In the Beginning: Creation - Genesis 1
Welcome to Vineyard Trailblazers. My name is Robbie, church planter at Vineyard Trailblazers Church of State College, and we are a church dedicated to spreading the kingdom of Jesus Christ to the farthest reaches of heaven and earth. Thank you for joining us today as we explore the story of Creation from the book of Genesis, the first book in the Bible.
About the Bible
The Bible is a book which is itself a compilation of sixty-six other books, composed between 2000 BC and 100 AD. These books range from short letters to extensive histories, prophecies, and collections of poetry. Between 1200 and 1600 AD, each book was annotated with chapter and verse numbers which we use for reference today.
The Book of Genesis
The first of the books in the Bible is Genesis, its name meaning “origin” or “beginning”. Genesis was written by a man named Moses, and Genesis is a history book which contains some of the oldest stories in the Bible, beginning with the story we are going to look at today, the story of Creation.
How to Properly Understand the Bible
As we begin, it is important for you to understand where the Bible came from. Each and every word in the Bible was spoken by God Himself to one of various human authors, using his or her language, style, time, and culture. Thus, we can say that the Bible is inerrant, meaning without error, or infallible, meaning without fault, because every detail was chosen by God, who always and only speaks perfect truth.
God is also the only one who knows absolutely everything; that is, He is omniscient. Therefore, we can trust what the Bible says because we know it is more accurate than any other source, whether from history or scientific observation, human or otherwise.
The Bible is best understood by knowing how the original audience would have understood it, and doing so explains some of the more confusing passages in the Bible, but ultimately, the Bible transcends culture, and in nearly all cases, the plain reading of the text, in its whole-Bible context, is the most accurate.
This view of the Bible based on this trust in God’s ability to communicate honestly and clearly is the foundation of all the truth claims of Christianity: one who does not believe this cannot be called truly Christian.
Having laid this foundation, let us now turn together to Genesis, chapter 1, where God tells us the real, true story of how He created the universe.
In the Beginning - Genesis 1:1
Genesis 1:1, the opening line of the whole Bible, reads: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Let’s take this piece by piece. “In the beginning.” When was “in the beginning”? The “beginning” of what? “The beginning.” The beginning of all things. The beginning of time itself. The beginning of time as we know it.
The Concept of Time
What Is Time? A Definition
Before the beginning, there was nothing: no matter, no time. But what is “time”? “Time” can be simply defined as “the passing of events” or “stuff happens”. Now, there is always something happening in the universe, even if that something is just an electron going around in circles, a quark spinning, or a string vibrating. Wherever something is happening, time is passing: time exists.
If, on the other hand, everything stopped and nothing moved or changed or did anything, if nothing happened at all for a moment, there would be no time. The state at the beginning of that moment, the state at the end of that moment, and every moment in between would be exactly the same: there would be no telling them apart. You could never know which part of the moment you were in. Therefore, no time would have passed.
This was the way it was before the beginning: nothing existed so there was nothing to happen. Our universe wasn’t there to experience time. So Genesis 1:1 marks the first moment that the universe existed and time could begin, “In the beginning.”
Before the Beginning, God Was There
But what happened “in the beginning”? “God created.” God’s act of creation brought the universe into existence and started the clock: time as we know it began at that moment. But God was already there before the universe was created; otherwise, He couldn’t have created it. God was there before time began.
Is God Outside of or Bound by Time?
It is for this reason that some people say God is outside of time, but this is not technically true. God is outside of our time, not limited by the timeline of the universe, but God has existed for eternity past, Himself having no beginning. He always existed. And God has always been doing things, so time has passed for God. Now, this does not mean that God is “bound” by time or “less than” time or anything like that.
Time: a Description, not a Thing
This is why the definition of time is important: “time” is just “the passing of events.” Time doesn’t really exist at all, it’s just a description of what happens. We can measure it, but really time is something abstract, it’s not a thing itself. So God has always been within “time” in that He has always done things, and so things happened, and so time passed.
Outside of Our Timeline
But God’s experience of time transcends our experience of time and that of our universe: He is not trapped within our timeline. Rather, God kicked it off when, at the beginning of time as we know it, God created the heavens and the earth.
What else does it mean, “God created”? These two words actually tell us a great deal about the person whom the Bible is ultimately about.
God Is not Human*
First, He is God. This means He is not human. Just as we don’t expect an animal to look or act like a human being, so we should not expect God to look or act like a human being, because He isn’t one. Being God, He is also not an animal, nor He is an angel. Unlike all others, He is divine. He is God.
*This is not a comment on Jesus' humanity but on God's whole being.
