To begin with the source of this narrative: Since no human being was present to observe these events, we must assume that this narrative was revealed directly by God to a human author. There are three ways this might have happened. First, we might read, “God said to Abraham (or Joseph or Moses): “In the beginning I created the heavens and the earth….” This is not what we find, however. Thus, if Genesis 1 was originally dictated to a human author (as God dictated Leviticus to Moses), that author rephrased it in the third person.
Second, it might be that Genesis 1 came about indirectly through Divine inspiration, as the Psalms, for instance, came about. In this case, the human author would be reflecting on God and creation and would be moved by insight into composing this narrative. This, however, seems quite unlikely. After all, what information would the human author have to reflect upon?
Third, and this seems most likely to me, God revealed these things to a human author, who then, under inspiration, wrote up the matter in this form. It may well be (and probably is the case) that God told all this to Adam, who passed it on in documents to his heirs, through Noah, to whoever wrote up the final version that we have in Genesis.
(By way of parenthesis, we have to question the notion of some “oral tradition” from Adam forward. Human memory is quite selective, and that is why some form of writing has always accompanied human endeavor. Written language is for the purpose of memorializing, and functions differently from oral language. God both speaks and writes, as He wrote the Ten Words, and so we can be pretty sure that Adam — His image — wrote as well as spoke.)
Now, who was the human author of Genesis 1, and when was it written? It is usually assumed that Moses wrote Genesis, but the Bible never says this, and there is no particular reason to think Moses was the author. To put it another way, all the arguments for Mosaic authorship are purely circular; to wit, some parts of Genesis lay the foundation for Exodus, something that would be true whether Moses wrote it or not. My own best guess is that Joseph wrote Genesis in its definitive form (requiring only a few additional notes from Moses and Samuel), so that Genesis was the Bible that the Hebrews had with them while they were in Egypt.
It is important to reflect on this question because there are many commentators on Genesis 1 who try and explain various parts of the passage against the background of Moses’ experiences and education in Egypt. Supposedly, for instance, in Genesis 1 Moses is providing a reply to the cosmological notions of the Egyptians. Such an assumption is wholly gratuitous, and is a dangerous red herring drawn across the path of the interpreter, diverting him from paying close attention to what the text actually states.
With these things in the back of our minds, let us now turn briefly to what Genesis 1 does say.
The creation narrative describes God’s making the world over the course of a week. God’s work is cosmic and covenantal. The language in Genesis 1 is used in covenant-making events later on in the Bible, and some have noted this and then asserted that Genesis 1 is concerned with covenantal ordering, not with cosmic ordering. But the only cosmos that exists is God’s covenantal cosmos, so any attempt to pit covenant against cosmos is unwarranted. Indeed, any such attempt moves in the direction of gnosticism and “heilsgeschichte,” the modern gnostic notion that God’s “salvation history” operates outside the realm of spatiotemporal cosmic history.
Sometimes it is argued that either the first statement of the narrative, or else the first two verses, are an introduction and are not part of the seven days. I fail to see how one can argue one way or another grammatically with any certainty, and it makes no difference to the chronology in any event. If God created the heavens and the earth, with the earth unstructured, empty, and dark, and left it that way for a trillion years — so what? What does it matter? Indeed, what would be the point? We should note, however, that the darkness of the original condition is directly related to the light-making work of the first day, which certainly implies that all of this was the work of the first day. Not having any sound reason for separating verses 1 & 2 from the first day, we shall consider them as part of it. After all, since the first day is the FIRST day, clearly it is also the introductory day.
In the beginning God created heaven and earth. He created two things, not one. These two things are, by implication, related to one another, linked in some way. Later this will be spelled out. For now, we notice two things that are linked: a covenantal structure.
The earth as it was made was good, of course, but not yet developed. It lacked structure, was empty, and was dark. Nothing like this is said of heaven. Indeed, it is clear from the rest of the Bible that heaven was made structured, full, and bright from the beginning. The angelic host does not multiply, and so new angels do not appear in the process of time. Humanity was created as a race that matures into a host, while the angels were created as a host from the beginning.
The earth matures in a way that heaven does not. Heaven is thus the model or paradigm for the earth. The earth is to grow more and more heaven-like. In the rest of the Bible, when heaven opens, men see the models they are to reproduce on the earth, as when Moses was shown the model for the tabernacle.
Right away we notice something that has somehow escaped the notice of virtually all commentators, which is that the earth must mature in three areas, not just in two. Genesis 1 is not concerned only with structuring and filling, but also with light.
