of Creation: the Heavens and the Earth
1:1. God's creation of the heavens and the earth.
Genesis 1:1. The
Beginning of God’s Creation. “In the beginning, God created the
heavens and the earth.” In this simple (ten words in English, seven in
Hebrew), yet incredibly profound opening statement of the Bible,
several foundational truths appear. “In the beginning” refers to the
origin of time in regard to the cosmos; “God” refers
to the Powerful One, whose existence is assumed and needs no proof, and
who is the sole agent; “created” means, in this context, that He made
out of nothing (ex nihilo);
“the heavens” refers to the fact that God created space
(the framework of the universe in which all stars would soon come to
be); and “the earth” denotes that God created the matter
comprising planet Earth.
perhaps Kent Hovind, remarked in a speech once that time
here in the created order exists in a triad of past, present, and
future; that space exists in a triad of length,
width, and height; and that matter exists in a triad
of solid, liquids, and gas.
Constable's Notes on Genesis,
are some evangelical scholars who believe that “Verse 1
describes, in very general, introductory terms, the same creation
activity that God did on all six days of creation (1:2-31).
It is a topic sentence that introduces the whole creation account that
prefer this view.”
He cites, in footnote 42
above, other scholars who hold this view, namely George Bush, Edward
J. Young, Bruce
K. Waltke, Allen
Another way of stating this view is to assert that Genesis 1:1 is a merism, a figure of
speech for totality (Constable). This view is not
preferable for the following reasons:
if Genesis 1:1 is merely a topic
sentence, or an introductory merism, then we are left with no specific
statement as to how or when the earth came into existence, and this, in
the beginning portion of the beginning book of the Bible which purports
to do that very thing! That would be a bizarre and unfortunate omission
by the author of Genesis, in my view.
there are eleven unambiguous topical statements in the Book of Genesis,
and none of them is worded this way. (These are the toledot passages, found in Genesis
2:4; 5:1; 6:9; 10:1; 11:10, 27; 25:12,19; 36:1, 9; 37:2. These toledot passages are typically
translated, “these are the records of the generations of
if Genesis 1:1 does not refer to God’s
specific creation of the earth, then we are left with a most peculiar
literary device. Suddenly in Genesis 1:2, the author begins to
discuss the condition of the earth that has no specific record of
having been created. That, in my view, is unthinkable.
God, in His commandment concerning the Sabbath Day, clearly stated that
He had made both the heavens and the earth and everything in them in
six days (Ex.
It seems evident from this Divine commentary that Genesis 1:1 records God’s actual
creation of two entities, the heavens, and then the earth. So Genesis 1:1 is the opening statement
of what occurred on Day One, not merely a topical statement, or merism,
the details of which would appear subsequently.
beginning” refers to the beginning of the created cosmos, the
physical universe. God, of course, is eternal, and had no beginning.
Some evangelicals label the beginning of which John spoke (John 1:1-2) as the “absolute
beginning,” placing it before the beginning of which Moses wrote here
in Genesis 1:1. But I see no valid exegetical reason why Moses and John
cannot be referring to the same beginning. After all, both Gen. 1 and John 1:1-13 discuss the creation of
the world and the entire universe. So the initial beginning the Bible
discusses in those terms is here in Genesis 1:1. John’s beginning refers
backwards to this event. In any case, it is difficult to use the term absolute beginning for either passage, since God and the
Word were already there before the beginning (Gen.
1:1; John 1:1-3).
It is best to understand that the third heaven (2 Cor. 12:2-4),
the abode of God, existed before the creation of the cosmos, as did angels, who apparently witnessed
God’s creation of the earth with great joy (Job 38:4-7).
That would imply, of course, that entities, both created and uncreated,
existed and continue to exist outside the cosmos. That means that the
cosmos is not infinite in regard to time, space, or matter. It also
affirms the existence of a spiritual universe existing outside of our
present material universe, albeit interacting with it.
“God” – Elohim is the generic word for
God. “Its basic meaning is ‘strong one, mighty leader, supreme Deity.’
The form of the word is plural, indicating plentitude (sic) of power
and majesty and allowing for the NT revelation of the triunity of the
note). In Genesis
God, appears a startling 35 times in 34 verses! Clearly, God is the
featured subject of this overwhelmingly theological historical
narrative! (Incidentally, I would also add that the always-plural
allows for the truth that God is the most complex Being in all the
universe. He is one God, but He manifests Himself in multiple persons,
namely the Trinity,
or better yet, Triunity.)
– The Hebrew word bara here means that God
created, out of nothing (Latin ex nihilo), both the
earth and the framework in which he situated it. Moses used the word bara eight times in Genesis,
and each time it refers to the creative act of God (Gen.
1:1, 21, 27; 2:3, 4; 5:1, 2; 6:7).
We can also observe in these passages that Moses used bara, to create, and asah, to make, as synonyms (Gen.
2:3, 4; 5:1; 6:7).
