While it can be easy to speed past a statement like "in the beginning," these three words should suggest something very important to anyone who is reading the book of Genesis carefully.
For example, most people would probably read Genesis 1:1 and automatically assume that God only created "the heavens and the earth" right? But let's back up for a moment- what about that "in the beginning" part. What does that imply to you?
Well, remember that you can't talk about the "beginning" of something without assuming the existence of time. Now perhaps you've never really thought about this, but "time" represents a lot more than watches and clocks and calendars. Time is a "continuous, measurable quantity in which events occur in a sequence proceeding from the past through the present to the future." (1) It's also been jokingly said that "time" is the way that God keeps everything from happening all at once.
So why is this such a big deal? Well, "In the beginning..." means that the Scriptures don't support the belief that the world or the universe is eternal and has always existed. Instead of an eternal universe, the Bible teaches instead that the universe and everything within it had a beginning that you can read about in Genesis 1:1.
So who or what caused this beginning? Well, that part comes next: "In the beginning God..." Outside this universal starting point is a being known as God. This tells us that God is not a part of creation but is separate and distinct from it. Unlike those who believe that "God is everything and everything is God," the Scriptures instead confirm that God is a Being that exists apart from the created universe.
While Genesis 1:1 may not appear to give us very much information about who this God is or what this God is like, a look behind the scenes at the original language used to author the book of Genesis provides us with some additional information. You see, the word translated "God" in Genesis 1:1 is the Hebrew word Elohim (ell-oh-heem), a word that's used over 2700 times in the Old Testament and more than 30 times in Genesis chapter one alone.
This word Elohim is a two-part word; the first part, "El" means "strong, great or mighty." The "im" portion indicates a plural quantity and is somewhat similar to our use of the letter "s" in a word to indicate an amount that is greater than one.
However, one of the interesting things about this plural word Elohim is that the Scriptures use it in a singular manner when speaking of God. Because of this, Elohim has been called a "uniplural" word- it refers to "one" but more than one. (2)
"time." The American Heritage® Science
Dictionary. Houghton Mifflin Company. 04 Mar. 2008.
(2) See "Elohim, 'God'" INTERNATIONAL STANDARD BIBLE ENCYCLOPAEDIA Electronic Database Copyright © 1995-1996, 2003 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.
Of course, it's natural to question how something like this could be possible. How could God possibly be one yet more than one at the same time? After all, isn't it a contradiction to say that something can be one yet more than one at the same time? If so, then how can we make sense of what seems to be an obvious contradiction?
Well, if we were to say that God is one being and more than one being at the same time and in the same way, then that would be a definitely be a contradiction. But if we were to say that God is one in substance (or essence) and one or more in persons, then the contradiction goes away. If this is still a little difficult to understand then it might help to look at the idea of marriage as an illustration.
When a man and a woman get married, they still maintain their individual identities yet they both have become one (see Genesis 2:24). In a similar way, the use of the word Elohim in the Scriptures tells us that God is one, yet more than one.
This truth about God is further developed later on in the Bible where we're told that God is One (Deuteronomy 6:4) and that the Father is God (John 6:27), the Son is God (Hebrews 1:8), and the Holy Spirit is God (Acts 5:3-4). This Biblical teaching has lead us to the understanding that the God of the Scriptures is a unity subsisting in three Persons. (1)
So with that, let's see what we have in Genesis 1:1 so far:
What's next? Well, "In the beginning God created...." Now there are many different ways to create things but one thing that's common to every human creation is the fact that each one has been made from something that already existed. For example, an inventor, an artist, or a designer may create something new and unique but that creation (whatever it may be) is always fashioned from materials that are already in existence.
However, the word used to describe God's act of creation in Genesis 1:1 is a word that means to create something out of nothing. (2) This means that God brought things into existence that didn't exist before He created them.
In other words, there were no raw materials, no building blocks, no primordial soup, and no pre-existent matter of any kind before Genesis 1:1. Everything that God created was fresh, new, and totally without any previous existence.
God's act of creation in Genesis 1:1 also undercuts something that many people believe today- the idea that the universe came into existence through random chance. The problem with this theory is that there is no possibility that "chance" brought the universe (or anything else) into existence when you take the time to really look into it.
(1) Dr. Gleason Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties © 1982, The Zondervan Corporation
word used in the original language of Genesis is the
Hebrew word bara meaning, to create, (to)
make."...Only God can "create" in the sense implied
by bara. The verb expresses creation out of
nothing..." (from Vine's Expository Dictionary of
Biblical Words, Copyright © 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers.)
Generally speaking, there are two different explanations that people often use to explain the origin of life. The first approach would be to say that the universe and life started with the work of an "intelligent designer" or a being that planned and created the cosmos and living things.
This "intelligent design" theory doesn't necessarily say that the God of the Scriptures is responsible for creating everything, but this approach does fit in with a Biblical worldview for the most part.
The second theory generally says that the universe and life originated through random chance and that human beings are the product of evolutionary development without the involvement of "God" or any other intelligent designer.
Both of these models seek to answer the question, "How did the universe and life begin?" The person who accepts the first approach can find the answer to that question right here in Genesis chapter 1. On the other hand, the person who accepts the random chance/evolutionary development model faces some important challenges.
For example, when someone who believes in a "random chance" theory of origin is asked, "How did the universe and life begin?" a common response would be that the universe started with the so-called "Big Bang." This "Big Bang" theory is a theory of origins which states that the universe began as a tremendously dense, hot point of matter and then expanded from that point to eventually become the universe that exists today.
