Pastor of Iglesia Conexiones (Conexiones Church) in Jessup, MD. B.A. in Bible, B.S. English Ed., M.S. in Educational Leadership. Author.
The book of Genesis is one of my favorite books of the Bible. It is ancient, enigmatic, and epic. It also lays the foundation for the doctrines and spiritual principles of the biblical faith.
In this post, I would like to share with you my notes on the first part of Genesis 1. When I read the passage, I want to understand what it meant to the writer and the original audience—so I try to resist the temptation of interpreting it in light of modern scientific theories.
Commentary on Genesis 1:1-2
(v.1) The book of Genesis begins by crediting to God the existence of the heavens and the earth: these began to exist because God created them.
By heavens and earth, the author means everything that human beings perceive to be their natural environment. Because the book was written some 3,500 years ago, we should take into account that the author (Moses) does not know that Earth is a sphere suspended in space. Therefore, he uses as a point of reference the two boundaries that encompass everything he knows: the earth and the skies.
As you read further ahead, notice that the author perceives the Sun, the Moon, and the stars to be located in the skies that God created (the waters, on the other hand, are part of the earth). So then, what Genesis teaches is that God is the creator of everythign that is the natural realm—whether it be the land, the oceans, planet Earth, space, the universe, or even a multiverse. Genesis 1:1 teaches that God is the creator of all physical reality.
However, the spiritual realm and the beings in it are not mentioned in this chapter. Their exclusion does not mean that they do not exist: it only means that the purpose of this chapter is to explain the origin of humanity and humanity's realm.
(v.2a) The earth that God created (Planet Earth and the cosmos to which it belongs) was without form, empty, and dark—but this will change because God will give it form (order), fill it, and illuminate it in the rest of the chapter.
(v.2b) The Spirit of God (the Hebrew word translated Spirit also means wind or breath) was hovering over the surface of the waters. Because the Spirit is of God, the Spirit is somehow related to God. Nevertheless, the Spirit is distinguished from God and can even be away from God (for the Spirit was hovering over the surface of the waters). It appears that the Spirit is present to do what God directs the Spirit to do—compare with Psalm 33:6, which states God created all the host of the heavens by his breath (Spirit).
Commentary on Genesis 1:3-5
(v.3) In order to change the present state of the earth, God speaks and commands that there would be light. In response, light begins to exist.
(v.4a) God evaluates the light that he has created—that has been produced at his command: he determines that the light is good.
(v.4b) God then separates the light from the darkness—in other words, he gives light its proper place (or role), and he also gives darkness its proper place (or role). In this way, God begins to put in order the earth he had created at first.
(v.4c) God then calls the light day and the darkness night—in other words, God did not only create the substance that is light, but God also gave it its function in the natural world, he gave it its propler place.
(v.4d) The evening and the morning mark the first cycle of time. The first day is completed when the new morning begins. Because of this cycle from one day of creation to the next, many believe that the creation days are literal days, not symbolical.
Commentary on Genesis 1:6-8
(v.6) Through his spoken word, God directs the creation of the expanse. The purpose of the expanse is to separate the waters.
(v.7a) After speaking, God makes the expanse. It is interesting that God responds to his own directive: it is likely that the Spirit is the God who makes the expanse.
(v.7b) This expanse separates the waters under the expanse from the waters above the expanse. The waters under the expanse refers to the ocean, but the waters above the expanse probably refers to the source of rain. Thus, in the mind of the author, there is a source of water over the expanse (a second ocean), and rain pours from this source.
(v.7c) "And it was so" (Genesis 1:7, LEB) refers to the fulfillment of God's command that there be an expanse.
(v.8a) God calls the expanse heaven, or sky. Thus, he assigns to this expanse both a name and a function.
Once again, this heaven is not the spiritual heaven, but the height that divides the earth from the perceived blue dome above. It is the are where birds fly high and clouds are often seen.
