THE PRIMEVAL AGE OF THE WORLD (GENESIS. 1-9.).
FROM THE CREATION TO THE DELUGE.
§ 1. THE BEGINNING (Genesis 1:1-2:3).
I. THAT this initial section is not history is apparent from the circumstance that the occurrences it describes belong to a period of time which antedates the dawn of history. That it is not science is evinced by the fact that, in some, at least, of its particulars, it refers to a condition of our globe concerning which even modern research has attained to no definite conclusions, while in all of them it claims to be regarded not as uttering the findings of reason, but as declaring the course of nature. That still less can it be myth must be obvious to any who will carefully contrast it with those heathen cosmogonies which it is said to resemble. Only the most absolute devotion to preconceived opinion can render one oblivious of its immense superiority, to them in respect of both simplicity of construction and sublimity of conception. The absurdities, puerilities, and monstrosities that abound in them are conspicuously absent from it. It alone ascends to the idea of a creation ex nihilo, and of a supreme Intelligence by whom that creation is effected. Unlike them, it is destitute of either local coloring or national peculiarity, being no more Jewish than it is Assyrian or Indian, Persian or Egyptian. The inspired original, of which heathen creation-stories are the corrupted traditions, it may be; impartial reason and honest criticism alike forbid its relegation to a common category with them. Since, then, it is neither history, nor science, nor mythology, it must be REVELATION; unless ill-deed it be regarded as either "the recorded intuition of the first man, handed down by tradition," a theory successfully demonstrated by Kurtz to be altogether inadequate, or the inductive speculation of some primitive cosmogonist, a solution of its genesis scarcely less satisfactory. To characterize it as a pious fraud, of post-Mosaic origin, written to uphold the Jewish week cycle and the institution of the Jewish sabbath, is not only to negative its inspiration, but to invalidate the Divine authority of the whole book, to which it serves as an introduction. Happily its inspiration is a much less violent supposition than its invention, and one which is susceptible of almost perfect demonstration. Rightly viewed, its inspiration is involved in the simpler question of its truthfulness. If the Mosaic cosmogony is true, it can only have been given by inspiration; and that it is true may be said to be, with rapidly augmenting emphasis, the verdict of science.
II. As to the precise manner in which it was imparted to its author, THE VISION THEORY of Kurtz, though declared by Kalisch to be "a complicated tissue of conjectures and assumptions utterly destitute of every, the faintest and remotest, Biblical foundation," is perhaps, with certain modifications, the best. Rejecting the idea of a series of creative tableaux without any solid substratum of actual fact, there is clearly nothing in the nature of the case to discredit the hypothesis that the far past may have been disclosed to the writer of this ancient document in the same fashion as we know the remote future was discovered to the later prophets. On the contrary, there is much in Scripture to warrant the assumption that, as Daniel heard "the speaking between the banks of the Ulai," and received dream-revelations of the four great world monarchies, and as John beheld visions and heard voices concerning the things which were shortly to come to pass, so the Jewish lawgiver, or the primitive Nabi to whom this revelation was imparted, may have beheld in sublime panorama the evolution of the light, the uplifting of the atmosphere, the parting of the waters, the placing of the orbs, the filling of the land, sea, and sky with life, while he listened with awestruck silence to the voices of Elohim, as they were uttered at the opening of each creative day. Something like this, Professor Lewis aptly remarks, appears necessary to explain the reception by the prophet's mind of those ineffable ideas of which previously he had no types or conceptions.
III. Though not poetical in the sense of being composed in ornate and figurative language, the present section may be truthfully described as rhythmical in structure, possessing an artificial and orderly arrangement, much obscured by its division in the English version into chapters and verses, which almost justifies its designation as The Primeval Song, or Hymn of Creation, with which may be compared the lyric poem in Psalm 104., and the post-Exilian ode in Psalm. 136., in both of which a Hebrew bard recites the story of creation.
