Alive in the Garden | Genesis 2:4-17

Though we were told explicitly that the seventh day was the final day of creation, the bulk of chapter two reads much like an alternate tale of the creation of mankind. For some scholars, this has led them to believe in the documents theory of Genesis, which claims that the book was written by multiple authors whose writings were compiled together much later. However, there is no reason to view this section of Scripture as conflicting with the verses that we have studied thus far. Instead, the narrative of the seven days of creation serves as the broad overview of God’s creating work, while the current verses of our focus provide a closer view of the creation of humanity.

THE LORD GOD // VERSE 4

This verse marks the beginning of the first major narrative section of Genesis with the words “these are the generations”. The same phrase is used ten other times as well throughout the book, each time to mark a new arch of Genesis’s story.[1] Furthermore, the rest of the verse serves as a transitory bridge between the broad and narrow focuses of Genesis 1 and 2, and it poetically does this in chiastic form. This means that the components of the verse mirror one another. Here is an outline to help, using the key words of the verse:

(A) heavens
(B) earth
(C) when they were created
(C’) in the day that the LORD God made
(B’) earth
(A’) heavens

This poetic form of structuring is frequently used throughout Genesis, as even this section of Scripture through chapter three is organized in this fashion.

Also, significant about this verse is the usage of a new name for God: LORD. We have already discussed the meaning and implications of Elohim as denoting the majestic glory of God, but now we are introduced to what is often called the personal name of God: “Yahweh” or sometimes “Jehovah”. While God is more generic, Yahweh is the specific and glorious name for the God of the Bible. Together, Elohim and Yahweh are by far the two most common names of God throughout the Old Testament. Thus, it is important when reading our English translations to understand that whenever we see the word “LORD” in all capital letters that the name Yahweh is being used. In fact, translators’ reasoning for using LORD gives light as to what meaning is implied at its using. Throughout the history of the Judaism, this name of God was considered to be so holy that the people would completely avoid speaking it for fear that they would use it in vain. However, this posed quite a problem since it is used so often in Scripture, which was regularly read aloud to all the people. Thus, the reader would say Adonai (the actual Hebrew word for Lord) instead of Yahweh during the reading of Scripture. Building upon this tradition, most English translators opt to use LORD.

Yahweh, therefore, seems to reflect primarily the holiness of God. Holiness, after all, is a term that only truly belongs to God, the characteristic of God that the Bible is most emphatic to express. Ancient Hebrew did not have underlining, bolding, or italics, so in order to provide emphasis they used repetition. This is significant because God is described as being holy, holy, holy.[2] Though God has many other glorious and wonderful attributes, only holy is used thrice in repetition. Therefore, every time that we see LORD throughout the Bible we should be quick to recall that God is holy, unique and separate from all others. Paradoxically, it also denotes the intimate personal nature of God. It is no mistake that Elohim is used throughout Genesis 1, where the focus on creation is large and epic in scope. Yet Yahweh is primarily used in Genesis 2, in which the perspective has greatly narrowed to accentuate the intimate dealings between God and humanity.

THE BREATH OF LIFE // VERSE 5-7

As mentioned briefly in the opening section, many people today view chapter two as distinctly separate from the creation account of chapter one. The description of the land and field not yet yielding shrubberies and other small plants has led some to consider this a contradiction to the first chapter. There man was created after the plants, but here it seems that man is created before them. However, this is not the case; the words “bush” and “small plant” indicate exactly what they are: particular types of plants. Instead, it seems that verses 5-6 are providing a flashback to the condition of the world before the creation of man. And the picture appears to be wanting. The reason given for the nonexistence of the shrubberies is apparently dryness, as it had not yet rained nor was man there to irrigate. The conditions appear to be incomplete without humans. However, God does provide for His fledgling creation by causing a mist to rise from the ground.

Though we were told in chapter one that humans were created in the image of God, we do not get a sense of how intimate that creation really was until now. Verse 7 sheds further light upon the special distinction of humanity from the other creatures.

First, notice that mankind’s position as image-bearers of God did not negate our lowly origin. It is fitting for us to always remember that we are fundamentally dust, lest we think of ourselves more highly than we ought. Since the ancients of Moses’ day were prone to believe that humans were descendants from the gods, our earthly beginning certainly sets us in our proper place.

Second, God formed the first man from the dust of the ground. Even though we are dust, God displayed His love by molding us into creation like a potter molds clay. There is a certain thoughtful and artistic care invoked from this statement.

Finally, the LORD breathes the breath of life into man, which makes the human a living creature. God graciously takes dust and forms it into a creature that would reflect Him. This means that, at the end of the matter, we are nothing more than dust that has been infused with the grace of God.

It is also important to note that when God exalts man from the dust, there is abundant life; however, when man exalts himself in chapter three, there is only death, a returning to the dust. The work of God breeds life, but sin will always reap death. Thus, in our sin-dominated and fallen lives, we can give thanks to God that He has done this process a second time through the work of Christ. Like Adam in the beginning of this verse, the ingrained sin within each of us left us nothing more than dust spiritually (and, eventually, physically). As the dust of the ground had no way of forming itself into a living creature, we had no hope of coming to life out of the death that our sin purchased for us. However, just as the breath of God came into man so the Spirit of Christ came into us, making us new creatures in Him!

THE GARDEN OF EDEN // VERSES 8-15

Another act of grace is given to the man by God creating a garden home for him to dwell within. God does not simply create man and then leave him to fend for himself; instead, He provides for the man a paradise home. Most people tend to imagine the garden and Eden to be synonymous terms; however, Eden is likely a region upon the earth with the garden only covering a portion of that land. Nevertheless, the emphasis here is certainly upon the joy and goodness of the garden. The name Eden means delight or pleasure, and He causes pleasant and good trees to fill the garden. Thus, the LORD has spared no expense for the first man by giving to him a garden that is pleasant, good, and full of delight.

The final compound sentence of this verse is rather mysterious. After God causes all the trees to spring up into the garden, two particular trees are mentioned as being in the midst of the garden. Both are trees of significant importance since they are the trees of life and knowledge of good and evil. Very little is known about these trees except for what chapters two and three of Genesis say, which is limited. Thus, we will not divulge into too great of speculation. We know that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is the only tree that God forbids to be eaten, and that the result of Adam’s eating of the fruit results in the entering of death. As for the tree of life, we only know that it was not forbidden until after the Fall. We will discuss both trees to greater degrees as they are mentioned further in the narrative.

