Genesis 1

The Word Made Fresh

1When God began creating the heavens and the earth, 2the earth was a shapeless, empty, watery mass. Darkness covered everything, and like a wind, God’s breath swept across the water.

3God said, “Let there be light!” And light began to shine. 4God decided the light was good and separated light from darkness. 5God said the light was Day, and the darkness was Night. Evening came, then morning; Day One.

6God said, “Let an empty space form within the waters,” 7and God shaped the empty space, separating the waters above and below. 8God named the open space Sky. Evening came, then morning; Day Two.

9Then God said, “Let the waters under the sky collect in one area so dry land can appear,” and that is what happened. 10God named the land Earth, and he named the waters Seas. And God was pleased. 11God said, “Let plants begin to grow in the earth, each kind having its own seed. And let fruit trees grow on the earth, bearing fruit that contains seeds.” 12Plants and trees began to push their way through the earth’s surface, and God was pleased. 13Evening came, then morning; Day Three.

14God said, “Let there be lights in the space above the sky, so that day and night will be separate. The lights will serve as signs to announce the changing seasons and the passing days will become years, 15and they will provide light on the earth’s surface.” So it was. 16God made the two great lights, one to shine in the day and the other in the night along with the stars. 17God placed them in the sky to light up the earth, 18to provide illumination for the day and for the night, separating light from darkness. God was pleased. 19Evening came, then morning; Day Four.

20Then God said, “Let the waters teem with living things. Let the sky be filled with birds flying across the land.” 21God created the huge monsters that rule the sea and all kinds of other creatures with which the waters teem. And God created birds of every kind. God was pleased. 22God said to them, “Multiply. Fill the oceans and the streams. And let the birds multiply all over the earth.” 23Evening came, then morning; Day Five.

24Then God said, “Let all kinds of living creatures appear on the earth: Let there be cattle, and crawling things, and let wild animals of every sort come forth.” So it was. 25God made all kinds of wild animals, all sorts of cattle and creatures that creep and crawl on the ground. God was pleased.

26Then God said, “Now we’ll make human beings, beings like us. Let them rule the fish, the birds, the cattle, and all the wild animals on the earth, including all the creatures that creep and crawl on the ground.” So, God made humans, beings like God, male and female. 28God was pleased with them. God said, “Reproduce and grow in numbers until you fill the earth and bring it under control, and rule the fish in the seas, and the birds that fly above, and every creature that lives on the earth. 29Look,” God said, “I have given you plants that grow from seeds in the ground, and the fruit from trees – you have all of it for your food. 30Every four-legged animal and every winged bird and every critter that crawls can also eat the plants that grow from the ground.” So it was.

31Then God looked out over everything, and God was very pleased. Evening came, then morning; Day Six.

Commentary

1-5: Earth is pictured as a formless, empty, dark mass in the midst of a great ocean. God is hovering over it, God’s breath stirring the surface. Then God speaks and light comes to be. Darkness is not destroyed, however, but only separated from the light. The first day is complete.

6-8: On the second day a space is made to accommodate the earth. God does this by placing a “firmament” in the waters. The firmament is a kind of tent or dome that holds the waters back. The watery mass above the dome is called Sky. Now we notice that the story follows a rhythm of up and down. First, the breath of God is on the surface, then the Sky is created. We can expect something below to follow.

9-13: Which is exactly what happens – the waters under the sky are separated into oceans to allow for the appearance of dry land, which God calls Earth. Then life is created – plant life – to cover the land. It is significant that life is created on the third day: for us Christians it is a premonition of the resurrection of Christ.

14-19: Now we can expect to go “up” again. God creates the sun, moon and stars and secures them in the sky to provide the earth with light. You might argue that light was created on the first day, but I would counter that after light was created the earth was then created in the midst of the waters, making it necessary to separate the waters and then provide sources of light directly shining on the land. In other words, according to the story, God created the sun, moon and stars and then imbued them with the light created on the first day.

20-23: On the fifth day the work of creation moves downward again, and then up. First God makes fishes and other sea creatures to romp in the oceans. Then God makes birds to fly across the sky.

24-25: The creation story comes back to earth again with God creating all the animals.

26-31 Still in the sixth day, God creates human beings. There are two ways to interpret this: either humans are intended as a continuation of the “down” cycle of creation, or they are intended as a climactic up-swing. I favor the latter interpretation because on the fifth day we already saw the down-then-up movement, all on the same day. Indeed, human beings are given dominion over everything else on earth and over the birds that fly above. They are not, however, trusted with dominion over the sun, moon, and stars. That is probably why my grandmother thought space travel is a godless pursuit and blamed a particular stretch of bad weather on John Glenn’s orbital flight.

It is interesting that human beings and all the other animals seem to be designed for a vegetarian diet.

Each day (except the second day) God has pronounced that whatever was made on that day was good. Only at the end of the sixth day does God pronounce that everything is very good: that is to say, created things are individually good, but taken all together they are more than just “good.”

Takeaway

Everything belongs to God, from the galaxies to the solar systems to the suns to the planets and their moons, to the comets and meteors, it is all God’s creation. Every plant, every animal, every mountain, valley, and stream belong to God. Every human being is God’s creation and belongs to God. God has an interest in how we treat creation, which means God is interested in how we treat one another, and God watches over everything that exists.