In the beginning, Bereshith, is neither "from eternity," as in John 1:1; nor "in wisdom" (Chaldee paraphrase), as if parallel with Proverbs 3:19 and Psalm 104:24; nor "by Christ," who, in Colossians 1:18, is denominated ἀρχὴ; but "at the commencement of time." Without indicating when the beginning was, the expression intimates that the beginning was. Exodus 20:11 seems to imply that this was the initiation of the first day's work. The formula, "And God said," with which each day opens, rather points to ver. 3 as its proper terminus a quo, which the beginning absolute may have antedated by an indefinite period. God Elohim (either the highest Being to be feared, from alah, to fear, — Hengstenberg, Delitzsch, Keil, Oehler, &c., or, more probably, the strong and mighty One, from aul, to be strong — Gesenius, Lange, Tayler Lewis, Macdonald, Murphy, &c.) is the most frequent designation of the Supreme Being in the Old Testament, occurring upwards of 2000 times, and is exclusively employed in the present section. Its plural form is to be explained neither as a remnant of polytheism (Gesenius), nor as indicating a plurality of beings through whom the Deity reveals himself (Baumgarten, Lange), nor as a plural of majesty (Aben Ezra, Kalisch, Alford), like the royal "we" of earthly potentates, a usage which the best Hebraists affirm to have no existence in the Scriptures (Macdonald), nor as a cumulative plural, answering the same purpose as a repetition of the Divine name (Hengstenberg, Dreschler, and others); but either
as a pluralis intensitatis, expressive of the fullness of the Divine nature, and the multiplicity of the Divine powers (Delitzsch, Murphy, Macdonald); or,
notwithstanding Calvin's dread of Sabellianism, as a pluralis trinitatis, intended to foreshadow the threefold personality of the Godhead (Luther, Cocceius, Peter Lombard, Murphy, Candlish, &c.); or
μὴ φαινομένον), out of which τὸ βλεπόμενον γεγονέναι, the last result of science, as expressed by the authors of the above-named work, is practically an admission of the Biblical doctrine of creation. The heavens and the earth (i.e. mundus universus — Gesenius, Kalisch, &c. Cf. Genesis 2:1; 14:19, 22; Psalm 115:15; Jeremiah 23:24. The earth and the heavens always mean the terrestrial globe with its aerial firmament. Cf. Genesis 2:4; Psalm 148:13; Zechariah 5:9). The earth here alluded to is manifestly not the dry land (ver. 10), which was not separated from the waters till the third day, but the entire mass of which our planet is composed, including the superincumbent atmosphere, which was not uplifted from the chaotic deep until the second day. The heavens are the rest of the universe. The Hebrews were aware of other heavens than the "firmament" or gaseous expanse which over-arches the earth. "Tres regiones," says Poole, "ubi ayes, ubi nubes, ubi sidera." But, beyond these, the Shemitie mind conceived of the heaven where the angels dwell (1 Kings 22:19; Matthew 18:10), and where God specially resides (Deuteronomy 26:15; 1 Kings 8:30; Psalm 2:4), if, indeed, this latter was not distinguished as a more exalted region than that occupied by any creature — as "the heaven of heavens," the pre-eminently sacred abode of the Supreme (Deuteronomy 10:14; 1 Kings 8:27; Psalm 105:16). The fundamental idea associated with the term was that of height (shamayim, literally, "the heights" — Gesenius, Furst). To the Greek mind heaven meant "the boundary" (οὑρανος, from ὁρος — Arist.), or, "the raised up" (from ὀρ — to be prominent — Liddell and Scott). The Latin spoke of "the con cavity" (coelum, allied to κοῖλος, hollow), or "the engraved" (from coelo, to engrave). The Saxon thought of "the heaved-up arch." The Hebrew imagined great spaces rising tier upon tier above the earth (which, in contradistinction, was named "the flats"), just as with regard to time he spoke of olamim (Gr. αἰῶνες). Though not anticipat Lug modern astronomical discovery, he had yet enlarged conceptions of the dimensions of the stellar world (Genesis 15:5; Isaiah 40:26; Jeremiah 31:37; Amos 9:6); and, though unacquainted with our present geographical ideas of the earth's configuration, he was able to represent it as a globe, and as suspended upon nothing (Isaiah 40:11; Job 26:7-10; Proverbs 8:27). The connection of the present verse with those which follow has been much debated. The proposal of Aben Ezra, adopted by Calvin, to read, "In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was" is