Next, we find in verses 10-14 a surprisingly detailed description of the garden’s geography. Though some like to view the garden in Eden as figurative or metaphorical, the description’s usage of proper names for rivers and regions (which the audience likely knew) grounds this account into reality. Of the four rivers mentioned, two are still in existence today (the Tigris and the Euphrates) and are located in Mesopotamia. Thus, the garden seems to have been in the general area of the Promised Land. Personally, I have a slight hesitation of attempting to give a certain geographic location for the garden because the Flood could likely have changed the landscape significantly or even moved Noah into Mesopotamia. However, the theological significance is clear. The garden of Eden was defined by the favor and blessing of God, and the Promised Land was meant to serve as a representation of that grace being restored to Israel.

Of course, even in the Promised Land and under the Mosaic covenant, the people still rebelled against God time and time again. Jesus, however, is the perfect fulfillment of the grace and blessing of God returning to humanity. In Christ, we are not only restored to paradise with God (as in Eden), but we now have been adopted as sons and daughters of the Most High. Eden was full of gold and onyx, and the Promised Land flowed with milk and honey, but in Christ, we find the fullest joy and delight in knowing the Creator God as our Father.

Once more, in verse 15, we are told that God placed man in the garden of Eden, yet two aspects make this account differ from that of verse eight.

First, though the putting of man in the garden is translated the same way in English, this verse uses a different Hebrew word than verse eight. While the word used in verse eight is the normal term for putting an object somewhere, the word in fifteen gives an added connotation of rest and safety. God did not merely throw man into the garden, but rather He lovingly placed him there, knowing that it was the best place for him.

Second, man’s purpose in the garden is made known: to work and keep it. These two verbs make man’s role in the garden distinctively priestly. In Numbers, God will command the Levites to the minister and guard the tabernacle, which are the same two words as given to Adam in the verse.[3] Thus, the tabernacle and the temple were both means of bringing humanity back into the presence of God as they were in Eden. Though man is given the task of working and maintaining the garden, the central goal of man is worship. Just as the tabernacle was worked by the priest and was the center of worship, so it is with the garden. Man’s working and keeping of the garden was simply the primary way that man worshiped God in the garden. Obedience to God’s commandments is always one of the highest forms of worship.

Finally, consider two more thoughts on Adam’s task in the Eden.

First, work is not a product of the Fall. As humans, we have been created to be productive and hard working. This is a good thing. However, as we will see in the next chapter, the Fall will fundamentally shift man’s relationship to work.

Second, the garden, along with the tabernacle and temple, is foreshadowing of the work of Christ. The crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Christ accomplished at once far more than all the sacrifices offered in the temple or tabernacle. By Jesus’ sacrifice, communion with God was restored and even made better. Jesus is a better Eden and temple because through Him the Holy Spirit now dwells within believers!

THE EDENIC COVENANT // VERSES 16-17

The LORD’s commandment to man here is sometimes called the Edenic covenant. Like all other covenants in the Bible, this serves as an agreement between God and man. Also like other covenants, there are two basic components: provision and restriction. First, God graciously permits Adam to eat the fruit from any tree in the garden. These are all trees that we previously described as being pleasant to the sight and good for food. Second, God restricts one tree. Out of the abundance of provision, God provides one prohibition, a means of testing the faith of the humans. Tragically, Adam and Eve will come to view this one tree as being pleasant to the sight and good for food. Such is the human heart. We desire that which is most poisonous to our souls, while repeatedly spurning the gracious love of God.

This is also the first mentioning of death. The phrase “in the day” is idiomatic for expressing certainty, so combined with the word “surely”, God is doubly declaring the punishment for disobedience. God is just and fair. Though it may seem a bit extreme to punish humans so severely for a seemingly minor disobedience, we must understand who is issuing this command. The nature of this commandment is nothing like a mom instructing her child against a second cookie; this God spoke light, land, and stars into existence. There is no such thing as petty disobedience against God. There is only cosmic treason against the LORD Most High. Thus, God is completely just in extending the punishment of death because of disobedience. By this, His grace is also further accentuated. We deserve death, but He freely imparts to us life, through the death and resurrection of His Son.


[1] The others can be found in these places: 5:1; 6:9; 10:1; 11:10; 11:27; 25:12; 25:19; 36:1; 36:9; 37:2

[2] Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8

[3] Numbers 3:7-8

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The Creation of Man | Genesis 1:26-2:3

As human beings, we are creatures of thoughts and questions, in constant search for meaning and purpose underlying our existence. Almost inevitably, these ponderings will lead to the nature of our species’ beginning. Were we created differently than all of the other creatures on earth, or were we merely the only animal to evolve a reasoning and intellectual brain? Questions of our beginning, like these, have lasting impacts on our present and our future. Fortunately, the holy Scriptures are not silent on this topic. Within these short eight verses, we will begin our look at the beginning of humanity and role to which God designated for us within His creation.

LET US MAKE MAN // VERSE 26

This verse is the beginning of the second act of creation on day six, and this creation is significantly different from all other creations discussed so far. The creation of humans is the capstone of the creation narrative. Throughout the days of creation, God sovereignly molded the heavens and the earth to make them capable of sustaining humans. There is evidence of this special distinction from the first word that God speaks, “Let us make…” Now, there is a plethora of thoughts to be give about these simple words, so I will strive to be concise. First, with all other creations, God said, “Let there be…” Light, air, land, and all living creatures were created through the mighty command of Elohim; however, the creation of humans seems to display a greater level of consideration. Obviously, it is important to understand that God is not human; therefore, He cannot be constrained to human qualities. Indeed, every time that we speak about God, we are speaking using anthropomorphic language, expressing an aspect of God’s nature in the only terms that we can understand: our own. Thus, we need not believe that God literally took more time considering and debating, or that He even did so at all, amongst Himself about whether or not to create humans. Instead, God is using our own concepts to give us the understanding that the creation of humanity is distinctly unique amongst the rest of creation. God deliberately decided to create humans different.

Nevertheless, since the words “let us make” seem to imply a sort of counsel taking place in heaven regarding the creation of mankind. Both Christianity and Judaism before it have sought to understand to whom the “us” is referencing. Many scholars have entertained the notion that God is referring to the angels around Him; however, given the remainder of Scripture, this seems to be a ridiculous thought. Why would the Almighty God consult created beings about the forming of the capstone of His creation? Others have argued that the plurality emphasizes the supremacy and totality of God in much the same manner of the name Elohim. Many Jewish scholars have leaned upon this interpretation. More likely, I believe, it is a subtle reference to the Trinity. Though a strong case cannot be built for the Trinity from this verse alone, the other sixty-five books give credit to this interpretation.