The original earth had three zones: the earth below the waters, the waters, and a space of darkness over the waters. Above these, and not yet separated by any barrier, was the heaven. These four zones correspond to the four elements, the four states of matter:
Assuming that God created this configuration at the beginning of Day 1, in the evening that precedes the morning, we find on the second half of this day that He makes light. This would have been in the morning of that day.
Verse 2 presents two things over the earth:
Darkness was over the face of the unstructured deep, and The Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.
Thus, the Spirit had been inserted into the earthly realm from the heavenly realm, proceeding from the Father and the Son.
Then God said, “Let there be light.” The only source for that light is the Spirit Himself. When God appears later on in the Bible, He is surrounded by the glory, which is associated with the Spirit. Indeed, His glory hovers over Israel in the pillar of cloud & fire. Thus, the initial light came from the Spirit. Light is energy, fire; and so now fire is brought into the earth from heaven. This begins the transfiguration of the earth, from glory to glory.
Confirmation of the idea that the Spirit is the light-bearer at this point comes from Psalm 104 =FE if confirmation is even needed. Psalm 104 is a reflective commentary on Genesis 1, and proceeds through the seven days in order. The first day is discussed in the first four lines (vv. 1-2a). There God is said to cover Himself with light as with a cloak. Thus, the Psalmist understood the light of the first day as a light from God.
If we think of this configuration in terms of a flat earth – – which we may certainly do since that is how we experience the earth — we see it as a four-deck universe. Nothing in the passage, however, excludes also seeing an earthly sphere, covered with water, covered again with airy space, and surrounded by heaven. The passage can be read equally well either way.
We conclude by noting that the insertion of the Spirit of God into earthly life is the way God always renews and reinitiates His covenant. Compare the glory moving into the tabernacle in Exodus 40, and into the Temple in the days of Solomon, and into believers in the New Covenant.
On the second day God created the “firmament” and separated waters above and below it, and called it “heaven.” If the first day took care of the darkness problem, the second day begins to take care of the un- structuredness problem. God does not call the work good, however, until the mid-point of the third day, when the separation of land and sea completes the structuring work. We may ask why God did not do both structuring works on the second day. At least part of the answer is so that the third day is chiastically related to the fifth, so that land and sea are answered by the creatures of land and sea.
Structure seems to be related to water here. The word we have translated “unstructured” is in Hebrew “tohu,” and the word for the “deep” (which we rendered “unstructured deep”) in Genesis 1:2 is “t-hom” – apparently the same root word. Thus, the unstructured nature of the primeval creation is primarily associated with the waters over the earth, and when those waters have been structured, then the problem is solved. (Compare also in Genesis 2, where the four rivers that flow from the Edenic plateau structure the lands of the rest of the world.)
[The relationship between “tohu” and “t-hom” is obvious to the ear and to the eye, yet scholars have ascribed them to two different Semitic roots. Even if this dubious attempt to separate these two terms be correct, they are clearly related by “pun” here in Genesis 1. Not only so, but in Genesis 1 it is precisely the “t-hom” that is “tohu” and that needs to be separated and structured. I must add that it is sometimes argued that “tohu” does not mean “unstructured” but “empty,” and thus is a synonym for “bohu,” “empty.” Though there is evidence that might lead to this conclusion, it is trumped by the fact that in Genesis 1 there are three basic actions: lightening, forming, and filling, and these naturally related to the dark, “tohu,” and “bohu” primordial conditions.]
This enables us to correlate the three zones of the earthly creation with the three problems and solutions:
We now have a heaven within the original earth. The fact that this firmament is called “heaven” means that it is an image of the original heaven. Being above the waters, it is in the same place as the light. As we observe the flow of events here, it seems pretty clear that the original glory-light of the first day is now expanded to form the firmament, a realm of light over the waters below. Later, the light of the firmament will be congealed into sun, moon, and stars, which give great light during the day and less light during the night.
The word “firmament” (raqia) is used for a beaten out, flat surface, like a shell or a tent over the earth. There is nothing mythological about this, for that is how the sky actually looks. A full examination of this place called the firmament, however, will show that it is also a chamber between heaven and earth. In Genesis 2, as we saw in an earlier essay, the Garden of Eden located between the higher ground of the Land of Eden and the lower ground of the world, is a replica of the firmament. Moreover, the chiastic structure of the seven days of creation establishes that man, made on the sixth day, is positioned in the firmament. Man is located between heaven and earth, under God but over the world. In that place, man worships God, and from that place he goes out to exercise dominion. The firmament chamber corresponds to the glory-cloud of God when it appears within the earthly cosmos, and to the Holy Place of the tabernacle and temple. Thus, the holy place contained a seven-lighted lampstand, positioned with the lights leading from the earth (courtyard) to the highest heavens (holy of holies), displaying the seven moving lights of the sky (in order: Moon, Venus, Mercury, Sun (central), Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn).