Now the Big Bang theory is not necessarily a bad or wrong theory. In fact, the "Big Bang" theory has been accepted by many people precisely because it explains the observable evidence very well. The problem for us is that this theory doesn't really answer the question of how life and the universe began because we can simply back up one step and say, "OK, so what caused the Big Bang?" (1)
In other words, if the universe began with a "big bang" of a tremendously hot, dense point of matter, then where did that matter come from? And who or what lit the fuse that caused the "big bang" to happen in the first place? If we say that nothing existed before the Big Bang, then we still have a problem because the next question will be, "Then how did it happen?"
You see, the idea that nothing can produce "something" like the Big Bang can't possibly be true since “nothing” cannot do anything. In fact, “nothing” doesn’t even exist! Because of this, it's impossible to say that nothing existed prior to the Big Bang- something must have been there first in order to cause it to happen.Think about it like this: If there ever was a time when absolutely nothing existed, then what could possibly exist now? The answer to that question has to be nothing. So to say that the universe started with the Big Bang doesn't really answer our question.
Now at this point, someone might say, “Well, isn’t it possible that the universe came into existence through random chance?” This is a common belief held by many people and it states that the universe came into existence through a totally arbitrary (or random) process. The idea is that -given a timeless eternity- the probability of our universe coming into existence through a process of random chance is pretty good.
But let’s think for a moment- what ability does “random chance” really have to bring the universe into existence? Well first, let's think about the meaning of the word "chance" in this context. When used in this way, the word "chance" describes the likelihood of something happening. To put it another way, the word "chance" conveys the statistical probability that something will occur.
These definitions are good on their own, but here's the issue: the problem with saying that the universe came into existence by chance is that chance by itself can't do anything.
Here's an illustration that helps explain why. Let’s say that two people decide to play a card game. Person number one shuffles the card deck and then randomly deals a number of cards to person number two. Now here's the question: what ability did “chance” have to influence the cards that were dealt to person number two? Did "random chance” have any ability to manipulate or control the cards that person number two received? Did “random chance” have any power to make person number two receive one particular card instead of another?
Well, of course the answer is no. Chance simply describes the statistical probability that one type of card will be dealt instead of another. In the same way, this illustration helps to explain why "random chance" cannot be responsible for the existence of the universe and life. Chance doesn't make things happen- it only describes the probability that something will happen.
Here's another way to demonstrate this idea. Let's imagine that someone is about to flip a coin into the air. When someone flips a coin in the air, the chance that it will land on "heads" is 50%, right? However, "chance" doesn't make that coin land on heads. What will make that coin land on heads is determined by many different things.
For example, the coin's landing will be affected by the size, shape, and weight of the coin as well as the number of revolutions that it makes after it is flipped. It will be affected by the environment that exists where the coin is flipped. It will be affected by the decision to catch the coin or let it fall to the ground. If the coin is caught, it will be affected by where it is caught and whether it is flipped over after it is caught. If it falls to the ground, it will be affected by the surface features of the ground where it lands.
The point is that "chance" will not make a coin land on heads or tails- that will be determined by many different factors as we've just seen. Chance only describes the statistical probability that a coin will land in a particular way.
In the same way, the idea that “random chance” brought the universe into existence is an impossibility because chance has no ability to “do” anything.
Despite the fact that the first verse of the Bible is only ten words in length, we've already seen that it tells us quite a bit about time, the nature of God, and how God brought things into existence that never existed previously. Now it's time to begin our look at what God created...
"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1).
In this context, the word "heavens" refers to the place where the sun, moon, and stars exist, or what we might call "outer space" today. (1) Now when people speak of "outer space," it's natural to think of objects like stars, planets, or other luminous bodies that are visible in the night time sky.
But notice that Genesis 1:1 doesn't actually refer to any celestial bodies- it's just "the heavens." So it seems as if the universe has been brought into existence in Genesis 1:1 but there isn't anything "inside" it yet.
Now a phrase like "...the heavens..." is something that's easy to say but almost impossible to fully grasp and understand. To illustrate why, just think about this: if you were able to travel at the speed of light (which is 186,000 miles per second [299,000 kps] or 700 million miles per hour) it would take about seven light-hours just to reach the edge of our solar system. At that speed, it would take over 100,000 years just for someone to travel across our own Milky Way galaxy.
But let's say that you wanted to stop and visit each of the estimated 100 billion stars within the Milky Way. If you were able to travel within our galaxy and visit one new star per hour, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, it would take over 12 million years to visit each one. Yet the Milky Way is just one of billions of other galaxies in the known universe. This helps to give us an idea of the tremendous size of the area that God brought into existence in Genesis 1:1.
So the very first sentence of Genesis tells us some important things about how everything in our universe got started. To rephrase this verse using 21st century terminology, we might say that Genesis 1:1 describes God's creation of time, space, and matter. It's also been speculated that Genesis 1:1 simply records God's creation of the materials and elements that He will use to assemble the rest of creation in the days to come- but more on this in a moment...
"Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters" (Genesis 1:2).
Other versions of Genesis 1:2 tell us that the earth that existed at this point was "...without form and void..." (NKJV) or "...a shapeless, chaotic mass..." (LB). This would seem to support the idea that Genesis 1:1 describes how God generated the basic elements of what would later become creation as we know it.
To put this another way, we could say that the raw materials of creation were in existence during this phase but were apparently suspended in a kind of fluid state without any structure or organization. But while it appears that God's creation was fluid and unformed at this early stage, the earth was still somehow separate and distinct from everything else.