The Greatness of the Creator
We also know that God, “created,” which makes Him the Creator. The Creator is greater than His Creation, and He is not part of His Creation, nor is Creation part of Him, but He can interact with His Creation. God the Creator transcends time and space.
God Makes Things Exist
Creation "Ex Nihilo": "Out of Nothing"
Being God, the Creator is able to create out of nothing. When humans create things, we take something from the existing world and form something new. When God creates, He doesn’t just rearrange existing stuff: He makes new stuff exist.
God Is a Person
God’s identity as Creator also points to His personhood. God is personal, not a force, cause, essence, or thing. God has a will: it was His choice to create, and He created intentionally. It was entirely under His control to create.
God Created Intentionally
God did not birth the universe into existence. The universe did not emanate out of God. The universe did not appear on its own. It was not an accident, not a product of random chance. God chose to create the universe because He wanted to.
God is Father, not Mother
Later in the Bible, God will be identified as Father. God is never identified as Mother, even though He does have some qualities we associate with mothering.
This distinction is linked, in part, to His act of creation. Whereas a baby grows within and, in a sense, is part of his or her mother, the baby is always external to and distinct from his father. Similarly, God did not give birth to Creation, nor to humanity, nor was either ever a part of Him, nor was either formed within some divine womb: God is not our Mother.
Rather, God is called a Father: the universe and humanity were created outside, separate, and distinct from God. In the act of Creation, something was sent out from God, His speech, and through that, Creation came into existence. So while the Fatherhood of God is not explicitly addressed in the Creation account, some of its basic principles are found in it.
The God of Creativity and the Arts
It is also remarkable that “Creator” is the very first description God gives of Himself in all the Bible. This shows the value that God places in creativity and the arts. Our God is a God who creates. It is for this reason that true Christianity embraces and encourages creative and artistic endeavor. The choice to be an artist, a sculptor, a musician, an engineer, an architect, a carpenter, is the choice to take up the very first act of God, to be like Him.
What Did God Create?
Now, what did God create? We already established that He created the universe and time as we know it. The universe includes the heavens and the earth. The earth is Earth, the planet we live on, and for the purposes of this introductory statement, the sum total of everything here. The heavens, then, include everything not on Earth: the planets and stars and comets and everything else out there in the universe.
The Bible Is About Earth
Note right here that the setting of the grand story of the Bible is specified as being on Earth. The Bible is written to Earthlings, to the residents of Earth and their descendants, and so it is written from Earth’s perspective.
What God created out in the heavens and whether or not there are aliens, as we call them, are details which are only minimally relevant to the message God wanted to communicate to humanity through the Bible. The events described in the Bible may very well be of cosmic significance, but the details of other worlds were not relevant to describing these events.
The same thing applies to the subject of angels: they are only discussed in the Bible as far as it matters for God’s biblical message. There is undoubtedly an enormous amount of information one could know about them, but it’s not relevant and so it’s not in the Bible. Again, the Bible doesn’t teach the subjects of chemistry, sculpting, or shoemaking, because that’s not the point of the Bible.
Does this make sense?
There could be aliens, or there could not. The Bible doesn’t say either way, and it doesn’t matter biblically whether there are or not, but if there are, the Bible will undoubtedly be valuable to them just as it is to us because it describes God, who is their God, too, in the same way that the Bible is valuable to us today just as it was to people who lived in a different culture a long, long time ago in a country far, far away.
What Was Earth Like In the Beginning?
So, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” But what was it like? What did God create first? What did it look like, and how did it happen?
Verse two: “Now the earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.”
Formless and Void
At first, the Earth was formless and void. These words have also been translated “desolate and empty” or “uninhabited and unproductive.” This means that there was nothing (no forms) and no activity (void) on the Earth: no plants, no animals, no people: nothing to do anything. God had created the Earth’s substance, but He hadn’t done anything with it yet.
“Darkness was over the surface of the deep.” There was no light: the whole earth was dark. No sun or stars or any other light source was yet shining on the earth.
The Earth had Shape
Despite its overall emptiness, the Earth did have a surface: it had shape, undoubtedly the same roughly spherical, oblate spheroid shape it has today. The prior word, “formless,” refers to its lack of contents not its lack of shape.
Water, Water Everywhere
The surface of the Earth was covered with deep water; whether or not the Earth was land covered with water or purely water all the way through is not specified.
Notice that the second half of this verse is directly parallel and opposite to the first: “And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.” Whereas the Earth was formless and uninhabited, here the Spirit of God has become the inhabitant. Whereas the Earth was void and inactive, here the Spirit of God has begun to take action. Whereas the Earth was covered with the unspecified “deep,” here the “deep” is replaced with something of substance, the waters.
What Is a Spirit?
