We previously covered the authorship, genre, and background of Genesis 1-11 and made it to the very first morning and evening upon the earth. We saw that, from the very beginning, God is the only creator and commander of His creation. We saw the plurality of God from the beginning. We saw God name evening and morning. He took the time, that first evening, to observe His creation and recognize it as good. Today, we will see days two and three of God’s creation upon the earth.
6 וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֔ים יְהִ֥י רָקִ֖יעַ בְּת֣וֹךְ הַמָּ֑יִם וִיהִ֣י מַבְדִּ֔יל בֵּ֥ין מַ֖יִם לָמָֽיִם׃
7 וַיַּ֣עַשׂ אֱלֹהִים֮ אֶת־הָרָקִיעַ֒ וַיַּבְדֵּ֗ל בֵּ֤ין הַמַּ֙יִם֙ אֲשֶׁר֙ מִתַּ֣חַת לָרָקִ֔יעַ וּבֵ֣ין הַמַּ֔יִם אֲשֶׁ֖ר מֵעַ֣ל לָרָקִ֑יעַ וַֽיְהִי־כֵֽן׃
8 וַיִּקְרָ֧א אֱלֹהִ֛ים לָֽרָקִ֖יעַ שָׁמָ֑יִם וַֽיְהִי־עֶ֥רֶב וַֽיְהִי־בֹ֖קֶר י֥וֹם שֵׁנִֽי׃ פ
9 וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֗ים יִקָּו֨וּ הַמַּ֜יִם מִתַּ֤חַת הַשָּׁמַ֙יִם֙ אֶל־מָק֣וֹם אֶחָ֔ד וְתֵרָאֶ֖ה הַיַּבָּשָׁ֑ה וַֽיְהִי־כֵֽן׃
10 וַיִּקְרָ֨א אֱלֹהִ֤ים׀ לַיַּבָּשָׁה֙ אֶ֔רֶץ וּלְמִקְוֵ֥ה הַמַּ֖יִם קָרָ֣א יַמִּ֑ים וַיַּ֥רְא אֱלֹהִ֖ים כִּי־טֽוֹב׃
11 וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֗ים תַּֽדְשֵׁ֤א הָאָ֙רֶץ֙ דֶּ֔שֶׁא עֵ֚שֶׂב מַזְרִ֣יעַ זֶ֔רַע עֵ֣ץ פְּרִ֞י עֹ֤שֶׂה פְּרִי֙ לְמִינ֔וֹ אֲשֶׁ֥ר זַרְעוֹ־ב֖וֹ עַל־הָאָ֑רֶץ וַֽיְהִי־כֵֽן׃
12 וַתּוֹצֵ֨א הָאָ֜רֶץ דֶּ֠שֶׁא עֵ֣שֶׂב מַזְרִ֤יעַ זֶ֙רַע֙ לְמִינֵ֔הוּ וְעֵ֧ץ עֹֽשֶׂה־פְּרִ֛י אֲשֶׁ֥ר זַרְעוֹ־ב֖וֹ לְמִינֵ֑הוּ וַיַּ֥רְא אֱלֹהִ֖ים כִּי־טֽוֹב׃
13 וַֽיְהִי־עֶ֥רֶב וַֽיְהִי־בֹ֖קֶר י֥וֹם שְׁלִישִֽׁי׃ פ
A second day (v. 6-8)
Then God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” God made the expanse, and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so. God called the expanse heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.
With His words, God commands some water to separate from other water so that there is space between them. Like we saw previously, the text is not exact on the details. We cannot know from the text whether liquid water began floating in the sky (which some early Semitic peoples believed) or whether the atmosphere simply lifted from the surface of the earth at God’s command following the revelation of light to the surface of the earth. What we know for from the text is that God commanded there to be an expanse and, thus by simply speaking it, made the expanse. Look at the language, here. The expanse definitely did not exist before God’s command here. At this moment, God made the expanse by separating the water above fro the water below.
At the first evening and morning, We saw God name the evening and morning. Now, we see God name the expanse. Depending on your English translation, you see that God names the expanse “heaven” or “sky.” The Hebrew word, “שָׁמָ֑יִם,” literally refers to either God’s dwelling place, the cosmos, or the sky. Any time we see the word “heaven” used in the Old Testament, we should pay attention to the context to know which. Since the expanse between the waters above and the waters below is not the cosmos or God’s dwelling place (as we perceive things now), it must be the sky. Through the days of creation, we find that God loves to name the things He intentionally creates. He even names things that are immaterial, like the expanse (which is the absence of water).