“In our image, after our likeness.”

If the uniqueness of mankind’s creation was not evident before, these coupling phrases should present more than enough proof. While all of creation was created by God, humanity holds the sole title of being made in the image of God, in His likeness. Recall our study of the first verse of Genesis, wherein we discussed the implications of God initiating the beginning of existence. We concluded that, since God alone stands outside of all created things, He is altogether different from anything that we could possibly comprehend. Because of God’s utter uniqueness as being the only non-created being, we are far closer to understanding every single aspect of the universe than we are to knowing a fraction about God. We then remarked upon the miracle of both the written and the embodied Word of God as God’s revelation such lowly creatures as us, and verse 26 only further enlarges this miraculous grace of God. God did not only choose to reveal Himself to humans, but He elected to imbue within us His very image. We, as humans, display aspects of God’s likeness, fractions of His character.

Throughout the years many have wrestled with the question of what exactly it means to bear the image of God. Does it mean that our physical features somewhat resemble what God looks like? Or does it mean that display the same types of emotions that God experiences? First, though many have traditionally viewed God as an old man upon a throne, the Bible is quite clear that God is not a man.[1] In fact, God does not even have a physical body; instead, He is spirit.[2] He is of an entirely different nature than us. This truth is what makes the incarnation so miraculous: God became flesh and dwelt among us![3] Therefore, I do not believe that this verse refers to our physical resemblance of God. Instead, it appears to refer to at least two aspects of human nature: the totality of the human consciousness and the complementarian relation of men and women, though we will discuss the latter within the context of verse 27. It is a secret to no one that we are different than animals, and most people attribute these differences to the complexities of the human consciousness. Animals, though they have cerebral systems, do not process the reality around them like we do. We are, at once, able to reason and feel. Logic and emotions both come from the same lump of neurons inside our skull. Animals simply do not have these defining characteristics as image bearers of God.

“let them have dominion”

Within the latter part of this verse, we behold another astounding characteristic of mankind: they are given dominion over all other creatures. This means that God granted to humanity the governing authority of upon the earth. Such a thought should have far reaching implications upon any who read it! Not only did God choose us to be the bearers of His image but He also imparted to us a level of authority with which to rule over His other creatures. This biblical view of humanity stands in stark contrast to the predominant view of today known as secular humanism. Secular humanism holds both a higher and lower view of humanity than the biblical thought. First, they hold a lower view of humanity because they argue that we are nothing more than highly evolved animals. The only special characteristic of humans is that time and chance favored our species. Yet, somewhat paradoxically, they also hold a higher view of humanity in that they elevate humanity to the status of practical deification. Since the human heart inherently longs for something greater beyond itself, the humanists answer that urge by elevating humanity’s superiority to a god-like status. Because humans are the highest of the evolved animals, then all meaning and purpose in life is found within the human race. The biblical account is almost exactly antithetical to this view. Yes, we are more than animals; we are image bearers of God. No, we are not gods ourselves; we simply bear some of the characteristics of the one true God.

IN HIS OWN IMAGE // VERSE 27

This verse is likely the first poem within the Bible, though there is some disagreement among scholars as to what exactly constitutes biblical poetry and biblical prose. The entirety of Genesis 1, for example, has highly poetic elements; however, it seems to me that this verse is deserving of being classified as poetry for its poetic symmetry and parallelism. If this is the case, then verse 27 probably serves as a sort of poetic emphasis to the image bearing nature of mankind. Within this verse, it is twice mentioned that humanity bears the image of God, and in all three lines, it is stated that God created humans. It almost seems as though God is anticipating the man’s desire to be like God, and so He is preemptively striking at its core by declaring that man is unique among creation but still a creation of God.

This is also the first mention of humanity being composed of male and female. Since many today read the Bible as emphasizing male chauvinism, it is important for us to realize that God created humanity to exist in two genders. God did not create man to fully embody humankind, while merely creating the woman to be his personal servant. No, God always meant for mankind to have both male and female. And though we will discuss the nature of males and females in more detail in Genesis 2, I will say that man existing in male and female is a reflection of the nature of God and perhaps is part of what is meant by being image-bearers. Notice this: God is triune, one God existing in three persons. Father, Son, and Spirit are all God, but each has a different and unique role and personhood. Thus, God is both plural and singular. In this verse, we find a similarity being made with mankind. First, the word man is used, along with the singular masculine “him”, but then male and female are used along with the plural “them”. Thus, male and female are both different and unique but also distinctly human. Each is human, but both are different. Michael Reeves argues that the humanity’s existence in male and female is the clearest picture the Bible gives for how we are to think of the Trinity.

There is something about the relationship and difference between the man and woman, Adam and Eve, that images the being of God—something we saw the apostle Paul pick up on in 1 Corinthians 11:3. Eve is a person quite distinct from Adam, and yet she has all her life and being from Adam. She comes from his side, is bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh, and is one with him in the flesh (Gen 2:21-24). Far better than leaves, eggs, and liquids, that reflects the personal God, a Son who is distinct from his Father, and yet who is of the very being of the Father, and who is eternally one with him in Spirit. [4]

THE FIRST COMMISSION // VERSE 28

After God creates humans, male and female, He blesses them. Blessing is one of the predominant themes of Genesis. To be blessed of God is to have the favor, or grace, of God upon one’s life. Thus, God begins by humanities existence by blessing them, by giving to them unmerited grace and favor. But how does God display and distribute His blessing to them? He commissions them in a series of commands. Too often, we think of God’s commandments as being burdensome, but God intends for us to be blessed through them. And what a blessing this is! God gives the cultural mandate for humanity to be fruitful and multiply. This alone shoots down many of the Christians who find it uncomfortable or even sinful to speak about sex. There is often the tendency to refer to sex as a byproduct of the Fall; however, here humanity has yet to fall into sin and God is still commanding Adam and Eve to come together and enjoy the fruits of their union. God created sex to be good and unifying in marriage, but like other good gifts, it is now often distorted and maimed by the corroding effects of sin.