What is a “spirit”? The Hebrew word ruach, here translated “Spirit”, is also translated “breath”. The spirit is the intangible essence of life. John 4:24 teaches us that “God is spirit.”
The Human Spirit
The human spirit is the connection point between humanity and God. We are all spiritual, and we receive our spirit when God breathes life into us.
God's Spirit, the Holy Spirit
The human spirit is not physical, but God’s Spirit can have physical manifestations. You might say that God is more real than our reality: even the intangible parts of Him can become tangible. God’s Spirit, also called the Holy Spirit, is not merely internal to Him, like our spirits are, but actually a person in His own right.
This gets to a complicated piece of theology called the doctrine of the Trinity. Simply stated, the Trinity is one God in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We mentioned the Father earlier, and here is the Holy Spirit.
Keeping in mind that the Hebrew word for “spirit” can also mean “breath”, you could imagine the Holy Spirit as the breath of God. More on that in a moment.
The Spirit Hovered
First, what is the Spirit of God doing? He is “hovering.” The same word is used later in the Bible, in Deuteronomy 32:11, which was also written by Moses, which says, “As an eagle stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, He spread His wings to catch them and carried them on His pinions.”
The Spirit of God hovered over the new Creation, attentive to its every detail, ready to cause it to burst into being. The Hebrew word translated “spirit” can also be translated not only “breath” but “wind”. You might picture a living, swirling wind moving with purpose through the darkness all over the oceans, taking note of every detail.
The Logos of God
“And God said . . .” Let’s pause right there, the potential energy of Creation built up to the point of bursting. God is about to act, and He does so with His voice, His word, His breath, His Spirit. The Trinity is working in tandem: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Did I not tell you about the Son yet? The Son of God is God’s Logos. We learn this from the book of John, chapter 1, verses 1 through 5:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made, and without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5)
This word “Word” is a translation of the Greek word Logos, which also can be translated “Reason”, and is the root of our word “Logic”. John goes on to identify the Logos with the Son of God and the person Jesus, who is Himself God.
In this statement in Genesis, “And God said . . .”, you see God the creating Father speaking His Logos Word, the Son, carried by the power of His breath, the Spirit.
Let There Be Light!
“And God said, ‘Let there be light!” and there was light.” The darkness was split apart by the beautiful, pure light of God, shining from God Himself. Actually, the Bible does not say where the light came from. It was not from the sun: that was not created yet.
The Logos and the Light
But before we explore its origin further, did you notice that the Logos was also called the Light, and that He shines in the darkness? The Logos, God the Son, Jesus Christ the Messiah, is the Light of the world. He said, in John 8:12,
“‘I am the Light of the world; the one who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life’” (John 8:12, NASB).
The Apostle Paul writes about Jesus in his letter to the Colossians,
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation: for by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominions, or rulers, or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him” (Colossians 1:15-16).
Firstborn: the Heir
The term “firstborn” does not literally mean “born first.” In Hebrew culture, and in many others, the concept of inheritance was very important, and the first son who was born was the prime heir: the family name, titles and positions of honor, and the greatest portion of the property of his parents would be passed on to him as the heir. The other sons, while hopefully blessed, were in second place. They did not have the same rights and the same inheritance as the first son. Daughters received no inheritance because it was assumed that they marry into the inheritance of another family.
Jesus Is the Firstborn, the Heir, of All Creation
Consequently, saying that Jesus is the firstborn of all Creation means that He is heir of all Creation: all Creation belongs to Him. We see immediately that all authority is given to Him, and all earthly powers, forces, and substance, visible and invisible—which is to say, physical and spiritual—are subject to Him and belong to Him. They were created through Him and for Him. He owns them. They are His.
The Light in the Darkness
So the firstborn is the Light of the world who shines through all spiritual darkness and brings life, and in parallel, God, on the very first day, decided to create, first, light, light that shines through the physical darkness. Everything about light points to the true, spiritual Light, God Himself.
Here at the beginning, the world was shrouded in darkness, waiting to see what God would do, and He revealed it to His Creation by His Word. Where there was silence, God brought His voice. Where there was darkness, God brought His light.
The God Who Speaks and the God Who Sees
God is a God who speaks and a God who sees and shows the way. He is not silent, but right from the beginning, He made His will known and spoke it aloud for all Creation to hear. He does not leave us in darkness, but right from the beginning He shed light on the world. And God still speaks today. You can hear His voice because He will speak to you. And God still shines His light: He will guide you on your way, and He sees you.
What God Says Happens
And what God says, happens. When “God said, ‘Let there be light,’” “there was light.”
His very voice is imbued with creative power.