(1) The term "heavens" can also refer to the area within the earth's atmosphere or the place where God dwells depending on how it is used
The use of terms like "darkness" and "...the deep..." implies that God's creation existed at this stage as a watery, shapeless jumble in a vacant universe- no stars, no planets, no people, no energy, no light. Verse two then goes on to lay the foundation for the next step on this road to creation: "the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters."
This verse provides us with the very first mention of the Holy Spirit found within the Bible. Now you may remember that the word that is used for "God" in Genesis 1:1 is the word Elohim which refers to "one" but more than one. Elohim is a plural word that's used in a singular manner with respect to God. Now we get a glimpse of this "One yet more than one" nature implied by the word Elohim in this reference to the Spirit of God.
This action taken by the Spirit of God is described by the word "hover" or "move" as it's seen in different Biblical versions. This word indicates a kind of rapid, back and forth movement and is translated as "flutter" (Deuteronomy 32:11) or "shake" (Jeremiah 23:9) in other portions of the Bible. Whatever this particular action refers to, it appears that it is somehow connected with God's next act of creation...
"And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light" (Genesis 1:3).
This phrase, "And God said..." appears multiple times in Genesis chapter one and it literally means to exist, become, (to) come to pass. In other words, God said something and that "something" got done immediately. While the creation of visible light is certainly the central idea of this verse, we should take a moment to remember that there's a lot more to light than what we can actually see.
Visible light is just one part of the electromagnetic spectrum and a statement like "Let there be light..." might also be understood to account for the existence of things like gamma rays, x-rays, ultraviolet radiation, infrared radiation, microwaves and radio waves. In fact, one commentator has even said, "The statement 'Let there be light' may mean 'Let there be energy of all wavelengths and in all forms.'" (1)
So after creating time, space, and matter in verse one, God calls light or "energy" into existence in verse three. While the famous inventor Thomas Edison made hundreds of attempts before he was able to successfully create one light bulb, the Scriptures tell us that God commanded light to come into reality on the very first try.
(1) Lambert Dolphin What is Light? http://ldolphin.org/light.htmlVII
saw that the light
was good, and he separated the light from the darkness" (Genesis 1:4
So Genesis 1:4 tells us that this new creation was “good.” In other words, the work that God performed served the exact purpose that He intended for it.
Now at this point, we should probably stop and recognize the fact that many people find the creation account that we see in these verses as something that's very difficult to believe. However, Genesis' explanation for how everything got started really shouldn't be a problem for anyone who accepts the idea that "God" exists.
After all, a God who is truly God should have the ability to do the things that we see in the first four verses of Genesis chapter one. On the other hand, a "god" that couldn't create things like space, time, matter, and energy out of nothing wouldn't be really a god at all.
Such a "god"
would be more like a comic book superhero- a being with special
nothing more than that. So if you accept the existence of
you should really have no problem with the creation account that we see
first four verses of Genesis chapter one.
However, verse five definitely presents some very interesting
and challenging things…
called the light 'day,' and the darkness he called 'night.' And there
was evening, and there was morning — the first day" (Genesis 1:5 NIV).
OK, so God called the light "day," and the darkness "night" -sounds pretty harmless, right? Well, this verse might not sound like a big deal until you really start thinking about it. Let's illustrate this by asking a simple question: what is a "day?"
you asked most people to define the word "day," you would
probably get an answer that agrees with the common dictionary
definition of this
word: "the period of light between dawn and nightfall; the
sunrise to sunset." (1) So
with this definition of a "day" in mind, can you identify a critical
element that's missing
from Genesis 1:5?
In case you haven't guessed it by now, the critical element that's missing in this verse would be the sun. Remember that at this point in creation, the sun does not yet exist. In fact, if you read ahead to Genesis 1:14, you'll find that the sun isn't even created until creation day number four.So how can there be " daytime" without the sun? After all, it seems kind of impossible to have a sunrise and a sunset without a sun, right? And even if there was light without the sun, how could there be things like "evening and morning?" These are all good questions, but fortunately, we also have some good answers.
Why is this second, more precise definition important? Well, remember that the earth was a kind of large, unformed mass at this stage in its development. If the earth was a stationary (or motionless) mass at this point, then it would be very difficult to understand how things like “day” and “night” could exist. However, notice that the Bible doesn't say that this unformed mass was unmoving or set in position.
If this shapeless, unformed earth-mass was spinning on an axis as it does today, then any external light source could produce a "daytime" and a "night time." In other words, if God provided a source of light upon the earth as it rotated, then it would be possible to have a day and a night even if that light didn't come from the sun.
So let’s say that the unformed earth that we read about in
Genesis 1:4 rotated at the same 1070 mph (1722 kph) speed that it does
today. If this was the case, then the sequence of time that we would
describe as morning, daytime, evening, and night time could also exist
even though the planet is still "under construction" at this point.
So it appears that God provided some sort of
external light source that illuminated the partially formed earth as it
turned, much as a potter might illuminate a piece of clay while shaping
it upon a wheel.
So it appears that God provided some sort of external light source that illuminated the partially formed earth as it turned, much as a potter might illuminate a piece of clay while shaping it upon a wheel.
But this verse also brings up another question that's almost guaranteed to start a major argument when people start trying to answer it. You see, Genesis 1:5 ends with the words, "...And there was evening, and there was morning — the first day" just as we saw quoted above. Later on, Genesis 2:2 goes tells us that, “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing…” (NIV). When you do the math, this says that God finished His total work of creation in six days.
Now God doesn't need six days to do anything, so the first thing we might be tempted to ask is why God took six days to do something that He could have easily accomplished in less than a second.