(v.8b) A second cycle of evening and morning is completed. Day two ends in the morning, when day three begins. Thus, God was creating all throughout day two until the evening, which is part of day two. Whereas we divide days from midnight to midnight, and although Jews divide days from evening to evening, the first chapter in Genesis divides days from morning to morning.
Commentary on Genesis 1:9-13
(v.9) God commands the waters under the sky to be gathered into one place so that dry land can appear. The phrase "and it was so" indicates that God's command was fulfilled.
(v.10) God calls the dry groun "earth" and the colleciton of waters "seas," thereby giveng them a name and a function. God then concludes that what he has done is good, implying that he has evaluated his work.
(v.11a) God commands the land to produce a variety of plants that have seeds and of trees that have fruits with seeds, all according to their own kinds. The words of Jesus illustrate what is meant: "they do not gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles, do they?" (Matthew 7:16, LEB).
This verse also explains why God commanded Jews not to mix seeds and fabrics (Deuteronomy 22:9, 11).
Thus, God has created an orderly world, and God's people are expected to follow his order.
(v.11b) "And it was so" means that God's command was fulfilled.
(v.12a). God's command was fulfilled: the earth generated a variety of plants that produce seed according to their kinds, and a variety of fruit trees that produce seeds according to their kinds also.
Because it appears that these plants grow from the earth in a single day, some interpret the days of creation as being symbolic: longer periods of time, even ages consisting of thousands of years.
(v.12b) God evaluated his work and determined it was good.
(v.13). God completed his work before the evening—he did not work in the evening. The third day lasted until the morning, when the fourth day began.
(v14a). God commands that there be lights in the expanse to separate the day from the night. These lights serves are perceived to be in the expanse, in the sky; and they have a basic purpose: to separate the day and the night.
(v.14b). The purpose of the lights is extended: they will also help humanity recognize times, seasons, days, and years. The main idea is that they will help farmers identify the right times to plant and harvest their crops.
(v.15). The location of the lights is in the skies, and from there they will light the earth (an additional purpose of the lights).
(16). In reponse to God's command, God (most likely, the Spirit) creates the greater light (the Sun) to rule the day, and he also creates the lesser light (the Moon) to rule the night. God also creates the stars.
The Sun and the Moon are depicted as figures of authority because they are perceived as a major influence on earth.
(v.17) God places the Sun, Moon, and stars in the sky to light the earth.
(v.18) God places the Sun, Moon, and stars in the sky to rule over the day and the night, and to separate day and night.
(v.19) Again, God completes his work before the evening, he rests throughout the evening, and he begins his work again in the morning, when the new day begins.
Thus, in the fourth day of creation, God commanded the creation of the Sun, Moon, and stars; he then created them; finally, heplaced them in the sky.
Genesis 1 attributes to God the existence of the earth and the skies, the whole physical realm.
In the first half of this chapter (Genesis 1:1-19), God brings the earth and the skies into order by creating light, separating light from darkness, creating the cycles of day and night, separating the waters from the sky, separating the waters from the land, creating the several kinds of vegetation that exist, and finally creating and placing the Sun, the Moon, and the stars in the sky.
Only after all these things were completed on days one, two, three, and four, does God create animals and humanity.
It is difficult to establish whether these days of creation are literal days or longer periods of time. Even if the author himself thought the days to be literal, he did not know that Earth is a sphere suspended in a vast universe, and only one of many innumerable planets revolving around one of many innumerable stars.
Nevertheless, God is the creator of all things, God has created order, and God expects his followers to recognize, enjoy, and follow the order he has imposed on his creation.
Please note my notes on Genesis 1 continue in my next post: Reading through The Bible, Genesis 1:20-2:3.
Do you have any questions? Do you have any suggestions? Did I miss anything? Comment below to let me know.
Also, check out the videos below.
Is Genesis History?
Mathematical Challenges to Darwin's Theory of Evolution
© 2021 Marcelo Carcach