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Verse Genesis 1:1. בראשית ברא אלהים את השמים ואת הארץ Bereshith bara Elohim eth hashshamayim veeth haarets GOD in the beginning created the heavens and the earth.
Many attempts have been made to define the term GOD: as to the word itself, it is pure Anglo-Saxon, and among our ancestors signified, not only the Divine Being, now commonly designated by the word, but also good; as in their apprehensions it appeared that God and good were correlative terms; and when they thought or spoke of him, they were doubtless led from the word itself to consider him as THE GOOD BEING, a fountain of infinite benevolence and beneficence towards his creatures.
A general definition of this great First Cause, as far as human words dare attempt one, may be thus given: The eternal, independent, and self-existent Being: the Being whose purposes and actions spring from himself, without foreign motive or influence: he who is absolute in dominion; the most pure, the most simple, and most spiritual of all essences; infinitely benevolent, beneficent, true, and holy: the cause of all being, the upholder of all things; infinitely happy, because infinitely perfect; and eternally self-sufficient, needing nothing that he has made: illimitable in his immensity, inconceivable in his mode of existence, and indescribable in his essence; known fully only to himself, because an infinite mind can be fully apprehended only by itself. In a word, a Being who, from his infinite wisdom, cannot err or be deceived; and who, from his infinite goodness, can do nothing but what is eternally just, right, and kind. Reader, such is the God of the Bible; but how widely different from the God of most human creeds and apprehensions!
The original word אלהים Elohim, God, is certainly the plural form of אל El, or אלה Eloah, and has long been supposed, by the most eminently learned and pious men, to imply a plurality of Persons in the Divine nature. As this plurality appears in so many parts of the sacred writings to be confined to three Persons, hence the doctrine of the TRINITY, which has formed a part of the creed of all those who have been deemed sound in the faith, from the earliest ages of Christianity. Nor are the Christians singular in receiving this doctrine, and in deriving it from the first words of Divine revelation. An eminent Jewish rabbin, Simeon ben Joachi, in his comment on the sixth section of Leviticus, has these remarkable words: "Come and see the mystery of the word Elohim; there are three degrees, and each degree by itself alone, and yet notwithstanding they are all one, and joined together in one, and are not divided from each other." See Ainsworth. He must be strangely prejudiced indeed who cannot see that the doctrine of a Trinity, and of a Trinity in unity, is expressed in the above words. The verb bara, he created, being joined in the singular number with this plural noun, has been considered as pointing out, and not obscurely, the unity of the Divine Persons in this work of creation. In the ever-blessed Trinity, from the infinite and indivisible unity of the persons, there can be but one will, one purpose, and one infinite and uncontrollable energy.
"Let those who have any doubt whether אלהים Elohim, when meaning the true God, Jehovah, be plural or not, consult the following passages, where they will find it joined with adjectives, verbs, and pronouns plural.
"Genesis 1:26; Genesis 3:22; Genesis 11:7; Genesis 20:13; Genesis 31:7; Genesis 31:53; Genesis 35:7.
"Deuteronomy 4:7; Deuteronomy 5:23; Joshua 24:19; 1 Samuel 4:8; 2 Samuel 7:23;
"Psalms 58:6; Isaiah 6:8; Jeremiah 10:10; Jeremiah 23:36.
"See also Proverbs 9:10; Proverbs 30:3; Psalms 149:2; Ecclesiastes 5:7; Ecclesiastes 12:1;
"Job 5:1; Isaiah 6:3; Isaiah 54:5; Isaiah 62:5; Hosea 11:12,
or Hosea 12:1; Malachi 1:6; Daniel 5:18; Daniel 5:20; Daniel 7:18; Daniel 7:22." - PARKHURST.
As the word Elohim is the term by which the Divine Being is most generally expressed in the Old Testament, it may be necessary to consider it here more at large. It is a maxim that admits of no controversy, that every noun in the Hebrew language is derived from a verb, which is usually termed the radix or root, from which, not only the noun, but all the different flections of the verb, spring. This radix is the third person singular of the preterite or past tense. The ideal meaning of this root expresses some essential property of the thing which it designates, or of which it is an appellative. The root in Hebrew, and in its sister language, the Arabic, generally consists of three letters, and every word must be traced to its root in order to ascertain its genuine meaning, for there alone is this meaning to be found. In Hebrew and Arabic this is essentially necessary, and no man can safely criticise on any word in either of these languages who does not carefully attend to this point.
I mention the Arabic with the Hebrew for two reasons.
1. Because the two languages evidently spring from the same source, and have very nearly the same mode of construction.
2. Because the deficient roots in the Hebrew Bible are to be sought for in the Arabic language. The reason of this must be obvious, when it is considered that the whole of the Hebrew language is lost except what is in the Bible, and even a part of this book is written in Chaldee.
