April 24, 2013
Commentary on the Book of Genesis
By: Tom Lowe
PART: I GENERAL HISTORY FROM ADAM TO ABRAHAM—Gen. 1:1-11:9.
Topic #A: An Account of Creation. Gen. 1:1-2:7.
Lesson I.A.1: The Beginning.
Scripture: Gen. 1:1, 2.
Genesis 1.1, 2 (KJV)
1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
No other book of the Bible has been attacked more often or as severely as Genesis; because, if those who hate God could disprove any part of it the entire Bible would becom suspect. The attacks have been going on now for more than two thousand years, but Genesis has stood the test and still does provide the only true account of the creation of the universe, and the oldest recorded history of mankind on this little planet.
This chapter contains the following topics and themes:
1. Genesis 1:1-5; the creation of heaven and earth, and light—the work of the first day.
2. Genesis 1:6-8; the creation of the firmament—the work of the second day.
3. Genesis 1:9-13; the appearance of the earth, and the production of grass, herbs, and trees in the earth—the work of the third day.
4. Genesis 1:14-19; the creation of the sun, moon, and stars—the work of the fourth day.
5. Genesis 1:20-25; Creation of fish, fowl, beasts and cattle —the work of the fifth day.
6. Genesis 1:26-31; Creation man in the image of God, and Provision for food—the work of the sixth day.
God creates. Everything begins with God and fulfills His purposes for His glory (Col. 1:16–17; Rev. 4:11). He works by the power of His Word (Ps. 33:6–9), the same Word that can work in our lives (1 Thess. 2:13). He works according to a plan: first He forms, and then He fills. He formed the earth and filled it with plants and animals. He formed the firmament and filled it with stars and planets. He formed the seas and filled them with living creatures. He can form and fill our lives today if we will yield to Him. Persons who have trusted Jesus Christ are a part of the new creation (2 Cor. 4:6; 5:17; Eph. 2:8–10).
1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
In the beginning
I prefer this meaning for “In the beginning”—a period of remote and unknown antiquity, hid in the depths of eternal ages. Moses simply intends to affirm that the world was not perfected at its very beginning, in the manner in which it is now seen, but that it was created an empty chaos of heaven and earth. His verse, therefore, may be explained this way: When God in the beginning created the heaven and the earth, the earth was empty and a wasteland.
This verse makes one of the most profound statements that have ever been uttered, and yet it is a statement that is certainly challenged in the times in which we are living. The problem of origin provokes more violent controversy, wild theories, and wide disagreement than any other; and behind it there are always the theories men have proposed, and which liberal thinkers have promoted as fact, and as a result there is a babble of voices that has drowned out the clear voice of God. Actually, there are two extreme groups who have blurred the issue, and they have muddied the waters of understanding by their dogmatic assumptions and assertions. One group is comprised of the arrogant scientists who assume that biological and philosophical evolution is the gospel truth. Their assumed axiom is “the certain finding of science”. The other group is comprised of the young and proud theologians who claim to have super–knowledge; that they have discovered how God did it. They write and speak intellectually about some clever theory that reconciles science and the Bible. They look with contempt upon the great giants of biblical expositors of the past as being Bible dwarfs compared to them. I think both of these groups should consider a statement that was made to Job when the Lord finally appeared to him. God asked him the question: “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding” (Job 38:4). In other words, God is saying to man, “You talk about the origin of the universe, but you don’t even know where you were when I laid the foundation of the earth!”
There are a great many theories as to how the world began, but all of them can be boiled down to fit into one of two classifications: one is creation, and the other is speculation. All theories fall into one of these two divisions.
The theory of evolution is comprised of many different theories in our day, and some of the most reputable scientists of the past, as well as the present, reject evolution. So we can’t put down the theory of evolution as being a scientific statement like 2 + 2 = 4. Then there is the creation account in Genesis 1, which must be accepted by faith. It is very interesting that God has made it that way—by faith is the only way in the world by which you can accept it. Notice what the writer to the Hebrews said: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” (Heb. 11:1–3). So today the great problem still remains: How did it get from nothing to something? The only way that you can ever arrive at an answer is by faith or by speculation—and speculation is very unscientific.
