GENESIS 1:1-2: Creation of Heavens and Earth

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Genesis 1:1-2 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
The Creation
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
2 The earth was without form and empty; and darkness was over the face of the deep,[1] and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.


רֵאשִׁית head-part, beginning, of a thing, in point of time (Gen. 10:10), or value (Prov. 1:7). Its opposite is אַֽחֲרִית (Isa. 46:10). בְּרֵאשִׁית, in the beginning, is always used in reference to time. Here only is it taken absolutely, the beginning, first of time, i.e., a point of time which is the beginning (non-prior) in a duration (Ge 1:1)[2]

בָּרָא create, give being to something new. It has God always for its subject. Its object may be anything: matter (Gen. 1:1); animal life (Gen. 1:21); spiritual life (Gen. 1:27). Hence, creation is not confined to a single point of time. Whenever anything absolutely new—that is, not involved in anything previously extant—is called into existence, there is creation (Num. 16:30). Any thing or event also may be said to be created by Him, who created the whole system of nature to which it belongs (Mal. 2:10). The verb in its simple form occurs forty-eight times (of which eleven are in Genesis, fourteen in the whole Pentateuch, and twenty-one in Isaiah), and always in one sense.

Genesis 1:1; 1:16 BDC: Was light created or made, and was it on the first day or the fourth?

אֱלֹהִים. God. “God, i.e., the true God, note: though the form is a grammatical plural, the meaning is singular and many sources think implies a majesty or stateliness (Ge 1:1).”[3] The noun אֱלֹוהַּ or אֱלֹהַּ is found in the Hebrew scriptures fifty-seven times in the singular (of which two are in Deuteronomy, and forty-one in the book of Job), and about three thousand times in the plural, of which seventeen are in Job. The Chaldee form אֱלָהּ occurs about seventy-four times in the singular, and ten in the plural. The letter ה is proved to be radical, not only by bearing mappiq, but also by keeping its ground before a formative ending. The Arabic verb, with the same radicals, seems rather to borrow from it than to lend the meaning coluit, worshipped, which it sometimes has. The root probably means to be lasting, binding, firm, strong. Hence the noun means the Everlasting, and in the plural, the Eternal Powers. It is correctly rendered God, the name of the Eternal and Supreme Being in our language, which perhaps originally meant lord or ruler. And, like this, it is a common or appellate noun. Its direct use and indirect applications evince this.

Genesis 2:4 BDC: “God” is used in Genesis chapter 1, while chapter 2 changes to Jehovah God. Does this mean that there are two different authors of Genesis?

Its direct use is either proper or improper, according to the object to which it is applied. Every instance of its proper use manifestly determines its meaning to be the Eternal, the Almighty, who is himself without beginning and has within himself the power of causing other things, personal and impersonal, to be, and on this event is the sole object of reverence and primary obedience to his intelligent creation.

Its improper use arose from the lapse of man into false notions of the object of worship. Many real or imaginary beings came to be regarded as possessed of the attributes and therefore entitled to the reverence belonging to Deity. Consequently, they were called gods by their mistaken devoted followers and by others who had occasion to speak of them. This usage at once proves it to be a common noun and corroborates its proper meaning. When thus employed, however, it immediately loses most of its inherent grandeur and sometimes dwindles down to the bare notion of the supernatural or the extra mundane. In this manner, it seems to be applied by the witch of Endor to the unexpected apparition that presented itself to her (1 Sam. 28:13).


