Back to Basics: Genesis 1

Our goal is to equip believers with the knowledge they need to have confidence in Scripture and to counter the arguments of modern humanism and evolution.  In this article, we are going to focus on the basics of Biblical creation.  This week, we will review Genesis chapter one, and in the following weeks we will look at chapter two, other passages in the Old and New Testament relating to creation, and how an incorrect view of creation can keep us from an accurate understanding of Biblical doctrine.

In the beginning God created the heaven and earth.

— Genesis 1:1

One of the key points to note about the beginning of Genesis, and by extension the Bible, is that God is never explained.  The Bible does not try and provide evidence for God’s existence or to convince people that He exist.  The book begins with “in the beginning God.”  As Paul writes in Romans 1, everyone has an innate knowledge of God that is also confirmed by what is seen in creation but that many will “hold the truth in unrighteousness.”  “Hold” here means hinder, or suppress, and that is exactly what unbelievers are doing, they are suppressing their innate knowledge of God’s existence in an attempt to get out from under His authority. It is very important to remember that all people know that the God of the Bible is real and true.

As we continue to look at verse one we can see that God is eternal, having no beginning or end. He created time when He created space (heaven) and matter (earth) in verse one.  This is important to note as time, space, and matter must all come into existence at the same time and that God is not bound by the rules that constrain them.  This can be difficult to understand because our lives on earth are bound by order God has set in place to govern time/space/matter.

The rest of chapter one is detailing God’s day-by-day creation of everything with the creation of light on day one, the firmament on day two, dry land and plants on day three, lights in the firmament of heaven on day four, sea life and fowl on day five, and culminating with land animals and man on day six.  There are a couple points of interest here that we will look at as we move through the different days.

In day one we see God create heaven and earth and that, at first, all was dark and the earth was covered in water.  In verse three we have Him bringing light into existence and then in the next two verses He sees that the light is good and then divides light, which He called day, from darkness, that He called night.  Verse five ends with “And the evening and the morning were the first day.”  This phrase is clearly showing us that this is the same twenty-four-hour day that we have now and isn’t alluding to any great periods of time as some who try to mesh the Bible with the false belief of evolution.

Day two starts in verse six with God making a firmament to divide the waters that were under it from the waters that were above it.  Something important to realize when reading this passage is that the word “made” is different in meaning from the word “created,” with made meaning appointed or ordered.  The firmament wasn’t created from nothing but was appointed by God to separate the waters.  In verse eight we see the firmament is named heaven but this is not the heaven that is the abode of God but, as we see in verses 14 – 15 and 20, this is totality of our atmosphere plus space.  This concludes day two.

In verse nine we have God speaking the waters under the heaven to gather together into one place so that there would be dry land.  This lets us know that prior to the Flood, there was one large body of water, called seas, surrounded by dry land, called earth.  God then commands the earth to bring forth grass, herb yielding seeds, and fruit trees.  Again, note that this is not “poof” and they are there but that they literally spring forth from the ground rapidly enough that God was able to look at the trees bearing fruit before they day was out and see that there were good.  At the close of day three we have plants with light but no sun, moon, or stars for those come on the next day.

On day four we have God creating the sun, moon, and stars.  God gives us the reason behind creating these celestial bodies in verse fourteen, “to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:  and let them be for lights in the firmament of heaven to give light upon the earth.”  This is another instance where God is not creating these lights but rather appointing them as seen in verse sixteen.  The words light used in this verse is not referring to the actual light that we see but is more of a title for the sun and moon.  This is easy to discern as we know the moon does not create light but reflects light from the sun.  Almost as a side note, “He made the stars also.”  With the first setting of the sun we have the end of the fourth day.

As day five opens in verse twenty we have the first creation of life on earth.  God commands the waters to bring forth “abundantly” sea life and fowl.  This verse, along with placement of the lights from the last day, show us that the firmament refers to our atmosphere (where the fowl’s fly) and space (where the sun, moon, and stars are).  We see that these animals were brought forth after their kind.  It is important to remember that the animal classifications of species, genus’s, etc. are affectations of man and, as such, will be imperfect.  Was every sea creature and flying creature we have today brought into existence on day five?  No, most assuredly not, but every kind was and within the genetics of those kinds was the programming to produce the variety that we have presently.  Day five ends with God blessing these creatures and commanding them to be fruitful and multiply.

Day six picks up in verse twenty-four with God commanding the earth to bring forth cattle, creeping things, and beast of the earth.  Just as with the prior day this is not every breed of land animal but every kind with the genetic information to produce every species of land animal. 

Verse twenty-six continues day six with a very unusual occurrence.  God says, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”  The “us” here refers not only to God and the Holy Spirit (Spirit of God, verse 2) but also to Jesus as we know from John 1:1.  They, together, have decided to make man and to give him a purpose, as we see in the continuation of the verse, to have dominion over sea life, fowl, cattle, the earth, and everything that creepeth upon the earth.  In verse twenty-seven we have God creating both male and female, which we will take a more in-depth look at in our next article on Genesis chapter two.

Verse twenty-eight sees God blessing mankind, commanding them to be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth which here doesn’t mean to refill but to fill from emptiness.  They are also commanded to subdue the earth and to have dominion over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.  Verses twenty-nine and thirty shows us that God’s initially created all living creatures to eat fruits and vegetables which God later countermands in Genesis 9:3 but for the first several hundred years all life subsisted on plant matter.

Chapter one concludes with God looking over all he had made and “it was very good.”  Next week we will go through chapter two and a more in-depth look at the creation of Adam and Eve.  We will also see that the events of chapter two are about the garden of Eden and not about creation week.  This is an important distinction as some people who oppose the Bible will try and say that chapter one and two contradict each other.