Now, as the English Bible does not contain the whole of the English language, so the Hebrew Bible does not contain the whole of the Hebrew. If a man meet with an English word which he cannot find in an ample concordance or dictionary to the Bible, he must of course seek for that word in a general English dictionary. In like manner, if a particular form of a Hebrew word occur that cannot be traced to a root in the Hebrew Bible, because the word does not occur in the third person singular of the past tense in the Bible, it is expedient, it is perfectly lawful, and often indispensably necessary, to seek the deficient root in the Arabic. For as the Arabic is still a living language, and perhaps the most copious in the universe, it may well be expected to furnish those terms which are deficient in the Hebrew Bible. And the reasonableness of this is founded on another maxim, viz., that either the Arabic was derived from the Hebrew, or the Hebrew from the Arabic. I shall not enter into this controversy; there are great names on both sides, and the decision of the question in either way will have the same effect on my argument. For if the Arabic were derived from the Hebrew, it must have been when the Hebrew was a living and complete language, because such is the Arabic now; and therefore all its essential roots we may reasonably expect to find there: but if, as Sir William Jones supposed, the Hebrew were derived from the Arabic, the same expectation is justified, the deficient roots in Hebrew may be sought for in the mother tongue. If, for example, we meet with a term in our ancient English language the meaning of which we find difficult to ascertain, common sense teaches us that we should seek for it in the Anglo-Saxon, from which our language springs; and, if necessary, go up to the Teutonic, from which the Anglo-Saxon was derived. No person disputes the legitimacy of this measure, and we find it in constant practice. I make these observations at the very threshold of my work, because the necessity of acting on this principle (seeking deficient Hebrew roots in the Arabic) may often occur, and I wish to speak once for all on the subject.
The first sentence in the Scripture shows the propriety of having recourse to this principle. We have seen that the word אלהים Elohim is plural; we have traced our term God to its source, and have seen its signification; and also a general definition of the thing or being included under this term, has been tremblingly attempted. We should now trace the original to its root, but this root does not appear in the Hebrew Bible. Were the Hebrew a complete language, a pious reason might be given for this omission, viz., "As God is without beginning and without cause, as his being is infinite and underived, the Hebrew language consults strict propriety in giving no root whence his name can be deduced." Mr. Parkhurst, to whose pious and learned labours in Hebrew literature most Biblical students are indebted, thinks he has found the root in אלה alah, he swore, bound himself by oath; and hence he calls the ever-blessed Trinity אלהים Elohim, as being bound by a conditional oath to redeem man, c., c. Most pious minds will revolt from such a definition, and will be glad with me to find both the noun and the root preserved in Arabic. ALLAH [Arabic] is the common name for GOD in the Arabic tongue, and often the emphatic [Arabic] is used. Now both these words are derived from the root alaha, he worshipped, adored, was struck with astonishment, fear, or terror and hence, he adored with sacred horror and veneration, cum sacro horrore ac veneratione coluit, adoravit. - WILMET. Hence ilahon, fear, veneration, and also the object of religious fear, the Deity, the supreme God, the tremendous Being. This is not a new idea God was considered in the same light among the ancient Hebrews; and hence Jacob swears by the fear of his father Isaac, Genesis 31:53. To complete the definition, Golius renders alaha, juvit, liberavit, et tutatus fuit, "he succoured, liberated, kept in safety, or defended." Thus from the ideal meaning of this most expressive root, we acquire the most correct notion of the Divine nature; for we learn that God is the sole object of adoration; that the perfections of his nature are such as must astonish all those who piously contemplate them, and fill with horror all who would dare to give his glory to another, or break his commandments; that consequently he should be worshipped with reverence and religious fear; and that every sincere worshipper may expect from him help in all his weaknesses, trials, difficulties, temptations, c, freedom from the power, guilt, nature, and consequences of sin; and to be supported, defended, and saved to the uttermost, and to the end.
Here then is one proof, among multitudes which shall be adduced in the course of this work, of the importance, utility, and necessity of tracing up these sacred words to their sources; and a proof also, that subjects which are supposed to be out of the reach of the common people may, with a little difficulty, be brought on a level with the most ordinary capacity.
In the beginning — Before the creative acts mentioned in this chapter all was ETERNITY. Time signifies duration measured by the revolutions of the heavenly bodies: but prior to the creation of these bodies there could be no measurement of duration, and consequently no time; therefore in the beginning must necessarily mean the commencement of time which followed, or rather was produced by, God's creative acts, as an effect follows or is produced by a cause.
Created — Caused existence where previously to this moment there was no being. The rabbins, who are legitimate judges in a case of verbal criticism on their own language, are unanimous in asserting that the word ברא bara expresses the commencement of the existence of a thing, or egression from nonentity to entity. It does not in its primary meaning denote the preserving or new forming things that had previously existed, as some imagine, but creation in the proper sense of the term, though it has some other acceptations in other places. The supposition that God formed all things out of a pre-existing, eternal nature, is certainly absurd, for if there had been an eternal nature besides an eternal God, there must have been two self-existing, independent, and eternal beings, which is a most palpable contradiction.
את השמים eth hashshamayim. The word את eth, which is generally considered as a particle, simply denoting that the word following is in the accusative or oblique case, is often understood by the rabbins in a much more extensive sense. "The particle את," says Aben Ezra, "signifies the substance of the thing." The like definition is given by Kimchi in his Book of Roots. "This particle," says Mr. Ainsworth, "having the first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet in it, is supposed to comprise the sum and substance of all things." "The particle את eth (says Buxtorf, Talmudic Lexicon, sub voce) with the cabalists is often mystically put for the beginning and the end, as α alpha and ω omega are in the Apocalypse." On this ground these words should be translated, "God in the beginning created the substance of the heavens and the substance of the earth," i.e. the prima materia, or first elements, out of which the heavens and the earth were successively formed. The Syriac translator understood the word in this sense, and to express this meaning has used the word [Arabic] yoth, which has this signification, and is very properly translated in Walton's Polyglot, ESSE, caeli et ESSE terrae, "the being or substance of the heaven, and the being or substance of the earth." St. Ephraim Syrus, in his comment on this place, uses the same Syriac word, and appears to understand it precisely in the same way. Though the Hebrew words are certainly no more than the notation of a case in most places, yet understood here in the sense above, they argue a wonderful philosophic accuracy in the statement of Moses, which brings before us, not a finished heaven and earth, as every other translation appears to do, though afterwards the process of their formation is given in detail, but merely the materials out of which God built the whole system in the six following days.