Its indirect applications point with equal steadiness to this primary and fundamental meaning. Thus it is employed in a relative and well-defined sense to denote one appointed of God to stand in a certain divine relation to another. This relation is that of authoritative revealer or administrator of the will of God. Thus we are told (John 10:34) that “he called them gods, to whom the word of God came.” Thus Moses became related to Aaron as God to his prophet (Exod. 4:16), and to Pharaoh as God to his creature (Exod. 7:1). Accordingly, in Ps. 82:6, we find this principle generalized: “I had said, gods are ye, and sons of the Highest all of you.” Here the divine authority vested in Moses is expressly recognized in those who sit in Moses’ seat as judges for God. They exercised a function of God among the people and were in God’s stead to them. Man, indeed, was originally adapted for ruling, being made in the image of God, and commanded to have dominion over the inferior creatures. The parent also is instead of God in some respect to his children, and the sovereign holds the relation of patriarch to his subjects. Still, however, we are not fully warranted in translating אֱלֹהִים judges in Exod. 21:6, 22:7, 8, 27 (8, 9, 28) because a more easy, exact, and impressive sense is obtained from the proper rendering.


The word מַלְאָךְ angel, as a relative or official term, is sometimes applied to a person of the Godhead; but the process is not reversed. The Seventy indeed translate אֱלֹהִים in several instances by ἄγγελοι (Ps. 8:6; 97:7; 138:1). The correctness of this is seemingly supported by the quotations in Heb. 1:6. and 2:7. These, however, do not imply that the renderings are absolutely correct, but only sufficiently so for the purpose of the writer. And it is evident they are so because the original is a highly imaginative figure, by which a class is conceived to exist, of which in reality only one of the kind is or can be. Now the Seventy, either imagining, from the occasional application of the official term ‘angel’ to God, that the angelic office somehow or sometimes involved the divine nature or viewing some of the false gods of the heathen as really angels, and therefore seemingly wishing to give a literal turn to the figure, substituted the word ἄγγελοι as an interpretation for אֱלֹהִים. This free translation was sufficient for the purpose of the inspired author of the epistle to the Hebrews, inasmuch as the worship of all angels (Heb. 1:6) in the Septuagint sense of the term was that of the highest rank of dignitaries under God, and the argument in the latter passage (Heb. 2:7) turns not on the words, “thou madest him a little lower than the angels,” but upon the sentence, “thou hast put all things under his feet.” Moreover, the Seventy are by no means consistent in this rendering of the word in similar passages (see Ps. 82:1, 97:1; 1 Sam. 28:13).


With regard to the use of the word, it is to be observed that the plural of the Chaldee form is uniformly plural in sense. The English version of בָּר־אֱלָהִין the Son of God (Dan. 3:25) is the only exception to this. But as it is the phrase of a heathen, the real meaning may be, a son of the gods. On the contrary, the plural of the Hebrew form is generally employed to denote the one God. When applied to the true God, the singular form is naturally suggested by the prominent thought of his being the only one. The plural, when so applied, is generally accompanied with singular conjuncts and conveys the predominant conception of a plurality in the one God,—a plurality which must be perfectly consistent with his being the only possible one of his kind. The explanations of this use of the plural—namely, that it is a relic of polytheism, that it indicates the association of the angels with the one God in a common or collective appellation, and that it expresses the multiplicity of attributes subsisting in him—are not satisfactory. All we can say is that it indicates such a plurality in the only one God as makes his nature complete and creation possible. Such a plurality in unity must have dawned upon the mind of Adam. It is afterward that we conceive, definitely revealed in the doctrine of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

שָׁמַיִם skies, heavens, being the high (שׁמי be high, Arab.) or the airy region; the overarching dome of space, with all its revolving orbs.

9028 שָׁמַיִם (šā·mǎ·yim): n.masc.; ≡ Str 8064; TWOT 2407a[4]1. LN 1.5–1.16 heaven, i.e., the realm of God where God abides, similar to the area of the sky, but with a focus on where God abides, sometimes describes as the upper regions above the upper sky (Ps 18:10[EB 9]); 2. LN 1.5–1.16 atmosphere, i.e., the area of the stars, skies, air, as a region above the earth including the horizon (1Ki 18:45); 3. LN 1.5–1.16 unit: שָׁמַיִם שָׁמַיִם (šā·mǎ·yim šā·mǎ·yim) highest heaven, i.e., the very uppermost part of the sky, stars, and air (Dt 10:14); 4. LN 1.5–1.16 unit: בַּיִן הַ־ שָׁמַיִם וְ־ בַּיִן הַ־ אֶרֶץ (bǎ·yin hǎ- šā·mǎ·yim w- bǎ·yin hǎ- ʾě·rěṣ) midair, formally, between the heavens and between the earth, i.e., an area of space just above the earth which has no base or support to set the feet (2Sa 18:9)[5]

אֶרֶץ land, earth, the low or the hard. The underlying surface of the land.