If you believe in the “theory of evolution” you have to take it by faith; in fact, you have to have a whole lot of faith. And did you notice that even the educators and scientists still call it a “theory?” One definition of “theory” is: “a proposed explanation whose status is still conjectural and subject to experimentation, in contrast to well-established propositions that are regarded as reporting matters of actual fact.” Evolution is speculation and always has been. But, unfortunately, a great many people have accepted it as fact. It still makes more sense to me to read: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Who created the universe? God did. He created it out of nothing. When? I don’t know, and nobody else knows.
The Psalmist wrote, “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained” (Psalms 8:3; KJV); and “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork” (Psalms 19:1; KJV). The apostle Paul wrote this to the Romans: “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20). And the writer to the Hebrews says: “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” (Heb. 11:3). We must accept creation by faith. Even science cannot tell us how something can be made out of nothing. God apparently did it just that way. And man today cannot tell when He did it.
There is something we do know about creation; we know why He created. The Word of God tells us that this universe was created for His own pleasure. He saw fit to create it; He delighted in it. In the final book of the Bible we find these words: “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created” (Rev. 4:11). He created this universe because He wanted to create it. He did it for His pleasure.
The second reason that He created this universe was for His own glory. The original creation, you remember, sang that wonderful Creator’s praise “… When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:7). It was created for His glory. And in the prophecy of Isaiah are these words: “… I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him” (Isa. 43:7). God created this universe for His own glory.
The Word of God also tells us that God created man in this universe for fellowship. He wanted to have fellowship with mankind, and so He created him a free moral agent. God could have made a bunch of robots. God could have made mechanical men and pushed a button to make them bow down to Him. But God didn’t want that kind of a man. God wanted a man to be free to choose Him and to love Him and to serve Him.
In the midst of all the unbelief, the blasphemy, and the hostility toward God which is around us today, the greatest thing you can do as a human being is to publicly choose the Lord Jesus Christ. To believe in God the Father Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth and to receive His Son, Jesus Christ, is the most glorious privilege that you and I have.
“God” is the name of the Supreme Being. In Hebrew the meaning is "Strong," "Mighty." It signifies omnipotent power; and by its use here in the plural form, a doctrine is suggested at the opening of the Bible which is clearly revealed in other parts of it, namely, that though God is one, there is a plurality of persons in the Godhead—Father, Son, and Spirit, who were engaged in the creative work (see verses: Pr 8:27; John 1:3, 10; Eph 3:9; Heb 1:2). The concept of Trinity is basically a New Testament revelation.
In this verse, important statements concerning God’s nature and character are implied; statements which refute at least six fundamental heresies.
First, there is atheism, the view that God does not exist. The Bible offers no philosophical argument for the existence of God; it assumes His existence and views everything in the light of that assumption.
Second is polytheism. The singular form of the key verb indicates that the Hebrews believed in one God and not many gods. There is no evidence that Israel’s religion evolved from animism (The belief that natural objects, natural phenomena, and the universe itself possess souls.) through polytheism (The doctrine of or belief in more than one god or in many gods.) and henotheism (The worship of a particular god, as by a family or tribe, without disbelieving in the existence of others.) before it reached ethical monotheism (The doctrine or belief that there is only one God.).
Third, this verse opposes a radical materialism which maintains that matter is eternal. Without preexisting material God brought the earth—that is, matter—into existence.
Fourth, since God is clearly distinguished from His creation, this verse clearly denies pantheism (any religious belief or philosophical doctrine that identifies God with the universe.).
Fifth, the supernatural origin of the earth and the universe refutes naturalism (A manner or technique of treating subject matter that presents, through volume of detail, a deterministic view of human life and actions.); God is the Architect and Creator of all that exists.
Sixth, the uniqueness of this concept of origins in ancient literature makes indefensible the position that special revelation is nonexistent or impossible.