The heaven and the earth.] As the word שמים shamayim is plural, we may rest assured that it means more than the atmosphere, to express which some have endeavoured to restrict its meaning. Nor does it appear that the atmosphere is particularly intended here, as this is spoken of, Genesis 1:6, under the term firmament. The word heavens must therefore comprehend the whole solar system, as it is very likely the whole of this was created in these six days; for unless the earth had been the centre of a system, the reverse of which is sufficiently demonstrated, it would be unphilosophic to suppose it was created independently of the other parts of the system, as on this supposition we must have recourse to the almighty power of God to suspend the influence of the earth's gravitating power till the fourth day, when the sun was placed in the centre, round which the earth began then to revolve. But as the design of the inspired penman was to relate what especially belonged to our world and its inhabitants, therefore he passes by the rest of the planetary system, leaving it simply included in the plural word heavens. In the word earth every thing relative to the terraqueaerial globe is included, that is, all that belongs to the solid and fluid parts of our world with its surrounding atmosphere. As therefore I suppose the whole solar system was created at this time, I think it perfectly in place to give here a general view of all the planets, with every thing curious and important hitherto known relative to their revolutions and principal affections.
This is a small but accurate sketch of the vast solar system; to describe it fully, even in all its known revolutions and connections, in all its astonishing energy and influence, in its wonderful plan, structure, operations, and results, would require more volumes than can be devoted to the commentary itself.
As so little can be said here on a subject so vast, it may appear to some improper to introduce it at all; but to any observation of this kind I must be permitted to reply, that I should deem it unpardonable not to give a general view of the solar system in the very place where its creation is first introduced. If these works be stupendous and magnificent, what must He be who formed, guides, and supports them all by the word of his power! Reader, stand in awe of this God, and sin not. Make him thy friend through the Son of his love; and, when these heavens and this earth are no more, thy soul shall exist in consummate and unutterable felicity.
See the remarks on the sun, moon, and stars, after Genesis 1:16. Genesis 1:16.
Verse Genesis 1:2. The earth was without form and void — The original term תהו tohu and בהו bohu, which we translate without form and void, are of uncertain etymology; but in this place, and wherever else they are used, they convey the idea of confusion and disorder. From these terms it is probable that the ancient Syrians and Egyptians borrowed their gods, Theuth and Bau, and the Greeks their Chaos. God seems at first to have created the elementary principles of all things; and this formed the grand mass of matter, which in this state must be without arrangement, or any distinction of parts: a vast collection of indescribably confused materials, of nameless entities strangely mixed; and wonderfully well expressed by an ancient heathen poet: -
When this congeries of elementary principles was brought together, God was pleased to spend six days in assimilating, assorting, and arranging the materials, out of which he built up, not only the earth, but the whole of the solar system.
The spirit of God — This has been variously and strangely understood. Some think a violent wind is meant, because , ruach often signifies wind, as well as spirit, as πνευμα, does in Greek; and the term God is connected with it merely, as they think, to express the superlative degree. Others understand by it an elementary fire. Others, the sun, penetrating and drying up the earth with his rays. Others, the angels, who were supposed to have been employed as agents in creation. Others, a certain occult principle, termed the anima mundi or soul of the world. Others, a magnetic attraction, by which all things were caused to gravitate to a common centre. But it is sufficiently evident from the use of the word in other places, that the Holy Spirit of God is intended; which our blessed Lord represents under the notion of wind, John 3:8; and which, as a mighty rushing wind on the day of pentecost, filled the house where the disciples were sitting, Acts 2:2, which was immediately followed by their speaking with other tongues, because they were filled with the Holy Ghost, Acts 2:4. These scriptures sufficiently ascertain the sense in which the word is used by Moses.
Moved — מרחפת merachepheth, was brooding over; for the word expresses that tremulous motion made by the hen while either hatching her eggs or fostering her young. It here probably signifies the communicating a vital or prolific principle to the waters. As the idea of incubation, or hatching an egg, is implied in the original word, hence probably the notion, which prevailed among the ancients, that the world was generated from an egg.
Verse Genesis 1:3. And God said, Let there be light — הי אור ויהי אור YEHI OR, vaihi or. Nothing can be conceived more dignified than this form of expression. It argues at once uncontrollable authority, and omnific power; and in human language it is scarcely possible to conceive that God can speak more like himself. This passage, in the Greek translation of the Septuagint, fell in the way of Dionysius Longinus, one of the most judicious Greek critics that ever lived, and who is highly celebrated over the civilized world for a treatise he wrote, entitled Περι Ὑψους, Concerning the SUBLIME, both in prose and poetry; of this passage, though a heathen, he speaks in the following terms: - Ταυτῃ και ὁ των Ιουδαιων θεσμοθετης (ουχ ὁ τυχων ανηρ,) επειδη την του θειου δυναμιν κατα την αξιαν εχωρησε, καξεφηνεν· ευθυς εν τῃ εισβολη γραψας των νομων, ΕΙΠΕΝ Ὁ ΘΕΟΣ, φησι, τι; ΓΕΝΕΣΘΩ ΦΩΣ· και εγενετο. ΓΕΝΕΣΘΩ ΓΗ· και εγενετο." So likewise the Jewish lawgiver (who was no ordinary man) having conceived a just idea of the Divine power, he expressed it in a dignified manner; for at the beginning of his laws he thus speaks: GOD SAID - What? LET THERE BE LIGHT! and there was light. LET THERE BE EARTH! and there was earth." - Longinus, sect. ix. edit. Pearce.