The verb is in the perfect form, denoting a completed act. The adverbial note of time, “in the beginning,” determines it to belong to the past. To suit our idiom, it may be strictly rendered “had created.” The skies and the land are the universe divided into its two natural parts by an earthly spectator. The absolute beginning of time, and the creation of all things, mutually determine each other.

Genesis 1:10 BDC: Is the Hebrew word for “earth” the same here as is used at Genesis 1:1, and do they mean the same thing?

Genesis 1:1 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

This great introductory sentence of the book of God is equal in weight to the whole of its subsequent communications concerning the kingdom of nature.

It assumes the existence of God, for it is he who in the beginning creates. It assumes his eternity, for he is before all things: and as nothing comes from nothing, he himself must have always been. It implies his omnipotence, for he creates the universe of things. It implies his absolute freedom, for he begins a new course of action. It implies his infinite wisdom, for a kosmos, an order of matter and mind can only come from a being of absolute intelligence. It implies his essential goodness; the Sole, Eternal, Almighty, All-wise, and All-sufficient Being has no reason, motive, or capacity for evil. It presumes him to be beyond all limits of time and place, as he is before all time and place.

It asserts the creation of the heavens and the earth; that is, of the universe of mind and matter. This creating is the omnipotent act of giving existence to things that before had no existence. This is the first great mystery of things; as the end is the second. Natural science observes things as they are when they have already laid hold of existence. It ascends into the past as far as observation will reach, and penetrates into the future as far as experience will guide. But it does not touch the beginning or the end. This first sentence of revelation, however, records the beginning. At the same time, it involves the progressive development of that which is begun and so contains within its bosom the whole of what is revealed in the book of God. It is thus historical of the beginning and prophetical of the whole of time. It is, therefore, equivalent to all the rest of revelation taken together, which merely records the evolutions of one sphere of creation and nearly anticipates the end of present things.


This sentence assumes the being of God and asserts the beginning of things. Hence, it intimates that the existence of God is more immediately patent to the reason of man than the creation of the universe. And this is agreeable to the philosophy of things, for the existence of God is a necessary and eternal truth, more and more self-evident to the intellect as it rises to maturity. But the beginning of things is, by its very nature, a contingent event, which once was not and then came to be contingent on the free will of the Eternal, and, therefore, not evident to reason itself, but made known to the understanding by testimony and the reality of things. This sentence is the testimony, and the actual world in us and around us is the reality. Faith takes account of the one, observation of the other.

It bears on the very face of it the indication that man wrote it, and for man; for it divides all things into the heavens and the earth. Such a division evidently suits those only who are inhabitants of the earth. Accordingly, this sentence is the foundation-stone of the history, not of the universe at large, of the sun, of any other planet, but of the earth and of man its rational inhabitant. The primeval event which it records may be far distant, in point of time, from the next event in such a history; as the earth may have existed myriads of ages, and undergone many vicissitudes in its condition, before it became the home of the human race. And, for aught we know, the history of other planets, even of the solar system, may yet be unwritten because there has been as yet no rational inhabitant to compose or peruse the record. We have no intimation of the interval that elapsed between the beginning of things narrated in this prefatory sentence and that state of things announced in the following verse.