The firmament, considered as a shell, separates heaven and earth for the first time. There is now a barrier between them, and this points to eschatology, for it is implied that when the earth has fully matured the barrier will be removed. This barrier is replicated in the triple veils of the tabernacle and temple, which put a barrier between the symbolic heavens and earth, and which are removed at the crucifixion of Jesus — pointing to the complete removal of this barrier at the end of history.
Covenantally, we see God separating one thing (the sea) into two things, and then putting them into a new relation with one another. This act of separation happens whenever a covenant is made. In Genesis 2, God separates Eve from Adam, and marries them. In Genesis 15, God separates animals, representing Abram and the land as two estranged parties, which He then links by moving His Spirit between them. In the sacrifices, the animal is always cut into pieces, or else the blood is separated from the flesh.
Cosmically, the picture becomes a bit more complicated. From a phenomenological flat-earth perspective, we just have a sky above the earth, with heaven above it. We act in terms of this picture whenever we look up to God, lifting our faces toward the heavens.
In terms of the physical cosmos there are two aspects to discuss. First, the Bible is clear that heaven is now in another “dimension” from the earth. When heaven is opened, or when God appears, it always turns out to be very near, as in the vision of Isaiah 6. Thus, we cannot reach the highest heaven by means of a spaceship, as we might have on the first day before the firmament was established. The idea that the Biblical revelation is “unsophisticated” in this regard is unwarranted, as we have just seen. The ancient people were well aware that heaven was not physically or geographically located on the other side of the visible sky. They all knew that their gods’ heaven was “near” as well as “far away.”
Additionally, there is now the firmament chamber, perhaps another “dimension” between heaven and earth. From later passages in the Bible, it seems that the departed saints resided here while they waited for heaven to be opened when the Man Jesus Christ would ascend to the throne of God and they would be allowed to accompany Him fully inside. The evacuation of that firmament chamber, as described in Revelation 6:9-11; 15:2 & 8; and 20:4, raises the possibility that it no longer exists today. God’s people no longer worship Him in a place between heaven and earth, but in Christ are now in heaven itself when they draw near to God. Recall that man, made on the sixth day, is symbolically positioned in the firmament at the beginning. Similarly, he is positioned in the Garden of Eden between Eden and the world. In Christ, however, we have moved up into heaven itself, into the Land of Eden. It would seem that the firmament, as a symbolic zone, and as the place of departed spirits, is gone.
At the same time, stars are “in” the firmament, while birds fly “in front of” it (vv. 14 & 20). In this sense, the firmament is outer space, the matrix of light. Cosmologically, the firmament is the place where the stars will be put in two days. We shall defer further comments on the cosmological aspect of the matter until we get to the fourth day.
The waters above the firmament are in heaven itself, on the far side of the firmament. They are not clouds, nor are they a water-vapor canopy over the earth. If such a canopy existed, the Bible does not speak about it; such theories must be grounded in other lines of evidence and argument. The waters below the firmament include the clouds, which recycle the waters below, continually baptizing and cleansing the earth through rain.
God reached down into the earth and took some of the water up into heaven. This is an eschatological picture. It differentiates not only between lower and upper waters, but between first and last waters. The first waters covering the earth were an initial baptism, while being sprinkled with waters from above is the sign of our final baptism. We begin on earth, with earthly waters; we enter the final kingdom of God by passing through heavenly waters. Agreeable to this, the laver of cleansing in the tabernacle and the great sea and laver-chariots of the Temple were all mounted on pedestals, and thus represented the waters above. The sea of glass, crystal, ice that is seen in visions of heaven in Ezekiel and Revelation is the water taken into heaven on the second day.
Psalm 104:2b-4 comments on the second day as follows. We are told that God stretched out the firmament heaven like a curtain. Then we are told that God’s upper chambers (His palace) is built upon the waters above the firmament. Then the psalmist refers to clouds and the wind, and to fire. It seems that the firmament can be considered as including these lower phenomena in the atmosphere, though possibly “fire” here refers to the lights in the sky (in outer space).
The third day completes the initial structuring work and the initial filling work. First, God separates land and sea, putting the sea below the land. This reproduces the configuration that has just been set up in heaven: land over sea. The earth is being modeled after heaven. There is now an altar-platform on the earth as well as right below heaven (the firmament). The configuration of the whole universe at this point can be diagrammed as follows:
|Earth||Fire (firmament-heaven light)|
Only at this point, in the middle the third day, is the structuring work “good,” because now the earth has been made after the image of heaven.