But since the Scriptures are pretty clear on this point, let's instead concentrate on this: does the book of Genesis teach that God literally completed all His creation work in six individual 24 hour periods? To be more exact, did God actually create things like time, space, matter, energy and everything else in six separate 23 hour, 56 minute, and 4.09 second lengths of time?
This is a question that people have been discussing and debating for a long, long time and so far, no one has been able to come up with one answer that everyone can agree on. However, the good news is that scholar-types have some interesting ways to address this question and we'll look at some of those possibilities next.(1) The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition.
The original word that's translated "day" in Genesis 1:5 is the Hebrew word yom. When this word appears in the Old Testament, it is translated for us in the following ways...
So it's clear that this word can have many different meanings depending on the context where it is used. However, we should notice that this word most often refers to what we know as a standard, 24 hour day. That's the way it's translated in a large majority of Biblical verses, just as we see above. However, it's also true that this word can refer to extended periods of time. We can see many examples of this usage in the references given above as well.
This has lead scholar-types to take two basic positions regarding the amount of time that God took during the creation of the world. The first position says that God completed His creation work in six actual 24 hours days, just as we normally understand the word "day" today. The second position states that God finished His creation work in six separate "ages" of time. This second theory is sometimes known as the "Day-Age" theory because it interprets the word "yom" as a reference to an age or extended length of time.So which one is it? Does Genesis 1:5 refer to a single 24 hour period of time or does it refer to something more? Well, we'll look at some possible answers to that question next:.
Arguments In Favor Of a 24 Hour Creation Day
Arguments In Favor Of The
When the Old Testament word for “day” is paired with a number in the Bible, it always refers to a literal 24 hour period of time.
“seventh day of rest” (Genesis 2:2) still continues
Terms like “evening” and “morning” don’t hold any real meaning if we define a day as an "extended period of time."
Light from distant stars
and galaxies that are thousands of light-years away must have had long
periods of time to reach the Earth .
God specifically associates the “seventh day” with the Sabbath day (Exodus 31:14-15) which is an actual, literal 24 hour period.
“With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and
a thousand years are like a day” (2 Peter 3:8).
It’s been said that if a passage of Scripture makes good sense, then we should accept it as it is -otherwise we may end up with nonsense. So when looking at God's creation Genesis chapter 1, we should acknowledge that the most basic, direct, and straightforward meaning is that God created everything in six days just as we commonly understand that word today.
We shouldn’t automatically assume that time now is exactly the same as it was during the creation period. 2 Peter 3:4 implies that it can be a big mistake to assume that “…everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation." We also know today that time can be affected by things like mass, acceleration, and gravity. These advancements in knowledge tell us that God has allowed for too many variables to be totally sure.
So there seems to be some good arguments on both sides of this question and believe it or not, it's possible that God specifically designed it that way. You see, the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes says this in chapter 3, verse eleven (3:11)...
"(God) has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end."
This may explain why it has been so difficult (if not impossible) to come up with one definite answer that satisfies everyone on this question. Remember that Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us that "...people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end" (emphasis added).
For our purposes, we can apply this verse to our question by saying that it's impossible for limited human beings to have a complete and total understanding of how and why everything happened during the creation period.
In other words, God has given us some of the information that we need to answer this question but not necessarily all of the information. We simply don't have all the evidence that we need to give an absolutely definite answer one way or the other.
Up to this point, the book of Genesis has described the earth as nothing more than a kind of watery mass spinning around in space. Now that's about to change because verses six and seven go on to describe the next stage in earth's development...
"And God said, 'Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water.' So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. God called the expanse 'sky.' And there was evening, and there was morning--the second day" (Genesis 1:6-7).
The word expanse seen above is sometimes translated as firmament in other versions of the Bible. We can illustrate the meaning of this word by using the image of a sheet that has been opened and stretched or spread out.
So in stretching out this expanse that separates the water above from the water below, the Scriptures appear to describe the creation of what we know today as earth's atmosphere. While the Bible does not go into great detail in describing the atmospheric layers that lie between this planet and outer space, this description would also likely include the elements that make up our atmosphere like oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, etc.
Genesis 1:8 tells us that God called this expanse "sky." The word used for "sky" in the original language of the Old Testament is also translated as "heaven" in other Biblical versions. This word has three different meanings depending on the context where it's found.
For example, this word may refer to the place where God dwells, a place outside the physical universe. It also can be used to describe the area where the stars and planets are, a place that we would call "outer space" today.
Finally, this word can also be used as a reference to the area within the earth's atmosphere directly above the ground. This third meaning is the one that Genesis 1:8 refers to.
It's likely that the atmosphere that's described in Genesis 1:8 was very different from the one that we know today. One clue that things were very different back then comes from Genesis 2:5 where we're told that "...the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth." This has lead many scholar-types to suspect that a layer of mist or water vapor also covered the earth at this time- but we'll talk more about that later on.
"And God said, 'Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.' And it was so. God called the dry ground "land," and the gathered waters he called "seas." And God saw that it was good" (Genesis 1:9-10).
If we could take an educated guess, we could say that it's possible that the elements that God used to create the dry land in these verses were either dissolved or suspended in the waters that remained after God separated some of them to form the atmosphere.
This is a good possibility because the word for "land" in verse 10 is the same word that's used for "earth" in Genesis 1:1 where we read that, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."
So it seems that God began to combine these elements in various ways to form the earth. The end result was a planet with three main parts: an inner core which is surrounded by a mantle and an outer crust. The Scriptures don't tell us about the method that God used to accomplish this, but we do know that the individual continents as we know them today did not exist at this time.