Many have asked, "How could light be produced on the first day, and the sun, the fountain of it, not created till the fourth day?" With the various and often unphilosophical answers which have been given to this question I will not meddle, but shall observe that the original word אור signifies not only light but fire, see Isaiah 31:9; Ezekiel 5:2. It is used for the SUN, Job 31:26. And for the electric fluid or LIGHTNING, Job 37:3. And it is worthy of remark that It is used in Isaiah 44:16, for the heat, derived from (אש esh, the fire. He burneth part thereof in the fire (במו אש bemo esh:) yea, he warmeth himself, and saith, Aha! I have seen the fire, ראיתי אור raithi ur, which a modern philosopher who understood the language would not scruple to translate, I have received caloric, or an additional portion of the matter of heat. I therefore conclude, that as God has diffused the matter of caloric or latent heat through every part of nature, without which there could be neither vegetation nor animal life, that it is caloric or latent heat which is principally intended by the original word.
That there is latent light, which is probably the same with latent heat, may be easily demonstrated: take two pieces of smooth rock crystal, agate, cornelian or flint, and rub them together briskly in the dark, and the latent light or matter of caloric will be immediately produced and become visible. The light or caloric thus disengaged does not operate in the same powerful manner as the heat or fire which is produced by striking with flint and steel, or that produced by electric friction. The existence of this caloric - latent or primitive light, may be ascertained in various other bodies; it can be produced by the flint and steel, by rubbing two hard sticks together, by hammering cold iron, which in a short time becomes red hot, and by the strong and sudden compression of atmospheric air in a tube. Friction in general produces both fire and light. God therefore created this universal agent on the first day, because without It no operation of nature could be carried on or perfected.
Light is one of the most astonishing productions of the creative skill and power of God. It is the grand medium by which all his other works are discovered, examined, and understood, so far as they can be known. Its immense diffusion and extreme velocity are alone sufficient to demonstrate the being and wisdom of God. Light has been proved by many experiments to travel at the astonishing rate of 194,188 miles in one second of time! and comes from the sun to the earth in eight minutes 11 43/50 seconds, a distance of 95,513,794 English miles.
Verse Genesis 1:4. God divided the light from the darkness.] This does not imply that light and darkness are two distinct substances, seeing darkness is only the privation of light; but the words simply refer us by anticipation to the rotation of the earth round its own axis once in twenty-three hours, fifty-six minutes, and four seconds, which is the cause of the distinction between day and night, by bringing the different parts of the surface of the earth successively into and from under the solar rays; and it was probably at this moment that God gave this rotation to the earth, to produce this merciful provision of day and night. For the manner in which light is supposed to be produced, see Genesis 1:16, under the word sun.
Verse Genesis 1:6. And God said, Let there be a firmament — Our translators, by following the firmamentum of the Vulgate, which is a translation of the στερεωμα of the Septuagint, have deprived this passage of all sense and meaning. The Hebrew word רקיע rakia, from רקע raka, to spread out as the curtains of a tent or pavilion, simply signifies an expanse or space, and consequently that circumambient space or expansion separating the clouds, which are in the higher regions of it, from the seas, c., which are below it. This we call the atmosphere, the orb of atoms or inconceivably small particles but the word appears to have been used by Moses in a more extensive sense, and to include the whole of the planetary vortex, or the space which is occupied by the whole solar system.
Verse Genesis 1:10. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas — These two constitute what is called the terraqueous globe, in which the earth and the water exist in a most judicious proportion to each other. Dr. Long took the papers which cover the surface of a seventeen inch terrestrial globe, and having carefully separated the land from the sea, be weighed the two collections of papers accurately, and found that the sea papers weighed three hundred and forty-nine grains, and the land papers only one hundred and twenty-four; by which experiment it appears that nearly three-fourths of the surface of our globe, from the arctic to the antarctic polar circles, are covered with water. The doctor did not weigh the parts within the polar circles, because there is no certain measurement of the proportion of land and water which they contain. This proportion of three-fourths water may be considered as too great, if not useless; but Mr. Ray, by most accurate experiments made on evaporation, has proved that it requires so much aqueous surface to yield a sufficiency of vapours for the purpose of cooling the atmosphere, and watering the earth. See Ray's Physico-theological Discourses.
An eminent chemist and philosopher, Dr. Priestley, has very properly observed that it seems plain that Moses considered the whole terraqueous globe as being created in a fluid state, the earthy and other particles of matter being mingled with the water. The present form of the earth demonstrates the truth of the Mosaic account; for it is well known that if a soft or elastic globular body be rapidly whirled round on its axis, the parts at the poles will be flattened, and the parts on the equator, midway between the north and south poles, will be raised up. This is precisely the shape of our earth; it has the figure of an oblate spheroid, a figure pretty much resembling the shape of an orange. It has been demonstrated by admeasurement that the earth is flatted at the poles and raised at the equator. This was first conjectured by Sir Isaac Newton, and afterwards confirmed by M. Cassini and others, who measured several degrees of latitude at the equator and near the north pole, and found that the difference perfectly justified Sir Isaac Newton's conjecture, and consequently confirmed the Mosaic account. The result of the experiments instituted to determine this point, proved that the diameter of the earth at the equator is greater by more than twenty-three and a half miles than it is at the poles, allowing the polar diameter to be 1/334th part shorter than the equatorial, according to the recent admeasurements of several degrees of latitude made by Messrs. Mechain and Delambre.-L'Histoire des Mathem. par M. de la Lande, tom. iv., part v., liv. 6.
