{2}         Gen 1:1—2:3  Creation


Part A. Creation (1:1—2:3)

A1.      In the beginning (1:1-2)

A2.      Days 1-3 (1:3-13)

A3.      Days 4-6 (1:14-31)

A4.      Day 7 (2:1-3)

        The 6 days of creation are in 2 parallel sequences of 3 days each. Day 3 and Day 6 both include two separate creative acts, totalling 8 creations. The first 3 days involved separations of the created order that has no movement; the last 3 days involved the created order that has movement and life. Day 1 and 4 are against the darkness; day 2 and 5 are against the deep (water); and day 3 and 6 are against the desolation/chaos.


Day 1: light/darkness

Day 4: sun, moon, stars

Day 2: sky/sea

Day 5: birds, fish

Day 3: land AND plants

Day 6: land animals AND human beings



The translation used in the following exposition is English Standard Version (ESV, 2003), supplemented by the NIV (1984) and a literal translation form the original Hebrew.

1:1       beginning: the point when time began. God existed before everything else.

God did not need to create the universe; he chose to create it. Why? God is love, and love must be expressed toward something or someone else—so God created the world and people. They are an expression of His love. He wants to share His glory with man.

From the creation story, we learn about God: [a] He is creative; [b] as the Creator, He is distinct from His creation; [c] He is eternal and in control of the world.

We also learn about ourselves: [a] we are creatures, part of God’s creation, [b] since God chose to create us, we are valuable in His eyes; [c] we are more important than the rest of creation.

The universe was created “out of nothing” (Gr. ex nihilo), not from previously existing materials but simply by the command of God. This term (ex nihilo) is not found in the Bible but in the Apocrypha (II Maccabees 7:28), but the concept is clearly taught in Ps 33:9; 148:5; Heb 11:3.

o          In scientific terms, “nothing” means lack of matter, energy, and all 10 space-time dimensions of the universe.

Whether this verse is an introduction or a summary of the whole creation passage (Gen 1:2—2:3) or is a description of the actual creation makes a big difference in interpretation.

o        [a] Title view: Verse 1 is the summary heading of the whole account, announcing the subject matter, and 1:2—2:3 presents the detail. Creation began in v.2 and there were nothing in the entire universe. The rest of the universe was created only on the 4th day when the sun, the moon, and the stars were created. The problem is how to explain the origins of the darkness and the watery chaos of the Earth in v.2. Did they exist from the beginning?

o        [b] Traditional view: Creation began in v.1 when the entire universe was created, but one that was not organized and not completed. Verse 2 describes the unorganized Earth. The rest of the passage describes how the Earth was organized.

o        [c] Restitution view or gap theory: Creation began in v.1; 1:3—2:3 describes a renewal of creation, that is, a restitution of the initial creation that became “chaos” as a consequence of a judgment of God described in v.2 (the Earth became “without form and void”). The judgment is often attributed to Satan’s rebellion and expulsion from heaven (Isa 14:9-14; Eze 28:12-15). There was a large gap between v.1 and v.2.

o        A combination of different views may be possible. For example, v.1 may be a title (like the toledot titles later in the book). The story begins with v.2 with something already existent, including the Earth, water, and darkness. Further, something might have happened before v.2 but the Bible did not describe it.

God (Heb. Elohim): the centre of the whole Bible; the name means strong and mighty. It is a plural noun used to represent His magnificence, majesty, and honour, not multiple gods. Many commentators believe the plural form points to the triune God although this is certainly not in the original Jewish understanding. However, different verses in Genesis do imply a plurality within God (1:2,26-27; 3:22; 11:7). [The Bible clearly reveals that Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit all took part in the creation (Gen 1:2; Ps 90:2; Jn 1:3; Col 1:16; Job 33:4).]

o        Could the plural noun for God imply the 3 persons of the trinity? Yes, it could. Even though this was not the first understanding, God could have inspired Moses to use the exact words to describe some deeper truths not yet understood by Moses. This is similar to the principle in Jesus’ parables where the faithful can receiver deeper teachings than just the stories.