We can say this because the Scriptures specifically tell us that God commanded the "...water under the sky be gathered to one place and let dry ground appear" (emphasis added). So we can say that at this stage of the earth's development, all the dry land was in one area and all of the earth's waters were in another area.
We then get some more activity in verse 11...
"Then God said, 'Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.' And it was so."
"The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning--the third day" (Genesis 1:11-13).
If you've been reading carefully, you'll notice that something happens in these verses that hasn't happened with the other aspects of God's creation that we've seen so far. You see, everything that has been created up to this point has been specifically called into existence by God. But in these verses, notice that God doesn't directly create these trees and the plants- He has them produced from the ground that He has already created.
What's the importance of this? Well, this tells us that we can't automatically assume that God always does things in the same way. In other words, just because God has done something one way in the past doesn't necessarily mean that He's going to use that exact same method again in the future.
Remember that God reserves the right to move forward in ways that may seem unexpected. This is true whether His objective includes something as large as the creation of the world or as small as working out His individual plan for someone's life.
So we find that Genesis 1:11-13 describes three general categories that cover all growing, living plant life. First there are the ground covering plants and vegetation. This includes things like grass, moss, algae, mushrooms and fungi.
Next, we have "Plants bearing seed." This covers other plant life like vegetables, grain plants, bushes, shrubs, and flowers. Then we have the final classification of larger fruit-producing trees. This refers to larger wooden plants with cones, nuts, berries, fruit and so forth. Each of these categories represent many tremendously complex living organisms -and none of them existed until God said so.
XIIISo far, we've seen God create things like time, space, and matter during our look at Genesis chapter one. We've also seen God create a planet with dry land areas from a watery, formless beginning. Along the way we've also seen the addition of an atmosphere along with a large variety of plant life. Now it's time to provide a physical source for the light that God has already created...
"And God said, 'Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth.' And it was so. God made two great lights--the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night" (Genesis 1:14-16a).
So here we find that God created two great lights- a larger, brighter light for the daytime and a secondary light to illuminate the night. These references are pretty obvious and someone doesn't need to be a genius to figure out that this refers to the creation of the sun and moon.
Now it's probably true that most people don't think about the sun or moon very much as they go about their daily lives unless the weather somehow interferes with their plans. This means that it can be very easy to rush past these verses without really taking the time to consider the incredible work of creation that God performs here.
For example, let's think about the sun for a moment. The interior regions of the sun are at least 10 million degrees Fahrenheit and it's diameter is approximately 870,000 miles (1.4 million km). This means that you could fit about one million earth-sized planets inside the diameter of the sun.
The sun is also 93 million miles (150 million km) away from the Earth. If you were able to drive that distance in a car traveling at 60 miles an hour (97 kph), it would take you approximately 176 years to make the trip.
While this 93 million mile distance may sound like a lot, if the sun were any closer to Earth then life on this planet might be more like living on the planet Venus where the average surface temperature is a toasty 875 degrees f (468 c). On the other hand, if the sun was farther away, living on Earth would be more like living on Mars where the surface temperatures can get down to -200 degrees f (-129 c). So the sun is placed in just the right location to make the planet Earth suitable for human life.
How about the moon? Well, the moon is about 240,000 miles (386,000 km) away from the Earth. This happens to be just the right distance to provide enough gravitational pull to produce the tides that help keep the Earth's oceans from growing stagnant.
If the moon was smaller or farther way, there would be no tides and the Earth's oceans would be more like swamps. If the moon was larger or closer, many coastal cities would be under water for a large part of each day due to the increased gravitational pull. So just as we see with the sun, the moon is also strategically located in a way that's just right for human life.XIV
While the sun and moon provide things like heat, light and important gravitational effects, they also provide something else that's easy to overlook. That "something else" is found in verse 14: "...let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years."
Now this might not seem like a very significant verse but it actually serves as an important example of how people can avoid mistakes by simply reading the God's Word and applying it in their lives.
You see, think about the large number of people who manage and coordinate their lives through the use of astrology, or the belief that the movement and arrangement of the stars and planets have an impact on human events. Such people believe that once the sun or moon is arranged in a particular manner with other stars or planets, then certain things are likely to occur.
However, Genesis 1:14 tells us that the sun and moon don't exist to predict or foretell future events as astrology would have you believe. Instead, the sun and moon have a part to play in helping people measure things like time or direction. In astrology, the sun, moon, stars, and planets are thought to have control over the events in people's lives.
But the Scriptures instead tell us that the sun and moon are there to help assist people, not to control the events surrounding their lives. They help people by serving as a clock, a compass, and a calendar all in one.
Now before we move on, we should also look at something else concerning the way that the sun and moon are described in Genesis chapter one. You may remember that Genesis 1:16 says, "...God made two great lights-- the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night." The greater light, of course is the sun which can certainly be called a light.
However, the moon (which is referred to as the "lesser light") isn't really a light at all, is it? In fact, humanity has known for many years that the moon is simply a reflector of the light that's provided by the sun. So if the Bible refers to the moon as a "light," does that mean that the Bible is in error?
Well, this is one of those instances where we need to dig a little to come up with the right answer. Here's why: if you research the word for "light" that's used in the original language of these verses, you'll find that it refers to "light (as an element) or luminous body." (1)
As it turns out, both of these definitions fit perfectly with the way that the sun and moon are described for us in Genesis chapter one. The sun serves as a basic source of light or "light as an element." The moon serves as a "luminous body" that reflects the light from the sun and illuminates the night.