And God saw that it was good.] This is the judgment which God pronounced on his own works. They were beautiful and perfect in their kind, for such is the import of the word טוב tob. They were in weight and measure perfect and entire, lacking nothing. But the reader will think it strange that this approbation should be expressed once on the first, fourth, fifth, and sixth days; twice on the third, and not at all on the second! I suppose that the words, And God saw that it was good, have been either lost from the conclusion of the eighth verse, or that the clause in the tenth verse originally belonged to the eighth. It appears, from the Septuagint translation, that the words in question existed originally at the close of the eighth verse, in the copies which they used; for in that version we still find, Και ειδεν ὁ Θεος ὁτι καλον· And God saw that it was good. This reading, however, is not acknowledged by any of Kennicott's or De Rossi's MSS., nor by any of the other versions. If the account of the second day stood originally as it does now, no satisfactory reason can be given for the omission of this expression of the Divine approbation of the work wrought by his wisdom and power on that day.
Verse Genesis 1:11. Let the earth bring forth grass -- herb -- fruit-tree, c.] In these general expressions all kinds of vegetable productions are included. Fruit-tree is not to be understood here in the restricted sense in which the term is used among us it signifies all trees, not only those which bear fruit, which may be applied to the use of men and cattle, but also those which had the power of propagating themselves by seeds, &c. Now as God delights to manifest himself in the little as well as in the great, he has shown his consummate wisdom in every part of the vegetable creation. Who can account for, or comprehend, the structure of a single tree or plant? The roots, the stem, the woody fibres, the bark, the rind, the air-vessels, the sap-vessels, the leaves, the flowers, and the fruits, are so many mysteries. All the skill, wisdom, and power of men and angels could not produce a single grain of wheat: A serious and reflecting mind can see the grandeur of God, not only in the immense cedars on Lebanon, but also in the endlessly varied forests that appear through the microscope in the mould of cheese, stale paste, &c., &c.
Verse Genesis 1:12. Whose seed was in itself — Which has the power of multiplying itself by seeds, slips, roots, c., ad infinitum which contains in itself all the rudiments of the future plant through its endless generations. This doctrine has been abundantly confirmed by the most accurate observations of the best modern philosophers. The astonishing power with which God has endued the vegetable creation to multiply its different species, may be instanced in the seed of the elm. This tree produces one thousand five hundred and eighty-four millions of seeds; and each of these seeds has the power of producing the same number. How astonishing is this produce! At first one seed is deposited in the earth; from this one a tree springs, which in the course of its vegetative life produces one thousand five hundred and eighty-four millions of seeds. This is the first generation. The second generation will amount to two trillions, five hundred and nine thousand and fifty-six billions. The third generation will amount to three thousand nine hundred and seventy-four quadrillions, three hundred and forty-four thousand seven hundred and four trillions! And the fourth generation from these would amount to six sextillions two hundred and ninety-five thousand three hundred and sixty-two quintillions, eleven thousand one hundred and thirty-six quadrillions! Sums too immense for the human mind to conceive; and, when we allow the most confined space in which a tree can grow, it appears that the seeds of the third generation from one elm would be many myriads of times more than sufficient to stock the whole superfices of all the planets in the solar system! But plants multiply themselves by slips as well as by seeds. Sir Kenelm Digby saw in 1660 a plant of barley, in the possession of the fathers of the Christian doctrine at Paris, which contained 249 stalks springing from one root or grain, and in which he counted upwards of 18,000 grains. See my experiments on Tilling in the Methodist Magazine.
Verse Genesis 1:14. And God said, Let there be lights, c.] One principal office of these was to divide between day and night. When night is considered a state of comparative darkness, how can lights divide or distinguish it? The answer is easy: The sun is the monarch of the day, which is the state of light the moon, of the night, the state of darkness. The rays of the sun, falling on the atmosphere, are refracted and diffused over the whole of that hemisphere of the earth immediately under his orb; while those rays of that vast luminary which, because of the earth's smallness in comparison of the sun, are diffused on all sides beyond the earth, falling on the opaque disc of the moon, are reflected back upon what may be called the lower hemisphere, or that part of the earth which is opposite to the part which is illuminated by the sun: and as the earth completes a revolution on its own axis in about twenty-four hours, consequently each hemisphere has alternate day and night. But as the solar light reflected from the face of the moon is computed to be 50,000 times less in intensity and effect than the light of the sun as it comes directly from himself to our earth, (for light decreases in its intensity as the distance it travels from the sun increases,) therefore a sufficient distinction is made between day and night, or light and darkness, notwithstanding each is ruled and determined by one of these two great lights; the moon ruling the night, i.e., reflecting from her own surface back on the earth the rays of light which she receives from the sun. Thus both hemispheres are to a certain degree illuminated: the one, on which the sun shines, completely so; this is day: the other, on which the sun's light is reflected by the moon, partially; this is night. It is true that both the planets and fixed stars afford a considerable portion of light during the night, yet they cannot be said to rule or to predominate by their light, because their rays are quite lost in the superior splendour of the moon's light.
And let them be for signs — לאתת leothoth. Let them ever be considered as continual tokens of God's tender care for man, and as standing proofs of his continual miraculous interference; for so the word את oth is often used. And is it not the almighty energy of God that upholds them in being? The sun and moon also serve as signs of the different changes which take place in the atmosphere, and which are so essential for all purposes of agriculture, commerce, c.
