundational part of the heavens) being rolled up as a scroll.

I'll quote what Edward J. Young, a well-respected evangelical scholar, says regarding the meaning of "raqia" here ("Studies in Genesis One" [P&R, about 1964], page 90, footnote 94). "i.e., that which is hammered, beaten out. Cf. Isa. 42:5; Ps. 136:6 and the Phoenician...'plating' (Cooke: "North Semitic Inscriptions," Oxford, 1903, p. 75). Note also the LXX [Septuagint] "stereoma" and Vulgate [in Latin] "firmamentum," which are satisfactory renderings. I am unable to accept the opinion that the waters above the expanse refer to the clouds, for this position does not do justice to the language of the text which states that these waters are above the expanse [firmament]."

We will discuss the firmament in some detail at the beginning of Part 10 of this paper. I believe this discussion is important and interesting.

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.

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