grammatically inadmissible. Equally objectionable on the ground of grammar is the suggestion of Bunsen and Ewald, to connect the first verse with the third, and make the second parenthetical; while it is opposed to that simplicity of construction which pervades the chapter. The device of Drs. Buckland and Chalmers, so favorably regarded by some harmonists of Scripture and geology, to read the first verse as a heading to the whole section, is exploded by the fact that no historical narration can begin with "and." To this Exodus 1. It is no exception, the second book of Moses being in reality a continuation of the first. Honest exegesis requires that ver. I shall be viewed as descriptive of the first of the series of Divine acts detailed in the chapter, and that ver. 2, while admitting of an interval, shall be held as coming in immediate succession — an interpretation, it may be said, which is fatal to the theory which discovers the geologic ages between the creative beginning and primeval chaos.both. The suggestion of Tayler Lewis, that the term may be a contraction for El-Elohim, the God of all superhuman powers, is inconsistent with neither of the above interpretations That the Divine name should adjust itself without difficulty to all subsequent discoveries of the fullness of the Divine personality and nature is only what we should expect in a God-given revelation. Unless where it refers to the angels (Psalm 8:5), or to heathen deities (Genesis 31:32; Exodus 20:3; Jeremiah 16:20), or to earthly rulers (Exodus 22:8, 9), Elohim is conjoined with verbs and adjectives in the singular, an anomaly in language which has been explained as suggesting the unity of the Godhead. Created. Bara, one of three terms employed in this section, and in Scripture generally, to describe the Divine activity; the other two being yatzar, "formed," and asah, "made" — both signifying to construct out of pre-existing materials (cf. for yatzar, Genesis 2:7; 8:19; Psalm 33:15; Isaiah 44:9; for asah, Genesis 8:6; Exodus 5:16; Deuteronomy 4:16), and predicable equally of God and man. Barn is used exclusively of God. Though not necessarily involved in its significance, the idea of creation ex nihilo is acknowledged by the best expositors to be here intended. Its employment in vers. 21, 26, though seem ugly against, is really in favor of a distinctively creative act; in both of these instances something that did not previously exist, i.e. animal life and the human spirit, having been called into being. In the sense of producing what is new it frequently occurs in Scripture (cf. Psalm 51:12; Jeremiah 31:12; Isaiah 65:18). Thus, according to the teaching of this venerable document, the visible universe neither existed from eternity, nor was fashioned out of pre-existing materials, nor proceeded forth as an emanation from the Absolute, but was summoned into being by an express creative fiat. The New Testament boldly claims this as a doctrine peculiar to revelation (Hebrews 11:3). Modern science explicitly disavows it as a discovery of reason. The continuity of force admits of neither creation nor annihilation, but demands an unseen universe, out of which the visible has been produced "by an intelligent agency residing in the unseen," and into which it must eventually return ('The Unseen Universe,' pp. 167, 170). Whether the language of the writer to the Hebrews homologates the dogma of an "unseen universe" (
And the earth. Clearly the earth referred to in the preceding verse, the present terrestrial globe with its atmospheric firmament, and not simply "the land" as opposed to "the skies" (Murphy); certainly not "the heavens" of ver. 1 as well as the earth (Delitzsch); and least of all "a section of the dry land in Central Asia" (Buckland, Pye Smith). It is a sound principle of exegesis that a word shall retain the meaning it at first possesses till either intimation is made by the writer of a change in its significance, or such change is imperatively demanded by the necessities of the context, neither of which is the case here. Was. Not "had become." Without form and void. Literally, wasteness and emptiness, tohu vabohu. The words are employed in Isaiah 34:11 and Jeremiah 4:23 to depict the desolation and desertion of a ruined and depopulated land, and by many have been pressed into service to support the idea of a preceding cosmos, of which the chaotic condition of our planet was the wreck (Murphy, Wordsworth, Bush, &c). Delitzsch argues, on the ground that tohu vabohu implies the ruin of a previous cosmos, that ver. 2 does not state specifically that God created the earth in this desolate and waste condition; and that death, which is inconceivable out of connection with sin, was in the world prior to the fall; that ver. 2 presupposes the fall of the angels, and adduces in support of his view Job 38:4-7 ('Bib. Psychology,' sect. 1, p. 76; Clark's 'For. Theol. Lib.') — a notion which Kalisch contemptuously classes among "the aberrations of profound minds," and "the endless reveries" of "far-sighted thinkers." Bush is confident that Isaiah 45:18, in which Jehovah declares that he created not the earth roan, is conclusive against a primeval chaos. The parallel clause, however, shows that not the original state, but the ultimate design of the globe, was contemplated in Jehovah's language: "He created it not tohu, he formed it to be inhabited;" i.e. the Creator did not intend the earth to be a desolate region, but an inhabited planet. There can scarcely be a doubt, then, that the expression portrays the condition in which the new-created earth was, not innumerable ages, but very shortly, after it was summoned into existence. It was formless and lifeless; a huge, shapeless, objectless, tenantless mass of matter, the gaseous and solid elements commingled, in which neither organized structure, nor animated form, nor even distinctly-traced outline of any kind appeared. And darkness (was) upon the face of the deep. The "deep," from a root signifying to disturb, is frequently applied to the sea (Psalm 42:8), and here probably intimates that the primordial matter of our globe existed in a fluid, or liquid, or molten form. Dawson distinguishes between "the deep" and the "waters," making the latter refer to the liquid condition of the globe, and the former apply to "the atmospheric waters," i.e. the vaporous or aeriform mass mantling the surface of our nascent planet, and containing the materials out of which the atmosphere was afterwards elaborated ('Origin of the World,' p. 105). As yet the whole was shrouded in the thick folds of Cimmerian gloom, giving not the slightest promise of that fair world of light, order, and life into which it was about to be transformed. Only one spark of hope might have been detected in the circumstance that the Spirit of God moved (literally, brooding) upon the face of the waters. That the Ruach Elohim, or breath of God, was not "a great wind," or "a wind of God," is determined by the non-existence of the air at this particular stage in the earth's development. In accordance with Biblical usage generally, it must be regarded as a designation not simply "of the Divine power, which, like the wind and the breath, cannot be perceived" (Gesenius), but of the Holy Spirit, who is uniformly represented as the source or formative cause of all life and order in the world, whether physical, intellectual, or spiritual (cf. Job 26:13; 27:3; Psalm 33:6; 104:29; 143:10; Isaiah 34:16; 61:1; 63:11). As it were, the mention of the Ruach Elohim is the first out-blossoming of the latent fullness of the Divine personality, the initial movement in that sublime revelation of the nature of the Godhead, which, advancing slowly, and at the best but indistinctly, throughout Old Testament times, culminated in the clear and ample disclosures of the gospel The special form of this Divine agent's activity is described as that of" brooding'' (merachepheth, from raehaph, to be tremulous, as with love; hence, in Piel, to cherish young — Deuteronomy 32:11) or fluttering over the liquid elements of the shapeless and tenantless globe, communicating to them, doubtless, those formative powers of life and order which were to burst forth into operation in answer to the six words of the six ensuing days. As might have been anticipated, traces of this primeval chaos are to be detected in various heathen cosmogonies, as the following brief extracts will show: —
1. The Chaldean legend, deciphered from the creation tablet discovered in the palace of Assurbanipal, King of Assyria, 2. c. 885, depicts the desolate and void condition of the earth thus: —
"When above were not raised the heavens,
And below on the earth a plant had not grown up;
The abyss also had not broken up their boundaries;
The chaos (or water) tiamat (the sea) was the producing-mother of the whole of them," &c. ('Chaldean Genesis,' p. 62.)