This is a good reminder that a possible explanation exists for every difficult passage found within the Scriptures. When you are confronted with some apparent contradiction in the Bible, just remember that there is always a possible answer- you just have to find it.
(1) Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary
"He also made the stars. God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning--the fourth day" ( Genesis 1:16b- 19 NIV).
It might be said that no other sentence in the Bible packs more meaning into fewer words than, "He also made the stars."
For those who don't have any real interest in the stars, it may be easy to read a sentence like, "...He also made the stars" and quickly move on. But let's stop and for a moment and imagine that we could get into a car and drive across the heavens just as easily as we might drive across town. What would that tell us about a statement like, "He also made the stars."
If we could do that, our departure of course, would be from here on earth. Our travel would not be measured in miles or kilometers but in light-years, or the distance that's traveled by light in one year at 186,000 miles per second (or 299,000 kilometers per second). Our trip would begin with a drive through our own celestial "neighborhood" or the planetary community that consists of the other worlds that orbit our sun like Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and so forth. As we reach the outermost planet in our solar system, our distance would be about seven light-hours away from home.
As we move away from our solar system on our trip across the heavens, we would then begin to travel through the galaxy to which our solar system belongs -the Milky Way galaxy. The Milky Way galaxy (like all galaxies) is a large independent system of stars. The closest star in the Milky Way to our own solar system would be Alpha Centauri at 4.3 light-years away. That doesn't sound too far away, right? Unfortunately, we would need to use up the equivalent of all the electrical power that the United States produces for one million years in order to have the ability to travel that distance in 4.3 light-years.
But if we were able to continue our trip across the heavens, we would eventually move out beyond the Milky Way galaxy. Perhaps we could return sometime to visit some of the other 100 billion stars contained within the Milky Way, but as we said earlier, we would need plenty of time to do that.
You see, if we were to visit one new star every hour, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, it would take over 12 million years to visit every star in the Milky Way. That's what God has created has just within our own galaxy.
We are now 100,000 light-years from home.XVI
As we move out beyond the Milky Way, we would begin to encounter other galaxies, each with it's own collection of billions of stars. There are elliptical galaxies that are shaped somewhat like American footballs. There are disk galaxies that are shaped somewhat like celestial Frisbees. There are spiral galaxies, like our own Milky Way that are similar in appearance to the cutting blades inside a food processor.
In fact, astronomers believe that there could be 100 billion major galaxies within the range of current telescope technology, with a total number of stars estimated to be 1026 power. That would be one hundred million, billion, billion stars.
We are now 15 billion light years from home. No wonder Proverbs 3:19 tells us that, "By wisdom the LORD laid the earth's foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place."
Since we're on this subject, it's also interesting to see how the Bible has predicted some of our most important astronomical discoveries. For example, the idea of an expanding universe is hinted at in the Old Testament...
"It is I who made the earth and created mankind upon it. My own hands stretched out the heavens; I marshaled their starry hosts" (Isaiah 45:12).
The phrase translated "stretched out" means "to stretch forth, to spread out, to extend outward." It can also mean, "to extend in every direction..." or exactly what we believe to be true about our universe's origin today.
Jeremiah 33:22 says, "I will make the descendants of David my servant and the Levites who minister before me as countless as the stars of the sky..." Today, we can estimate the number of starts that exist in the universe but it would be an impossible task to try and count them all. A Biblical statement like "as countless as the stars of the sky" is something that could not have been scientifically confirmed before the age of the telescope, but now has proven to be true.
1 Corinthians 15:41 also tells us that, "There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differs from another star in glory." Today we know that stars differ greatly in color, temperature, and luminosity (or the measurement of the amount of energy given off by each star). There are blue giant stars, red giant stars, white dwarf stars, neutron stars and others.
Today we know that one star differs from another star in glory just as the Scriptures said thousands of years ago. This means that stars are a lot more than just the pinpoints of light in the sky that they might appear to be.
Finally, there is a Scripture found in the Old Testament book that records the messages that God gave to a man named Isaiah. Now you should remember that scholar-types believe that the book of Isaiah was written sometime between 740-680 BC. Yet Isaiah 40:22 tells us that, "He (speaking of God) sits enthroned upon the circle of the earth."
This means that during a time when most people believed that the earth was flat, the Bible instead told people that the earth was really spherical in shape. This was centuries before people generally accepted that fact to be the truth.Psalm 8:3-4 describes the feelings of a writer who says, "When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?" The more we learn about what's "out there," the more impressed we should be with what God has created.
"And God said, 'Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.' So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them and said, 'Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.' And there was evening, and there was morning--the fifth day" (Genesis 1:20-23).
This represents an important change from the previous kinds of life forms that we've already seen God create in the book of Genesis.
You see, both plants and animals fit the dictionary definition that identifies "life" as, "The property or quality that distinguishes living organisms from… inanimate matter, manifested in functions such as metabolism, growth, reproduction, and response to stimuli or adaptation to the environment…" 1 However, there can often be a lot more to life than just the ability to grow, reproduce, and respond to the environment.
Generally speaking, the big difference between the plant life that God created earlier and the animal life that He created in Genesis 1:20-23 involves the existence of things like consciousness or self-awareness. For instance, a flower that grows along a pathway is certainly alive, but it doesn't possess a consciousness.
In other words, a plant doesn't have the ability to make choices and take action. It doesn't possess a mind that can process information and make responses in the way that most birds or sea creatures can. That's one big difference between the kind of life that God created earlier and the kind of life that He created here in verses 20-23.