created (Heb. bara): 48 times in OT, emphasis on God’s power and providence, creation not from pre-existed materials.

o        The word bara occurs only in 4 verses in the creation story: 1:1,21,27; 2:3 (also 2:4a). It begins and ends the section, and also is found at 2 important junctures: the creation of the first animal life, and the creation of human life.

the heavens and the earth: Like Alpha and Omega in Revelations, this is a figure of speech which indicates the totality of all creations, the whole universe. The Bible did not record the creation of the unseen spiritual world but it is likely that angels were created before this visible world (Job 38:7).

o        “Heavens” is plural indicating (a) the lower atmosphere, (b) the stellar heavens, and (c) the “third heaven” where God dwells, (2Co 12:2).

1:2       earth: The verse represents a change in focus from the universe to the Earth. The rest of the creation story was then told from the perspective of someone located on the surface of the Earth. The term “earth” in v.1 is used in concert with “heavens”, thereby indicating the whole universe; here, the term “earth” refers to the terrestrial Earth.

without form and void (Heb. tohu wabohu): 2 different connotations: [a] formless is parallel to the wilderness (Dt 32:10), therefore meaning “formless” and “void” both mean uninhabited; others translating as “desolate”, “in waste”, or “chatoic”; [b] same words used in Isa 45:18, with the meaning of “confusion and emptiness”.

darkness: “Darkness” was dispelled on the 1st day. The “formless” state was removed on the 2nd and 3rd days when God gave form to the Earth. The “void” state was removed on the 4th, 5th, and 6th days when God filled the Earth with living beings.

o        Some believe that God is also the Creator of “darkness” (Isa 45:7) which was part of the created order.

the deep: same root as water, the Earth was covered with water (Ps 104:6), and darkness above it; similar description in Job 38:9.

Question: What are the initial conditions of the Earth?

Answer: The Earth was dark and formless.

[1] The surface darkness was pervasive. Ps 104:6: “You [God] covered it [the Earth] with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains.”

o        All land was covered by water. What is exceptional is the vast quantity of permanent surface liquid water. Unless the physics and chemistry of Earth’s surface is very carefully fine-tuned, the kinds, quantity, and distribution of water needed for diverse life will not be available.

[2] The whole Earth was “formless and empty” or “without form and void”.

o        All planets start with opaque atmospheres. The cloud of gas (hydrogen, helium methane, ammonia) and a dense shroud of interplanetary dust and debris guarantees that no sunlight can reach the surface of a primordial planet.

o        Land masses arise gradually as a result of vulcanism and plate tectonics (movement of large crustal sections). Both of these processes are driven by heat release from the decay of radioisotopes in Earth’s crust.

the Spirit of God (Heb. ruah Elohim): The participation of the “Spirit of God” in creation is also affirmed in Ps 104:30: “When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.” However, some translated the term as “wind” or “fearful wind” based on the Babylonian creation story. Elohim in Hebrew can mean the superlative, but it always points to God in this chapter (total 35 times). Ruah can mean wind, but “ruah elohim” in the Bible never mean “fearful wind” (see Ex 31:3).

o        [a] The Jews do not accept the existence of the Holy Spirit as a separate person of the Godhead. For them, the term only expresses the power of God (Job 33:4; Ps 104:30), and is not equivalent to the Holy Spirit in NT.

o        [b] The term is possibly a deliberate ambiguity in order to express both the power of God and the fearful wind, because of Israel’s experience at the Red Sea, where God sent a mighty “wind” to part the waters.

hovering: The word describes a mother eagle spreading its wings over her young chicks (Dt 32:11). There are 2 possible descriptions:

o        It suggests the personal loving, caring, nurturing characteristics of the Spirit. God’s care and protection are still active today. In Dt 32:11-14, God is described as an “eagle” who is Israel’s Protector in the wastelands of the desert.

o        It suggests a sense of pushing and stirring up, as the mother eagle flaps her wing on the nest to force the child eagle out of the nest to learn how to fly.

1:3       DAY 1: God said: reflects God’s greatness and power. God decreed and the result followed immediately.

The creation on the 1st day was time, which is divided into day and night.