Hebrews 6:18 says, “It is impossible for God to lie.” In once sense, everything God speaks becomes real.
Everything God Speaks Becomes Real
Even if He were to say something that didn’t match present reality, it would immediately become true. Reality would change to match what God said. That’s just part of His nature. When He speaks, reality conforms to Him.
There are some people in this world who seem to think that reality revolves around them, and that by saying something or repeating some mantra it will somehow make it true. This, of course, is ridiculous, though our speech does impact the way we act.
No Doubts, No Lies, Only Truth
But for God, this is actually how it works. God is not human. God is God! Reality actually does revolve around Him. His promises are guaranteed to be fulfilled, because they come into being the moment He speaks them. His speech makes things real. There is no doubt with God. There is no lie, only true reality. So when God said, “Let there be light,” there was light. Reality let light exist. Reality bent to God’s will.
How Could There Be Light Before the Sun?
God Created Energy
Now, pondering the light that first came into Creation, as I mentioned before, the sun had not yet been created. We tend to think of light as something that is emitted from something else, but science tells us that light is really energy, and energy and mass are in some way equivalent. When something produces light, it loses some of its mass, but when something absorbs light, it gains mass. Yet, photons of light have no mass: they are pure energy. God created light to fill the empty space of darkness: God created energy.
The Light Was Good
“And God saw that the light was good.”
God always sees what He creates. He always sees all of reality. In this case, He saw the light, and what did He see? He saw that the light was good. God liked the light. The light was pleasing to Him. The light was just as He wanted it to be.
God Names the Light
“God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness. God called the light, ‘day,’ and the darkness He called, ‘night.’”
Remember that the Creation story is told from Earth’s perspective. God took the light energy that He had created, and He consolidated it into one area so that there would be a division between light and darkness. He didn’t want everything to be lit all the time. When He did so, He created day and night, and He named the day and the night.
God’s naming of day and night shows His purpose in creating them and His ownership of them. It was no accident. God consolidated the light with the intention of creating day and night. Half the Earth was lit, and half was not, and even at this time we can see that the watery Earth was already in motion, rotating on its axis.
“And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.” This statement is the first in a series that clearly lays out the days of Creation in terms of literal, twenty-four-hour days, or something very close to that, which is to say, earth-days. By using the terms “evening” and “morning,” God is explaining the passing of time in our terms: we see the sun set at the end of the day and rise again at the beginning of the next. Now these days, we mark the beginning of a day with midnight, a time on the clock, but in the past people have done it differently. The most straightforward understanding has been that day begins when it gets light, when the sun comes up: dawn marks the beginning of a new day. So then, the question arises, was the first day composed only of evening and morning? Clearly not. That would exclude most of the day. Rather, what God is saying here is that the light of day disappeared into evening, then the evening gave way to morning, and the first day was completed, the morning marking the end one day and the beginning of the next.
Thus was completed the very first day, the first earth-day time period of the universe’s existence. While this Bible translation, the BSB, the Berean Standard Bible, uses the words “first day,” some translations, such as the New American Standard Bible, also called the NASB, instead say “one day.” In fact, the Hebrew uses the word for “one,” אֶחָד (ehad), rather than the word for “first,” רִאשׁוֹן (rishon). “First” is a valid translation of אֶחָד (ehad), especially as it here appears at the beginning of a numbered list, but “one” is also a valid translation, and the choice to use “one” draws attention to the fact that this was not only the first day, but, at this point, the only day. There was no second day to make this the first. No other day had ever happened before. “One day” had just been completed for the very first time.
Now, there has been some debate over the precise meaning of the Hebrew word י֥וֹם (yom), here translated “day.” Some claim that י֥וֹם (yom) can also mean “age” or “period of time,” not just “day” in literal, twenty-four-hour, earth-day sense. While this is true in some contexts, it is completely incompatible with the usage of י֥וֹם (yom) in Genesis 1. The author makes very clear that this is a regular, twenty-four-hour day by numbering the uses of י֥וֹם (yom) in this passage, describing each explicitly with, “And there was evening, and there was morning,” a description which only matches regular days, and, as we shall see, making the seventh day special and using it later in the Bible to explain the literal seven-day week which we use all the time. In fact, without exception, every single time י֥וֹם (yom) is used in the Bible in combination with any of “morning,” “evening,” “night,” or a number, it refers to a literal earth-day. Likewise, when “morning” and “evening” are used together, even without the word “day,” it always refers to a literal earth-day. There is no room for debate. It is incontrovertible that God the author through Moses the writer of Genesis 1 intended to communicate literal, twenty-four-hour days on Earth. It is impossible to understand it any other way. Anyone who insists otherwise either doesn’t know what he is talking about, is lying to you, or is incapable of thinking logically and lacks even basic reading comprehension. Any other interpretation violates the logic-based foundation of the Bible which sits at the core of Christianity: do not trust such a person to teach you anything about Christianity, truth, history, or practice.
