Genesis 1 NIV
We come to the bible and to the book of Genesis knowing there is a God. The Bible tells us we can know God exists because of what we see in the created world.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their voice has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” Psalm 19:1-4
“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.” Romans 1:20
The Bible would be incomplete and perhaps incomprehensible without the Book of Genesis. It sets the stage for the entire drama of redemption, which unfolds in the rest of the book. Almost all important doctrines and teachings have their foundation in the Book of Genesis: the doctrines of sin, redemption, justification, Jesus Christ, the personality and personhood of God, the kingdom of God, the fall, Israel, the promise of the Messiah, and more. As Pastor Scott is known for saying, “Everything leads back to Genesis.”
Genesis shows us the origins of the universe, order and complexity, the solar system, the atmosphere and hydrosphere, the origin of life, man, marriage, evil, language, government, culture, nations, and religion.
Genesis is important to the New Testament. There are at least 165 passages in Genesis either directly quoted or clearly referred to in the NT; many of these are quoted more than once, so there are at least 200 quotations from Genesis in the NT.
The author of the Book of Genesis is documented to be Moses. In fact Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible; the Pentateuch. Jesus declared the importance of believing what Moses wrote:
“For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” John 5:46-47. We can’t say we believe in Jesus if we don’t believe in the Book of Genesis.
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
This summary statement will be detailed in the following verses, but the Bible straightforwardly declares the world did not create itself or come about by chance. It was created by God, who, by definition, is eternal and has always been.
God is the subject of the first sentence in the Bible. This is not by accident, God does all things intentionally, as we know from our studies and our relationships with Him. The use of God’s name dominates the whole chapter; it is used thirty-five times in as many verses of the story. If you believe Genesis 1:1 you will have no problem believing the entirety of the Bible.
In Genesis God is the ancient Hebrew word Elohim. Elohim is the meaning of God in these texts. It is a plural word used as if it were singular. The verbs and pronouns used with Elohim should be in the plural, but when Elohim refers to the Lord God the verbs and pronouns are in the singular. The mystery of the word Elohim is found in three degrees, and each degree by itself alone, and yet notwithstanding they are all one, and joined together in one, and are not divided from each other. The term Elohim certainly allows for the further revelation of God’s triune nature; the Old Testament hints at the Trinity in order to prepare people for the Messiah who would be much more than a human prophet. When Jesus appeared, He more fully revealed mysteries hinted at in the OT. At Jesus’ baptism we have all three Persons of Elohim present: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Matt. 3:16–17.
The simple fact of God’s creation is even more amazing when we consider the greatness of God’s universe.
“Indeed My hand has laid the foundation of the earth, and My right hand has stretched out the heavens; when I call to them, they stand up together.” Is. 48:13.
If God created the heavens and the earth, then we must forever put away the idea that anything happens by chance. “Chance” merely describes the statistical probability of something happening. Chance itself can “do” nothing. Inherent in the idea of God is that He is an intelligent designer. Only an intelligent designer could create a just-right universe, not “chance.” Our universe is a just-right universe. If the created universe was larger or smaller, greater or lesser it would not be able to sustain itself, life or exist at all.
“God created …” tells us that God used no pre-existing material to create the earth. The ancient Hebrew word bara (created) is specific. It means to create out of nothing, showing that God created the world out of nothing, not out of Himself. God is separate from His creation. The Bible teaches the universe could perish yet He would remain. Even as the word for God is plural the word for created (bara) is singular and always has God as the subject. In this verse it means that God changed chaos into cosmos, disorder into order, emptiness into fullness.
The heavens and the earth mean “all of creation” or “the cosmos”.
2 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.
The two words formless and empty (void in some translations) express a concept – chaos. The earth was in this state of chaos. Darkness is a biblical symbol of evil and wrong; we can back this up in Job, Psalms, Isaiah, and John. The deep refers to the secret places of the waters (7:11). These images together portray chaos, disaster and devastation. From this picture of ruin God brought an orderly creation.