For seasons — מועדים moadim For the determination of the times on which the sacred festivals should be held. In this sense the word frequently occurs; and it was right that at the very opening of his revelation God should inform man that there were certain festivals which should be annually celebrated to his glory. Some think we should understand the original word as signifying months, for which purpose we know the moon essentially serves through all the revolutions of time.
For days — Both the hours of the day and night, as well as the different lengths of the days and nights, are distinguished by the longer and shorter spaces of time the sun is above or below the horizon.
And years.] That is, those grand divisions of time by which all succession in the vast lapse of duration is distinguished. This refers principally to a complete revolution of the earth round the sun, which is accomplished in 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 48 seconds; for though the revolution is that of the earth, yet it cannot be determined but by the heavenly bodies.
Verse Genesis 1:16. And God made two great lights — Moses speaks of the sun and moon here, not according to their bulk or solid contents, but according to the proportion of light they shed on the earth. The expression has been cavilled at by some who are as devoid of mental capacity as of candour. "The moon," say they, "is not a great body; on the contrary, it is the very smallest in our system." Well, and has Moses said the contrary? He has said it is a great LIGHT; had he said otherwise he had not spoken the truth. It is, in reference to the earth, next to the sun himself, the greatest light in the solar system; and so true is it that the moon is a great light, that it affords more light to the earth than all the planets in the solar system, and all the innumerable stars in the vault of heaven, put together. It is worthy of remark that on the fourth day of the creation the sun was formed, and then "first tried his beams athwart the gloom profound;" and that at the conclusion of the fourth millenary from the creation, according to the Hebrew, the Sun of righteousness shone upon the world, as deeply sunk in that mental darkness produced by sin as the ancient world was, while teeming darkness held the dominion, till the sun was created as the dispenser of light. What would the natural world be without the sun? A howling waste, in which neither animal nor vegetable life could possibly be sustained. And what would the moral world be without Jesus Christ, and the light of his word and Spirit? Just what those parts of it now are where his light has not yet shone: "dark places of the earth, filled with the habitations of cruelty," where error prevails without end, and superstition, engendering false hopes and false fears, degrades and debases the mind of man.
Many have supposed that the days of the creation answer to so many thousands of years; and that as God created all in six days, and rested the seventh, so the world shall last six thousand years, and the seventh shall be the eternal rest that remains for the people of God. To this conclusion they have been led by these words of the apostle, 2Pe 3:8: One day is with the Lord as a thousand years; and a thousand years as one day. Secret things belong to God; those that are revealed to us and our children.
He made the stars also.] Or rather, He made the lesser light, with the stars, to rule the night. See Claudlan de Raptu PROSER., lib. ii., v. 44.
On the nature of the sun there have been various conjectures. It was long thought that he was a vast globe of fire 1,384,462 times larger than the earth, and that he was continually emitting from his body innumerable millions of fiery particles, which, being extremely divided, answered for the purpose of light and heat without occasioning any ignition or burning, except when collected in the focus of a convex lens or burning glass. Against this opinion, however, many serious and weighty objections have been made; and it has been so pressed with difficulties that philosophers have been obliged to look for a theory less repugnant to nature and probability. Dr. Herschel's discoveries by means of his immensely magnifying telescopes, have, by the general consent of philosophers, added a new habitable world to our system, which is the SUN. Without stopping to enter into detail, which would be improper here, it is sufficient to say that these discoveries tend to prove that what we call the sun is only the atmosphere of that luminary; "that this atmosphere consists of various elastic fluids that are more or less lucid and transparent; that as the clouds belonging to our earth are probably decompositions of some of the elastic fluids belonging to the atmosphere itself, so we may suppose that in the vast atmosphere of the sun, similar decompositions may take place, but with this difference, that the decompositions of the elastic fluids of the sun are of a phosphoric nature, and are attended by lucid appearances, by giving out light." The body of the sun he considers as hidden generally from us by means of this luminous atmosphere, but what are called the maculae or spots on the sun are real openings in this atmosphere, through which the opaque body of the sun becomes visible; that this atmosphere itself is not fiery nor hot, but is the instrument which God designed to act on the caloric or latent heat; and that heat is only produced by the solar light acting upon and combining with the caloric or matter of fire contained in the air, and other substances which are heated by it. This ingenious theory is supported by many plausible reasons and illustrations, which may be seen in the paper he read before the Royal Society. On this subject Genesis 1:3.
OF THE MOON
There is scarcely any doubt now remaining in the philosophical world that the moon is a habitable globe. The most accurate observations that have been made with the most powerful telescopes have confirmed the opinion. The moon seems, in almost every respect, to be a body similar to our earth; to have its surface diversified by hill and dale, mountains and valleys, rivers, lakes, and seas. And there is the fullest evidence that our earth serves as a moon to the moon herself, differing only in this, that as the earth's surface is thirteen times larger than the moon's, so the moon receives from the earth a light thirteen times greater in splendour than that which she imparts to us; and by a very correct analogy we are led to infer that all the planets and their satellites, or attendant moons, are inhabited, for matter seems only to exist for the sake of intelligent beings.
OF THE STARS
The STARS in general are considered to be suns, similar to that in our system, each having an appropriate number of planets moving round it; and, as these stars are innumerable, consequently there are innumerable worlds, all dependent on the power, protection, and providence of God. Where the stars are in great abundance, Dr. Herschel supposes they form primaries and secondaries, i.e., suns revolving about suns, as planets revolve about the sun in our system. He considers that this must be the case in what is called the milky way, the stars being there in prodigious quantity. Of this he gives the following proof: On August 22, 1792, he found that in forty-one minutes of time not less than 258,000 stars had passed through the field of view in his telescope. What must God be, who has made, governs, and supports so many worlds! For the magnitudes, distances, revolutions, &c., of the sun, moon, planets, and their satellites, see the preceding TABLES. Genesis 1:1.
