Genesis

(The Revelation of the Beginnings)

FOREWORD

The thoughts on Genesis following are actually something I've pondered over for years and am gradually putting it all together.  Once, when in Paris I saw in the Louvre a large mural .  I found it could only be appreciated by standing way back and getting the "overview".  Later, I felt "instructed" to start reading the Bible in that manner, big chunks, without someone else's commentary on what it was supposed to say.  I soon found it difficult to support some of the "received" opinions on quite a few matters, especially in the early chapters of Genesis as here is the basis upon which all our understanding rests and a ground over which more controversy has raged and more faith has been lost than any other part of Scripture.

I was convinced that God did not put the account there to be a stumbling block but a foundation stone for the understanding of the rest of Salvation History, therefore, as such, it needed to be understandable by those for whom it was intended.  When you live in some foreign countries and learn how other cultures reason and express themselves, at first one is tempted to think like Professor Higgins "Why can't they be more like us"?  But the fact is that many cultures think pictorially and attribute certain events to a Superior Being in what is often oblique language.  Even in our culture we still refer to an event beyond our control as "an act of God".  I think if we appreciate this, it will help us understand the language of the Creation story and how the "six days" came about.  How the immense diversity of life came into being in detail is beyond us and certainly would have also been beyond Moses. More modern human vanity comes up with ideas like evolution although in recent years, even some honest atheists have conceeded the concept of "intelligent design", so wonderful are the "works" that they diligently observe.

In outline, Genesis tells us, "God did it" and it took six days to tell the story.  It is enough in the circumstances but we are not forbidden to enquire further into the wonders of God’s handiwork and learn more but that whole field of research has been muddied in the conflict between those concoting theories to deny God and those trying to find logical justification for an erroneous medieval "interpretation" of the record that has been passed down to us.  Well, here is what I think I am learning.

The general theory I have adopted is not new, a P.J. Wiseman tried to popularise the view that God took six days to reveal what happened at the creation. On this view, Genesis 1 is not the record of creation but the record of the revelation of creation.* The gap theory allows room for millions of years, but it still considered that the days of Genesis 1 were literal days. The millions of years were fitted in between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2. CETF, September, 2007 - The Early Chapters of Genesis and Evolution" By PETER BARNES  * P.J. Wiseman, Clues to Creation in Genesis, London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1977.

Genesis 1

The purpose of this writing is to seek a Biblical explanation for concepts that have been a cause of doubt and contention for a great many of the faithful.  We do not want to do that by means of distorting or compromising truth but by asking the simple question, "Is that really what the Bible says?"  All too often we read into a text what we have been taught and unquestioningly accept unlikely explanations that have been glibly used to reconcile or gloss over an apparent contradiction to the "accepted truth".

We believe that the Bible is God’s Word and a revelation to us of His works and purposes and that it is meant to be understood, otherwise we must question Paul's words in Romans 1:20, "For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse."

We also believe that, as Genesis states, God made man in His "likeness and image" and gave him dominion over the earth, therefore the reasoning abilities of the human brain and gifts of observation are not to be disparaged as some do, but sanctified by the Spirit of God to the purpose for which we are created.

It is well known that there has been considerable disagreement between what some have interpreted God’s word as saying and what our scientific search for understanding appears to teach us. Unfortunately, unbelievers seeking to justify their own condition have sought to contradict the Genesis account while, on the other hand, believers have blindly clung to whatever seems to contradict science.  We believe that what we can learn from honest scientific observation can only confirm and enlighten us to what God has already given us in outline.

Long ago the writer learned that the Bible is not understood through word by word exegesis as it is commonly done in church study groups, but by stepping back and observing the overview, of learning what is actually being said.  This involves reading more widely than the few daily verses with devotional notes designed to "help" us "understand" what is often not actually in the text but is rather "accepted doctrine" orwhat we are supposed to believe.  There is a story told of four blind men who set out to describe and elephant.  We only need let the reader use their God given imagination to see the point of the story.

So, we will embark on a quest that will not rely upon the detailed analysis of words but will span at least six chapters to obtain a reconcilable overview of our "Beginnings". We will attempt to show that from the context and common sense meaning of the record, the "days" of Genesis 1 were in fact 24 or maybe only 12 hour periods but that the events revealed over those six "days" may have individually occupied even shorter or longer periods of time.  Also, that although the "days" are described consecutively, individual epochs of creation may have run concurrently, some occurring or continuing later into the Genesis record.