Also, we must note that God issued this command to produce offspring as a general command to humanity, not as an absolute command to each individual. In fact, Paul speaks to the Corinthians that he wished that all were single like him.[5] Though to be fair, singleness still does not excuse the Christian from this mandate; instead, Christ has given to us a new commission that greatly reflects this one. The Great Commission, found in Matthew 28:18-20, gives a wonderful parallel to this first mandate to humanity; therefore, let us walk through the similarities. Here in Genesis, the man and woman are given four commands: be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Likewise, Jesus gives His disciples four instructions: go, make disciples, baptize, and teach. Both sets of commands have the same goals. Both are meant to spread throughout the earth. Both are intended to multiply. Both are envisioned as being instruments in God’s continual shaping of earth. In both the creation of Genesis and the recreation that Jesus began, we must understand that God intentionally left His work unfinished. By the pure grace and blessing of God, He has chosen to use us to fulfill His plans. God did not need humans to subdue the earth and continue bringing it to order, but by grace, He allows us to be a part of His plans. Likewise, God does not need us to reach the world with the gospel of Jesus, but by grace, He lets us join in the spreading of His glory.

Finally, we notice that God gives humans dominion of all other creatures on earth; however, there is a very real sense in which this dominion has been marred by the Fall. We no longer have the dominion that we were meant to possess, and with our sinful nature, it is good that God has stripped us of such control. But where humanity could not hold onto the dominion given us by God, Jesus Christ is more than able. Thus, Jesus informs us in the Great Commission that all authority in heaven and earth has been given to Him. Adam, and by consequence us, could not be faithful with the ruling of even the creatures on earth, but Jesus, the second Adam, has been deemed faithful to receive the authority over all of creation.

PLANT FOR FOOD // VERSES 29-30

Here God gives humans and the other animals the plants and vegetation for food. Once again, the emphasis is that God created the other creatures to be in service to humans. However, even though nature was created to serve man, this does not give us the right to abuse the other created works of God. We are meant to be faithful stewards over the creation that God has placed under our dominion. It is also interesting to note that there is no mention of the eating of meat. Thus, it would seem that humans and animals were originally herbivores. Though, before vegans and vegetarians begin to grab their battle gear, God will give, in Genesis 9, the animals to Noah for food, so there does exist a biblical foundation for why we are currently omnivores.

Man is the climax of creation, and instead of man providing the gods with food, God provided the plants as food for man (1:29).[6]

VERY GOOD // VERSE 31

After having declared His creation good six times thus far, God looked upon everything, including His newly created humans, and declared it all very good. With all of the evils around us every day, it is incredibly difficult for us to imagine the world as being very good, yet this was the original state of creation. God did not make a broken world; He made a beautiful world to reflect His beauty. Furthermore, the world inhabited by humans was considered good. Some of the eco-extremists believe that humanity is the bane of the earth, and to be fair, we have not been the most faithful stewards of God’s creation, especially for the last few centuries. Yet it has not always been so. God created humans as a part of His good creation. Despite all of the violence and injustice, the world was once very good.

THE SEVENTH DAY // VERSES 1-3

Since chapter and verse divisions were added into the Bible only a few hundred years ago, it is quite fine to disagree with them from time to time. These verses are, for me, one such occasion. The seventh day of creation discussed here brings about the closing of the days of creation; thus, it seems to belong better with chapter 1. It is here that we are told that after finishing the process of creation God used the seventh day to rest from His work. Obviously, from what we know of God through the remainder of Scripture, He was not exhausted after the six days of creating. Instead, we find another reason for His resting: to distinguish the seventh day from the other days. God blesses and makes this day holy. It is from this text that the doctrine of Sabbath originates.

Today it is difficult to find many believers who observe Sabbath, and since it is apparently not a direct sin to skip the Sabbath, some find it hard to create a case for observing it. However, it seems clear to me that God is our loving Father, who did not need to rest following creation but still did so to set a precedent for us. The doctrine of Sabbath, in particular, is formed by God completely for our good. It is His desire to give us respite from our labor.

Though the concept of Sabbath was not repeated as a commandment in the New Testament, we should not be excused from upholding it. Perhaps the main reason why Jesus seemed so defiant against the Sabbath was because the Pharisees were abusing it. God created the Sabbath to be a day of rest for His people, a day to stop their work and remember that He is God. The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. But the religious spurned this great truth, trying to make it a sin to even heal on the Sabbath. Yet in reality, the Sabbath is a gift from a loving Father to His children, so that we can pause from our daily work and reflect on everything that He has done for us.

So for the Christian that would like to start observing Sabbath but does not know how, let me offer some advice. First, God made the seventh day holy; He consecrated it for Himself. This means that God called the seventh day unique from all other days. The first six days are normal and common, but the seventh day is called holy, set apart exclusively for God. Thus, for the greatest rest, give your Sabbath over to God. Do not focus so much upon how you shouldn’t do any work, but focus upon how you might glorify God. Second, by Jewish tradition, Saturday is the Sabbath. Because of this, there are some groups of Christians that believe we should return to using Saturday for our church services and our Sabbath. However, the first Christians had a fairly good reason for completely shifting the central day of their worship to Sunday: the resurrection of Jesus. This is why we meet on Sunday, and why we might in general consider it our Sabbath. Nevertheless, Paul warns us in Romans 14 not to bicker about the importance of days or weeks; instead, we are meant to worship God. Thus, if Sunday or Saturday are not practical for you as a day of Sabbath rest, please choose another day of the week. The specific day is not nearly as important as actually setting apart a day to spend with God.

[1] Numbers 24:19

[2] John 4:24

[3] John 1:14

[4] Reeves, Michael. Delighting in the Trinity. p. 37

[5] 1 Corinthians 7:7

[6] Wenham, Gordan. Genesis 1-15. p. 49

The Process of Creation | Genesis 1:2-25

Possibly no other section of Scripture is more debated and argued than the text that we will now be covering. Creationists pour over these verses to combat evolutionists. Six-day literalists and theistic evolutionists both devour fiercely these words both to defend and attack. Some Christians wait longingly discuss the age-old question of “gap or no gap?” with whomever might be interested. And, of course, some people might even be terrified by such phrases as “darkness was over the face of the deep.” This section of biblical text is brief in nature, massive in scope, and mysterious in nearly every sense of the word.