The Spirit of God was hovering … denotes a protective hovering…His was the preparatory work before He brought order out of chaos. Like a mother bird might hover or flutter over her nest. The verb appears again in Deu. 32:11 to describe the eagle’s movements in stirring its young into flight
3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.
The phrase “Let there be light,” conveys a principle theme of the Bible and Who God is; God bringing light into the darkness; God producing physical light. The first step from chaos to order is to bring light. The NT records God sending His Son to be the light of the world in the Book of John. In the end there will no longer be darkness at all is recorded in Revelation.
God said it and it was done, there was light. God’s spoken command brought about physical reality. God created light with his spoken word alone. God observed His work and declared it to be good – a powerful, spoken declaration of God’s blessing.
“Day … night”. The naming of these elements is a mark of God’s sovereignty. To the people of the time the naming of something was a mark of power or lordship. Names were not merely labels to them, but descriptions of power.
Now, since the sun had yet to be created the “first day” is unclear. Some say that the seven days is literally seven 24 hour periods, as we know time. Others argue that the seven days are a literary concept for an unknown period of time.
There was evening and morning – the first day.
6 And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” 7 So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. 8 God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.
God spoke the separation of the waters and sky.
The idea of a vault (firmament in some translations) is of an expanse or vault (NIV, NAS) or space (NLT). In biblical usage the term means heavens. It literally means something stretched out.
The waters of the land are separated from the water vapor in the sky; water from water. Here, the Bible recognizes the existence of water vapor in the sky. The division of the waters is another of God’s acts in bringing order from chaos.
The waters above the vault probably constituted a vast blanket of water vapor above the sky or vault, extending far into space, scientifically stated. Such a vapor blanket would greatly change the ecology of the earth and would serve as a global greenhouse, maintaining a uniformly pleasant temperature all over the world. Without great temperature variations, there would be no significant winds, and the water-rain cycle could not form. There would be no rain as we know it today.
God observed His work and called it good. Thus we have the evening and and morning – the second day.
9 And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.
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. 12 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. 13 And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.
Now we begin the third day of creation. The land is divided from the sea; plants and all types of vegetation are created.
The dividing of land from the sea is once again God establishing order from chaos. Each act of separation and distinction brings God’s order from disorder – form out of formlessness. Each is also an example of God’s power and wisdom.
“And it was so …” This is the beginning of life on planet earth, directly created by God. There is no evolution over time. God created life right here, calling it into being.
The broad terms plants and trees and fruit trees encompass all vegetation. The reference to seeds according to “their” kinds speaks to the fact that God created these to continue to reproduce their crop; he set in motion the processes which allow plant life to reproduce.
It is notable that God put all of this into motion before the sun was created. Meaning the plants must have had sufficient nourishment from the light God had created before the sun and the moon in vv. 14-19.
He saw that all was good. There was evening and morning – the third day.
14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.
God made the sun and the moon – these lights in the vault of the sky or heavens to be for signs and days and years. Since the beginning, man has used God’s provision of the sun, moon, and stars to mark and measure time and direction. These luminaries (things that shine) define the division of day and night.
Signs and sacred times (seasons) have been misconstrued as the biblical basis for astrology. The signs in this case relate to phases of the moon and the position of stars that mark the passage of time from the vantage point of the earth. The two terms could be defined together as seasonal signs.
The two great lights designate the sun, which emits light, to govern the day and the moon, which reflects light, to govern the night. Interestingly, the sun and the moon are not formally named here, though the names are intended. He also made the stars appears to be an afterthought of the author. A statement of afterthought is believed to be a show of great contempt for ancient Babylonian astrology (Ps. 29). Astrology is a corruption of God’s original “message in the stars,” a message outlining His plan of redemption. Because astrology is corruption, it is to be avoided always by man (Is.47:12-15).
