Let There Be Stars, Fish, and Birds

We have observed three days of creation. Today we will consider a fourth and fifth day. We have seen Moses using more inexact language than we might like. We have seen that the purpose of Genesis 1 is not to present an exact, detailed account of creation. Moses is painting broad strokes. Though he asserts a literal, consecutive six-day creation on the earth (cf. Exodus 20:11), that view isn’t clear in the language of Genesis 1. Today, we see more broad strokes, inexactness concerning the days, overlap between the elements of each day, and a poetic structure becomes perspicuous. Before we read, I want to remind you that the point of the creation story is not necessarily to provide minutia about the details of creation. Moses is using inexact language purposefully. That purpose will become clear when we get to days six and seven.

Genesis 1:14-23

14 וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֗ים יְהִ֤י מְאֹרֹת֙ בִּרְקִ֣יעַ הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם לְהַבְדִּ֕יל בֵּ֥ין הַיּ֖וֹם וּבֵ֣ין הַלָּ֑יְלָה וְהָי֤וּ לְאֹתֹת֙ וּלְמ֣וֹעֲדִ֔ים וּלְיָמִ֖ים וְשָׁנִֽים׃

15 וְהָי֤וּ לִמְאוֹרֹת֙ בִּרְקִ֣יעַ הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם לְהָאִ֖יר עַל־הָאָ֑רֶץ וַֽיְהִי־כֵֽן׃

16 וַיַּ֣עַשׂ אֱלֹהִ֔ים אֶת־שְׁנֵ֥י הַמְּאֹרֹ֖ת הַגְּדֹלִ֑ים אֶת־הַמָּא֤וֹר הַגָּדֹל֙ לְמֶמְשֶׁ֣לֶת הַיּ֔וֹם וְאֶת־הַמָּא֤וֹר הַקָּטֹן֙ לְמֶמְשֶׁ֣לֶת הַלַּ֔יְלָה וְאֵ֖ת הַכּוֹכָבִֽים׃

17 וַיִּתֵּ֥ן אֹתָ֛ם אֱלֹהִ֖ים בִּרְקִ֣יעַ הַשָּׁמָ֑יִם לְהָאִ֖יר עַל־הָאָֽרֶץ׃

18 וְלִמְשֹׁל֙ בַּיּ֣וֹם וּבַלַּ֔יְלָה וּֽלֲהַבְדִּ֔יל בֵּ֥ין הָא֖וֹר וּבֵ֣ין הַחֹ֑שֶׁךְ וַיַּ֥רְא אֱלֹהִ֖ים כִּי־טֽוֹב׃

19 וַֽיְהִי־עֶ֥רֶב וַֽיְהִי־בֹ֖קֶר י֥וֹם רְבִיעִֽי׃ פ

20 וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֔ים יִשְׁרְצ֣וּ הַמַּ֔יִם שֶׁ֖רֶץ נֶ֣פֶשׁ חַיָּ֑ה וְעוֹף֙ יְעוֹפֵ֣ף עַל־הָאָ֔רֶץ עַל־פְּנֵ֖י רְקִ֥יעַ הַשָּׁמָֽיִם׃

21 וַיִּבְרָ֣א אֱלֹהִ֔ים אֶת־הַתַּנִּינִ֖ם הַגְּדֹלִ֑ים וְאֵ֣ת כָּל־נֶ֣פֶשׁ הַֽחַיָּ֣ה׀ הָֽרֹמֶ֡שֶׂת אֲשֶׁר֩ שָׁרְצ֨וּ הַמַּ֜יִם לְמִֽינֵהֶ֗ם וְאֵ֨ת כָּל־ע֤וֹף כָּנָף֙ לְמִינֵ֔הוּ וַיַּ֥רְא אֱלֹהִ֖ים כִּי־טֽוֹב׃

22 וַיְבָ֧רֶךְ אֹתָ֛ם אֱלֹהִ֖ים לֵאמֹ֑ר פְּר֣וּ וּרְב֗וּ וּמִלְא֤וּ אֶת־הַמַּ֙יִם֙ בַּיַּמִּ֔ים וְהָע֖וֹף יִ֥רֶב בָּאָֽרֶץ׃

23 וַֽיְהִי־עֶ֥רֶב וַֽיְהִי־בֹ֖קֶר י֥וֹם חֲמִישִֽׁי׃ פ

A fourth day (v. 14-19)

Then 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; and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so.