THE FACE OF THE DEEP // VERSE 2

The weight and range of verse 2 is nearly as monumental as that of verse 1; however, one key difference between these two verses is the mystery in which this verse is shrouded. We are told that “the earth was without form and void.” The exact meaning of the phrase without form and void is somewhat unclear with regards to this verse, but most scholars seem to agree that it describes the chaotic nature of the earth. The following reference to darkness upon “the face of the deep” serves to accent the disheveled state of creation. The Hebrew word used for “deep” is used elsewhere in the Old Testament in reference to the ocean, but in the ancient world, it also represented the chaos of all nature. It was a common belief in that period that nature was not structured and organized. They believed that only the gods were able to keep everything in working and organized order. There was dreadful fear of the chaos that the world around them could unleash because we have an inherent need for structure and predictability.

Though the first half of this verse is dark and ominous, the tone quickly shifts to a more hopeful focus. We find in the second half that the “Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” Since the deep referenced the vast and mysterious nature of the ocean, the waters referenced here seem to be doing the same. The Spirit of God is said to be hovering above the surface of the deep. When all was a chaotic mess, the Spirit comes on the scene, preparing to the provide order to the disorder. There is certainly some debate about what Moses meant by the Spirit of God in this verse. Many Christians clearly would like to view it as a reference to the doctrine of the Trinity; however, the answer is not so simple. The concept of the triune God is a development only found within Christianity itself, so we cannot say that Moses held a Trinitarian view while writing Genesis. Nevertheless, since it is God who truly authors Scripture through inspiration, we should not find it difficult to believe that these writings of Moses are able to have greater meaning now that God has revealed more to humanity. What Moses likely knew simply as the power and authority of God, we now know to be the third person of the Trinity. Therefore, I believe that we can safely trust that the Holy Spirit is being referenced in this verse.

Finally, after looking somewhat closely at the different aspects of this verse, we must now ask the most pressing question: to what exactly does it refer? When and where exactly does this ominous verse play into the story of creation? Unfortunately, there simply is no definitive answer to any of these types of questions. Clergy and lay-theologians alike have pondered and speculated the significance of this verse for centuries and even millennia. Therefore, I will do my best to summarize a few of the most popular views of how to interpret this verse in relation to all of chapter one.

First, and certainly a popular thought, is the gap theory. In short, the gap theory teaches that verse one refers to God’s creation of all things, while verse two describes creation in the aftermath of a devastating event (most likely the fall of Satan). Most gap theorists also believe in an old earth, since the time period between verse one and two could potentially be billions of years. One of the primary motivations for the forming of this view was, of course, to show that the Bible does not contradict developments in science that claim the earth is billions of years old. They would also argue that the phrase “without form and void” typically carries a connotation of judgment elsewhere in Scripture, thus making if fit to describe the outcome of God’s initial judgment upon Satan.

Standing opposite of the gap theorists are those who believe in no gap between verses one and two. There are two primary means of viewing creation from a no gap perspective. First, verse two describes the condition in which God originally created everything in verse one. In this case, the creation process that begins in verse three details the means through which God gave form or order to creation. Second, verse two can be viewed as describing the nothing that existed before God created everything. This thought views verse one as a sort of thesis statement to the entirety of chapter one instead of as a specific event in time.

To be fair, each view listed above is absolutely biblically sound. Therefore, someone who believes in the gap theory can and should still be brothers with one who believes that verse two describes the absence of creation. This is an issue that we will never know fully this side of heaven; thus, it is a secondary issue. That being said, before I began this study through Genesis, I leaned toward the gap theory viewpoint. However, now after reading several men of faith (each of whom believed something at least slightly different), I find myself leaning toward the thought that verse two describes the original form in which God created everything. In verse one, God created the raw materials of the universe, and verse two describes what that was like. Thus, the remainder of chapter one depicts how God shapes, forms, and fills creation into more of how we know it today. The reason that this view makes sense for me is that it seems to fit God’s modus operandi. Repeatedly in the Bible, we see events which God could accomplish in less than a second; however, He chooses to complete the task through a series of processes. Though He certainly has the ability to form the entire cosmos with the merest of breathes, God systematically constructs the universe through a series of days. God is patient through processes. This thought speaks wonderfully in relation to our salvation. There is a real sense in which the entire life of the believer is one long process of salvation, a process of recreating us. The Holy Spirit was faithful enough to give the creation process through seven days; we can believe that the same Spirit within us will complete the work of recreation that has begun.

THE CREATIVE WORD // VERSE 3

Within this verse and the following two, we find details concerning the first day of creation. Here we find the first words following the beginning of existence, and God is the one who speaks. It is often remarked how He merely spoke, and light came into being. However, we must not miss the major theological point that the apostle John makes in the first chapter of his Gospel. The opening verse parallels verse one of Genesis by describing the Word as being with God, and being God, in the beginning. The parallel then continues in the third verse of both books. John 1:3 declares the great truth that “All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made.” John is describing Jesus as the embodied Word of God, the Word through whom everything was created. He mysteriously links God’s “let there be…” declarations to the role of Christ in creation. How exactly is this so? I believe that we can safely say that it is just as mysterious as the nature of the Trinity. It does not necessarily fit within our finite minds, but we can conclude with all faith that the first three verses of Genesis give significant implication as to the vital necessity of the Trinity in the act of creation. The Father declares creation. The Son is the means through, by, in, and for whom creation is declared. And the Spirit empowers the creating process.

LET THERE BE LIGHT // VERSE 4

It is no accident that God created light first. Though we saw in verse two that darkness was upon the face of the deep, God now immediately begins to dispel that darkness. He does so by creating light and then dividing it from the darkness. The ancient mind reading this account would have instantly understood that Moses was declaring God to be sovereign over even the ominous deep which constantly threatened to throw the world into chaos. Through one simple declaration, God creates light, before which darkness has no place. God rejects darkness and ushers in light.

It is also important that we answer the question of how God created light. How can there be light if God did not create the sun, moon, and stars until the fourth day? Many people have given their thoughts, theories, and speculations for how God was able to suspend light in the heavens without the objects that we now know to provide light. However, I will side with John Calvin on this issue:

It did not, however, happen from inconsideration or by accident, that the light preceded the sun or moon. To nothing are we more prone than to tie down the power of God to those instruments, the agents of which he employs. The sun and moon supply us with light: And, according to our notions we so include this power to give light in them, that if they were taken away from the world, it would seem impossible for any light to remain. Therefore, the Lord, by the very order of the creation, bears witness that he holds in his hand the light, which he is able to impart to us without the sun and moon.[1]

Notice here two more points of observance.

First, God evaluates light to be good. This declaration is a piece of the pattern that we will continue to see throughout the days of creation. We are first told that God speaks. We are then given His commandment. The commandment results in a creation and/or a separation. God then names and evaluates the creation.