However, with no less clearness does it show that it was dictated by superhuman knowledge. For it records the beginning of things of which natural science can take no cognizance. Man observes certain laws of nature and, guided by these, may trace the current of physical events backward and forwards, but without being able to fix any limit to the course of nature in either direction. And not only this sentence, but the main part of this and the following chapter communicates events that occurred before man made his appearance on the stage of things, before he could either witness or record them. And in harmony with all this, the whole volume is proved by the topics chosen, the revelations made, the views entertained, the ends contemplated, and the means of information to be derived from a higher source than man.

This simple sentence denies atheism, for it assumes the being of God. It denies polytheism and, among its various forms, the doctrine of two eternal principles, the one good, and the other evil, for it confesses the one Eternal Creator. It denies materialism, for it asserts the creation of matter. It denies pantheism, for it assumes the existence of God before all things and apart from them. It denies fatalism, for it involves the freedom of the Eternal Being.

It indicates the relative superiority, in point of magnitude, of the heavens to the earth, by giving the former the first place in the order of words. It is thus in accordance with the first elements of astronomical science.

It is therefore pregnant with physical and metaphysical, ethical and theological instruction for the first man, the predecessors and contemporaries of Moses, and all the succeeding generations of mankind.

This verse forms an integral part of the narrative, and not a mere heading as some have imagined. This is abundantly evident for the following reasons: 1. It has the form of a narrative, not a superscription. 2. The conjunctive particle connects the second verse with it; which could not be if it were a heading. 3. The very next sentence speaks of the earth as already in existence, and therefore its creation must be recorded in the first verse. 4. In the first verse the heavens take precedence of the earth; but in the following verses, all things, even the sun, moon, and stars, seem to be but appendages to the earth. Thus, if it were a heading, it would not correspond with the narrative. 5. If the first verse belongs to the narrative, order pervades the whole recital; whereas if it be a heading, the most hopeless confusion enters. Light is called into being before the sun, moon, and stars. The earth takes precedence of the heavenly luminaries. The stars, which are co-ordinate with the sun, and pre-ordinate to the moon, occupy the third place in the narrative of their manifestation. For any or all of these reasons, it is obvious that the first verse forms a part of the narrative.

As soon as it is settled that the narrative begins in the first verse, another question comes up for determination; namely, whether the heavens here mean the heavenly bodies that circle in their courses through the realms of space, or the mere space itself which they occupy with their perambulations. It is manifest that the heavens here denote the heavenly orbs themselves—the celestial mansions with their existing inhabitants,—for the following cogent reasons: 1. Creation implies something created, and not mere space, which is nothing, and cannot be said to be created. 2. As the earth here obviously means the substance of the planet we inhabit, the heavens must mean the substance of the celestial luminaries, the heavenly hosts of stars and spirits by parity of reason. 3. The heavens are placed before the earth and therefore must mean that reality which is greater than the earth; for if they meant space, and nothing real, they ought not to be before the earth. 4. The heavens are actually mentioned in the verse, and, therefore must mean a real thing; for if they meant nothing at all, they ought not to be mentioned. 5. The heavens must denote the heavenly realities, because this imparts a rational order to the whole chapter; whereas an unaccountable derangement appears if the sun, moon, and stars do not come into existence till the fourth day, though the sun is the center of light and the measurer of the daily period. For any or all of these reasons, it is undeniable that the heavens in the first verse mean the fixed and planetary orbs of space; and, consequently, that these uncounted tenants of the skies, along with our own planet, are all declared to be in existence before the commencement of the six days’ creation.

Genesis 1:1 BDC: Is the earth only 6,000 to 10,000 years old? Are the creative days literally, only 24 hours long?

Hence it appears that the first verse records an event antecedent to those described in the subsequent verses. This is the absolute and aboriginal creation of the heavens and all that in them is, and of the earth in its primeval state. The former includes all those resplendent spheres which are spread before the wondering eye of man, as well as those hosts of planets and of spiritual and angelic beings which are beyond the range of his natural vision. This brings a simple and unforced meaning out of the whole chapter and discloses a beauty and a harmony in the narrative which no other interpretation can afford. In this way the subsequent verses reveal a new effort of creative power, by which the pre-adamic earth, in the condition in which it appears in the second verse, is fitted up for the residence of a fresh animal creation, including the human race. The process is represented as it would appear to primeval man in his infantile simplicity, with whom his own position would naturally be the fixed point to which everything else was to be referred.