Verse 9 does not say that the land was thrust up above the sea, but that the sea was gathered to that the land appeared. In other words, part of the land sank down and the water ran off from the rest of the land. The downward flow of the water is baptismal, we have noted above.
The land is now ready to be productive; things can be generated out of it. Up to this point, conditions were not right; now they are. Plants appear. Plants are “machines” that convert water, air, fire (light), and earth into food and decoration. Plants are the initial form of glory over the land, replicating God’s glory in blossoms, scents, and food. Let us recall that man is made of soil, and so is destined also to be covered in glory. Perhaps it is noteworthy that glory was to be conferred on man by eating of the Tree of Knowledge, after the temporary probation. (That it was temporary is clear from 1:29.) Plants, the glory of the land, would pass on glory to man, made of the land. In the church, we get the glory of Christ from plants: bread and wine.
Only two kinds of plants are specified as having been made at this point. Only grain plants and fruit- bearing trees are mentioned. According to 2:5, the “shrubs of the earth” were not made at this point. This leaves many kinds of plants unaccounted for. We simply don’t know when God made other kinds of food plants, or when He made the plants of the water. It may be that grape vines were made on the third day, or it may be that, since Noah was the first to plant a vineyard, they did not appear until after the Flood (9:20, according to one way to translating this verse). All the same, fruits and grains are the foundation of fermented juice and bread and oil, the sacramental plant-products used in the Bible throughout. Every Israelite had his own field, vineyard, and olive grove: his own cosmos, as an image of God.
Let me suggest that the three kinds of plants mentioned in Genesis 1-2 are the root of the three special plants of the kingdom: fruit trees (olive; oil); grains (bread); shrubs (vines; wine). We shall find this same kind of triple list later in the chapter also.
Plants are the vestments of glory for the land. If we study covenant-making events later on the Bible, we find that being vested by God as His glorious servant is part of the covenant event, one way or another. This is most obvious in the vesting of Aaron, but baptism (which clothes us with water) is another example.
At the end of the third day, God has finished taking care of the three problems facing Him at the beginning. The world is no longer dark, unstructured, or empty. I shall be bold and suggest that these three problems reveal in a very general way the three Persons of God. Clearly, the Spirit gives the light, but we begin at the Throne of God with the Father speaking the Word and sending the Spirit. The filling or glorifying is to be associated with the Spirit, for He is the glorifier. The structure of the creation is to be associated with the Son, who holds all things in their place (Colossians 1:17); and the Son is the Firmament, the Mediator between heaven and earth.
grain bread – Son
olive oil – Spirit
wine – Father (the drink of rest and enthronement)
Finally, the completion of the initial work on the third day opens up the third-day theme that is found throughout the Bible. The third day is always the time of initial completion and judgment, which makes possible the last four days of the week.
Psalm 104:5-18 comments as follows. Initially the waters were over the mountains, but then they fled down to the seas. God set a boundary that they might not again cover the earth. This seems to include the Flood in its perspective, for only after the Flood was it true that the waters would never cover the earth again.
Various kinds of watering are mentioned: springs, streams, rain; and then the two kinds of plants we have seen mentioned on the third day: grass for cattle and bread for man in v. 14; wine, oil, and bread in v. 15.
Coming after the third day, when the initial work was completed, the fourth day is a preliminary sabbath. A study of the sabbath in the Bible will show that it is associated with enthroned rest, and the enthronement of rulers is the fourth-day theme.
The fourth day is the center of the week, and the center of the narrative, chiastically considered. If we read the narrative in a linear fashion, the climax is the sabbath; but if we read it chiastically, we move inward to the central thought, which as we have just noted is a preliminary sabbath. It is the beauty of chiastic writing that it enables the writer to do several things at once. He can put the opening and final thoughts at the beginning and end, and the central or governing thought in the center. Also, he moves up to the central or pivotal thought, and then back out.
Thus, the fourth day is central. Man, made on the sixth day, is symbolically positioned in the firmament, made on the second. Now man is described in terms of lights placed in the firmament. Under the Old Creation, these angelically administered lights governed time, festivals, important days and years, and ruled the earth. In the New Creation, in Christ, man now does these things, which is why the Old Creation calendar is superseded in Christ.