So verse 20 says, "Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth." Just as we saw earlier with the land-based vegetation that God created, it seems that God apparently worked out exactly what kind of creatures He wanted and how they would function before they ever came into existence.
Notice that there's no description of how God engineered all the different varieties of bird and marine life. We don't read about the complexities of things like feathers or gills. There's no hint of anything like the differences in DNA between these creatures. There's nothing about the nautical principles that permit one type of creature to swim or the aerodynamics that allow another type of creature to fly through the air.
It seems as if God basically said, "This is what I have in mind" and then immediately executed the creation of every single variety of bird and marine animal. Like an artist who "sees" a painting before he or she ever puts a brush on a canvas or a musician who has already worked out the lyrics and chord progressions before producing a song, God made His conception happen in reality.
(1) The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004.XVII
Ordinarily, that would be a good guess, but it turns out that those animals are probably not what this verse refers to.
You see, while it is sometimes translated as "whale" in the Old Testament, the original word used for "creatures" in this verse literally means, "sea monster" or "sea serpent." One more thing- this word is also the word that is most frequently translated as "dragon" in the Old Testament. You can make of that whatever you will.
So first we have all the creation of every kind of living and moving marine creature in the sea. This includes everything from fish to shellfish to squid, turtles, and so forth. This passage also goes on to say that God created "… every winged bird according to its kind." This idea of "according to its kind" is important to understand, especially in light of current evolutionary theory.
"According to its kind" is a phrase that can also mean, according to its species. In other words, this phrase means that each individual kind of creature was genetically distinctive from another. Unlike like evolutionary theory that states that there is a progression from simpler life forms to more complex life forms, Genesis 1:21 tells us that each species is genetically separate and is capable of reproducing only within it's group.
Now with that said, we should recognize that there is a huge difference between things that "evolve" and "evolution" as a concept. For example, we can say from Genesis chapter one that single-celled organisms did not make several stops on the evolutionary ladder on their way to becoming more complex life forms.
Instead, God created each genetic variety of creature separately according to its kind. However, this does not mean that there can't be tremendous variations or adaptations in the development of a particular species.
For instance, there's no question that human beings are not the same today as they once were. On average, human beings are generally taller and heavier than they were 100 years ago. Perhaps the best way to see this is in the evolution of athletes who compete in professional sports.
Today's professional athletes are generally bigger, stronger, and faster than they were in your parent's generation, right? That's because human beings have gradually evolved into better athletes as things like training techniques, exercise methods, and nutrition have improved. But human DNA is still human DNA even though today's professional athletes have evolved into much bigger and stronger athletes than they once were.
The important thing to remember is that while there can be a wide amount of variation in the DNA of various species, one "kind" does not transform into another kind. Its not unusual to see a particular species change and adapt to it's environment over time but a bird is still a bird and a dog is still a dog and a fish is still a fish. This places the Scriptures directly on a collision course with evolutionary theory.
"And God said, 'Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind.' And it was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good" (Genesis 1:24-25).
We've already seen how God created specific life forms to live within the sea and air environments that He made earlier. Now God turns His attention to the creation of those creatures who will live on the land areas that He has produced. If you look closely at Genesis 1:24 you'll find that these land animals are divided into three general classifications...
So this section ends by saying, "And God saw that it was good." Just as we saw with the creation of light, dry land, the sea, plant life, the sun and moon, birds, and marine life, the creation of these land animals perfectly served the purpose for which God created them.
"Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.' So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, 'Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground'" (Genesis 1:26-28).
So now we've finally come to the starting point- the place where everything began for humanity.XX
In saying, "Let us make man..." in Genesis 1:26, the Scriptures tell us that humanity first began with a concept in the mind of God. That means that you, as a human being, were specifically conceived and designed in the mind of God before you ever came to be. This passage also tells us that God had a specific purpose in mind for humanity as well.
These two basic truths are so important that someone's decision to accept or reject them will have a big effect on the direction of that person's life, whether he or she realizes it or not.
You see, there are a many people (including many youth) who feel an overwhelming sense of something called "futility." The word "futility" means "useless and without purpose" (1) and that's how some people view life. They see the world as a place without reason, a place without purpose, and a place without hope for the future.
One possible reason for this is found in the idea that a Creator doesn't really exist and that our own existence is just a product of random chance. If those beliefs are true, then it means that human beings are really nothing more than cosmic accidents. It also implies that everyone came from "nothingness" and then goes back into "nothingness" when they die.
Now anyone who seriously thinks about the meaning of these beliefs must eventually come to terms with an important question: If I came from nothing and then I return to nothing when I die, then what does everything I do in-between add up to? When phrased in this way, the answer to that question ultimately has to be... nothing.
Now most people probably don't walk around all day thinking, If God doesn't exist then life has no meaning. However, that core belief is something that constantly expresses itself through the choices that we make and the way that we feel about life even when we're not always conscious of it.
This is because people act on what they believe even if they don't immediately realize the reasoning behind their actions. If someone believes deep down that life is ultimately pointless, then that belief is sure to eventually lead to actions and feelings that reflect that conviction. (2)
(1) The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition Copyright © 2006 by Houghton Mifflin Company
(2) Someone might respond to this by saying, "Well, if you want to believe that 'God' exists because that belief gives you a sense of meaning and purpose in life, then that's OK for you." But here's the thing: if God doesn't really exist, then any hope or desire for His existence won't make Him real. OTOH, if God does exist, then any hope or desire for His "non-existence" means nothing as well. Either God exists or He doesn't- our thoughts and feelings and desires don't do anything to affect His existence or non-existence.
