Genesis

1:1 In the beginning God created. The writer uses the phrase, “in the beginning,” with the definite purpose of drawing attention to the fact that all things had a real beginning. Other ancient religions refer to things being created from something else that was already existing. But the Bible reveals God as the One who created everything out of nothing. God is the one and only true and eternal, self-existent God (having forever existed in himself) who reveals himself in the first verse of the Bible as the Creator of heaven and earth. As one continues through the Bible, the full nature of God is explained. The Scriptures reveal the primary concepts (i.e., understandable ideas) that help us know the nature of God. They reveal that he is all-powerful (Isa 40:15; Dan 4:34-35). He is everywhere present (Ps 139:7-10; Mt 6:25-29). He is all-knowing (Eph 1:3-12; Ro 8:27-29). In addition to his full nature, God communicates his moral qualities. He is good (Ps 89:49; 1Jn 4:8), holy (Lev 11:44; Isa 6:1-5) and righteous (Dt 32:4; Ps 71:19). For additional explanation of who God is and God as the Creator, see articles on Creation, p. #A01, and The attributes of God, p. #A24. Other religions view history as an endless series of cycles. But the Bible presents history in a linear way, or with a definite beginning and a God-given goal. God had a plan in creation, and he will carry it out.

The first verse of the Bible contains several important truths. (1) Since God is the source of all that exists, human beings and nature are not self-existent, but rather owe their ability to live and exist to him. (2) Everything that exists is good if it is in right relationship to God and dependent on him (for its highest purpose). (3) All life and creation can have eternal meaning and purpose. (4) As the Creator, God has sovereign (i.e., supreme) rights, such as complete authority and control over all creation. That is, he can do whatever he desires in relation to all he has made. In a fallen, or damaged world, one in which people have chosen to defy God and go their own way, God exercises his rights by offering redemption. Redemption refers to God’s plan to “reclaim” or “restore” individuals from a state of rebellion against him and bring them back into right relationship with him (Ex 6:6; 15:13; Dt 21:8; Lk 1:68; Ro 3:24; Gal 3:13; 1Pe 1:18).

1:2 Earth was formless and empty. This verse begins to describe the process of God’s creation and introduces the Holy Spirit’s role in creation (see article on Creation, p. #A01).

1:3 Let there be light. The Hebrew word for “light” is ʾor, which refers to the first waves of light energy that came on the earth. Later, God placed “lights” (Heb maʾor, literally, light-bearers, v. 14) in the heavens. Some were to produce light, and others were to reflect light. The primary purpose of these light-bearers was to mark seasons, days and years (vv. 5, 14). For comments about the role of God’s word or speech in creation, see article on Creation, p. #A01.

1:5 There was evening, and there was morning - the first day. This phrase is repeated six times in this chapter (vv. 5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31). The Hebrew word for day is yom, which normally means a twenty-four hour period (cf. 7:17; Mt 17:1), or the daylight portion of the twenty-four hours (“day” as distinct from “night”). But it also can refer to a time period of undetermined length (e.g., “harvest time,” Pr 25:13). Many believe the creation days were twenty-four hour days because each had an “evening” and a “morning” (v. 5; cf. Ex 20:11). Others believe that “evening” and “morning” simply mean that each evening marked an end to that stage of creation and the next morning indicated a new beginning.

1:7 The expanse. The “expanse” refers to the atmosphere between the water on earth and the clouds above.

Creation

Ge 1:1 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

The God of creation. (1) God is revealed in the Bible as an infinite, eternal, self-existent Being—without beginning or ending—who is the First Cause (i.e., the original Source, Initiator and Creator) of all that is. A more simple way to think of this reality is that there has never been a moment when God did not exist. As Moses testifies, “Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God” (Ps 90:2). Moses is saying that God existed eternally (i.e., forever) and infinitely (i.e., without beginning or end). He is independent of and existed before all that was created in heaven and on earth (see 1Ti 6:16, note; cf. Col 1:16).