The fourth day is pivotal. It provides a second completion to the first three days, and introduces the latter three days. In terms of completion, the fourth day finishes the four-fold orientation of the world, displayed in the tabernacle:
|West||Ark-throne||Heaven (day 1)|
|East||Altar-platform||Firmament before God (day 2)|
|North||Table of Bread||Plants on land (day 3)|
|South||Lampstand||Lights in firmament (day 4)|
|Day 2||High Altar||Son|
|Day 3a||Low Altar||Son|
|Day 3b||Glory Plants||Spirit|
|Day 4||Glory Lights|
(For an extended discussion, see my essay “Behind the Scenes: Orientation in the Book of Revelation,” available from Biblical Horizons, Box 1096, Niceville, FL 32588.)
The fourth day also completes a movement down and back up. We began in heaven, moved down to the light in the sky, down to the firmament, down to the land and then down to the sea (v. 10), back up through the plants that grow toward heaven, and farther up into the firmament of stars.
On the other hand, the fourth day begins the second half of the week. We have moved from light to structure to filling already. Now we begin again with light, move to filling (days 5 and 6a), and then to structure (man as ruler, “subduer”), and end with the Great Day of the sabbath, a return to eschatological light.
Thus, the fourth day is chiastically related not only to the second and sixth days, but also to the first and seventh. We begin with the primordial light of the Spirit. At the center we find the lights within the cosmos, which signify angels and men. At the end we come back to the Day of God, the eschatological Light. This is essentially a movement from Spirit to Son to Father.
On the fourth day, God congealed the light within the earth into bodies inside the visible firmament. We saw that the light originally came from the shining of the Spirit, and then by implication was spread out in the firmament, which was located where the Spirit was. The alternation of evening and morning was an alternation of a bright sky with a relatively dark one. Now that light sky congeals to form the heavenly bodies.
This congealing formed the stars and galaxies that we see in the sky. In terms of how the universe works, it is perhaps no surprise that in congealing, this plasma acquired rotation, forming spinning stars, double stars, planets, moons, and rotating galaxies. This did not take millions of years, however, but happened quite rapidly. It is entirely conceivable, however, that some of the currently proposed mechanisms of how the universe came to have its present configuration are correct, but that the timing is way off. Possibly the earth began her rotation at this point as well.
Isaiah 40:22 may shed a good deal of light on the firmament and the starry heavens. The second half of the verse reads:
The One stretching out like a thin veil heavens, And spreading them out like a tent for dwelling.
Note that in the first phrase, the heavens are a thin veil, as thin as a layer of dust (as the Hebrew implies); while in the second phrase the heavens are a spacious tent.
On the basis of this, and from Genesis 1, I suggest that the following is the sequence of events:
First, on Day 1 a created light of glory is positioned above the earth.
Second, on Day 2 that light is stretched out as a thin veil over the earth.
Third, on Day 4 that veil is spread upwards and outwards to form outer space. The substance of the veil is broken up and congeals to form stars, planets, asteroids, dust, etc. This rapid spreading upwards and outwards from the earth may account for some aspects of “red shift” phenomena.
The appointment of rulers and governors is always part of a covenantal act of God, as when Abraham was set up to minister to the nations, or when Israel was given rulers in Exodus 18.
In terms of cosmology, a few further thoughts are warranted. Physically speaking, we have seen that the firmament is outer space, above the atmosphere where the birds fly. In the Old Creation, the departed saints seem to have dwelt in the firmament. Whether this was in another dimension or in outer space, we don’t know. We do know that they were near the highest heaven, and were able to communicate with God (Revelation 6:9-11; the altar spoken of is the Incense Altar, located in the firmament of the Holy Place, which is the symbolic ladder that reaches from the firmament heavens to the highest heavens).
At the same time, it does not appear that we can see through the firmament with telescopes and discern the throne of God. The firmament continues to be a barrier between heaven and earth until the full end of history. Heaven is located somewhere else, not contiguous with the physical cosmos we can travel in.
There are a couple of possibilities. One is that somehow the firmament (outer space) is closed in upon itself, circular in some way, so that to travel far enough in one direction is to return to one’s starting point. This is one modern theory. Another is that the universe is truly infinite. This is not unacceptable to Christian belief. God is infinite in Himself, independently infinite, while an infinite universe is dependently infinite. Consider that human beings will live forever, and are thus infinite in that sense. Possibly the universe goes on forever, and the removal of the firmament at the end of history will mean that heaven is near to every part of it.
Turning to another question: At the present time, it is widely assumed that the speed of light is the same everywhere in the universe, and has always been the same. Thus, the stars are said to be trillions of miles away from the earth, measured in terms of the span of time it takes light to travel in a year (light-years). This notion, we must insist, is simply an assumption. The modern view is that space is “nothingness,” and is therefore the same throughout. From the standpoint of creation, however, space is created, a “something” called the firmament. Space is a matrix in which all the bodies in space move, and through which light moves.