Finally, we receive the chronological division for each day. Notably absent is the declaration that darkness is good. Instead, we are shown that God separated light from the darkness. This is the first glimpse at the holiness of God. In Him there is light, and the light cannot dwell together with darkness. There must be separation from darkness.

EVENING & MORNING // VERSE 5

First in this verse, God gives name to the light and the darkness. The act of naming implies both existence and sovereignty to the ancient Hebrews. Names were intrinsically connected with the state of being. The name of an object or person was an essential aspect of who they were. Furthermore, being able to name something was a declaration of authority. Thus, God is displaying His sovereignty over even light and darkness by naming them and thus solidifying their existence.

Finally, God declares that there was evening and morning, the first day. Of course, the question must be addressed as to whether or not this day and the others that follow are literal or metaphorical. Historic views lend little help to this question since most ancient scholars gave scarcely a thought to anything beyond six literal days. In fact, it is predominately the concept of evolution and naturalism that caused theologians to question the literal interpretation of this text.

With that in mind, here are a few thoughts on this matter. First, we must never fall into the notion that the Bible must conform to science; instead, science must conform to Scripture. Therefore, let us not shape our biblical worldview around scientific findings that will be obsolete within the coming centuries or even decades. Second, a six literal day leaning is a perfectly acceptable interpretation, maybe even preferred. Third, viewing the days as periods of time is certainly plausible. Near the beginning of chapter two, we find a usage of the word day meaning a much larger period of time; therefore, it could be used likewise here. Fourth, since the sun and moon were not created until the fourth day, there is no way of knowing how much those original six days resembled our current 24 hour days.

DAY TWO // VERSES 6-8

The second day of creation can be rather difficult to interpret. We are told that God created an expanse to separate the waters. Once this takes place, there is an expanse, called the Heavens, which resides above and below two sets of waters. Of course, this raise plenty of questions. What exactly is meant by the expanse? Is it only the atmosphere above us, or is the entirety of the universe? Whichever the case may be, what are the waters above the expanse? Is this a reference to the water vapor in the sky, such as the clouds, or is there some greater looming body of water somewhere beyond the stars and galaxies that we know? To be honest, there is no definite answer to any of these questions. Most of the scholars that I have read believe that the waters above refer to the atmospheric water vapor. While this could certainly be true, it seems to require one to view the expanse as being the earth’s atmosphere; however, we will see that God places the sun, moon, and stars into said expanse on day four. Therefore, we could say several things. First, Moses wrote from a clearly human perspective on the sky, which appears to have the celestial entities suspended in the atmosphere. To a degree this is certainly true, as Genesis was never meant to be a science textbook; however, we should take care not to lean too far in such thoughts so as to completely separate science and Genesis. Second, there may have existed in the heavens some sort of large body of suspended water, but following the Flood only the atmospheric clouds remain as a remnant. Third, the body of water above could be located somewhere along the outskirts or even outside of the universe. I know that this thought leans toward pure speculation and seems ridiculous; however, human beings, as a species, have not come even close to viewing the outer parts of the universe. Thus, though it might seem absurd, there could, in fact, exist a body of water out there.

With all of these thoughts and questions floating about these three verses, it is important that we center upon the meaning and significance of them. In regards to the creation process as a whole, we can derive two thoughts.

First, it is clearly within this day that atmosphere is formed. Though the expanse likely refers to outer space as well, there is a noticeable organizing structure to be found within all of the days of creation, being that God is preparing creation to be habitable to humanity. As we will see, God creates mankind to be the crown of creation, the creatures which bear His image. Therefore, the shaping and structuring of the earth and the heavens is in preparation to be the residence of humankind.

Second, these verses emphasize God’s organized and sovereign molding of the existence. The waters being separated here are likely the deep being described in verse two. Thus, God is revealing that the deep, the foreboding terror of the ancient world, is entirely under the control of God. The ominous and powerful waters are His to separate and command. Moreover, if the power of the waters is unleashed upon humanity, they do so solely under the decree of God Almighty and as instruments of His justice (i.e. the Flood).

DAY THREE // VERSES 9-13

Within this first part of the third day, the focus is upon separating the waters below the expanse in order to created dry land. These verses, along with the description of day two, help give further clarity that verse two refers to the preformed earth being covered in a sort of primordial ocean. However, God continues His process of shaping the world to be habitable. God’s authority over the water is once more displayed as He gives command for it to recede and give rise to land. Following this division, God gives name to the land and to the waters, calling them Earth and Seas, and then He declares them to be good.

Unlike the first two days of creation where God performed one work each, on day three He completes two separate but related works of creation. After forming the dry land, God now cultivates the land by causing vegetation to grow. There are several observations which we can glean from these verses. First, God created the vegetation with seeds. This meant that God not only created the first generation of creation, but He intended creation to be sustainable. Instead of God creating eternal plants or needing to recreate a plant every time one died, God created a process by which the plants could reproduce. Since the nature of reproduction is all that we have ever known to be true of creation, we can very easily take for granted the inherent beauty of God’s wonderful and efficient design. Of course, let us not venture too far into deism territory, believing that God created and then left creation alone. God certainly is active and working to uphold creation, but there is also a remarkable self-sustaining nature to creation. Second, God created various types of vegetation, “each according to its kind.” This is a fairly clear shot at the concept of evolution (theistic evolution included) because obviously it appears that God created several kinds of plants all at once. This means that all plants did not evolve from a common ancestry.

With the conclusion of the third day yet another color is added to God’s cosmos. To the basic white and black of day and night has been added the blue of sky and sea. Now the canvas is adorned with green. The golden yellow sun and the reddish human being will complete this rainbow of colors.[2]

DAY FOUR // VERSES 14-19

Before discussing the fourth day of creation, I must note the relationship of the days four, five, and six with days one, two, and three. The process of creation in Genesis 1 can be divided into these two parts: the first three days and the second three days. The reason for this division is because the days of creation construct a parallel of forming and filling. The first three days are concerning the forming of creation, while the second three days focus on filling the formed matter. On day one, God formed light, and on day four, He fills the heavens with bearers of light. Day two shows God forming the oceans and the sky, while they are each filled with creatures on day five. Day three involved two distinctly separate acts of creation, as does day six. The dry ground is formed along with vegetation on the third day. Then on the sixth day, animals are created to fill the earth and humans are made, who will eat the vegetation.