2. The Babylonian cosmogony, according to Berosus (B.C. 330-260), commences with a time "in which there existed nothing but darkness" and an abyss of waters, wherein resided most hideous beings, which were produced of a twofold principle... The person who presided over them was a woman named Omoroea, which in the Chaldean language is Thalatth, in Greek Thalassa, the sea, but which might equally be interpreted the moon" ('Chaldean Genesis,' pp. 40, 41).
3. The Egyptian account of the origin of the universe, as given by Diodorus Siculus, represents the heaven and earth as blended together, till afterwards the elements began to separate and the air to move. According to another idea, there was a vast abyss enveloped in boundless darkness, with a subtle spirit, intellectual in power, existing in the chaos (Macdonald, 'Creation and the Fall,' p. 49).
4. The Phoenician cosmogony says, "The first principle of the universe was a dark windy air and an eternal dark chaos. Through the love of the Spirit to its own principles a mixture arose, and a connection called desire, the beginning of all things. From this connection of the Spirit was begotten mot, which, according to some, signifies mud, according to others, a corruption of a watery mixture, but is probably a feminine form of too, water. From this were developed creatures in the shape of an egg, called zophasemin (Macdonald, p. 50).
5. The Indian mythology is very striking in its resemblance to the Mosaic narrative." The institutes of Menu affirm' that at first all was dark, the world still resting in the purpose of the Eternal, whose first thought created water, and in it the seed of life. This became an egg, from which issued Brahma, the creative power, who divided his own substance and became male and female. The waters were called nara, as being the production of Nara, or the Spirit of God, who, on account of these being his first ayana, or place of motion, is named Naray-na, or moving on the waters. A remarkable hymn from the Rig Veda, translated by Dr. Max Muller, also closely approximates to the Scriptural account: —
"Nor aught nor naught existed; yon bright sky
Was not, nor heaven's broad woof out-stretched above.
The only one breathed breathless by itself;
Other than it there nothing since hath been.
Darkness there was, and all at first was veiled
In gloom profound — an ocean without light."
(Vid. Macdonald's 'Creation,' &c., p. 51.)
6. The description of chaos given by Ovid is too appropriate to be overlooked: —
"Ante mare et tellus, et, quod tegit omnia, caelum,
Unus erat toto naturae vultus in orbe,
Quem dixere chaos; rudis indigestaque moles quia corpere in uno
Frigida pugnabant calidis, humentia siccis,
Mollia cum duris, sine Pendere habentia pondus" ('Metamor.,' lib, 1:1).
Yet not more remarkable are these indirect confirmations of the truthfulness of the Biblical cosmogony than the direct corroborations it derives from the discoveries of modern science.
The nebular hypothesis of Laplace, which, though only a hypothesis, must vet be admitted to possess a high degree of probability, strikingly attests its authenticity. That eminent astronomer demonstrated that a huge chaotic mass of nebulous matter, revolving in space on its own axis with a sufficient velocity, and gradually condensing from a high degree of heat, would eventually, by throwing off successive rings from the parent body, develop all the celestial orbs that presently compose our planetary system. Though for a long time regarded with suspicion by Biblical scholars, and at the first only tentatively thrown out by its author, Kant, yet so exactly does it account for the phenomena of our solar system as disclosed by the telescope, that it may now be said to have vindicated its claim to be accepted as the best solution science has to give of the formation of the universe; while further and more dispassionate reflection has convinced theologians generally, that so far from conflicting with the utterances of inspiration, it rather surprisingly endorses them.
The researches of physical philosophy in connection with hydrodynamics have successfully established that the present form of our earth, that of (the solid of revolution called) an oblate spheroid, is such as it must necessarily have assumed had its original condition been that of a liquid mass revolving round its own axis.
Geological science likewise contributes its quota to the constantly accumulating weight of evidence in support of the Mosaic narrative, by announcing, as the result of its investigations in connection with the earth's crust, that below a certain point, called "the stratum of invariable temperature," the heat of the interior mass becomes greater in proportion to the depth beneath the surface, thus leading not unnaturally to the inference that "the earth has assumed its present state by cooling down from an intensely heated, or gaseous, or fluid state" (Green's 'Geology,' p. 487.).