There is no good reason to think that the speed of light is the same everywhere in the universe. Light may travel much faster between stars, and still faster between galaxies; that is, light may travel much faster away from “gravity wells” like the sun and the earth. Light from the farthest places in the universe may well reach us in only a few years.
Moreover, there is no good reason to think that the speed of light has remained the same throughout history. It may have begun at near infinity, and have slowed down exponentially since then. If the curve of the speed of light’s diminution is hyperbolic, then it may be that by now it is slowing down at a very slow, almost imperceptible rate. Or, to put it another way: If the matrix of space expanded rapidly on the fourth day, as I have suggested, then perhaps the “thinning” of that firmament-matrix resulted in a diminution of the speed of light through it.
In short, there is no reason to reject the notion that the starry universe rapidly expanded and congealed on the fourth day, and that light from faraway objects reaches us rather rapidly. Modern scientific theories and constructs are against this idea, but until we actually move into space and measure light’s speed, we shall not know. Our researches have only begun to scratch the surface of the outer foyer of the starry universe.
The heavenly lights were made to govern, and government is not primarily spatial, but temporal. The governing lights separated day and night, and were established as symbols, for setting up festival times (mistranslated “seasons”), days, and years. We see this throughout the Old Creation. The people of God knew when to celebrate Passover, a day, by observing the sun’s vernal equinox and then the first new moon thereafter, and then counting fourteen days to the full moon. The signs of the zodiac, to which the Bible refers more than once, were also part of the symbolic display of the firmament.
We may learn from this that the real power of government is the appointment of times, the kinds of times mentioned in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.
We find another triplex of created objects here:
|Great Light||Father (the Source of Light)|
|Lesser Light||Son (reflects the Father as His Image)|
|Stars||Spirit (who gathers the host)|
Finally, we should say a few words about geocentricity. The Bible is frankly geocentric in two important respects. First, the earth was made before the starry heavens and the sun. Everything moves out from the earth in Genesis 1. Second, the earth is the center of affairs, where humanity is placed and where Christ died and was resurrected. The Bible does not, however, teach that the earth is geographically or cosmically located at the center of the physical universe. Indeed, this is an unimportant question, and possibly a fallacious one. If the universe is infinite, or if it is closed in upon itself, any point in it may be considered central. In fact, when Jesus says, “Wherever two or three are gathered together in My name, there I am,” He is saying that wherever the Church is planted is the center. Along these lines, consider where the center of the surface of a sphere is located. Any point on the surface of a sphere can be considered the center. Is Ararat, or Jerusalem, or Rome, the physical center of the world? Yes and no. Since humanity proceeded from Ararat after Noah, that is the center. Or it was. Is it still? To ask such a question is virtually to answer it. Whether or not the earth is physically located at the center of the physical universe, I know not. I do know that it is not a question dealt with in the Bible. (On this, see my essay “The Geocentricity Question,” available from Biblical Horizons, Box 1096, Niceville, FL 32588.)
Moon and sun are discussed in Psalm 104:19-23.
The fifth day sees the creation of land and sea creatures. These are said to swarm, to form clouds in the sea and air, and thus are associated with the Spirit; for it is the Spirit who gathers the host of God around Him, forming the glory cloud.
The fifth day is often mistakenly put parallel to the second, as if birds are creatures of the firmament and fishes creatures of the sea. This is not the statement of the text. Birds fly “across the face of” the firmament — in front of it, not within it (v. 20). They are not part of the firmament, like the sun and moon, but dwell below it. While birds travel (usually) in the air (which is NOT the firmament), they are said to multiply on the earth (v. 22). Indeed, birds generally nest in trees. Thus, the fifth day is chiastically parallel to the third: land & sea: creatures of land & sea.
Once again, three groups of creatures are made, to wit:
|Tannins (aquatic dinosaurs)||the mighty Father|
|Fishes (sea)||the Son, the Father King|
|Birds (air & land)||the hovering Spirit (1:2)|
The tannins, or aquatic dinosaurs, call for comment. The word “create” is used in connection with their making, and this word always indicates a special, wondrous act of God. These great creatures show up at the end of Job as signs of God power and rule. The fact is that stories of dragons are found all over the world, and both the Bible (Job) and the Apocrypha (Daniel and the Dragon) refer to them. The notion that these great creatures had died out long before humanity arrived on the scene is contradicted by the clear testimony of history.