Young Christians

THE LAND.—Gen. 1:2

הָיָה be. It is to be noted, however, that the word has three meanings, two of which now scarcely belong to our English be. 1. Be, as an event, start into being, begin to be, come to pass. This may be understood as a thing beginning to be, יְהִי אֹור be light; or of an event taking place, וַֽיְחִי מִקֵּץ יָמִים and it came to pass from the end of days. 2. Be, as a change of state, become. This is applied to that which had a previous existence but undergoes some change in its properties or relations as וַתְּחִי נְצִיב מֶלַח and she became a pillar of salt. 3. Be, as a state. This is the ultimate meaning to which the verb tends in all languages. In all its meanings, especially in the first and second, the Hebrew speaker presumes an onlooker, to whom the object in question appears coming into being, becoming or being, as the case may be. Hence, it means to be manifest, so that eyewitnesses may observe the signs of existence.

תֹּחוּ וָבֹהוּ a waste and a void. The two terms denote kindred ideas, and their combination marks emphasis. Besides the present passage בֹּהוּ occurs in only two others (Is. 34:11; Jer. 4:23), and always in conjunction with תֹּהוּ. If we may distinguish the two words, בֹּהוּ refers to the matter, and תֹּהוּ to the form, and therefore the phrase combining the two denotes a state of utter confusion and desolation, an absence of all that can furnish or people the land.


חשֶׁךְ darkness, the absence of light.

פָּנִֹּים face, surface. פָּנָה face, look, turn towards.

תְּהֹום roaring deep, billow. הוּם hum, roar, fret.

רוּחַ breath, wind, soul, spirit.

רָחַף be soft, tremble. Pi. brood, flutter.

וְהָאָרֶץ and the earth. Here the conjunction attaches the noun, and not the verb, to the preceding statement. This is therefore a connection of objects in space, and not of events in time. The present sentence, accordingly, may not stand closely conjoined in point of time with the preceding one. To intimate sequence in time, the conjunction would have been prefixed to the verb in the form וַתּֽהִי then was.

אֶרֶץ means not only earth, but country, land, a portion of the earth’s surface defined by natural, national, or civil boundaries; as, the land of Egypt, thy land (Ex. 23:9, 10).

Before proceeding to translate this verse, it is to be observed that the state of an event may be described either definitely or indefinitely. It is described definitely by the three states of the Hebrew verb,—the perfect, the current, and the imperfect. The latter two may be designated in common the imperfect state. A completed event is expressed by the former of the two states, or, as they are commonly called, tenses of the Hebrew verb; a current event, by the imperfect participle; an incipient event, by the second state or tense. An event is described indefinitely when there is neither verb nor participle in the sentence to determine its state. The first sentence of this verse is an example of the perfect state of an event, the second of the indefinite, and the third of the imperfect or continuous state.

Genesis 1:2 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

The earth was without form and empty; and darkness was over the face of the deep,[6] and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.

Genesis 1:2a “Now the earth became without form …” or “the earth was without form …”

After the undefined lapse of time from the first grand act of creation, the present verse describes the state of things on the land immediately antecedent to the creation of a new system of vegetable and animal life, and, in particular, of man, the intelligent inhabitant, for whom this fair scene was now to be fitted up and replenished.

Here “the earth” is put first in the order of words and, therefore, according to the genius of the Hebrew language, set forth prominently as the subject of the sentence; whence we conclude that the subsequent narrative refers to the land—the skies from this time forward coming in only incidentally, as they bear upon its history. The disorder and desolation, we are to remember, are limited in their range to the land and do not extend to the skies; and the scene of the creation now remaining to be described is confined to the land, and its superincumbent matter in point of space, and to its present geological condition in point of time.