(2) God is revealed as a personal Being who created Adam and Eve “in his own image” (Ge 1:27; see 1:26, note). God created man and woman like himself so that they could respond to and have a relationship with God that reflected his love and other character traits (see Ge 1:26, note). This is a picture of how God and humans can walk together in godly unity.

(3) God is also revealed as a moral Being who created everything good and without sin. After God had finished creating, he looked at what he had made and saw that it was “very good” (Ge 1:31). Since Adam and Eve were created in God’s likeness, they were also without sin (see Ge 1:26, note). Sin entered human existence when Eve chose to respond to temptation. Satan used the serpent to entice (i.e., tempt) Eve to do what would not please God. That is temptation. Therefore, she and Adam both made a choice to defy, or stand against, God’s command (Ge 3; cf. Ro 5:12; Rev 12:9).

The activity of creation. (1) God created all things in “the heavens and the earth” (Ge 1:1; cf. Isa 40:28; 42:5; 45:18; Mk 13:19; Eph 3:9; Col 1:16; Heb 1:2; Rev 10:6). The word “created” (Heb baraʾ) is used to describe activity that only God can do. It means that at one point in time each thing was not, then God spoke and it was (see Ge 1:3, note).

(2) The Bible describes God’s creation as being without any form or shape, empty and covered with darkness (Ge 1:2). At that time, the universe and the world did not have the order we see now. The earth was empty, lifeless and completely dark. But then God created light (Ge 1:3-5). He gave orderly form to the universe (Ge 1:6-13). Then he filled the earth with living things (Ge 1:20-28).

(3) The method God used in creation was the power of his word. Over and over the Bible states, “And God said...” (Ge 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26). That is to say, until God spoke the heavens and the earth into being, they did not exist in any form (cf. Ps 33:6, 9; 148:5; Isa 48:13; Ro 4:17; Heb 11:3).

(4) The term “Trinity” (see Mt 3:17, note; Mk 1:11, note, and the article on The attributes of God, p. #A24) refers to the Three-in-Oneness of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. All that is the Oneness of God had a role in creation. (a) The Son is the powerful Word through whom God created all things. The beginning of John’s Gospel reveals Jesus Christ as the eternal Word of God (Jn 1:1). “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” (Jn 1:3). The apostle Paul writes that by Christ “all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible [what can be seen] and invisible [what cannot be seen]... all things were created by him and for him” (Col 1:16). The author of the letter to the Hebrews emphasizes that by his Son, God made the universe (Heb 1:2).

(b) The Holy Spirit also had an active role in creation. He is pictured as “hovering,” or resting his presence over, creation, preserving and preparing it for when God would speak things into existence. The Hebrew word for “Spirit” (ruah) may also be translated “wind” and “breath.” This is how the writer of one of the psalms describes the Holy Spirit’s part in creation: “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath [ruah] of his mouth” (Ps 33:6). The Holy Spirit continues to be involved in keeping creation as God spoke it to be (Job 33:4; Ps 104:30).

The purpose and goal of creation. God had specific reasons for creating the world. (1) God created the heavens and the earth as a visible expression of his glory, beauty, majesty and power. David says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Ps 19:1; cf. Ps 8:1). By looking at the entire created cosmos (from the very great size and various parts of the universe to the beauty and order of nature), we cannot deny the sense of awe or wonder for God, our Creator.

(2) God created the heavens and the earth in order to receive the glory and honor he deserves. All the elements of nature show God’s creative presence. The sun and moon, rocks and trees, rain and snow, rivers and streams, hills and mountains, animals and birds are all an expression of praise to his honor—to the God who made them (Ps 98:7-8; 148:1-10; Isa 55:12). But God desires and expects to receive glory and praise from human beings even more!