Verse Genesis 1:20. Let the waters bring forth abundantly — There is a meaning in these words which is seldom noticed. Innumerable millions of animalcula are found in water. Eminent naturalists have discovered not less than 30,000 in a single drop! How inconceivably small must each be, and yet each a perfect animal, furnished with the whole apparatus of bones, muscles, nerves, heart, arteries, veins, lungs, viscera in general, animal spirits, c., c. What a proof is this of the manifold wisdom of God! But the fecundity of fishes is another point intended in the text no creature's are so prolific as these. A TENCH lay 1,000 eggs, a CARP 20,000, and Leuwenhoek counted in a middling sized COD 9,384,000! Thus, according to the purpose of God, the waters bring forth abundantly. And what a merciful provision is this for the necessities of man! Many hundreds of thousands of the earth's inhabitants live for a great part of the year on fish only. Fish afford, not only a wholesome, but a very nutritive diet they are liable to few diseases, and generally come in vast quantities to our shores when in their greatest perfection. In this also we may see that the kind providence of God goes hand in hand with his creating energy. While he manifests his wisdom and his power, he is making a permanent provision for the sustenance of man through all his generations.
Verse Genesis 1:21. And God created great whales — התנינם הגדלים hattanninim haggedolim. Though this is generally understood by the different versions as signifying whales, yet the original must be understood rather as a general than a particular term, comprising all the great aquatic animals, such as the various species of whales, the porpoise, the dolphin, the monoceros or narwal, and the shark. God delights to show himself in little as well as in great things: hence he forms animals so minute that 30,000 can be contained in one drop of water; and others so great that they seem to require almost a whole sea to float in.
Verse Genesis 1:22. Let fowl multiply in the earth.] It is truly astonishing with what care, wisdom, and minute skill God has formed the different genera and species of birds, whether intended to live chiefly on land or in water. The structure of a single feather affords a world of wonders; and as God made the fowls that they might fly in the firmament of heaven, Genesis 1:20, so he has adapted the form of their bodies, and the structure and disposition of their plumage, for that very purpose. The head and neck in flying are drawn principally within the breast-bone, so that the whole under part exhibits the appearance of a ship's hull. The wings are made use of as sails, or rather oars, and the tail as a helm or rudder. By means of these the creature is not only able to preserve the centre of gravity, but also to go with vast speed through the air, either straight forward, circularly, or in any kind of angle, upwards or downwards. In these also God has shown his skill and his power in the great and in the little-in the vast ostrich and cassowary, and In the beautiful humming-bird, which in plumage excels the splendour of the peacock, and in size is almost on a level with the bee.
Verse Genesis 1:24. Let the earth bring forth the living creature, c. — נפש חיה nephesh chaiyah a general term to express all creatures endued with animal life, in any of its infinitely varied gradations, from the half-reasoning elephant down to the stupid potto, or lower still, to the polype, which seems equally to share the vegetable and animal life. The word חיתו chaitho, in the latter part of the verse, seems to signify all wild animals, as lions, tigers, c., and especially such as are carnivorous, or live on flesh, in contradistinction from domestic animals, such as are graminivorous, or live on grass and other vegetables, and are capable of being tamed, and applied to domestic purposes. Genesis 1:29. These latter are probably meant by בהמה behemah in the text, which we translate cattle, such as horses, kine, sheep, dogs, c. Creeping thing, רמש remes, all the different genera of serpents, worms, and such animals as have no feet. In beasts also God has shown his wondrous skill and power in the vast elephant, or still more colossal mammoth or mastodon, the whole race of which appears to be extinct, a few skeletons only remaining. This animal, an astonishing effect of God's power, he seems to have produced merely to show what he could do, and after suffering a few of them to propagate, he extinguished the race by a merciful providence, that they might not destroy both man and beast. The mammoth appears to have been a carnivorous animal, as the structure of the teeth proves, and of an immense size from a considerable part of a skeleton which I have seen, it is computed that the animal to which it belonged must have been nearly twenty-five feet high, and sixty in length! The bones of one toe are entire; the toe upwards of three feet in length. But this skeleton might have belonged to the megalonyx, a kind of sloth, or bradypus, hitherto unknown. Few elephants have ever been found to exceed eleven feet in height. How wondrous are the works of God! But his skill and power are not less seen in the beautiful chevrotin, or tragulus, a creature of the antelope kind, the smallest of all bifid or cloven-footed animals, whose delicate limbs are scarcely so large as an ordinary goose quill; and also in the shrew mouse, perhaps the smallest of the many-toed quadrupeds. In the reptile kind we see also the same skill and power, not only in the immense snake called boa constrictor, the mortal foe and conqueror of the royal tiger, but also in the cobra de manille, a venomous serpent, only a little larger than a common sewing needle.
Verse Genesis 1:25. And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, &c.] Every thing both in the animal and vegetable world was made so according to its kind, both in genus and species, as to produce its own kind through endless generations. Thus the several races of animals and plants have been kept distinct from the foundation of the world to the present day. This is a proof that all future generations of plants and animals have been seminally included in those which God formed in the beginning.