We have further to bear in mind that the land among the antediluvians, and down far below the time of Moses, meant so much of the surface of our globe as was known by observation, along with an unknown and undetermined region beyond; and observation was not then so extensive as to enable men to ascertain its spherical form of even the curvature of its surface. To their eye, it presented merely an irregular surface bounded by the horizon. Hence, it appears that, so far as the current significance of this leading term is concerned, the scene of the six days’ creation cannot be affirmed on scriptural authority alone to have extended beyond the surface known to man. Nothing can be inferred from the mere words of Scripture concerning America, Australia, the islands of the Pacific, or even the remote parts of Asia, Africa, or Europe, that were yet unexplored by the race of man. On a flight of imagination, we are going beyond the warrant of the sacred narrative whenever we advance a single step beyond the sober limits of the usage of the day in which it was written.

Along with the sky and its conspicuous objects, the land then known to ancient man formed the sum total of the observable universe. It was as competent to him with his limited information as it is to us with our more extensive but still limited knowledge to express the all by a periphrasis consisting of two terms that have not even yet arrived at their full complement of meaning: and it was not the object or the effect of divine revelation to anticipate science on these points.

Passing now from the subject to the verb in this sentence, we observe it is in the perfect state, and therefore denotes that the condition of confusion and emptiness was not in progress but had run its course and become a settled thing, at least at the time of the next recorded event. If the verb had been absent in Hebrew, the sentence would have been still complete, and the meaning as follows: “And the land was waste and void.” With the verb present, therefore, it must denote something more. The verb הָיָה be has here, we conceive, the meaning become; and the import of the sentence is this: “And the land had become waste and void.” This affords the presumption that the part at least of the surface of our globe which fell within the cognizance of ancient man and first received the name of land, may not have always been a scene of desolation or a sea of turbid waters, but may have met with some catastrophe by which its order and fruitfulness had been marred or prevented.

Therefore, this sentence does not necessarily describe the state of the land when it was first created but merely intimates a change that may have occurred since it was called into existence. What its previous condition was, or what interval of time elapsed between the absolute creation and the present state of things, is not revealed. How many transformations it may have undergone and what purpose it may have served are questions that did not essentially concern the moral well-being of man, and are therefore to be asked of some other interpreter of nature than the written word.

This state of things is finished in reference to the event about to be narrated. Hence, the settled condition of the land, expressed by the predicates “a waste and a void,” is in studied contrast with the order and fulness which are about to be introduced. The present verse is, therefore, to be regarded as a statement of the wants that have to be supplied in order to render the land a region of beauty and life.

The second clause of the verse points out another striking characteristic of the scene. “And darkness was upon the face of the deep”: Again, the conjunction is connected with the noun. The time is the indefinite past, and the circumstance recorded is merely appended to that contained in the previous clause. The darkness, therefore, is connected with the disorder and solitude which then prevailed on the land. It forms a part of the physical derangement which had taken place on this part at least of the surface of our globe.

It is further to be noted that the darkness is described to be on the face of the deep. Nothing is said about any other region throughout the bounds of existing things. The presumption is, so far as this clause determines, that it is a local darkness confined to the face of the deep. And the clause stands between two others referring to the land and not to any other part of occupied space. It cannot therefore be intended to describe anything beyond this definite region.


The deep, the roaring abyss, is another feature in the pre-adamic scene. It is not now a region of land and water, but a chaotic mass of turbid waters, floating over, it may be, and partly laden with, the ruins of a past order of things; at all events not at present possessing the order of vegetable and animal life.