It is here in day four that the heavens are filled with objects of light. However light may have existed within the first three days, it clear that it was on this day that the cosmos began to resemble more closely how they are today. God creates the sun, moon, and stars with another powerful command. Worth noting is the fact that the purpose of these celestial objects is greatly emphasized. First, He states that they are to act as signs. The nineteenth Psalm gives a marvelous thought on how these created objects are to be signs by declaring that the heaven proclaim the glory of God. The declaration and proclamation of the glory of God is the overarching purpose of all creation in general, yet it can be seen to a magnificent degree in the grand entities in the heavens. Second, they serve as a record of time. Since God created the earth to exist within time, the sun and moon serve as a constant means of measuring that time. Third, they provide the light for the earth. The sun by day gives us a great amount of light, while the moon and stars give light by night. These means of the serving earth and the rest of creation was quite a potent message to the people of Moses’ day. As noted previously, these days of creation partially serve as a theological dismantling of the false gods of the ancient world. And such is the case here. Many people worshipped the sun and moon as chief deities. For instance, Ra was the Egyptian sun god, and Baal was a moon god. Thus, by placing these objects in submissive roles, God is affirming His superiority to them.

Also, my favorite phrase within all five of these verses is simply “and the stars.” With the wonders of modern inventions, we have discovered magnificent information about the grandeur of the universe and the trillions upon trillions of stars within it. Yet for all the information that we gain, we are merely left with a greater sense of wonder and mystery. The vastness of the universe is so immense that it could be quite easy to place too much of an emphasis upon it. Because its greatness can be seen, it can overshadow the glory of God, who is invisible. However, the majesty of the universe is meant to point us to the infinitely greater glory of the Most High. The God that we serve is so great that He is able to sum up the creation of nebulas, galaxies, and quasars in three words: and the stars.

We should feel our smallness by comparison. Carl Sagan famously captured such a feeling in the view of the universe’s vastness when he commented on a satellite image of the earth as a tiny blue dot.

Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar”, every “supreme leader”, every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam. The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

DAY FIVE // VERSES 20-23

In parallel to the second day, the air and waters are filled with creatures on the fifth day. Now that the air, seas, land, vegetation, and stars have been created, the earth is ready to support life. In one grand act of creation, God fills the seas and skies with living creatures. The great sea creatures are specifically mentioned here, most likely, because they were also items of worship in the ancient world. Also, we must note that God gives a command to the newly created creatures: they are to be fruitful and multiply upon the earth. This was an act of blessing. The ability to act out the will of God is the highest blessing to be obtained.

DAY SIX // VERSES 24-25

We will conclude this lengthy section of study by only looking at the first act of creation on the sixth day. The creation of man will be discussed in the remainder of chapter one and almost the entirety of chapter two. That said God’s first creation on day six was to fill the dry land with creatures. As with the vegetation and the creatures from day five, God creates all kinds of land animals at once. Three kinds of land animals are listed here: livestock, creeping things, and wild beasts. Since these verses are presenting the theological point of God creating all the land creatures, there is no reason to believe that all animals are meant to exhaustively fall into one of the three categories. The message is clearly that God created all animals, and we are not able to compromise on that point.


[1] Calvin, John. Calvin’s Complete Bible Commentary. This quotation can be found under the heading of verse three. I am not able to provide an exact page number since the version being used is electronic.

[2] Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis. p. 126.

a thought on Babel & the Great Commission

So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth.Through the act of confusing their language, God dispersed everyone across the whole earth. (Genesis 11:8-9 ESV)

In the end, God’s sovereign will must be done, through either obedience or judgment. For the men at Babel, it came through judgment.

And the ramifications of this judgment are significant. Since only five or so generations from Noah had passed, there would have likely been a strong familial bond between the people of the city. Yet in one swift act of God, the relatives that each man had known for centuries were suddenly speaking gibberish. With no way of communicating with one another the people left Babel by families to form the nations and groups seen in the Table of Nations (Gen. 10).

The city was then called Babel because it sounds like the Hebrew verb for “to confuse.” However, throughout the Old Testament, Babel is the name used for the city of Babylon. Just as Babel is here associated with sin, so Babylon is known as a representation of wickedness.

Since the division of languages is a judgment of God, they stand today as a reminder of sin and its consequences. We are no longer able to communicate with everyone that we encounter because of the depravity of the human heart.

However, human sin does not have the final word.

Zephaniah 3:9-13 speaks of God reuniting the human tongue under one language:

For at that time I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech, that all of them may call upon the name of the LORD and serve him with one accord.

Furthermore, the speaking in tongues in Acts 2 seems to anticipate the undoing of the judgment at Babel.

Indeed, it is only in Christ that people are able to truly unite without the devastating effects of sin and pride. Jesus has bridged the linguistic and cultural divide, commanding us to reach every ethnicity.

As with the people of Babel, we cannot gather in one place, but the body of Christ unites as it multiplies.

The Church grows together as it disperses among the nations.

And just as their gathering at Babel was contradiction of the divine commission to all humans to fill the earth, so is a Christian who does not seek to fulfill the Great Commission.

The call to make disciples of every ethnicity is the great calling for every Christian.

There is no such thing as a Christian who does not fulfill the Great Commission. Whether it is inches or miles, every follower of Christ will go and make disciples.

It’s fundamental to the Christian identity, and it’s the undoing of Babel.

A Brief Case for Theology (Introduction to Genesis 1-11)

Before beginning our study through the first part of Genesis, I will give reason and explanation for the subtitle. Hopefully, seeing the first book of the Bible as an introduction to the Bible should not require much clarification; however, viewing it as an introduction to theology just might be another story. The first eleven chapters, often called “primeval history”, serve easily as a biblical introduction because nearly every major theme is first presented in them. Likewise, almost all primary doctrines of the Christian faith find their beginning in part one of Genesis. The scale and time covered by these brief chapters is so massive and so epic that there is clearly no individual human to serve as the primary protagonist. In fact, the estimated time covered in these chapters is much greater than the time covered throughout the remainder of the Bible (from Genesis 12 to the writing of Revelation). Because of this, we are forced to focus upon the ultimate protagonist of the entire Bible: God. After all, since God stood preeminent and eternally existent before anything was created, it is right that our study, and our very lives, would revolve entirely around Him.