“In biblical Hebrew, the verb bara (create) always has God
for its subject and never mentions the material from which He created” (Boyd, p. 189).
and the earth” – Some take this phrase as a merism, a figure of
speech for totality (Thomas Constable, Notes
on Genesis). In this view, Genesis 1:1 is merely an introductory
or summary statement of what God did in Genesis 1:3-31, which, it is assumed, are
the actual days of creation. But if that were the case, there is no specific statement in this chapter of the actual creation
of the earth. That would be bizarre, considering that this chapter
purports to be an explanation of how the world and the entire universe
originated. To illustrate how counterintuitive this view is, let me
quote Constable’s opening statement
2 probably describes what we now call the earth in its
pre-formed—like a lump of clay—existence, before God gave it form and
filled it.” But he has
already stated that Gen. 1:1 does not describe God's act on Day One of
creation. So where did this earth that hadn't been created in Gen. 1:1
come from? Where is the account of the creation of this "pre-formed"
earth if Gen. 1:1 is merely a merism?
Scripture is its own best
commentary, and Moses clearly stated that “in six days the LORD made
the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them” (Exod. 20:11).
So it makes much more sense to understand both Genesis
1:1 and Genesis 1:2 as the initial part of day
one of creation, the foundational state of that which God would
momentarily upgrade. So Genesis 1:1 is a statement of part of
what God created on the first day. It is NOT a merism.
created “the heavens” (hashamayim).
The word heavens (shamayim) always appears in the
plural in the Hebrew Bible. That is appropriate, not only because of
the vastness of the heavens, but because of their plurality. There are
three distinct heavens in the Bible, the third being the abode of God (2 Cor. 12:2).
The other two heavens are the heavens in which God placed the sun,
moon, and stars (Gen.
and the heavens in which birds fly (Gen.
(more about these heavens later.) “The heavens” (hashamayim)
of which Moses wrote in Genesis 1:1 are what we today would
call “outer space”, for God had as yet apparently created no atmosphere
around earth to support life and in which birds could fly. What was the
composition of the heavens at the end of Genesis 1:1? Based on what is stated
in the rest of Gen.
1, the initial
condition of the heavens is that they were the "space" framework in
which God placed an aqueous matrix of matter, the earth, and in which
He would later (on the fourth day) place the sun, moon and stars (Gen. 1:14-19).
By the end of Genesis
1:1, the only
matter that existed in the heavens was the earth, as yet in its
incomplete state (as Genesis 1:2 further details). Most of
what we call “outer space” today has nothing in it, at least nothing
visible to the eye. There are enormous voids between stars, galaxies,
and galaxy groups. Today, outer space is cold because there is
relatively little light (energy) out there. So the fact that one can
measure temperature in deep space when little that is tangible exists
out there indicates that something is there – a
framework of darkness and coldness. That would be the condition of the
heavens at the end of Genesis 1:1 – dark and cold – and
empty – with the lone exception of the earth, which God had just placed
there. Since there were no stars or planets or light (energy) whatever
– the initial condition of the heavens was totally empty compared to
outer space today, which is actually teeming with light waves both
visible and invisible (including cosmic microwave background) from distant stars and
galaxies. The only exception to this emptiness would have been the
earth, the second item that God created on day one.
created “the earth” (haarets).
Hebrew word erets refers either to the whole
planet or to a portion thereof. Consequently it is sometimes translated
earth, sometimes land. The
context controls the particular meaning. For example, the term erets in Gen. 1:1 refers to the whole planet
and is translated earth. In Gen. 1:2 we are given additional
details about the earth just after God created it – it was formless,
void, dark, and aqueous. Here again, erets refers to the whole
planet, and it is translated earth. On the third day,
God commanded the dry land (yabbasah) to appear (Gen. 1:9).
God named the dry land (yabbasah) earth (erets) (Gen. 1:10).
So here only a portion of the planet is designated as earth – the dry
land. That narrower terminology is used elsewhere. Reference is made in
2:11 to the
land (erets) of Havilah. The gold of
that land (erets) is good (Gen. 2:12).
Further reference is made to the land (erets) of Cush (Gen. 2:13).
enough to the English reader, Yahweh commanded Abram to depart from his
country (lit. “your earth” – erets) “to the land (lit.
“earth” – erets) which I will show you” (Gen. 12:1).
There are Jewish people today who speak of Erets Israel – the land or
“earth” which belongs to Israel. (See, for example, the reference to
the “Erets Israel lobby” in the summary immediately below the title of
the linked article
It is appropriate to note here that while the creation account (Gen. 1:1-2:3) is very much Theo-centric
(God-centered) in relation to the Cause of creation,
it is very much Geo-centric (earth-centered) in relation to the products of creation. This can be deduced from the
following frequencies of occurrence in Genesis 1:1-2:3: The noun light
(‘owr) appears six times (Gen.
1:3, 4, 5, 18).
The verb to give light (‘owr) occurs twice (Gen.
The word light(s) (better, light-bearer(s)
(ma’owr) (lit., “from light”)
appears five times (Gen.
1:14, 15, 16).
The word expanse (raqiya’) (KJV firmament)
appears nine times (Gen.
1:6, 7, 8, 14, 15, 17, 20).
The word shamayim (usually translated heavens, but three times as sky) appears
eleven times (Gen.
1:1, 8, 9, 14, 15, 17, 20, 26, 28, 30; 2:1).
But the word earth (erets) is the runaway winner,
appearing 21 times (Gen.
1:1, 2, 10, 11, 12, 15, 17, 20, 22, 24, 25, 26, 28, 29, 30; 2:1).
As far as God is concerned, Earth is very much the center of the