Human reason and inquiry, while valid, are seriously limited; the problem of origins, therefore, is best solved in the light of biblical truth”
Prov 8:27 (KJV) “When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth.”
John 1:3, 10 (KJV) “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made… He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.”
Eph 3:9 (KJV) “And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ.”
Heb 1:2 (KJV) “Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds.”
The word “create” is from the Hebrew word bara, which means to create out of nothing; the universe was not formed from any pre-existing materials, but was made out of nothing. This word is used only three times in the first chapter of Genesis, because it records only three acts of creation. (1) The creation of something from nothing: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” (2) The creation of life: “And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth …” (v. 21). That’s animal life of all kinds. (3) The creation of man: “So God created man in his own image …” (v. 27). Theistic evolution is not the answer. It attempts to follow creation until the time of man, and then considers Adam and Eve to be products of some evolutionary process. The theistic evolutionist considers the days in Genesis as periods of time, long periods of time. I do not believe that is true. God’s marking off the creative days with the words, “And the evening and the morning were the first day,” etc., makes it clear that He was not referring to long periods of time but to actual twenty–four hour days. It is simply ridiculous for some to imagine that unformed matter existed in eternity past, and that everything we see today came from that mysterious glob. This theory was a common fable in earlier times among heathens, who had received only a vague version of the creation, and who, according to custom, polluted the truth of God with strange fantasies; but for Christian men to put their faith in this gross miscalculation is absurd and intolerable. Let us; therefore, place our faith in the Word of God which unequivocally declares that the world was created by God. There is no doubt that Moses gives the name of heaven and earth to that confused glob which he, shortly afterwards (Genesis 1:2.), calls waters.
There are several theories of creation which do not involve God in the creative process and none of them have a viable explanation for how something was made out of nothing. They all need something miraculous to happen, such as “the Big Bang.” And they require millions of years for the created “something” to evolve into the minerals, insects, plants and animals that inhabit our world. Friends, I think it takes more faith to believe in any of man’s theories of creation than it does to accept God’s Word which says; “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” The writer of Hebrews expresses what most Christians believe: “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” (Heb 11:3; KJV).
the heaven and the earth.
“The heaven and the earth” is of course the universe. This first verse is a general introduction to the inspired book of Genesis, and it declares the great, important truth that all things had a beginning; that nothing in all of nature existed before God created the heaven and the earth. It proclaims that nothing originated by chance or from the skill of any human agent; but that the whole universe was produced by the creative power of God (See Acts 17:24 and Romans 11:36). “Heaven” may refer to the three heavens mentioned in Scripture: “I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven” (2 Cor 12:2; KJV). The event referred to in this verse was a translation of the apostle into heaven. The three heavens are the atmospheric heaven, the heaven of outer space, and the habitation of God, and of the holy angels. Apparently, the angels were created at the very beginning of the first day of creation week, because they were already on hand to rejoice at the creation of the earth: “When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”(Job 38:7; KJV). The sons of God, and the morning stars, mean the same—the angelic. They were created first in the order of creation. "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth," and the angels witnessed the progress of the creation; and, when God had finished His work they shouted for joy and celebrated his wisdom and power.
The third heaven (as Paul called it) was likely to have been created and made perfect at the same time. The lower and visible heavens though they were created in substance were not yet adorned and made perfect: the expanse of it not established at this time, or the ether and air not yet stretched out; nor had any light been placed in them, or the sun, moon, and stars placed precisely to support human life.
At this time, the earth had not been separated from the waters, that is, the dry land is made to appear afterwards; but before their separation the whole thing is a mass of earth and water in a chaotic state. It is true that the mass consists of matter or substance, but it is indistinguishable from anything we would recognize. It was the matter or substance of the heaven and earth that was created first.
Acts 17.24 (NKJV) “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands.”
Romans 11:36 (KJV) “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen” God is the source, the constantly working cause, and end of all things.