This is the first of three days of blessing. The blessing here is to multiply and fill. This is the blessing of the Spirit, the Divine Matchmaker, who brings man and woman together, Bride and Christ together, and who creates a host for God.
The verb “be fruitful” contains the word “fruit,” both in Hebrew and in English, linking the animals conceptually with the fruit trees of the third day.
There are those who say that Genesis 1 presents three days of realms and three days of rulers. Nothing is said about the fishes ruling the sea or the birds ruling the air or land. This scheme is fallacious.
Covenantally, God’s people always form a host around Him when the covenant is renewed. Psalm 104:24-26 mentions the swarms of the sea and the great leviathan dinosaur.
At this point it might be well to take up a criticism of creationism, which is that there are a vast plethora of fossils in the world today, including coal and oil: too many (it is claimed) to have been deposited by the Great Flood. We cannot answer this objection fully here, but we can suggest some lines of an answer. I assume that the seas before the Flood were shallow throughout, and thus all teemed with life. Genesis 7:11 says that at the Flood “all the fountains of the great deep burst open.” This indicates to me that the depths of the present oceans came into being at this point.
Moreover, since all the world was to be explored and occupied by men and animals, there is reason to believe that all the world was habitable at this time. There were no deserts, nor great mountain ranges, nor polar ice. Evidence for this is found in quick-frozen mammoths with warm-weather flora in their stomachs and mouths in Siberia.
Thus, the world may well have teemed with far more life than it sustains at present, and this would account for the vast fossil deposits found on the earth today. Since the Flood Year was a “year of miracle,” we are also free to assume that angels arranged these deposits in such a way that they would be useful for the coming generations of man.
The sixth day provides the creation of land animals and of humanity. As we saw above, the second day spills over to the first half of the third day, for only at that point did God say that it was good. Similarly, it seems that the fifth day spills over onto the first half of the sixth, in accord with the chiastic structure of the passage.
|Day 2||High Altar||Son|
|Day 3a||Low Altar||Son|
|Day 3b||Glory Plants||Spirit|
|Day 4||Glory Lights||Spirit|
As regards the land animals, we once again have three groups:
In a larger way, we have three creatures:
On the third day, the land was created as a throne for the plants. Similarly, the cattle (behemah) are a throne (bamah) for human life, for human beings depend, in the main, on domestic animals — or at least they did before the technological era. Notice in Revelation 17 that the Harlot is enthroned (bamah) on the Beast (behemah).
No particular blessing is given to the land animals; we may assume that the Spirit’s blessing upon the fishes and birds applies to them as well.
When we come to the second work of the sixth day, we come to the creation of humanity. The word “create,” indicating a special wondrous work, is used for the third time here. Thus:
Humanity is positioned between God and the lower creation, in the firmament symbolically. He is to rule over the lower animals, which are listed as five:
Beasts (the “earth”)
This list of five is odd in this passage, which heretofore has been authored in terms of lists of two and three. I think the list is given this way to call attention to what is not listed: the tannins. The omission is striking. Humanity is not to rule over them. From the end of Job, we see that only God can rule them.
Let me suggest that the tannins no longer exist in the earth precisely because angels no longer rule humanity. We shall someday judge the angels (1 Corinthians 6:3). At the present time, angels are God’s servants for our good, but they no longer rule us as sergeants over raw recruits because in Christ we have graduated from officer boot camp and are now His officers in the world (Hebrews 1:14). Tannins are (were) associated with angels, a part of creation that serves God but that we do not rule.
God’s blessing upon humanity starts with the blessing of the Spirit, to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth. It continues with the blessing of the Son: to subdue and rule over the earth. As the land bears trees that bear fruit, so man, made of soil, is to bear fruit.
God also lists the initial food given to man and to the animals. To man is particularly given the grains and fruit trees. We note that ALL the fruit trees “shall be” food for man, so we realize that the prohibition on the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, given in Genesis 2, is temporary.
The list of animals to whom food is given is odd:
None of the creatures we have associated with the Son are mentioned. My take on this is that the plants represent the Son. Plants give life, but only when they are dead. To tear off a leaf or eat a fruit or a tuber is to kill it.
In Psalm 104:27-30, the stress is on the food God gives to the animals, and by implication, to humanity. Covenantally, a communion meal is always part of the covenant making ceremony.
The seventh day is blessed with the blessing of the Father. That blessing comes when the work is finished, and thus is eschatological. Because God has finished His work, He enters into His rest, which is unending. Humanity has a work to do, so man’s weekly sabbath ends and ushers in another week, until the end.