Verse 1. —
I. ONE, yet NOT SIMPLE.
1. One. In age, origin, and nature one, "the heavens and the earth" also constitute one vast system. Cohering physically through the force of gravitation, which, in its ultimate analysis, is simply an expression of the Divine power, they are unified spiritually by Christ, who is the impersonation of the Divine wisdom and love (John 1:3, 9; Colossians 1:15, 17). Hence, as constituting one stupendous system, they are not independent, but mutually influential — physically according to science, spiritually according to Scripture (Luke 15:7, 10; Ephesians 3:10; 1 Peter 1:12, &c.). Yet —
2. Not simple, but complex, consisting of two parts — of this mundane sphere, with its diversified contents of men, animals, and plants; and of those shining heavens, with their starry hosts and angelic races. Hence the histories of those two realms may be widely divergent — an inference which astronomy warrants as to their physical developments, and revelation endorses with regard to their spiritual experiences. Hence to argue from the one to the other is to reason hypothetically; as, e.g., to conclude that the planets must be inhabited because the earth is, or to affirm that the Divine treatment of the human and angelic races must of necessity be alike.
II. VAST, yet NOT INFINITE.
1. Vast. Enlarged as were Shemitic notions of the dimensions of God's universe, modern astronomy, by the grandeur and sublimity of its revelations, gives definite shape to what were then only vague and shadowy conceptions. Imagination becomes bewildered in the attempt to comprehend the circle of the universe. Commencing with the sun, the central body of our planetary system, with a diameter about three times our distance from the moon, and passing, on her outward journey, no fewer than seven worlds in addition to our own, most of them immensely larger, she only reaches the outskirts of the first department of creation at a distance of 2,853,800,000 miles. Then, when to this is added that the nearest fixed star is so remote that three years are required for its light to reach the earth; that from some of the more distant nebulae the light has been traveling for millions of years; that the number of the stars is practically infinite; and that each of them may be the center of a system more resplendent than our own, — even then it is but a faint conception which she reaches of the dimensions of the universe (Job 26:14). Yet —
2. It is not infinite. Immeasurable by man, it has already been measured by God (Isaiah 40:12). Undiscoverable by science, its limits are known to its Creator (Acts 15:18). The stars which man is unable to compute God calls by their names (Psalm 147:4; Isaiah 40:26). That the universe must have a boundary is involved in its creation. Two finites cannot make an infinite. Hence the measured earth (Habakkuk 3:6) and the bounded heavens (Job 22:14) cannot compose an illimitable universe. Still less can there be two infinites, one filling all space, and another outside of it. But Elohim is such an infinite (Isaiah 57:15; Jeremiah 23:24); hence the universe is not such another.
III. OLD, yet NOT ETERNAL.
1. Old. How old God has not revealed and man has not discovered; geology and astronomy both say millions of years; one hundred millions at least, Sir W. Thomson alleges the sun to have been burning. Genesis gives ample scope to physicists in their researches by saying they may go as far back as "the beginning;" only that beginning they must find. For —
2. The universe is not eternal, though its antiquity be vast. The frequency and certainty with which Scripture enunciates the non-eternity of the material universe is one of its most distinguishing characteristics (Psalm 90:1; 102:25, 26; Hebrews 1:10). This may also now be regarded as the last word of science: "We have thus reached the beginning as well as the end of the present visible universe, and have come to the conclusion that it began in time, and will in time come to an end" ('The Unseen Universe,' p. 93).
IV. EXISTENT, YET NOT SELF-EXISTENT.
1. Existent; i.e. standing out as an entity in the infinite realm of space; standing out from eternity in the sphere of time; and also standing out from God, as essentially distinct from his personality. Yet —
2. Not self-existent, not standing there in virtue of its own inherent energy, being neither self-produced nor self-sustained; but standing solely and always in obedience to the creative fiat of Elohim, the almighty and self-existent God.
Verse 2. —
I. WITHOUT ORDER: existing in a state of spiritual ruin, and requiting a special process of rearrangement to evolve symmetry and beauty from its confusion (2 Corinthians 5:16).