(3) God created the earth to provide a place where his purpose and goals for humankind could be fulfilled. (a) God created Adam and Eve in his own image (see Ge 1:26, note) so that he could have a loving, personal relationship with people for all eternity. God designed people as triune, i.e., three-faceted beings (body, soul, spirit). Some have described the soul as the part of humankind that includes the mind, emotions and free will. With this part we can choose to worship and serve God out of faith, love, loyalty and gratitude. The spirit is a person’s true God-given part of us that exists beyond death. This part of us will live forever either in heaven or hell. Sometimes we will find one of these words used in place of the other. (For more details, see the article on Human personhood: What it means to be human, p. #A26.) (b) God desired this intimate relationship with humankind to continue. So he promised to send a Savior to redeem (i.e., restore or buy back) humankind from sin’s consequences (i.e., results of our own sinful choices) (see Ge 3:15, note). In this way, God would have people who would enjoy and honor him by living righteous and holy lives as he planned from the beginning (Isa 60:21; 61:1-3; Eph 1:11-12; 1Pe 2:9). (c) The book of Revelation records the culmination, or ultimate fulfillment, of God’s purpose in creation. In it, the apostle John describes the end of history with these words: “He will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God” (Rev 21:3).

Creation and evolution. In much of the scientific and educational community today, evolution is the main view given for the origin of life and the universe. Bible-believing Christians should consider these four observations about evolution.

(1) Evolution is a naturalistic effort (i.e., without any supernatural activity or element) to explain the origin and development of the universe. This view assumes that there is no personal, divine Creator who designed the world. Evolutionists believe that everything came into existence by a series of chance happenings, or random events, that occurred over billions of years. Proponents, those who believe the idea of evolution, claim to have scientific evidence that support their hypothesis.

(2) The teaching of evolution is not truly scientific. According to the scientific method, all conclusions must be based on indisputable (i.e., unquestionable) evidence. That is evidence that cannot be denied by personal ideas or argument. The evidence must come from experiments that can be duplicated, or repeated over and over, with the same end results. However, no experiments could test and prove assumptions like the “big bang” theory about how the present universe started. Nor can it be proven that living beings developed gradually from the simplest to the most complex forms. (This last point defies the second law of thermodynamics that describes how physical matter tends toward disorder—not higher order—as it changes.) Evolution is a hypothesis without scientific “evidence.” Any hypothesis is a well-stated idea that can lead to more study in the search for proven, testable fact. But in science, a hypothesis is not evidence for offering something as fact. Accepting evolution requires faith in a human theory. In contrast, God’s people put their faith in God’s inspired and time-tested Word. God’s Word reveals that he is the One who made all things out of nothing (Heb 11:3).

(3) Change and development will occur within various species (i.e., a related group distinct from other groups of living things). For example, some species are becoming extinct. In fact, some species no longer exist at all. On the other hand, we occasionally see new developments or mutations within species. But there is no evidence, not even in earth history or fossil records, which supports the theory that one kind of living thing ever evolved from another kind. Existing evidence supports the Bible, which says that God created each living creature “according to its kind” (Ge 1:21, 24-25).

(4) Bible-believing Christians must also reject the theory called theistic evolution. This belief accepts most of the conclusions of naturalistic evolution, which is a belief in the development of the species from the first living cell to the present diversity of plant and animal species without intervention from God. Theistic evolution only adds that God actually started the evolutionary process. The problem for the Christian is that this theory contradicts the Biblical revelation of God’s active role in all aspects of creation, not just that he started the process. For example, God is the subject of every action verb in Ge 1, except Ge 1:12 (which fulfills God’s command from v. 11), and the repeated phrase “there was evening, and there was morning.” Therefore, the Bible teaches that God is not an uninvolved or passive supervisor of an evolutionary process. He is the active Creator of all things (cf. Col 1:16).

1:10 It was good. Seven times God states that what he created was “good” (vv. 4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31). Each part of God’s creation was exactly as he intended. God created the world to reflect his glory (i.e., beauty, splendor, wonder) and greatness. It was also his plan for the world to be a place where humankind could experience life and joy. Notice how God created according to a specific plan and order:

Day 1 Light Bringing order to creation
Day 2 Expanse
Day 3 Dry Ground
Day 4 Light bearers
Day 5 Fish and birds Bringing life to creation
Day 6 Animals and humans
Day 7 Rest Creation is complete and good

1:14 Serve as signs. God intended for the sun, moon and stars to serve as signs drawing humankind’s attention to him. They also marked days, seasons and years. Astrology, the study of stars and things in heaven and their influence on human activity, has twisted these intended purposes with the false theory that the stars and planets guide individuals’ lives.