Alright, moving on. Verse 5. “And God said, ‘Let there be an expanse between the waters, to separate the waters from the waters.’” Just like at the start of day one, God declares His intention with His voice and creates with His words. We see a pattern begin to emerge: “And God said, ‘Let there be …” As you will see, this pattern will be continued in the following days of Creation. “So God made the expanse and separated the waters beneath it from the waters above. And it was so.” Again, “And it was so” is part of the pattern. We see that what God speaks happens. Reality bows to His will.
So what is this “expanse”? “God called the expanse ‘sky.’” Obviously we know what the sky is, but some translations say “heaven” or “heavens” rather than “sky,” and we’ll see on a future day how the sun, moon, and stars are in this “expanse,” and on another, birds are in the “expanse.” There are also some translations which use the word “firmament,” implying something solid, which obviously the sky is not. This translation is actually a mistranslation that came about when an early Latin translation was made of a Greek translation of Genesis 1, which was written in Hebrew. That’s the danger of translating from translations rather than from the original text.
Also, why “heavens” plural rather than “heaven” singular? The Hebrew word for “heaven,” שָׁמָ֑יִם (shamayim), is one of three words in Hebrew which are always plural. The other two are מַּ֙יִם֙ (mayim), “water” or “waters”, also in this passage, and מִצְרַיִם (mitzrayim), “Egypt”. Whether “water” and “heaven”, מַּ֙יִם֙ (mayim) and שָׁמָ֑יִם (shamayim), which sound so similar are related is an unknown matter to explore at another time. Regardless, they can both be translated in English as either singular or plural.
“God called the expanse ‘sky.’” This also adds to the pattern: God named the expanse just like He named light and darkness. By naming them, He claims them as His own, and He shows His intentionality in making them: all of Creation belongs to God and exists because He wants it to.
So what is this expanse? As I said above, both the stars and the birds are in it, so it must include both the sky and atmosphere of Earth and outer space. Some people even try to number the heavens, with the first heaven being the sky, the second being outer space or some spiritual realm, and the third being the heaven where God is said to live, but this numbering is not detailed in the Bible.
So God made the expanse, the sky and outer space. When He did, He split the waters on the Earth: some water remained below the expanse on the Earth, and some water was now above the expanse… Where? Some people have believed that this water above was the clouds in the sky, but that would make it below most of the expanse, the outer space portion. Some people have believed that there was at that time an ocean in the sky, a canopy of water between the sky and outer space which softened the sun’s rays and made the Earth more hospitable for dinosaurs and other large creatures, and that this canopy of water fell to Earth in the time of the global flood of Noah’s day, described later in the book of Genesis. Again, this has the problem of being below most of the expanse, outer space.
But Genesis 1 says that the water was above the expanse, which leaves only one option. The expanse clearly includes outer space, so the water must be above outer space, which is it say, it is at the boundary of the universe. Now, we’ve never seen the boundary of the universe, so we have no way of knowing whether water is there, but that appears to be what the Bible claims. There’s also nothing to stop it from being frozen water, ice, which is hard and solid: perhaps “firmament” could be a valid translation after all, if it referred not so much to the expanse itself as to the upper boundary of it. In any case, God created the sky and outer space.
“And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.” Here we read another piece of the pattern, a piece which is echoed exactly at the end of each day, the only difference being the number of the day just completed. There is also a peculiarity in this verse in that it omits part of the pattern which is in all the others: there is no statement that God called the expanse “good.” There has been a variety of speculation on this point, including guesses that God didn’t actually create something this day but just moved things around or that this day wasn’t earth-centric or human-centric or that this day was about division and division isn’t good, but these are all just ideas, and it is important to note that God does call the sky and the heavens good at the end of the story when He declares that everything He had made was “very good.” So there’s no reason to get hung up on this difference, and there’s no other biblical information to consider on it anyway.
“And God said, ‘Let the waters under the sky be gathered into one place, so that the dry land may appear.’ And it was so. God called the dry land ‘earth,’ and the gathering of waters He called ‘seas.’ And God saw that it was good.” We’re able to move at a quicker pace now, the pattern having been established. Day three features the creation of land and sea. You can picture God moving the water into oceans and seas and rivers and lakes, and dry land emerging from where water once was. We might expect God to declare the land and seas good, which He does, and then move on to the next day, but wait! There’s more!
“Then God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth vegetation: seed-bearing plants and fruit trees, each bearing fruit with seed according to its kind.’ And it was so. The earth produced vegetation: seed-bearing plants according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.”