There is evening and there is morning a second day. Here, Moses uses the same inexact language we saw to describe the first evening and morning. While most English translations include a definite article, “the second day,” the Hebrew does not. The proper way to translate this second evening and morning is by saying or writing, “a second day.” The text is certainly presenting a chronology. But, it is difficult to tell from the Hebrew whether the sequence of creation happened on consecutive days. We can’t get there simply by exegeting Genesis 1—we have to trust other texts that present the six days as consecutive. Since it is good to see what Moses’s thoughts are as he writes Genesis 1, we will observe what he writes later in Exodus 20:11:
For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.
Moses states it clearly in a later work. The heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them were created within the confines of 6 days leading up to the day on which God rested. At the least, the sky (though perhaps even the cosmos—but it’s difficult to tell from the text), the ground, and the sea and all the birds in the sky, fish in the sea, and creatures on the ground, were created in a literal six days according to the biblical account.
But, the purpose of Genesis 1 is not to provide the minutia of creation or explain exactly how everything came to be and in what timing. The broadness and inexactness of Genesis 1 distinguish it from the Ancient Near East myths that predated its writing. Those myths tried to account for everything and explain how they came to be. Here, Genesis is simply claiming that God spoke and things happened. Again, I believe the accounting of things in Genesis 1 is historically and scientifically accurate to reality. Yet, I think we often look at Genesis 1 with a skewed purpose in mind. We want to know minutia. Genesis 1 does not provide it. Instead, Moses is doing something distinct from all the Ancient Near East myths being taught and passed down to each new generation in the nations surrounding the wandering Israelites. We don’t yet know why Moses is writing Genesis 1 like He is—in a similar style to the Ancient Near East myths but counter-cultural to them. This purpose will become known as we work through the text.
So, from the beginning, those who follow after God have been rebels and agents of counter-culture. Simply by working through Genesis sincerely, we become rebels and renegades in a worldly context.
A third day (v. 9-13)
Then God said, “Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas; and God saw that it was good.
God commands the waters below the heavens, or sky, to be gathered into one place. He also commands dry land to appear. After moving the waters and revealing the dry land underneath them, God names the dry land “earth.” Earth, or “אֶ֔רֶץ,”is here the same word that was used to designate the earth in verse 1. So, the planet simply bears the name of the ground that God named. אֶ֔רֶץ literally means dirt, earth, land, or a national territory within a set boundary on the land. The term is vague and does not usually refer to a proper place (e.g. Earth). God also calls the gathering of water “seas.” Once again, after naming His work, God observes it and recognizes it as good.
Then God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them”; and it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good. There was evening and there was morning, a third day.
God commands the earth, the land generically, to sprout vegetation. God has already created and commanded matter. Now, He creates life. Not just life, but life that yields seed—so it has the capability of reproducing according to its kind. God commanded vegetation to sprout from the earth, and it did. Again, the story is vague and we do not receive the minutia of creation. All we can say is that the earth brought about plants yielding seed after their kinds, and trees bearing fruit with seed in them after their kinds. Apple trees produce apple trees. Wheat produces more wheat. When you plant the seed from an oak, you don’t have to question what will grow if you are successful. Here, we see providence and order at work. God is not a God of chaos like some of the Egyptian gods or like some of the gods of the Ancient Near East mythology. God is different. He creates order. There is no chaos in His order of creation. While the Ancient Near East Myths begin with chaos and explain the captivation of chaos by inventing gods, Moses begins with order from the beginning. Life does not come from non-life. Something cannot come from nothing. God is the originator. He speaks. He creates. He commands. Creation obeys. Moses is using a genre of the time to speak truth that opposes all the other stories. This makes sense. Moses grew up in Egypt. As a former member of the royal family, he has been trained in the most popular literary genre of the land. He knows the stories of the gods and is familiar with the mythologies of other peoples. After having met God, who chose the Hebrew people for Himself, Moses speaks against everything he learned growing up in order to tell the world about the true creator God, who exists in plurality and with whom chaos cannot contend because there is no such entity.
Once again, God observes the work of His hands and sees that it is good. There is morning and evening a third day. Moses uses the same inexact language to describe a third day instead of the third day like we read in most english translation. The absence of a definite article in Hebrew is important.
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