2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
And the earth was without form, and void;
“Form and void” are the two words Moses used to describe the earth; the Hebrew words he used were תוהו (tohu), meaning a ruin, vacancy, “void;” and בוהו (bohu), meaning emptiness. The Hebrews used them when they designate anything empty and confused, or vain, and worthless. Undoubtedly Moses was expressing something that was entirely different from all those created objects which have a form, and adorn the perfection of the world which God created—a mass of matter where nothing was solid, stable, or distinct. It was not in the form it is now, but it must have a form, since all matter has one; it was fluid matter, and the watery parts were not separated from the earthy ones. The sea part, and the earth part were mixed and blended together; it was empty and devoid of both men and beasts, of fishes and fowls, and also of trees, herbs, and plants. Isaiah described it as “confusion and emptiness”—“… and he shall stretch out upon it the line of confusion, and the stones of emptiness” (Isaiah 34:11; KJV).
There is one view of these two verses that I do not ascribe to, but it is accepted and promoted by some preachers of the Word. This view describes an earth wrecked by divine judgment (See Is. 34:11 and Jer. 4:23). Some have theorized that the creation of the heavens and earth described in verse 1 was destroyed in the judgment of Lucifer (Is. 14; Ezek. 23). This “Gap Theory” assumes a stretch of time between verses 1 and 2; verse 2 then begins the story of the re-creation. More likely, Jeremiah and Ezekiel simply used the phrase as descriptive of utter desolation. According to this view, verse 1 describes God’s first creative act, while verses 2–31 follow with a detailed description of His creative work following an interlude of unfinished business between verses 1 and 2. This view has been discredited by many in the past few years.
Isaiah 34:11 (KJV) “But the cormorant and the bittern shall possess it; the owl also and the raven shall dwell in it: and he shall stretch out upon it the line of confusion, and the stones of emptiness”
Jer 4:23 (KJV) “I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was without form, and void; and the heavens, and they had no light.”
and darkness was upon the face of the deep.
“Darkness was upon the face of the deep” indicates the absence of God. Darkness is not always a symbol of evil in the Bible. Psalm 104:19–24 (See below) makes it quite clear that physical darkness (the absence of visible light) is not to be considered inherently evil or as the result of divine judgment. It conveys the fact that God makes the darkness and the night for animals to find their prey.
“The deep” is the whole fluid mass of earth and water mixed together. This abyss is called waters in the next clause; and it was all a dark murky chaos, without any light or motion. God seems at first to have created the elementary state of all things; and this formed the grand mass of matter, which in this state must be without form and void, or any recognizable parts: a vast collection of indescribably confused materials, of nameless “stuff” strangely mixed. The scene is wonderfully described by an ancient heathen poet:—
Before the seas and this terrestrial ball,
And heaven's high canopy that covers all,
One was the face of nature, if a face;
Rather, a rude and indigested mass;
A lifeless lump, unfashion'd and unframed,
Of jarring seeds, and justly Chaos named.
The most ancient of the Greeks have spoken nearly in the same way of this crude, indigested state of the primitive chaotic mass.
Psalm 104.19-24 (NKJV) “He appointed the moon for seasons; The sun knows its going down. You make darkness, and it is night, In which all the beasts of the forest creep about.
The young lions roar after their prey, And seek their food from God. When the sun rises, they gather together And lie down in their dens. Man goes out to his work And to his labor until the evening. O LORD, how manifold are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all. The earth is full of Your possessions.” Here the psalmist turns his attention to God’s coordination of the heavens. HE CREATED THE MOON FOR SEASONS (cf. Gen 1:14). The Jewish calendar was a lunar calendar; dates followed the movements of the moon. Thus, the Jewish psalmist viewed the moon as all-important in setting the seasons. THE SUN KNOWETH HIS GOING DOWN (i.e., a poetic picture of the sun knowing when it is time to set). THOU MAKEST DARKNESS, AND IT IS NIGHT. It is at night that ALL THE BEASTS OF THE FORESTS DO CREEP FORTH and the primeval jungle comes alive with action. THE YOUNG LIONS ROAR AFTER THEIR PREY, stalking the night forests seeking God’s provision for their own sustenance. And then THE SUN ARISETH, which causes the jungle to rest when the lions and beasts of the forest LAY THEM DOWN IN THEIR DENS.