Having completed the global water table, the stage is set for God to create plants, and does He ever! He creates the whole variety of plants on the earth, and each one is created “according to its kind” and with seeds to spread. Each seed includes it own particular DNA so that the plants can reproduce themselves and fill the earth.
“And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.”
“And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to distinguish between the day and the night, and let them be signs to mark the seasons and days and years. And let them serve as lights in the expanse of the sky to shine upon the earth.’ And it was so.”
This day has a lot of purpose to it. Whereas on day one God created light itself and day and night, here God creates lights in the expanse of the sky, in what we call outer space, and He designs them to serve a purpose to the people of Earth. Their purpose includes: giving light on the earth, differentiating between day and night, and differentiating between seasons and days and years, as well as being used as signs to mark events in history, and so on and so forth in the many ways people use the stars. Before people were made, God planned all this out.
“God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night. And He made the stars as well. God set these lights in the expanse of the sky to shine upon the earth, to preside over the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.”
Here we see the realization of God’s declaration. In particular, we see the creation of the sun and moon, and all other lights are summarized as “stars,” even though they would have included not just stars but planets and comets and all the other “lights” we see out there in outer space. We also know that the moon does not give off light itself but rather reflects the light of the sun. The statement here doesn’t claim that it does give off its own light but that it serves as a light for people on the Earth, which it obviously does. The same would apply to any of the other “lights” that are actually reflectors of other light.
Now, it is often asked, how is it that the sun was made on day four, but plants on day three and light on day one? Don’t plants need the sun to grow? The answer is, of course, no, they don’t. First of all, most seeds don’t need any light at all to germinate. The plants were only just planted the day before: even if there was no light for a day, it wouldn’t matter; they would be fine. This would be a major problem if the days of Creation represented billions of years, but they don’t: it was just one day. But there was light, just no sun. Light was there on day one, and day and night were there, too. Today we can grow plants inside without the sun’s help. And light without the sun, as we discussed previously, is no problem. It is energy which God situated to create day and night. Here on day four, God consolidated the light throughout the universe into the sun and stars and made the moon and other objects to reflect it. Why? Because God decided this was the best way to do it. Create the substance of light first and then give it form afterwards. He did the same with the sea: He created the substance of water first and then gave it form afterwards. Water was created before the light on day one just as the seas, day three, were formed before the sun, day four.
“And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.”
“And God said, ‘Let the waters teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the sky.’ So God created the great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters teemed according to their kinds, and every bird of flight after its kind. And God saw that it was good.”
Now God populates the oceans and the sky which He made on day two with fish and birds which He makes on day five. Actually, it doesn’t say “fish” but “living creatures”: more than fish lives in the sea, including aquatic mammals, reptiles, corals, and all sorts of things. And God didn’t just put a few but created an abundance, “with which the waters teemed.” The imagery is like a school of fish: creatures are everywhere, including great sea creatures, tanninim, הַתַּנִּינִ֖ם, which properly translated is “dragons,” which is to say, dinosaurs, for dinosaurs were called “dragons” until English paleontologist Sir Richard Owen invented the term “dinosaur” in 1841. The Bible actually mentions dinosaurs quite a few times, even describing two dinosaurs in great detail in the book of Job. Suffice it to say, for now, that dinosaurs were created alongside the fish of the sea on day five, at least the water-dwelling ones.
So God created every kind of sea creature and every kind of bird. These were the first living creatures. Plants are alive in a certain sense, but this was a new type of life. In fact, the word used here is nephesh, נֶ֣פֶשׁ, which is translated “creature,” “soul,” or “person.” This is not to say that fish and human beings are the same—they aren’t—nor that we should extend our understanding of personhood to animals—we shouldn’t. But all animals are souls, too. In fact, unlike everything God created before this point, the fish and the birds are worthy of being spoken to:
“Then God blessed them and said, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters of the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.’”
God gave the fish and the birds a purpose to carry out: to be fruitful and multiply, to reproduce and make more of themselves, and to live vibrantly on the earth.
“And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.
“And God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creeping things, and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.’ And it was so. God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that crawls upon the earth according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.”
On day six, God created everything else that had yet to be created: every kind animal, mammals, reptiles, insects, and more. God created them all, “according to their kinds,” each distinct from the other. Each creature was created to fit in its own biological classification. A “kind” might be what we understand today as a genus or a species, but mostly we can think about it in simple terms: dogs and cats, turtles and porcupines. God created every type of animal. Like the fish and birds, land animals were called “living creatures.” What is a creature but something that was created by a Creator? Every time we use the word “creature,” we acknowledge the reality of God’s Creation.