II. WITHOUT LIFE: being dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1); absolutely "void" in the sense of being untenanted by lofty thoughts, pure emotions, holy volitions, spiritual imaginations, such as are the inmates of sinless and, in great part also, of renewed souls.
III. WITHOUT LIGHT: shrouded in darkness (Ephesians 4:18); walking, perhaps, in the sparks that its own fire has kindled (Isaiah 1:11), but devoid of that true light which is from heaven (John 1:9).
IV. Yet NOT WITHOUT GOD. As the Spirit brooded over chaos, so does God's Holy Spirit hover over fallen souls, waiting, as it were, for the forthcoming and insounding of the commanding word to introduce light, order, life.
"Beginning" is a word familiarly on our lips; but, for the most part, we mean only rearrangement, or the commencement of one link in the chain of events. But who can conceive the beginning of creation? Who can travel back in thought to the first moment of its existence, and look into the eternity beyond? The Bible carries us back to that beginning, the first moment when the universe existed. How far back was the starting-point of time we know not, nor in what form the universe came into being, whether completed, or in germs to be developed in the course of ages. Only we are taught that before that "beginning" the universe was not, and that "the worlds were framed by the word of God" (Hebrews 11:3) — their substance, and the laws by which they are governed. With this the conclusions of science agree. They point out that the forces of nature tend to extinction, and hence must have had a beginning. To the question what was that beginning, the Bible gives the answer.
1. What was before the "beginning"? God was; he created all (Psalm 90:2); and if it surpass our power to conceive an eternal self-existent Being, still less can we realize life, power, law coming into existence without a cause. And'" in the beginning was the Word;" and the Holy Ghost, through whom Christ offered himself (Hebrews 9:14). But further, before the beginning the Lamb was slain, (Revelation 13:8) — i.e. the necessity for redemption was foreseen and the plan provided — and we were chosen (Ephesians 1:4), and a kingdom prepared for us (Matthew 25:34). Thus, redemption was no afterthought, no repairing of failure; but God's purpose from eternity, and therefore that which is best.
2. What was the "beginning"? The creation of a field on which God's plans were to be carried out and his perfections manifested. And in the course of his work the creation of beings to whom and in whom he might make himself known, who might glorify him here and enjoy him forever.
3. We mark then — At the beginning God brought forth what had been ordained in eternity — his plan complete to the end — our salvation — redemption as well as creation. "Very good" (Genesis 1:31) went far beyond the things then existing on the earth. And if it be urged, How is "very good" consistent with sin? An enemy has sown tares and marred the Creator's work — the world is a ruin. Oh, faithless! why fearful? If God could give life to dry bones (Ezekiel 37:6), if he could of stones raise up children to Abraham, can he not out of seeming ruin raise up a more glorious temple? But thou sayest, How can this be? Canst thou solve one of the least mysteries of creation? And is it strange thou canst not solve that mystery into which angels desire to look? Enough to know "where sin abounded," &c. (Romans 5:20); to remember, "we see not yet," &c. (Hebrews 2:8); and humbly to wait our Father's time and way.
4. For personal encouragement. Our state fore seen and provided for from the beginning. Thus our right to trust God's promises depends not on anything in us, but is part of his original plan. Our Lord's call to sinners is in closest agreement., with what was ordained "in the beginning." "Whosoever will (Revelation 22:17) but echoes the word which called the universe into being. — M.
A true and firm foundation of revelation and faith must be laid in a Divine doctrine of "Genesis," the beginnings out of which have come both the world of nature and the world of grace. In this book we are taught what is the order by which all things must be tried. Coming forth from Elohim, from the Infinite Personality; flowing in his appointed course. The genesis of heaven and earth becomes the genesis of the human family. Out of the natural chaos is brought forth the Eden of rest and beauty. Out of the moral waste of a fallen humanity is formed, by the gracious work of a Divine Spirit, through a covenant of infinite wisdom and loves a seed of redeemed and sanctified human beings, a family of God. The genesis of the material creation leads on to the genesis of the invisible creation. The lower is the type and symbol of the higher. The first day is the true beginning of days. See what is placed by the sacred writer between that evening and morning.