In Genesis chapter one, we find that out that humanity's existence is not a product of random chance and that we are not just highly evolved animals. Genesis chapter one also tells us that there is a God who exists and that this God created you in His image to reflect His likeness.
This word "image" means, "resemblance (or) a representative figure." The word "likeness" means "(to) model." (1) When we talk about the word "image" we're speaking of a word that involves the idea of appearance. The word "likeness" implies a kind of similarity. So we find that you, as a human being, resemble, model, and represent the God who created you.
So how are human beings made in the image and likeness of God? Well, let's look at some examples:
So because human beings are made in the image of God, we have the ability to interact with God in a way that is meaningful. The fact that human beings are made in the image of God also implies that every human person has a basic, inherent, fundamental value that is worthy of respect.
Now someone may ask, If we're made in the image of God, does that mean that God has a physical body like we do? Well, to answer that question, let's see what the Biblical book of John says in chapter four, verse twenty-four (4:24)...
"God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."
This tells us that God doesn't have a physical body like human beings do. But this still doesn't affect the fact that human beings are made in the image of God. Here's why: God has given people physical bodies that can do many of the same things that He can do but on a much smaller scale.
For example, Genesis 16:13 tells us that God can see- human beings can do that as well. Psalm 94:9 says that God can hear- human beings have that ability too. Genesis 8:21 tells us that God has the ability to smell things- so can human beings.
The Scriptures also tell us that God can do things like speak, move, and touch. These are all abilities that human beings can accomplish using the physical bodies that God has provided. These are some of the ways that people have been made in the image of God and model or resemble Him.
(1) Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers And Concordance With Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary.
If we look more closely at Genesis 1:26, we can find something else that's very interesting...
"Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, in our likeness'" (Genesis 1:26).
So who exactly is God speaking to when He uses words like "us" and "our" in this verse?
Well, you might remember that we've talked about how the word translated as "God" in Genesis 1:1 is the Hebrew word Elohim. This word Elohim is a two-part word; the first part, "El" means "strong, great or mighty." The "im" portion indicates a plural quantity and is somewhat similar to our use of the letter "s" in a word to indicate an amount that is greater than one.
We've already seen that the Scriptures use this plural word Elohim in a singular manner whenever God is the subject. Because of this, Elohim has been called a "uniplural" word- it refers to "one" but more than one.
We can see another example of this usage right here in Genesis 1:26: "God (singular) said, "Let us (plural) make man in our (plural) image, in our (plural) likeness." So this passage identifies one person (God) who is speaking in a "more than one" way- the creation of humanity in "our" image and likeness.
Since the Scriptures tell us that there is only one God (see Deuteronomy 6:4), this gives strong evidence of the triune (or three in one) nature of God that will be more fully revealed later on in the Bible.
"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them" (Genesis 1:27).
So here we find that male and female human beings are a direct creation of God. The original word used for "created" in this passage is a another word that we've already seen- it's the word bara which means to create or make something out of nothing.
However, we're also told a little later on in Genesis 2:7 that,"...the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground..." which means that God used pre-existing materials in the creation of humanity as well.
This could seem like a contradiction until you notice the emphasis on the term "image" in this verse. You see, Genesis 2:7 tells us that human beings are physically created out of the same materials God produced on the first day of creation. But Genesis 1:27 emphasizes the fact that human beings resemble or "image" God in other ways that nothing else does or has before.
Notice that the Bible also speaks about men and women as two equal components of humanity in this verse. The word "man" provides a basic description of humanity which consists of two equal parts: male and female.
These two components are different, but equal, with both males and females created in God's image. This verse only provides us with a quick overview of humanity's creation, but we'll get a lot more detail beginning in Genesis chapter two.
God blessed them and said to them, 'Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground'" (Genesis 1:28).
So what's the very first thing that God does with His brand new creation? Well, the passage quoted above tells us that the first thing that God did after creating humanity was to give them His blessing. This is a long, long way from the Old Testament image of God as a strict authority and disciplinarian that some people seem to have.
So God gave His blessing to humanity and gave human beings -men and women- the total responsibility for managing His creation. Can you imagine what it would be like for someone to be in this position?
Think about how great it would be to have such responsibilities. Just imagine what it would be like to be a human being with perfect intelligence and the opportunity to oversee everything that God had just created. Think about what you could do if you were responsible for managing and taking charge of the earth.
You would have the opportunity to be the ultimate expert in science or the environment. You could discover and learn all about the biological and environmental processes that God created. You could invent and use different types of technologies. You could run your own research and development lab in whatever area interested you as part of your God-given leadership responsibility to oversee the earth. And you would have God's full permission and blessing to do it!
"Then God said, 'I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground--everything that has the breath of life in it--I give every green plant for food' And it was so" (Genesis 1:29-30).
So it appears that all people were originally vegetarians, at least at the beginning. So if you are a vegan or if you have any vegan friends, then you should feel pretty good about the fact that this was the diet that God originally chose for humanity.
The great thing about this arrangement is that the food supply could never run out because "every seed-bearing plant" was self-replicating in the form of seeds that could be re-grown into fruit that could be eaten again.
We should also notice that this passage refers to every seed-bearing plant "...on the face of the whole earth." This tells us that there wasn't anywhere on earth at that time where food wouldn't grow. In other words, there were no deserts, there were no glaciers, there were no salt flats, or any other place where it was impossible to grow food. Anyone could live and eat anywhere on earth at the beginning. Human beings got the seed bearing plants and fruit to eat and the animals got all the remaining green plants.