Each of these land-dwelling creatures is called a nephesh, נֶ֣פֶשׁ, a “soul.” Animals are not persons, but they are souls. The “soul” is the “whole self,” “personality,” and “will.” Just as the human soul includes emotions, intellect, and will, so, too, animal souls have emotion, intellect, and will. The “soul” leaves the body at death: in 1 Kings 17:22, Elijah prays for a dead child’s soul to return to him so that he can live again, and the child is brought back to life.
The word “soul” is used for animals and people, and the words “soul” and “spirit” are used interchangeably throughout the Bible. The word for “spirit,” ruach, ר֨וּחַ, is also translated “breath” or “wind.” In Genesis 1, it is only used to describe God the Holy Spirit, but elsewhere ruach is used for humans and, occasionally, animals. For example, in Ecclesiastes 3:19-21, humans and animals are said to have the same ruach, “breath” or “spirit.” Job 12:7-9 states that animals are spiritual, even to the point that humans should learn from them, and Job 12:10 says that God is the source of the “nephesh (soul) of every living thing, and the ruach (breath) of all mankind” (Job 12:10). So humans and animals are both spiritual and both have souls, both created by God to be alive and to worship Him. But this verse may also imply a distinction: here the “spirit” is assigned to humanity alone.
“Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness, to rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, and over all the earth itself and every creature that crawls upon it.’ So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and every creature that crawls upon the earth.’”
This is the high point of all of Creation, the climax of God’s story in which He personally fashions humanity and brings them to life.
The reader will immediately see that humans are special. First, God does not announce this creation with, “Let there be,” but instead “Let Us make.” Nor is there an, “And it was so,” but instead, “So God created.” This change shows God’s particular attention to the creation of humanity: if previously reality bent to the will of God’s voice, here God enters the universe and crafts humanity by hand.
Who is the “Us”? There has been much confusion about God’s use of the word “Us” because Christianity is a monotheistic religion, meaning a religion which worships only one god. While there have been many theories put forward to explain the plural “Us,” there are a few that stand out. The traditional, historical, and most popular interpretation is that the “Us” refers to the Trinity: one God in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
A second theory is that the “Us” refers to the host of heaven, the angels. God calls their particular attention to what He is about to do. Note that this theory does not suggest that angels did any creating themselves.
A third theory is that “Us” is used as a superlative. In Hebrew it was common to emphasize something by repeating it: not just “holy” but “holy holy holy.” We do this sometimes in English, too: a “man’s man” is supposed to be the epitome of the definition of a man. Thus the “Us” here in Genesis is drawing our attention to just who God is.
Along with this idea, a fourth theory is that using “Us” rather than “Me” simply sounds more dignified. Compare “Let Us make…” to “Let Me make…” or “Now I will make…” If ever anyone deserved His speech to be perceived as dignified it would be the Creator God!
Next, God says, “Let Us make man.” The word for man is the singular word for a male human being, but the context makes it clear that God is speaking of mankind, both male and female: “God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
Now the way that God created us was unique amongst everything He had created. He said, “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness,” and then “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Unlike all of the animals, only human beings were created in God’s image. God created us Himself in His own image, like a self-portrait of Himself. Both male and female were created as a self-portrait of God. So what are God’s “image” and “likeness”? God is Spirit, not flesh, not body, not physical, so we weren’t created to look like Him physically but to be like Him spiritually. We were created in His “likeness,” to be “like” Him. The Hebrew word for “image,” tselem, צֶלֶם, can literally mean something “cut out.” Similarly, BibleHub.com explains that the Greek word used for “image,” eikón, εἰκών, from which we get the English word “icon,” means “‘mirror-like representation,’ . . . like a ‘high-definition’ projection, . . . [that] exactly reflects its source,” not merely a “reflection” or “shadow,” but a “prototype” or “replication.” So you and me were, humanity was, created to be basically, but not actually, God: having all of His attributes evident in us, like a three-dimensional spiritual photograph. Like an action figure. You were supposed to be God’s action figure. This means that we were supposed to have all of God’s characteristics: His perfection, goodness, love, joy, innocence, freedom, influence, purpose, destiny, identity, and so much more. Everything there is about God, save only His deity, was intended to be ours, and it was originally ours, when God first created mankind, when the first man and woman were fashioned by God’s hand on the earth.
And we see from this very passage how that meant to be lived out. “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and every creature that crawls upon the earth.’” We were meant to be kings and queens of the earth, taking care of everything that God had created, to “subdue it” by bringing it all under our authority and influence. God created us, “to rule.” But remember, we were created in God’s image and God’s likeness. So the authority God gave us was to rule like God would rule, with God’s love, goodness, justice, honor, righteousness, and peace. That is how we are to take care of the Earth: with love and goodness and justice and honor and righteousness and peace.