“Let there be light”: Light may not mean light from a source, but only a time period with light (day). God is the Father of lights (Jas 1:17).

o        “Be” (Heb. haya) means “to exist; to be; to happen; or to come to pass”. The verbs bara, asa, and yasar, meaning “create”, “make”, “form” are not used.

o        The source of the light could be: [a] cosmic light, [b] divine light from the glorious God (Ps 104:2), [c] light from the Big Bang or actually representing the Big Bang (The problem is that the Earth, even a formless and void one in v.2, could only exist after the Big Bang.), [d] the sun.

Question: How can the light come from the sun if the sun was created on the 4th day?

Answer: It could come from the sun because:

o        [1] “Let there be light” does not mean creation of light but simply “let the light shine” or “let the light of the sun shine.”

o        [2] The creation of the sun was perhaps delayed until the 4th day simply to discourage man from worshipping the sun.

o        [3] The creation story is not strictly chronological, e.g. plants created on the 3rd day before the sun that gives them life.

o        [4] The standard of day and night can only exist with the sun which was created on the 1st day. Perhaps the cloud cover hid the sun until the 4th day.

o        [5] The work on the 4th day may not be the creation of the sun and other celestial bodies but simply arrangement (like Job 9:9).

o        If this explanation is correct, then the verse described from the perspective of someone locating on the surface of the Earth. Light from the sun was visible though only a diffused kind of light. The light came after the thick murky clouds were thinned and dispersed.

darkness: means a time period with darkness (night).

the first day (literal: time one): The first day of the week is the Lord’s Day, the day to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus. In creation, this was the day when light and darkness were separated. Jesus’ resurrection effectively separates children of light (Eph 5:8) from children of darkness (1Th 5:5; 1Pe 2:9; 2Pe 2:17; 1Jn 1:5-6).

1:4       good: God is a Judge. The word “good” (Heb. tob) is quite fluid in OT and includes the meaning of happy, beneficial, aesthetically beautiful, morally righteous, preferable, of superior quality, or of ultimate value.

separated: put them in order.

1:5       evening, morning: creation completed by evening.

o        Hebrew day starts at sunset.

o        According to Buswell, “evening” (not night) and morning can mean: This epoch had its gradual beginning and gradually merged into the epoch which followed.

1:6       DAY 2: expanse: can be translated firmament (the arched sky above the circle of the Earth), or the sky.

1:7       separated the waters: separated clouds from liquid water, created weather and climate.

1:8       called the expanse Heaven: naming of the sky; did not have “God saw that it was good” because there is nothing new

1:9       DAY 3: separated land and sea, allowing eventual inhabitation by man.

1:10     called the dry land Earth: naming of land and seas.

1:11     according to its kind (3 times): It is an important concept repeated again in the creation of animals in the sea, on land, and in the sky. It stresses the rule of order which goes against the chaotic situation described in v.2. The barrier of kinds was established by God. The commandment in Lev 19:19 specifies no mixing of kinds.

o        “Kind” (Heb. min) is used for broad categories. Equating “kind” with the modern term of “species” is unwarranted. The term is never used of man, showing that we are a unique order of creation.

1:12     plants: 2 categories: [a] plants producing seed, and [b] fruit trees whose fruit possess seeds.


1:14     DAY 4: made (Heb. asa): completed action, different from the word “created” (Heb. bara) in v.1. This possibly infers that the sun and the stars were created before the 1st creation day.

o        The creation of the sun before the 1st day will fit the Big Bang creation better as the sun and the stars were formed from the Big Bang and the Earth only after.

lights (Heb. ma’or): sun, moon, stars.

o        The Hebrew word “lights” appears 10 times in Exodus to Numbers, all of them referring to the lamp in the tabernacle. It may imply that the author here takes the Earth as a tabernacle.

o        The purpose of the lights is to mark day and night, to mark seasons, and to give light for sight. They function as servants, subordinate to the interests of the Earth.

1:15     lights in the heavens: The celestial bodies are no more than light-bearing bodies. In contrast to primitive pagan societies which worshipped celestial bodies, the Mosaic community imposed the gravest penalty upon anyone worshipping celestial bodies.