The last clause introduces a new and unexpected element into the scene of desolation. The sentence is, as heretofore, coupled to the preceding one by the noun or subject. This still indicates a conjunction of things, not a series of events. The phrase רוּחַ אֱלֹהִים means the spirit of God, as it is elsewhere uniformly applied to spirit, and as רִחֵף brooded, does not describe the action of wind. The verbal form employed is the imperfect participle, and therefore denotes a work in the actual process of accomplishment. The brooding of the spirit of God is evidently the originating cause of the reorganization of things on the land by the creative work which is successively described in the following passage.

It is here intimated that God is a spirit. For “the spirit of God” is equivalent to “God who is a spirit.” This is that essential characteristic of the Everlasting which makes creation possible. Many ancient and modern philosophers have felt the difficulty of proceeding from the one to the many; in other words, of evolving the actual multiplicity of things out of the absolutely one. And no wonder. For the absolutely one, the pure monad that has no internal relation, no complexity of quality or faculty, is barren, and must remain alone. It is, in fact, nothing; not merely no thing, but absolutely naught. The simplest possible existent must have being, and that to which this being belongs, and, moreover, some specific or definite character by which it is what it is. This character seldom consists of one quality: usually, if not universally, of more than one. Hence in the Eternal One may and must be that character which is the concentration of all the causative antecedents of a universe of things. The first of these is will. Without free choice, there can be no beginning of things. Hence, matter cannot be a creator. But will needs, cannot be without, wisdom to plan and power to execute what is to be willed. These are the three essential attributes of spirit. The manifold wisdom of the Eternal Spirit, combined with his equally manifold power, is adequate to the creation of a manifold system of things. Let the free behest be given, and the universe starts into being.

It would be rash and out of place to speculate on the nature of the brooding here mentioned further than it is explained by the event. We could not see any use of a mere wind blowing over the water, as it would be productive of none of the subsequent effects. At the same time, we may conceive the spirit of God to manifest its energy in some outward effect, which may bear a fair analogy to the natural figure by which it is represented. Chemical forces, as the prime agents, are not to be thought of here, as they are totally inadequate to the production of the results in question. Nothing but a creative or absolutely initiative power could give rise to a change so great and fundamental as the construction of an Adamic abode out of the luminous, aerial, aqueous, and terrene materials of the preexistent earth, and the production of the new vegetable and animal species with which it was now to be replenished.

Such is the intimation we gather from the text when it declares that “the spirit of God was moving upon the face of the waters.” It means something more than the ordinary power put forth by the Great Being for the natural sustenance and development of the universe which he has called into existence. It indicates a new and special display of omnipotence for the present exigencies of this part of the realm of creation. Such an occasion, and, for ought we know, ordinary though supernatural interposition, is entirely in harmony with the perfect freedom of the Most High in the changing conditions of a particular region, while the absolute impossibility of its occurrence would be totally at variance with this essential attribute of a spiritual nature.

In addition to this, we cannot see how a universe of moral beings can be governed by any other principle; while on the other hand, the principle itself is perfectly compatible with the administration of the whole according to a predetermined plan and does not involve any vacillation of purpose on the part of the Great Designer.

We observe, also, that this creative power is put forth on the face of the waters and is therefore confined to the land mentioned in the previous part of the verse and its super incumbent atmosphere.

Thus, this primeval document proceeds, in an orderly way, to portray to us in a single verse the state of the land antecedent to its being fitted up anew as a meet dwelling-place for man.[7]

Genesis 1-2 BDC: Is there a Different order of creation in Genesis 2 than Genesis 1?



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[1] That is, watery deep, an area below the surface of bodies of water

[2] James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

[3] James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

[4] 2407a    שָׁמַיִם (šāmayim) heaven, heavens, sky. (ASV and RSV similar).

Cognates are found in Ugaritic šmm, Akkadian šamû (singular, “rain”; plural, “heaven”), Aramaic, Arabic, and South Arabic.

