Back to the Bible: Genesis 1.3-31 part 3

Well, the last few months have been full of upheaval. I graduated in April, got a job working construction for the summer (as my three readers may remember), moved to Vancouver, started a new job (you can read about that process here and here) and started settling into a routine. I think I’m finally ready to start writing again – Breaking Bad and Dr. Who can wait a couple hours. Yes, I have a great deal of free time on my job.

We’re going to pick back up where we left off – blogging through Scripture. Some days I make take a break from this, and blog about life in the Downtown East Side of Vancouver, or about my life as a husband, or about community or family or maybe about something completely different. These will be asides however, and the main focus of this blog will be blogging through the scriptures. As a reminder of my chosen format, I will be alternating between the Old and New Testaments, and reading through each passage twice. The first time I will be reading the ESV, and writing my initial reactions to the text. The second time I will be reading from the excellent NET online bible, which you can find here. I love the side-by-side Greek and Hebrew translations, and the translator’s notes – I know just enough Greek to be able to butcher it badly, and so these notes help me greatly. This second reading will get into the original languages a little bit, as well as some more in-depth commentary on the passage at hand.

And so we return to the Word. If you need to catch up, read these posts first:

Genesis: an introduction
Genesis 1.1
Genesis 1.3-31 Part 1
Genesis 1.3-31 Part 2

And now, part 3, starting in verse 14.

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14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. 16 

What strikes me right away is that the creation story is about purpose. The lights in the sky (stars, moon, and sun) are not there to simply look nice – the authors believed (and I do too) that there was divine intent in the way the stars were placed in the sky. This was no grand accident, nor was it God showing off – the stars and sun and moon were created to be signs and to mark out the seasons, days, and years. They were put there so that Earth would have light and heat. This is exciting! It shows a God who cares very much about his creation.

And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17 And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth,18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.

The writers obviously didn’t care that there wouldn’t have been any way to mark out the days until the fourth day. Nor did they care that vegetation was created before the sun and moon. What they cared about was that God had a purpose, and created everything with intent.

20 And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” 21 So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23 And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.

Again we can see that the authors of Genesis did not consider plants to be life in the same way that animals are considered to be life. We get so caught up in our modern scientific viewpoint, sometimes it is hard to understand the viewpoint of the writers of the text. Here we see God caring for both the aquatic and avian life that he created. They were not to be simply discarded, nor were they created to be window dressing. They are a part of a beautiful tapestry of life.

24 And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. 25 And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

I’m really getting the sense that we’re building towards something. Dry land, then plants and vegetation, then birds and fish… and now animals on land. It is a crescendo, and it is leading us somewhere. It is also interesting to me that God commanded the fish and birds to ‘be fruitful and multiply’, but gave no such instruction to the animals. I’m not sure what to make of that. I’m also noticing the three categories of animals in the minds of the writers : ‘creeping things’ (bugs, maybe? maybe lizards?), ‘beasts of the Earth’ (I’m assuming lions, wolves, etc – non-domesticated animals), and ‘livestock’ (domesticated animals, I suppose). No sense here that humans domesticated animals – this was something God created.

26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

Finally we get to the climax – Humanity. God entrusts his creation, which he calls good, to his prized creation – humans. This is incredible enough, but what comes next is what really excites me.

27 So God created man in his own image,
    in the image of God he created him;
    male and female he created them.

Poetry! After this immense act of creation, rather than simply moving on, the writers stop and give meaning to creation through the language of poetry. ‘God created man in his own image … male and female he created them’. Beautiful. Incredible.

28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Again God states that we are to care for creation, to rule over it justly. Notice that plants have been given to both humanity and to the animals for food; Also notice that god said to them, ‘have dominion’, not to him. God is speaking to both male and female here, and the writers here conclude the account of the creation of the world. Or do they? Drat our chapter-verse system.. we have some bonus verses to end the story with!

2.1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. 3So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.

Why the transcribers who added the chapters and verses to the Scriptures did not include these verses in chapter one is beyond me. the idea of God resting feels funny to me, but I don’t think we should read ‘rest’ as going on vacation. I know that when I rest, I try to fully enjoy my home and those around me… I think the idea of God enjoying his creation is more appropriate than the idea of God hanging up a ‘do not disturb’ sign. Regardless, this is the end of the macro view of creation, the overview of the incredible work of God.

In my next post we will be going over this passage again, reading from the NET and looking at some various interpretations of the creation account. If you enjoy this, please let me know!

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