And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
Interpreters have translated this passage in various ways. The opinion of some is that it refers to the wind, and they have suggested that the verse ought to be translated, “An awesome wind sweeping over the water.” But the context demands otherwise. It is definitely a reference to the third person of the Godhead (See Job 26:13 and Ps 104:30). Here God is depicted as having a “Spirit” who acts as His agent in creation, although the Spirit is not revealed as a separate member of the Trinity until the NT (John 3:1–21; 14:16, 17, 26; 16:5–14; 20:22). The Spirit of God is seen “hovering over” (See Deut 32:11), protecting, and participating in the creation with God the Father. John 1:1–3 and Colossians 1:16 make it clear that more than one person of the Godhead was involved in creation. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:1-3; KJV). “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him” (Col 1:16; KJV). GOD is said to have created all things in Genesis 1.1, and in these two verses, Christ is said to have created all things: the same unerring Spirit spoke in Moses and in the evangelists: therefore Christ and the Father are ONE. To say that Christ made all things by a delegated power from God is absurd; because the thing is impossible. Creation means causing that to exist that had no previous being: this is evidently a work which can be accomplished only by omnipotence. Now, God cannot delegate his omnipotence to another; because if it were possible, he to whom this omnipotence was delegated would, in consequence, become GOD; and he from whom it was delegated would cease to be such; therefore, it is impossible that there could be two omnipotent beings. Hence, the Holy Spirit is also God, and He was there and participated in the original creation. The power of the Spirit was necessary in order to sustain it. The question may have occurred to the mind of someone, how such a chaotic glob could manage to stay together for even a few moments. Moses asserts that this glob, however confused it might be, was rendered stable, for the time, by the secret operation of the Spirit. Now there are two possible ways to understand “moved upon;” either that the spirit moved and excited Himself over the waters in order to give it vitality; or that He brooded over them because He cherished them. It probably makes little difference which view you adopt, though I believe the latter is correct, and I will explain why in the next paragraph. But if that chaos required the secret inspiration of God to prevent its rapid dissolution; how could this order subsist by itself, unless it derived strength elsewhere? The scriptures have the answer: “Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth” (Psalms 104:30; KJV). The Holy Spirit was active in creation, but as soon as the Lord takes away his Spirit, all things return to their dust and vanish away—“Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust. (Psalms 104:29; KJV).
“And the spirit of God moved” suggests that He cherished creation, since the word for “moved” means brooded, like a mother hen broods over her little chicks. He brooded upon the face of the waters. The Holy Spirit began a ministry here which we will find Him doing again and again. It is re–creation! He comes into this scene and He recreates. This is precisely what He does for us. And so the Scriptures represent the original earth as standing out of the water, and consisting of it, (See 2 Peter 3:5) and upon the surface of these waters, before they were drained off the earth, "the Spirit of God moved"; which cannot be understood as referring to a wind, as many Jewish writers, as well as Christians, interpret it; since the air, which the wind is a motion of, was not made until the second day. The Spirit "moved" or brooded, "like a dove on her young,” “upon the face of the waters,” to impregnate them and give life to them, like a hen upon eggs to hatch them; He separates the parts which were mixed together, and produces living creatures in them. The account of this new creation begins at the end of this second verse; and the details of the process are described in the natural way an onlooker would have done, who saw first-hand the changes that took place
Job 26:13 (KJV) “By his spirit he hath garnished the heavens; his hand hath formed the crooked serpent.”
(Psalms 104:30; KJV) “Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth.”
Deut 32:11 (KJV) “As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings.” God, by the influences of his Spirit, enlightens, encourages, and strengthens the minds of His people.
2 Peter 3:5 (KJV) “For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water.” “Of old” means "from of old;" or from the beginning of all things, or FROM THE BEGINNING OF CREATION. “Earth standing out of” means “consisting of," that is, "formed out of the water." The waters under the firmament were at creation gathered together into one place, and the dry land emerged out of and above, them.