This is one point against which skeptics and cynics contend with, or at least question, the biblical account of creation. We know that stars produce the light. Yet, the Bible claims that God created the stars, sun, and moon after creating and separating the light, land, and plants. Notice the wording of the text, though. I think people have read too much into the text that the text does not provide. I also think we have a tendency to read Genesis 1 for purposes other than that which it was written. The text does not claim that God created the stars at this juncture. At the most, we are meant to picture the stars becoming visible from the earth at this juncture—on a fourth day. On a fourth day, God says, “Let there be lights,” and there are lights. The text does not say they began to exist at this juncture. It does say that there are lights.

These lights are in the expanse of the heavens. This expanse either refers to the expanse God created by separating water from water (cf. v. 7) or an expanse in the cosmos (cf. v. 1). In this instance, it makes more sense to say that the expanse of the cosmos is being referred to.

The lights are in the expanse of the cosmos in order to separate the day from the night and serve as signs for seasons, days, and years and give light on the earth. By Scripture’s own claim and by God’s design, the stars are created in order to provide the light that has already been revealed. This, again, is God’s providence mentioned in Genesis 1. The source of the light previously mentioned is being revealed. God created the source of the light. The light does not exist without its source. By Scripture’s own claim, then, the stars cannot have been created at this juncture, because their purpose is to provide the light and distinguish light from darkness and the seasons, days, and years. When we read too much into the text that isn’t there, we force it to contradict itself because we create a history that forces stars not to be the source of the light—which is a fact explicit in the text. When God speaks, “Let there be,” there are and it is so.

God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also. God placed them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, and to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good. There was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.

Moses includes the two great lights, the sun and moon, with the stars. God made them. Again, notice, the text does not claim that God made them on the fourth day of creation. I claims that on a fourth day, God spoke and they were. Here, Moses clarifies that God made them, too, without giving us the timing on the actual creation of the stars, sun, and moon. God made the stars also, a clarification that these bodies providing light to the earth were made by this single God—the same God who created the earth, separated the waters, and made fish in the waters. Once again, Moses is doing something in contrast to the Ancient Near East Myths of his day. Though he writes in the myth style, he is making quite a different claim. One God did all this, not many gods each having responsibility over a different aspect of the material world. There is not a sun god, sea god, god of the underworld, and gods don’t have their own provinces on the earth. Instead, there is one God who creates all, reveals all, sustains all, and is omnipresent. We see again that Moses is satirizing the myth genre in order to expose the legends of his day as legends and proclaim the truth about the one and only creator God.

God takes the time, again, to observe the work of His hands. He recognizes it as good. There is evening and morning a fourth day—the same inexact language we have seen describing a first, second, and third day.

With a fourth day, we begin to recognize a parallelism in the text such that we can layout the text in two columns:

Day 1

Light revealed.
Day 4

Stars, sun, and moon revealed.
Day 2

Sky created.
Day 5

Creation of fish and birds.
Day 3

Revelation of dry land and creation of plant-life.
Day 6

Creation of land animals and people.

There is much to say about this intentional parallelism, but I believe we mainly glean that God creates in order to fill. He fills the cosmos with the astral bodies. He fills the sky and waters on the earth with life. He fills dry land with life. Moses records God’s work of creating and filling in poetic parallelism. God is not one to create and leave. He finishes the work He begins. This truths rings for every aspect of His creation. If He begins a good work in us. He is faithful to complete it. He does not create any person without purpose.

A fifth day (v. 20-23)

Then God said, “Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens.” God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind; and God saw that it was good. God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” There was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.

By the word of His mouth, God creates the creatures that fill the waters and sky. The text is explicit, here. God created them at this juncture. He created the sea and sky creatures after their kinds—birds would give birth to birds, fish to fish, and sea creatures to sea creatures. God created genetics and consistency from generation to generation for every type of life.

God observes his creation and recognizes it as good. He takes the time to bless the birds of the air and creatures of the sea, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” God’s plan from the beginning is to fill the earth with His creation—namely life. He does not fail. The earth will always be full of all types of life because God cannot deny Himself. This is why, when we get to the end of the Bible, it is the earth being inherited and remaining full of all types of life—“Heaven” is not our final destination, lest we discount God’s blessing from the very beginning. The earth will be full.

There is evening and morning a fifth day. Moses continues to use his inexact language to describe days of creation.

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