1:16     rule: dominion, govern.




1:20     DAY 5: swarms of living creatures (Heb. sheres): lower vertebrates, neither birds nor mammals; including mollusks, crustaceans, fish, and amphibians in water; may include insects, amphibians, and reptiles on land.

birds: can include all organisms that fly, such as insects.

1:21     great sea creatures (Heb. tanninim; KJV: great whales): mythical chaos monster in Ugaritic literature; in the Bible, called Rahab (Isa 51:9) and Leviathan (Ps 74:14; isa 27:1). Ancient people deified these creatures, but Genesis describes that they were also created and not to be worshipped.

living creature (Heb. nephesh): sometimes referring to land creature with the breath of life (Lev 11:46) or to “soulish” creature or creature capable of expressing yearnings, emotions, passions, and will; here, they refer to those smaller creatures in the sea.

1:22     God blessed them: God’s blessing is described for the first time, substituting the former “And it was so.”


1:24     DAY 6: livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth: The list of land mammals does not intend to include all land mammals God made. It focuses on 3 varieties that would cohabit with and provide support for man. The first 2 kinds are long-legged land quadrupeds. [a] Livestock (Heb. behema) are those that can easily be tamed or domesticated for agricultural purposes. [b] Beasts of the earth (Heb. chayya) are those that are difficult to tame but have the potential to become excellent pets. [c] Creeping things (Heb. remes) are short-legged land mammals, such as rodents, hares, and armadillos. These also include various forms of creeping things—from reptiles to insects and caterpillars.


1:26     let us make: There are only 4 passages in OT where the plural is used in divine dialogue: “let us make” (Gen 1:26), “like one of us” (Gen 3:22), “let us go down” (Gen 11:7), and “And who will go for us?” (Isa 6:8). The possibilities include: [a] the “plural of majesty” (indicating divine dignity, honour, and greatness), [b] self-deliberation or contemplation, [c] divine dialogue within the Godhead, and [d] address to a heavenly court of angels. The last option cannot explain the phrase “our image” in v.26. The plurality within the unity is probably the best explanation since both “our image” (v.26) and “His image” (v.27) are used as equivalents. While the Jews would not have understood the concept of a triune God, “the Spirit of God” permits a coparticipant in creation. Pr 8:30 speaks of the personified “Wisdom” as God’s coparticipant in creation; and the source of life was attributed to the “Spirit” in Job 33:4; Ps 104:30; Eze 37.

The crown of God’s handiwork is human life. This is shown by: [a] God’s final act of creation; [b] the only creative act preceded by divine deliberation “let us make”; [c] different from the previous “let there be” or “let the earth”; [d] the verb “created” (Heb. bara) occurring 3 times in v.27.

image, likeness: Image (Heb. selem) can include sculptures, painting images, etc. Likeness (Heb. demut) refers to more abstract, internal qualities. The two terms are generally regarded as identical. They occur  in 3 passages in Genesis: 1:26-27; 5:1,3; 9:6.

o        The image of God (Latin imago Dei) implies that: [a] man can emulate God, [b] represent God on Earth, [c] dignity of man, the beginning of human value (and human rights) [d] in his resemblance to God, man is entirely different from all other creatures, [e] man is given the responsibility to rule all other creatures.

dominion (Heb. radah; NIV: rule over): not the normal verb for “rule” (which was used in v.16). This is an absolute or even fierce exercise of mastery, like the rule of the king over citizens (1Ki 4:24; Ps 110:2). Some translate it as “hold sway”. In any case, it does not mean abuse.

1:27     male and female: both God’s image, equal in position. Mentioning female is not customary in the society at that time (when women’s duties are to give birth and to look after the family). Notice that this is not specified for other creatures.

o        Reference to “male and female” is preparatory for understanding the blessing of procreation. Human sexuality is of a different sort from animal procreation. It is not intended merely as a mechanism for replication or the expression of human passion but is instrumental in experiencing covenant blessing. The union of man and woman as husband and wife is an inclusive oneness.