So God gave us a blessing. This means that God’s favor is on mankind and He wants mankind to prosper and thrive. He wants what is best for us. And with this blessing, or as part of this blessing, He gives us this authority to rule over Creation and to, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth,” which is to say, have babies! God created us to reproduce. The Bible says that children are a blessing from God, and in fact, the raising of children who have God’s spiritual likeness is, right here, the very first blessing command God gave us when He created the first man and woman. And this will be even more clear in the next chapter of Genesis, but God created exactly one man and one woman and blessed and commanded them to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth: God created marriage right from the start, and gave it its very first purpose: to make God-like children. That is the purpose of marriage, and it can only be fulfilled by one man and one woman.
But why? Why does marriage have to be between one man and one woman? Did you notice what God said about His image? “God created mankind in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” God created them, together, in His image. You yourself, as a single person, were created in God’s image, but the picture is intended to be completed when the two different parts are joined together: A man and a woman, male and female. Just like God is Trinity: One God in three persons, so true marriage is trinity: one man and one woman united for life together in relationship with the One True God. The image is complete when you have one God-like man and one God-like woman who commit their lives to working together to make and raise God-like children who will grow up to do the same, and so multiply and fill the earth with God-like people, all of whom spend their lives bringing all of Creation under their God-like care. That is why God made you and me.
So when God created you, He made you in His image as a unique portrayal of Himself. You have a special identity created by God, and He created you exactly as He did, from the moment you were conceived, so that you would share that piece of His image with the world. Now the world is broken, and the world tries to change you, to say you aren’t good enough, or you were born wrong, or you have to change, or you need to find a different identity or even, you need to find yourself and make your own identity. That’s a lie. None of it is true. God created you to be you, exactly who He designed you to be. And if you’ve believed that lie, and you’ve tried to change yourself or tried to claim a different identity than the one He made for you, do you know that you can be made new? The same Creator God who created the whole universe and everything in it, He created you, and He can recreate you, too, like you have born again, if you want Him to. That’s the amazing promise of Christianity: that you yourself can know and experience the Creator God, that He loves you and wants to be your friend, and that you can be made new in spite of all of the brokenness in your life, and it doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks or anything that you’ve ever done. God can still make you new and He still wants to be with you, forever.
“Then God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every seed-bearing plant on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit contains seed. They will be yours for food. And to every beast of the earth and every bird of the air and every creature that crawls upon the earth—everything that has the breath of life in it—I have given every green plant for food.’ And it was so.”
Here we see that plant-creature distinction. Everything with “breath” (in this case not “spirit,” ruach, but “soul,” nephesh) can eat anything without breath: plants with their fruits and seeds. This is because plants are not considered “alive” in the same sense as animals and people, they are not “souls,” so it is fine to eat them. Plant “death” is not spiritual “death,” because plants have no spirit /soul. Pay attention to this: in Genesis 1, God did not permit people to kill or eat animals. That permission was not given until over a thousand years after Creation, after the Flood. All animals and all people were given plants, and only plants, not each other, for food.
“And God looked upon all that He had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.”
Here at the end, God brings it all together and calls Creation not just good, but “very good.” It is perfect, just the way He wanted it to be, and it was all done in just six days.
“Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. And by the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on that day He rested from all His work. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because on that day He rested from all the work of creation that He had accomplished.”
The word “sanctified” means “made holy” or “set apart as unique.” God worked for six days, and God rested on the seventh day. This is why we, today, have a seven-day week. The idea of the Sabbath, which will be explored later in the Bible, is that we human beings need to rest at least one day out of every seven and do no work on that day: so we work six days and rest on the seventh day. In our modern American way of doing things, we work for an employer for five days, Monday through Friday, and then we work around the house on the sixth day, Saturday, and then we rest from all of our work on Sunday, the seventh day. Now, technically Sunday is the first day of the week and Saturday is the Jewish Sabbath. One could work around the house Sunday, out of the house Monday through Friday, and rest on day seven, Saturday. That would be fine, too. The point is six days of work and one day of rest.
God rested on the seventh day, blessed the seventh day, and sanctified the seventh day. So we should rest on the seventh day, remember God’s blessing on the seventh day, and keep the seventh day holy: set apart for rest.
This concludes the broad story of Creation, how God created the whole universe and everything in it in just six, ordinary Earth-days, and then rested on the seventh fay, enjoying everything He had made. In the next section, we will meet the two, very first people who God created, but from this point on, we always look back to the story of Creation to see who God is and who we can be when we live with Him.