1:22 God blessed them. God blessed all living creatures and declared nature and animals to be good (vv. 12, 21-22). (1) God took great pleasure in his work and viewed it as very precious. In the same way, those who follow God should look at nature and all creation as beautiful and extremely valuable—something to be enjoyed. (2) Although the perfection of nature is now spoiled by sin (i.e., the acts and results of humanity’s rebellion against God), it still expresses God’s wonder, greatness and love for all people (cf. Ps 19:1). In God’s time, creation will be completely set free from the effects of sin and decay. God’s people should continue to pray for this (Ro 8:21; Rev 21:1).

1:26 God said, let us. The use of the word “us” (plural) suggests that God has a certain plurality, or multi-faceted nature (cf. Ps 2:7; Isa 48:16). This seems to be an early reference to the trinity, or the existence of God in three distinct but interrelated and unified Persons. The tri-unity (i.e., “three-in-One” nature) of God does not become clear, however, until the NT (see Mt 3:17, note; Mk 1:11, note; see article on The attributes of God, p. #A24).

1:26 Let us make man. In vv. 26-28 we read about the creation of human beings. More specific details about their creation and environment are found in 2:4-25. These two accounts work together to teach several things: (1) Both man and woman are God’s special creation, not products of evolution (v. 27; Mt 19:4; Mk 10:6; see articles on Creation, p. #A01, and Human personhood: What it means to be human, p. #A26).

(2) Man and woman were both created in God’s “image” and “likeness,” which means they could respond to a unique personal relationship with God that reflected his love and character. Each person was created to know and obey God willingly (2:15-17). (a) They possessed a moral likeness to God as sinless and holy creations, with wise minds, loving hearts and the desire to do right (cf. Eph 4:24). Their personal relationship with God involved moral obedience (2:16-17) and intimate spiritual union. When Adam and Eve sinned, that moral likeness to God was corrupted, or made impure (6:5). God renews that original moral likeness in those who turn from their own sinful ways and trust him to lead their lives (cf. Eph 4:22-24; Col 3:10). God provided this opportunity through the sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus willingly gave his perfect life through death to pay the penalty for our rebellion against God (cf. 1Pe 3:18). (b) Adam and Eve possessed a natural likeness to God. They were created as personal beings with spirit, mind, emotions, self-awareness and power of choice (2:19-20; 3:6-7; 9:6). (c) Man and woman’s physical characteristics also reflect God’s image in a way that is not true of animals. God gave humans the same form in which he would visibly appear to them (18:1-2). This is the form in which his Son, Jesus, came to earth (Lk 1:35; Php 2:7; Heb 10:5).

(3) Being made in God’s image does not mean that humans are divine beings (i.e., like “gods”). They have been created on a lower level than God and are dependent on him (Ps 8:5).

(4) All human life has continued through God’s first created man (Adam) and woman (Eve) (Ge 3:20; Ro 5:12).

1:28 Be fruitful and increase. God commanded man and woman to reproduce and to rule over the earth and the animal kingdom. (1) The union of a man and a woman was to form family relationships. God stated this specific purpose and gave priority to the role of a godly family and the nurturing, or bringing up, of godly children in a world that turns from him (see Eph 5:21, note; Tit 2:4-5, note; see article on Parents and children, p. #A65).

(2) God expected them to consecrate (i.e., set apart, commit or reserve) everything on earth to him. He expected Adam and Eve to take care of it in a way that honored him (cf. Ps 8:6-8; Heb 2:7-9).

(3) God placed the earth’s future under their authority. When they defied God and rejected his instructions, they brought ruin, hardship and suffering to all creation (cf. 3:14-24; Ro 8:19-22).

(4) Jesus Christ alone will restore the earth to its perfect purpose when he returns at the close of history (Ro 8:19-25; 1Co 15:24-28; Heb 2:5-8; see Rev 21:1, note).