This is why we must study theology. We do not study it for the sake of earning a degree in higher education. We do not even need to be concerned about being formally educated in theology at all. Our only concern should be that we accurately and biblically study theology to the best of our ability because theology is the study of God. The persistent lifelong, generation-spanning quest to know more of God is the heart of theology. It is a contradiction for a Christian to hate theology since that would mean the hatred of learning more of God. Likewise, it is impossible for a true Christian to never be theological as every topic concerning God falls within the realm of theology. If I speak of obsessive-compulsive disorder, I am talking about an aspect of psychology. Moreover, since I am speaking about psychology, the only question to ask is whether I know anything about psychology or not. The same is true with theology. Any conversation about God is theological by nature. The only question left to be asked is whether we are being orthodox or heretical.

Therefore, in order to conclusively define orthodox theology, we turn to the Bible, the revealed Word of God to humanity. The Bible is primarily theological in nature because, at its core, God is the hero, thesis, and goal of all Scripture. It is true that the Bible contains many differing styles of literature that can serve a variety of purposes. Wisdom literature like Proverbs can practically guide one to living a much more satisfying life. The poetry of the Psalms and the prose of Jonah and Esther can be endlessly studied by students of literature. Books like Joshua and Samuel give robust history of the nation of Israel. Even deep philosophical ponderings are present in books like Job and Ecclesiastes! However, though the Bible covers a myriad of topics and subjects, God eclipses them all. Though containing history and literature, it is not primarily a book of history or literature, but rather it is the book of God. And since the Bible is the inspired Word of God, it is the only definitive means by which we can come to know God more. Thus, we can go nowhere else to properly get to know God.

These first eleven chapters of Genesis, therefore, serve as the perfect introduction to both the Bible and to theology. As such, the central aim of this study will be to know more of God through the studying of Scripture. We will see how many of God’s attributes are first introduced to humanity, and how God intended humans to behave and relate to Himself, each other, and the world around us. Four monumental events that shaped all of human existence (Creation, Fall, Flood, and Babel) will be the primary focus, as God’s power, justice, love, wrath, and grace are displayed. My prayer, however, is that none of this will become mere knowledge for the sake of knowing, but rather that in knowing more of the character and attributes of God, we will be led to a deeper and more intimate love for Him. After all, this must always be our goal in studying Scripture: to know God more so that we may love Him all the more.

In the Beginning, God (Genesis 1:1)

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

Genesis 1:1 ESV

 

For a sentence containing only ten words, the first verse of the Bible contains possibly the deepest and richest meaning of any statement in human language. There is simply no more profound a way of beginning the written Word of God. It is my aim, therefore, that as we analyze the ramifications and implications of this verse we will be swept away by the enormity of God’s wonder and glory. The cavern of this verse is deep and mysterious, but ultimately it is breath-taking and worth the plunge into its depths.

IN THE BEGINNING

The opening clause of this verse is from whence Genesis receives its title, since genesis means beginnings. Thus, the narrative of the Bible opens at the very beginning of creation. This means that the scope of the Bible is unbelievably epic. We learn in composition class that every good story or paper must have a beginning, middle, and end; however, very few stories ever start at the very beginning of the universe and everything in it.

What exactly does this mean for the Bible? It means that Scripture is intricately intertwined with existence itself. The Bible is not simply sixty-six books of moral guidelines or fanciful stories; it is the very word of the eternal God, who transcends all of existence. This seemingly simple phrase ought to completely shape the magnitude of wonder with which we read Scripture.

GOD CREATED

Within the heart of this verse, God is firmly established as the sole subject and, therefore, the verse’s sole focus. God’s primacy in being mentioned serves to establish His superiority over every other subject that will be mentioned henceforth. This verse must serve as a reminder that God is the protagonist of the Bible and of everything else. Everything begins with God because God is the beginner, shaper, and goal of all things. It is interesting to note here that Moses does not open with a philosophical or scientific argument for the existence of God. He does not introduce God with a high work of apologetics. Instead, God is simply declared as fact; take it or leave it. The only concern of this verse, and Genesis as a whole, is who God is and what He has done. Obviously, our ability to discern the nature of God is fairly limited within the context of this individual verse; however, I believe that much more can be learned than most people realize from these ten words. First, we are told that the first act which began existence was God’s creating. In order for God to initiate creation in the beginning, God must have been present before the beginning. This means that God stands outside of all existence; He is eternally separate and unique from everything else that has existed, does exist, or will ever exist. God is unique. Simply put, all things in existence can be divided into two categories: created and not created. God is the only one in the not created category. This means that God is entirely unfamiliar to us; His nature is incomprehensible. There is nothing to which we can compare God for reference that would remotely do Him justice. If this thought is beginning to sound quite hopeless, then we are on the right track toward understanding something of God. The transcendence and incomprehensibility of God ought to make our quest to know God feel hopeless because it is only through that lens of hopelessness that we see the beauty of Scripture. How glorious that God would give us a written account of who He is so that we might be able to at least begin our understanding of Him! Yet the good news does not stop with the Scriptures either. Not only did God provide us with His written Word; He also sent us His embodied Word. Because of the miracle of the incarnation, God became a man and dwelt among us. Jesus Christ is the only one of whom the Father is able to say, “I am like Him.” Christ is the “exact imprint” of God’s nature and “the image of the invisible.”[1] In the bleak chasm of God’s incomprehensibility, Jesus Christ shines forth in the radiance of the Father, so that we might better know God through the mediation and display of His glory in Christ.

We must also note the word for God used in this verse: Elohim. This is one of the two primary names of God used in the Scripture; thus, it is important that we understand what is meant by it. Interestingly enough, Elohim is actually the plural form of the word El, which appears to be in direct contradiction of Christianity’s monotheism. However, Hebrew is one of the few languages that sometimes uses plural as a means of amplification. Therefore, Elohim, when used of God, emphasizes the complete, totality of God’s supremacy. Elohim declares that the one true God is far greater than all other false gods together. This name is meant to display the transcendence and majesty of God over all His creation. Elohim is beyond comprehension.

THE HEAVENS AND THE EARTH

This phrase is a merism, a figure of speech which means much more than is explicitly stated. Ancient Hebrew had no designated word for universe, so they would simply refer to everything that existed as all that they knew to exist, which was the earth and the heavens. While the immediate meaning of heavens was most likely closer to our word “sky”, the phrase encompasses all of the cosmos as well. To be fair, English also has merisms. When we have thoroughly searched for something, we might say that we searched “high and low”. Of course, we don’t explicitly mean that we only searched in high and low places, but rather we search high, low, and everywhere in between. Similarly, God created the earth, heavens, and everything else that might exist. God created everything.

[1] Hebrews 1:3; Colossians 1:15