There is another triad here: the heavens and the earth were completed and all their hosts:
|Earth||Son, “growing up” to be like Father|
Covenantally, the sabbath day is the preeminent day of the Lord, coming after the first six days of the Lord. It is the normal time of covenant renewal in the Scriptures, for it is the time when God comes to visit His people (as He did on the first sabbath in Genesis 3). Psalm 104:31-35 speaks of God’s coming down on the mountains to be with His people, to judge the wicked, and to receive His people’s praises.
Concluding Observations on the Structure of the Passage.
A. The refrain “And God saw that it was good” occurs seven times in the passage, and the arrangement is chiastic; to wit:
Just as the chiasm of the seven days associates light with the lights and with the sabbath, so this chiasm associates humanity with the light and the light-bearers. The B sections link the emergence of the land with the land animals. The C sections link the glorifying of the earth with the glorifying of the seas and air, with fishes and birds. The central section links most closely with the A sections, of course, but in that it glorifies the fourth realm, it also links with the C sections.
B. The refrain “and it was established” occurs six times in the passage, and again it is chiastically arranged; to wit:
As the chiasm of the seven days links man with the firmament, so here. The B sections link the sea-land distinction with the creatures of sea and land. The C sections link the glorifying of the lower altar (the earth) with the glorifying of the higher altar (the firmament).
The Shekinah Light of Day 1 was not “established,” because it was destined to give way to the lights of Day 4.
C. The refrain “and God said” occurs nine times in the passage, and once again it is chiastically arranged; to wit:
As always, the lights of the fourth day are central. The D sections link the glorifying plants with the glorifying fishes and birds, as above. The C sections link the land with the land animals. The B sections once again link the firmament with man. The A sections don’t seem to correspond, but perhaps we are intended to see a link between the light produced by the Spirit and the life given by the Spirit through the consumption of plants.
D. In terms of the Trinity, we move chiastically:
E. The triadic lists in the passage can be summarized thusly, in the order they are presented in the statements “and God made”:
G. The following dyads also appear, though not always in the same configuration. It would be pointless to try and find a chiastic structure here. Rather, we should note the relationship of inferiors to superiors. The dyads marked A proceed from superior to inferior, from first to second. The dyads marked B move from inferior to superior. In every case, the movement is eschatological, as the inferior is to grow up to be equal to the superior in some sense. Thus:
A. Heavens – Earth (v. 1)
The earth is to mature to become like heaven.
A. Light – Darkness (v. 4) A. Day – Night (v. 5)
B. Evening – Morning (vv. 5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31)
Darkness and night are to become like day, as evening precedes morning.
B. Waters below – Waters above (v. 7)
The waters below are lifted up to become waters above, a type of humanity, the soil that emerges from and is baptized by these waters.
A. Waters – Dry Land (v. 9) A. Earth – Seas (v. 10)
Initially the waters were over the dry land, so they are mentioned first at the beginning; once they are below the land, we find the order Earth – Seas.
B. Grains – Fruit trees (vv. 11 & 12)
Grains precede Fruit trees, as bread precedes wine in daily life and in the Lord’s Supper. (You start the day with bread; you end it with a glass of wine.)
A. Day – Night (v. 14)
A. Symbols – Festivals (v. 14)
The lights as symbols precede the lights as festival markers, because the Word precedes the Sacrament.
A. Days – Years (v. 14)
Days precede Years because the Day of the Lord is the primary symbol, while the Acceptable Year of the Lord is secondary.
A. Heavens – Earth (v. 17) A. Day – Night (v. 18)
A. Light – Darkness (v. 18)
B. Fishes – Birds (v. 20)
Fishes precede Birds because the waters below preceded the emergence of land.
B. Fruitful – Multiply (v. 22)
Fruitfulness is the precondition for multiplication, and is a more general term, for we bear many kinds of fruits (such as the fruits of the Spirit).
B. Fill the seas – Multiply on the land (v. 22)
Filling the seas precedes multiplying on the land because the sea preceded the land.
B. Image – Likeness (v. 26)
Man IS the image of God, even in hell, but is to grow in the likeness of God, maturing to fullness.
A. Male – Female (v. 27)
Male precedes Female. In history, man rules woman, but the initial Adam also grows to become the Bride of Christ.
B. Fruitful – Multiply (v. 28) B. Fill – Subdue (v. 28)
Filling the earth must precede subduing it. B. Grains – Fruit trees (v. 29)
A. Heavens – Earth (2:1)
B. Completed – Rested (2:2)
Completing His work precedes God’s resting from it. B. Blessed – Sanctified (2:3)
Blessing is the precondition for sanctification. A. Created – Made (2:3)
Creating is the initial work, making the secondary.
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