Using our God-given reason we can ask what at first may sound, some silly questions. 1) Did each recorded act take exactly 24 hours?  2) Did creation only take place at night, between "the evening and morning" or is this just glancing back in a literary sense over the day's events, - morning to evening? In Chapter 2 v.4 we find the terms "heavens and the earth" reversed to "earth and the heavens" in the same verse and that all creation took place in a single "day".  We can see how important it is to stand back and get the message rather than to be hung up on individual words. 3) How was darkness and light "separated", were they mixed in some way before this?  There are more questions like this that can be asked but they all suggest that we may have been missing something in the scholorly disection of words and the orthodox "interpretations" of what actually is being told.

v.1  "In the beginning God  created the heavens and the earth".  This appears to be a complete statement,  virtually a preface to what follows. But if we were told no more, "dayenu" (it  would be sufficient), we would know to Whom we had to answer.  What this verse does tell us is that the creation of the heavens and the earth were not done in the six "days" described following verse 3 because the next verse goes on to describe an already existing planet earth in a state of some disrepair.     

v.2   Now the earth was [  Or possibly became ] formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of  the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.   Another statement  that precedes anything revealed in the following verses, it says "and the  earth was or became" - which ever rendering you prefer - "formless"  STRONG'S REFERENCE NUMBER: 8414  HEBREW: TOHUW  DEFINITION: A DESOLATION  (OF SURFACE), I.E. DESERT; FIG. A WORTHLESS THING; ADV. IN VAIN. If this condition was revealed visibly to any human we must assume the "darkness" was not absolute, although the revelation may have been verbal,  we are not told.

Without giving space to evolution or disputing "old earth / young earth" ideas the physical conditions described here are consistent with what we can observe today on other lifeless worlds.  We cannot tell whether they were always the way we see them now or if they became so as a result of some cosmic disturbance.  In either case, we do not have reliable means of measuring the duration of either condition.  But, the idea of an empty, formless desolation of a world is not consistent with that which God declared "good" or with the manner in which the other acts of creation are recorded.  Such a condition of desolation might find excuse in an evolutionary framework but it is inconsistent with God's perfect handiwork described in the following verses.  Rather, it suggests the aftermath of a cosmic battle and we do have hints of such a battle elsewhere in Scripture, that tell of when Satan rebelled and with a third of the angelic host was cast out of heaven.  There may well have existed a creation on earth prior to the period we are studying, that was completely destroyed and the planet became as described above in Genesis 1 v.2.  Such a destroyed creation would supply the fossils and geological evidence used by evolutionists to cast doubt on the Genesis account.

So, here we are on the threshold of what this writer believes is the record of a six day visual revelation of the progress of re-creation, that took place, either instantly or over longer periods of time.  We believe that each "day" of revelation dealt with a phase of Creation (see diagram) a literary device essential to the three dimensional limitation of narrative. In fact, the events of those "days" in some cases, ran concurrently in time, the fourth dimension, for unspecified periods.  Concepts that might have been unavailable to the writer of Genesis or too difficult to explain in his day.

Six Days

So, before going further, let us elaborate here two premise upon which this commentary is based - Firstly, that the events described as the "days" of creation were not actually witnessed  by any human but, although not so stated, were later revealed in the form  of a vision or visions, a sort of "action playback" of the order, so far as words could describe, in which the world was furnished.  Possibly, visions similar to those experienced by the prophet Ezekiel, who had several "daily" episodes or by John on Patmos. Some looking back others looking forward. Secondly, that the acts of creation were recorded by, traditionally, Moses or whoever received the visions and that what was seen, was described in terms of the viewer's or writer's vocabulary. Although Divine inspiration may take us outside our normal understanding, if we are to tell others our experience, we must use a common language and vocabulary.  Incidentally, Ezekiel is more careful in his description of things for which he has no linguistic reference and often says, "like the appearance of", for example " . . . and brilliant light surrounded him. Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him." Ezekiel 1:27,28.   John on Patmos [Rev.1:1-9] also saw things for which he had no exact vocabulary.  When John said the gates of the New Jerusalem were made of huge pearls, were  they natural pearls as we use the word (some oyster!) or did they just look  like huge pearls?  Ezekiel may have said "the appearance of pearls".  "The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The  great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass." Rev.21:21  Note also the streets of transparent gold - obviously a substance unknown  to John but it looked to him as he described it.  Some have suggested that absolutely pure gold would be transparent but such technology is beyond  us and it is doubtful if John had such knowledge.  We have plenty of materials today that would fit the description.

So, back to Genesis.

v.3   "And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light".