The usage of šāmayim falls into two broad categories, 1) the physical heavens, and 2) the heavens as the abode of God. Under the first category, heaven includes all that is above the earth, and any given passage may include all or merely a part of the whole. Heaven and earth together constitute the universe (Gen 1:1). They yield rain (Gen 8:2), snow (Isa 55:10), frost (Job 38:29), fire (II Kgs 1:10), dew (Deut 33:13), and thunder (I Sam 2:10). They hold the sun, moon, planets, and stars (Gen 1:14; 15:5; Isa 14:12; Amos 5:26). Zechariah 2:6 [H 10] speaks of the four winds of the heavens, and Ps 135:7 says that God brings forth the wind from his storehouses.

The heavens are frequently described in figurative language as having windows (Gen 7:11; II Kgs 7:2; Mal 3:10, though the word here is more likely sluice-gates such as are used in irrigation, see ʾărbbâ), gates (Gen 28:7), doors (Ps 78:23), pillars (Job 26:11), and foundations (II Sam 22:8). They are stretched out and spread out like a tent or a curtain (Isa 40:22).

The use of such figurative language no more necessitates the adoption of a pagan cosmology than does the modern use of the term “sunrise” imply astronomical ignorance. The imagery is often phenomenological, and is both convenient and vividly forceful. Thus a disobedient Israel would find the heavens to be like iron (Lev 26:19) or like bronze (Deut 28:23), not yielding the much-needed rain. Note that if the heavens were conceived of as a metallic vault, as is commonly suggested from Gen 1:8, 14 etc., the above passages would be meaningless, since the skies would already be metal. The word rāqîaʿ (q,v.) comes from the verb meaning “to hammer out” and “stretch (a piece of metal) out” as an overlay, It is the idea of spreading out that carries over to the noun, not the idea of a metallic substance. “Expanse” is an acceptable translation.

Heaven is, secondly, the abode of God (Deut 26:15; I Kgs 8:30), and it is from there that he reaches down to do his will on earth. As the heavens are infinitely high above the earth, so are God’s thoughts and ways infinitely above man’s ability to comprehend (Isa 55:8–9). God is in sovereign control (Ps 2:4). He is able to reach out in judgment (Gen 19:24ff) and in salvation alike (Ps 57:3 [H 4]; Deut 33:26). Jeremiah 23:24 states that God fills heaven and earth, and Solomon recognizes that all of heaven and the highest heavens themselves (“heaven of heavens”) cannot contain the Almighty God. As vast as the heavens are, they are merely part of God’s creation, and he stands above it all. Therefore Solomon has no illusions that God has need of his temple or that it can contain him. Yet God has graciously condescended to dwell there and to be approached by sinful man. Isaiah states (Isa 57:15) that though God dwells in the high and lofty place, he will also dwell with those of a contrite and humble spirit.

The heavens tell of the glory of God (Ps 19:1 [H 2]), declare his righteousness (Ps 50:6), and praise him (Ps 69:34 [H 35]). As grand as they are, they merely point to the Creator and are not to be worshiped (Ex 20:4; Jer 44:17–25). Though the heavens are his throne, they will one day vanish like smoke (Isa 51:6) and be rolled up like a scroll (Isa 34:4). Then God will create a new heaven and a new earth, unmarred by the effects of sin (Isa 65:17; 66:22). The joy and glory of completed redemption will be reflected in all of creation.

Bibliography: Gaster, T. H., “Heaven,” in IDB. Innes, D. K., “Heaven and Sky in the Old Testament,” EQ 43:131–43. Morris, L. L., “Heaven,” in NBD. von Rad, G., in TDNT, V, pp. 502–9. Rayburn, R. G. “Heaven,” in WBE. Rosmarin, Trude, W., “The Term for ‘Air’ in the Bible,” JBL 51:71–72. Smith, W. M., “Heaven,” in ZPEB. THAT II, pp. 965–69. – Hermann J. Austel, “2407 שׁמה,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 935–936.

[5] James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

[6] That is, watery deep, an area below the surface of bodies of water

[7] James G. Murphy, Notes on the Old Testament: Genesis (Boston: Estes and Lauriate, 1873), 25–37.

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