1:28     be fruitful: a God-given responsibility.

o        One or two generations ago, there was a widespread scare about human overpopulation (prediction at the same time of the shortage of food, shortage of space, shortage of resources, and the consequential conflicts). Now, there is the opposite scare about de-population which already happens in industrialized countries. Now, some western governments are trying to increase their population by providing huge incentive for more children.

fill the earth: to occupy the whole Earth, not just staying in one place.

1:29     for food: Both plants and trees were used for food of man and animals. God was the benevolent Provider who insured food for both man and animal life without fear of competition or threat for survival. “Every” and “all” emphasize the generosity of God’s provision.


1:31     very good: higher degree of satisfaction than previously when creation was completed. God rejoiced in His creation, especially the creation of man (Pr 8:31).

2:1       DAY 7: Creation is completed.

2:2       rested: It is the cessation of creation work. The word describes an action taken after work is finished, not in the sense of resting in weariness. The word “rest” can also mean “celebrate” (Lev 23:32).

The fact that the refrain of “There was evening, and there was morning” was absent may indicate that the 7th day has not ended (Ps 95:7-11; Jn 5:16-18; Heb 4:1-11), continuing through the present, extending into the future. The creation was intended to enjoy a perpetual rest provided by God; yet that rest was disrupted by human sin.

The derivative noun “Sabbath” (Heb. sabbat), which is a transliteration of the Hebrew word, does not actually occur in the creation account (though it is obviously alluded to by sabat, “ceased”).

o        According to the fossil record, new life-forms appeared continuously before the existence of man. Though frequent extinctions occurred, the introduction rate for new species matched or exceeded the extinction rate. After the appearance of man, the introduction rate plummeted to a virtual zero. This coincided with the rest day.

2:3       made it holy (NIV: sanctified): a day separated out for God. When God sanctified the day, He declared that this day was specially devoted to Him. Israel was charged to observe the Sabbath by keeping it holy as a special possession of the Lord (Ex 20:8,11).

o        The observance of Sabbath was unique to ancient Israel because it is not tied to any celestial movement, neither the sun nor the moon (in contrast to the calendars). The Sabbath thus underlines the fundamental idea of Israelite monotheism: that God is wholly outside of nature.

o        Observance of a seventh day antedates the Sinai episode. In the wilderness, the gathering of manna is suspended for a seventh day (Ex 16:21-30). The whole world now follows this pattern of rest.

o        By the commemoration of Sabbath, God and His creatures share in the celebration of the good creation, and God’s people are instructed to enter into the rhythm of work and joyful rest.



        Reflections on creation:

[a] Everything is in order. God is a God of order, not confusion.

[b] God’s words have power. Once said, they will be fulfilled. Trust God’s promise recorded in the Bible.

[c] The sky, the sun, and living beings are all created by God. Only the Creator is worthy of our worship.

[d] God loves His creation, especially man. He prepared everything before He created man.

[e] Man is special, created in God’s image and likeness. That is why everyone is special; everyone deserves our respect.

[f] God made the Sabbath holy. Keep the Sabbath day holy.

        What is your attitude towards creation?

[a] Philosopher: Why did God create the world?

[b] Scientist: How was the world created?

[c] Selfish person: Give me the world and let me use it to my benefit.

[d] Humble creature: Let us look after God’s creation and manage it well.

        God’s creation is characterized by: [a] great variety, [b] great beauty, [c] great exactness and accuracy, [d] great power, [e] great order, [f] great mystery. [from Henry]

        Here is a joke on the athesists: Every now and then some scientist comes up with the statement that there is no God, and he never seems to see the utter ridiculousness of such a position. We laugh at the Russian cosmonaut, Gagarin, who, after circling the earth, came back to announce that he had not found God up there. We think that is childish, and it is childish. But unfortunately, many learned and otherwise highly intelligent men make similar remarks because their thinking, Scripture says, is darkened and clouded, incomplete in many areas {cf. Rom 1:21, 11:10, Eph 4:18}. Someone has well pointed out that if Mr. Gagarin had simply stepped outside his capsule without a space suit he would have found God immediately! [from Stedman]