From an earth side view of a planet of chaos "without form" [Heb. tohu - a ruin, vacancy] "and void" [Heb. bohu - emptiness] "and darkness" [Heb. choshek - darkness] "was on the face of the deep" [Heb. tehom - deep place, the deep] see Jer. 4:23 I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was without form, and void; and the heavens, and they had no light. Nothing would be visible without light.  As the vision materialized there was light - seeing is not possible without light!  It was a scene of ruin and emptiness - verse 2.

v.4   God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. v.5   God called the light "day," and the darkness he called "night." And there was evening, and there was morning--the first day.

Notice that "God  saw that the light was good" - nothing else.  As we are told, the rest was a world laid waste with "the Spirit of God hovering over the waters"

Our "observer" records the first night and day.  Here also God imparts to the observer names for the phenomenon, "night"  [Heb. layelah] and "day" [Heb. yom].  We can't imagine God needed Hebrew names for His own purposes  Think also for a moment about the phrase "separated the light from the darkness." - "Separated" has to be a figure of speech for what was subjectively observed by the writer.  Can light and darkness exist together?  Did somehow darkness and light previously exist as a mixture?  Did God "do" something at this moment to separate the light and darkness?  We believe that what the observer is seeing is the normal rotation of the earth and the first "day" of visions reveal the transition of darkness to light.  We know that darkness is only the absence of light.  This is why the Psalmist said "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path." Psalm 119:105 .  Without light we are lost.  Job has some insight into planetary matters: "He drew a circular horizon on the face of the waters, at the boundary of light and darkness." Job 26:10.   The concept of a "circular horizon" as a "boundary of light and darkness", would be hard to come by except a view from outer space.  See illustration below  .  And what does "He drew . . ." mean?  It suggests another pictorial view, or a vision.

terminator

  Now we need also to consider the words, "And there was evening, and there was morning . . ."  Those holding to the actual acts of creation being described as taking place within a "day" need to consider these words - do they describe a 12 hour or a 24 hour period?  For those who believe that the "days" were periods in which six facets of creation were revealed in vision form, may take it as a literal 12 hour period.  There is another interesting aspect to this and that being the Hebrew Calendar where days run from sundown to sundown and a full 24 hour period would be described as "evening and morning" - the "eve" of the day (that part which preceeds) being the "evening". Confusing? well only because we have changed the beginning of a new day to mid-night and now tend to think "evening" comes toward the end rather than the beginning.  Inconsistently, we still use terms like 'Christmas eve' in the Hebriac sense.

Whatever position we take, we have to accept that this is written from an earth side human observer's point of view.  We also need to note that throughout the rest of the Creation account, the expression "God saw that it was good" cannot mean that God expected anything He did to be less than "good" and therefore made a decision to proceed only after being satisfied with the finished result so far - rather it is the assumption of the observer, a figure of speech, or literary gloss, underlining that this "days" revelation was God's work and His alone.  See the next verse, and notice that God (or the writer) does not find it necessary to pronounce this act as "good".

v.6  And God said, "Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water."  v.7   So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. v.8  God called the expanse "sky." And there was evening, and there was morning--the second day.

The fact that the Sun is not visible to our observer until later, is simply revealed in this and the following verses where the "waters above the expanse" (a cloud blanket) are dense enough for our observer to be unable to actually see the sun.  (We still frequently have days like this.)  It is the belief of this writer that this condition existed on earth until the flood of Noah as is witnessed by the fact that only then was a rainbow seen.  I know some earnest folk are uncomfortable with a simple explanation like this and feel happier if there are parts at least "beyond understanding" - but we must ask - why did God trouble to give us the information if we cannot know what it means?

v.9   And God said, "Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear." And it was so.  v.10  God called the dry ground "land," and the gathered waters he called "seas." And God saw that it was good.

The water level drops as the excess seeps into the underground caverns and aquifers.  A single water mass (called "seas") and a single continent (Gondwanaland?) appears and remains in this form -; (except for a period again submerged in the time of Noah) - until the time of Peleg. Gen.10:25 " . . . Peleg, [Heb. peleg - division] for in his days the earth was divided . . ."   This theme needs further study and is dealt with under a later study on Babel but it is worth noting here that these people were the direct  descendants of Noah's family and that until the time of Peleg,, "the whole earth had one language" and were an undivided "people group". - see Gen.11:6.

v.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. v.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. v.13  And there was evening, and there was morning--the third day.