I. THE COMING FORTH OF THE EVERLASTING, UNSEARCHABLE SECRET OF THE DIVINE NATURE INTO MANIFESTATION. "God created." The word employed denotes more than the bare summoning of existence out of nothingness. The analogy of human workmanship ("cutting," "carving," "framing") suggests the relation between creation and the God of creation. The heaven and the earth reflect their Maker. Works embody the mind, the spirit, the will, the nature of the workman. Although the name Elohim, in the plural form, cannot be taken as an equivalent of the Trinity, it points to the great fundamental fact of all revelation, the Divine Unity coming forth out of the infinite solitude of eternity, and declaring, in the manifold revelations of the visible and invisible worlds, all that the creature can know of his fathomless mystery.
II. HERE IS A GLIMPSE INTO GOD'S ORDER AND METHOD. "In the beginning," the immeasurable fullness of creative power and goodness. Formless void, darkness on the face of the deeps apparent confusion and emptiness, within a limited sphere, the earth; at a certain epoch, in preparation for an appointed future. Chaos is not the first beginning of things; it is a stage in their history. The evening of the first day preceded the morning in the recorded annals of the earth. That evening was itself a veiling of the light. Science itself leads back the thoughts from all chaotic periods to previous developments of power. Order precedes disorder. Disorder is itself permitted only as a temporary state. It is itself part of the genesis of that which shall be ultimately "very good."
III. THE GREAT VITAL FACT OF THE WORLD'S ORDER IS THE INTIMATE UNION BETWEEN THE SPIRIT OF GOD AND THAT WHICH IS COVERED WITH DARKNESS UNTIL HE MAKES IT LIGHT. The moving of the Spirit upon the face of the waters represents the brooding, cherishing, vitalizing presence of God in his creatures, over them, around them, at once the source and protection of their life. "Breath;" "wind," the word literally means, perhaps as a symbol at once of life, or living energy, and freedom, and with an immediate reference to the creative word, which is henceforth the breath of God in the world. Surely no candid mind can fail to feel the force of such a witness in the opening sentences of revelation to the triune God.
IV. TO US THE BEGINNING OF ALL THINGS IS LIGHT. The word of God "commands the light to shine out of darkness." "God said, Let there be light," or, Let light be. The going forth of God's word upon the universe very well represents the twofold fact,
that it is the outcome of his will and nature; and
that it is his language — the expression of himself.
Hence all through this Mosaic cosmogony God is represented as speaking to creation, that we may understand that he speaks in creation, as he is also said to look at that which comes forth from himself to behold it, to approve it, to name it, to appoint its order and use. Such intimate blending of the personal with the impersonal is the teaching of Scripture as distinguished from all mere human wisdom. God is in creation and yet above it. Man is thus invited to seek the personal presence as that which is higher than nature, which his own personal life requires, that it may not be oppressed with nature's greatness, that it may be light, and not darkness. There is darkness in creation, darkness in the deep waters of the world's history, darkness in the human soul itself, until God speaks and man hears. Light is not, physically, the first thing created; but it is the first fact of the Divine days — that is, the beginning of the new order. For what we have to do with, is not the. infinite, secret of creation, but the "manifestation of the visible world" God manifest. The first day in the history of the earth, as man can read it, must be the day when God removes the covering of darkness and says, "Let there be light." The veil uplifted is itself a commencement. God said that it was good. His own appointment confirmed the abiding distinction between light and darkness, between day and night; in other words, the unfolding, progressive interchange of work and rest, of revelation and concealment, the true beginning of the world's week of labor, which leads on to the everlasting sabbath. How appropriately this first day of the week of creation stands at the threshold of God's word of grace! The light which he makes to shine in our hearts, which divides our existence into the true order, the good and the evil separated from one another, which commences our life; and the Spirit is the light of, his own word, the light which shines from the face of him who was "the Word,' "in the beginning with God," "without whom nothing was made that was made." — R.