God saw that His work was good, there was evening and there was morning – the fourth day.
20 And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 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.” 23 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.
We see the great variety of birds and sea creatures were created at the same time, not evolving slowly over millions of years. The word created is the same as used in ch.1:1, bara. Even though plant life was created before animal life, animal life was not created out of plant life. Among the diversity of animals, many share similar structures: birds, reptiles, mammals, and so forth. This argues at least as persuasively for a common designer as it does for a common life source. All life did not come from the same primordial cell, but it did all come from the same designer.
“According to their kind…” Again, all animal life is created according to its kind. Each animal created is able to reproduce themselves. God deliberately structured plenty of variation within a kind, but one “kind” does not become another. He gave them the ability to propagate and to proliferate, to fill the air and the seas in great numbers and variety.
“God blessed them …” this is the first use of this important phrasing in the Bible, and it is used for fish and birds!
And there was evening and morning – the fifth day.
24 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 25 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.
On the fifth day of creation, God made birds and sea animals, but now God turns His creative attention towards land animals of various types. The expression “living creatures” contains the Hebrew word sometimes used for the soul, nehfesh (breathing, breathing creature). It can also mean life, being, living thing, or person, depending on the context.
“According to its kind…” Again, this important phrase is emphasized. God allows tremendous variation within a kind, but one kind will never become another kind.
“Wild animals … livestock … all creatures that move along the ground …” Here we have three sweeping categories that make the point that God created all living things.
God examined His work and declared it good.
26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
“ Let us ..” emphasizes the sovereignty of the speaker. The use of the plural for God allows for the revelation of the Trinity. The “Us” cannot refer to the angels because God made man in His image alone, there is no mention of angels.
“ in Our likeness (image)”, God placed humankind as living symbols of Himself on earth to represent His reign. This interpretation fits well with the next command of God.
“according to Our likeness”, this phrase draws one’s attention to the preceding figure of speech. Since God is Spirit (Jn. 4:24) there can be no image or likeness of Him in the sense of these words as we understand them. Indeed image making would later be prohibited and called idolatry. We cannot make images of God because He has already done so. We are His image, it is we who are in His likeness. We are made to reflect His majesty on earth. Leading to God’s next command.
“so that they may rule over (have dominion)”, Before God ever created man He decreed man would have dominion over the earth. Man’s pre-eminence of the created order and his ability to affect his environment is no accident; it is part of God’s plan for man and the earth. We rule as God’s regents. We are to rule as God would, with prudence and wisdom, over all that God has made; fish, birds, cattle and so on.
27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
29 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. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.
31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.
“So God created man in His own image…”, God created man according to His plan as described in Gen.1:26. This is the third time the verb for create is used in this chapter, and here it is used three times.The language of vv. 26 and 28 is elevated prose; pure poetry. The words of the original Hebrew are arranged in three lines that have their own poetic repetition and cadence.
The term for man here is generic, including male and female. This does not mean Adam was originally some type of androgynous being, both male and female. This passage of Genesis gives us an overview of God’s creation of man.
“Then God blessed them …” the first thing God did for man was to bless him. God delighted in what He had made. Imagine the goodness of God’s blessing. Human life would be not only be unbearable, but also impossible without His blessing.
“Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion…” God gives man a job to do; God’s intention for man to exercise dominion over the earth. Subdue means to act as managers who have the authority to run everything as God planned.
Inherent in this command is that man should be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. “Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” 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.” God gave man dominion over the whole earth, but only vegetation is specifically mentioned as being for food. Seemingly, before the flood, the human race was vegetarian.
God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. God’s final analysis of His work of creation is that it was very good. God was pleased with His creation.
This is the seventh use of the word good in the creation story (1:4,10,12,18, 21, and 25). It is only one of several key terms that are used in multiples of seven in this text.
And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.
a Genesis 1:26 Probable reading of the original Hebrew text (see Syriac); Masoretic Text the earth