The wording here does not suggest that all plant life flashed into existence over a few hours but "the land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds, . . ."   "According to their kinds", suggests natural development, anything else would transgress God's laws of reproduction. So this verse witnesses the natural germination and growth of plant life revealed to our viewer in one short "day" period".  Something similar we see many times these days on TV Nature programmes, especially fascinating with the use of lapse time photography.

We learn later in chapter 2, when the preparing of Eden for the Adamic humans is discussed, that it did not rain as we know rain now but in verse 6 ". . . streams [ Or mist ] came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground . . ."   This is consistent with the idea of a cloud blanket, hot house environment and the rapid development of plant life.

v.14  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, v.15  and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth." And it was so. v.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. v.17 God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, v.18  to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. v.19  And there was evening, and there was morning--the fourth day.

Our observer now sees the arrival of the time in the creation saga when the "waters above the earth" were diminished sufficiently so that the heavenly bodies could be seen. We know that this happened during the flood of Noah and it is significant that, as already mentioned, only after the flood, a rainbow was seen for the first time.  A rainbow is not seen on days of heavy cloud when the sun is not visible.  So the visual conditions of verses 3 and 4, night and day, light and darkness, existed until after the flood.

This illustrates the thought that the events revealed on six consecutive days covered different actual time periods, some before, some later, some concurrent.  Verses 14 - 19 was the view earth side after a period of 40 days and 40 nights when "In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, on the seventeenth day of the second month--on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened. And rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights." Gen.7:11,12"

Other interesting events happen also at this time, like the dramatic shortening of human life.  We shall learn later, in Eden, that human immortality was denied mankind because of sin, but nevertheless the normal life span ran into many hundreds of years and this, probably, because they were shielded from the destructive cosmic radiation by a vast cloud blanket - the "waters above the expanse".  After these waters were no longer acting as a shield, life span dramatically shortened to 120 years and less.  Now we are learning the cost of loosing even what "filters" remain in the ozone layer with further damage to human life forms. This [over]view seems consistent with the revelation of the fourth "day".

v.20  And God said, "Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky." v.21  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. v.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." v.23  And there was evening, and there was morning--the fifth day.

The fifth "day" God reveals the provision of part of a future self perpetuating food chain. Did he also delight in the multiplicity of creatures and their wonderful environmental adaptation? God said it "was good".  As we study the animal kingdom we must be left in awe of the diverse wonders of creation.  To believe as evolutionists claim, that it all is the result of a biological accident, requires both faith beyond human comprehension and a unique blindness to the abilities, intelligence and diversity of the creatures with which we share this planet.

v.24  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. v.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.

This is simply a continuation of the revelations of the day before and a continuation of the demonstration of our Creator's unlimited imagination and planned preparation made tangible.  But this "day" is not over.

v.26  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, [ Hebrew; Syriac all the wild animals ] and over all the creatures that move along the ground."

v.27  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; 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 of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground."

v.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. v.30  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. v.31  God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning--the sixth day.

Here is what it was all about and notice the words, "God saw all that he had made, and it was very good".  God, creating beings in His "likeness and image" with whom He might have fellowship and provided a total environment in which these beings could live.  How it was done and how long it took was not immediately important, except that we were to know that He did it for these first humans and He did it for us, the children of Adam and that He revealed the order of events so that in the ages to come, as we "take dominion", our science might have a point of reference, a "beginning" from which we might explore the universe.  Sin changed all that - but more is to come.

Genesis 2

v.1 Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. v.2  By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested [ Or ceased; also in verse 3 ] from all his work. v.3 And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

Here we learn that God blessed the Seventh Day.  The awareness of the holy nature of the seventh day and the reason for it's sacredness was imparted as a final act of revelation to the one who received  and made the written record we call Genesis. Jesus said "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." Mark 2:27.  Much later we may talk about God's Sabbath but sufficient here to mention that the idea of the seventh day Sabbath is not a "Jewish holy day" as some are wont to suggest but an observance which God established as a memorial for all mankind, at Creation.

And that sounds like the last word by our visionary scribe so far as this series of revelations is concerned.  What follows appears to be a specific act of creation and not as some would  say a contradictory re-run of events already recorded.  It starts like this  v.4 This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that Yehovah God made the earth and the heavens.   Some seem to think this refers to the previous account but careful reading of the previous verses and what follows will show that it is an introduction to a close-up view of one particular part of Creation and necessary to set the stage for the fortelling and fulfilling of mankind's Salvation.  Remember there were no verse and chapter breaks in the original text.

But we will come  to this in further studies.

Keith Relf
December 2001

6Days

Back to Index