Verse Genesis 1:26. And God said, Let us make man — It is evident that God intends to impress the mind of man with a sense of something extraordinary in the formation of his body and soul, when he introduces the account of his creation thus; Let US make man. The word אדם Adam, which we translate man, is intended to designate the species of animal, as חיתו chaitho, marks the wild beasts that live in general a solitary life; בהמה behemah, domestic or gregarious animals; and רמש remes, all kinds of reptiles, from the largest snake to the microscopic eel. Though the same kind of organization may be found in man as appears in the lower animals, yet there is a variety and complication in the parts, a delicacy of structure, a nice arrangement, a judicious adaptation of the different members to their great offices and functions, a dignity of mien, and a perfection of the whole, which are sought for in vain in all other creatures. See Genesis 3:22.
In our image, after our likeness — What is said above refers only to the body of man, what is here said refers to his soul. This was made in the image and likeness of God. Now, as the Divine Being is infinite, he is neither limited by parts, nor definable by passions; therefore he can have no corporeal image after which he made the body of man. The image and likeness must necessarily be intellectual; his mind, his soul, must have been formed after the nature and perfections of his God. The human mind is still endowed with most extraordinary capacities; it was more so when issuing out of the hands of its Creator. God was now producing a spirit, and a spirit, too, formed after the perfections of his own nature. God is the fountain whence this spirit issued, hence the stream must resemble the spring which produced it. God is holy, just, wise, good, and perfect; so must the soul be that sprang from him: there could be in it nothing impure, unjust, ignorant, evil, low, base, mean, or vile. It was created after the image of God; and that image, St. Paul tells us, consisted in righteousness, true holiness, and knowledge, Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10. Hence man was wise in his mind, holy in his heart, and righteous in his actions. Were even the word of God silent on this subject, we could not infer less from the lights held out to us by reason and common sense. The text tells us he was the work of ELOHIM, the Divine Plurality, marked here more distinctly by the plural pronouns US and OUR; and to show that he was the masterpiece of God's creation, all the persons in the Godhead are represented as united in counsel and effort to produce this astonishing creature.
Gregory Nyssen has very properly observed that the superiority of man to all other parts of creation is seen in this, that all other creatures are represented as the effect of God's word, but man is represented as the work of God, according to plan and consideration: Let US make MAN in our IMAGE, after our LIKENESS. See his Works, vol. i., p. 52, c. 3.
And let them have dominion — Hence we see that the dominion was not the image. God created man capable of governing the world, and when fitted for the office, he fixed him in it. We see God's tender care and parental solicitude for the comfort and well-being of this masterpiece of his workmanship, in creating the world previously to the creation of man. He prepared every thing for his subsistence, convenience, and pleasure, before he brought him into being; so that, comparing little with great things, the house was built, furnished, and amply stored, by the time the destined tenant was ready to occupy it.
It has been supposed by some that God speaks here to the angels, when he says, Let us make man; but to make this a likely interpretation these persons must prove, 1. That angels were then created. 2. That angels could assist in a work of creation. 3. That angels were themselves made in the image and likeness of God. If they were not, it could not be said, in OUR image, and it does not appear from any part in the sacred writings that any creature but man was made in the image of God. Psalms 8:5.
Verse Genesis 1:28. And God blessed them — Marked them as being under his especial protection, and gave them power to propagate and multiply their own kind on the earth. A large volume would be insufficient to contain what we know of the excellence and perfection of man, even in his present degraded fallen state. Both his body and soul are adapted with astonishing wisdom to their residence and occupations; and also the place of their residence, as well as the surrounding objects, in their diversity, colour, and mutual relations, to the mind and body of this lord of the creation. The contrivance, arrangement, action, and re-action of the different parts of the body, show the admirable skill of the wondrous Creator; while the various powers and faculties of the mind, acting on and by the different organs of this body, proclaim the soul's Divine origin, and demonstrate that he who was made in the image and likeness of God, was a transcript of his own excellency, destined to know, love, and dwell with his Maker throughout eternity.
Verse Genesis 1:29. I have given you every herb - for meat.] It seems from this, says an eminent philosopher, that man was originally intended to live upon vegetables only; and as no change was made In the structure of men's bodies after the flood, it is not probable that any change was made in the articles of their food. It may also be inferred from this passage that no animal whatever was originally designed to prey on others; for nothing is here said to be given to any beast of the earth besides green herbs.-Dr. Priestley. Before sin entered into the world, there could be, at least, no violent deaths, if any death at all. But by the particular structure of the teeth of animals God prepared them for that kind of aliment which they were to subsist on after the FALL.
Verse Genesis 1:31. And, behold, it was very good.] טוב מאד tob meod, Superlatively, or only good; as good as they could be. The plan wise, the work well executed, the different parts properly arranged; their nature, limits, mode of existence, manner of propagation, habits, mode of sustenance, c., c., properly and permanently established and secured for every thing was formed to the utmost perfection of its nature, so that nothing could be added or diminished without encumbering the operations of matter and spirit on the one hand, or rendering them inefficient to the end proposed on the other and God has so done all these marvellous works as to be glorified in all, by all, and through all.
And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.] The word ערב ereb, which we translate evening, comes from the root ערב arab, to mingle; and properly signifies that state in which neither absolute darkness nor full light prevails. It has nearly the same grammatical signification with our twilight, the time that elapses from the setting of the sun till he is eighteen degrees below the horizon and the last eighteen degrees before he arises. Thus we have the morning and evening twilight, or mixture of light and darkness, in which neither prevails, because, while the sun is within eighteen degrees of the horizon, either after his setting or before his rising, the atmosphere has power to refract the rays of light, and send them back on the earth. The Hebrews extended the meaning of this term to the whole duration of night, because it was ever a mingled state, the moon, the planets, or the stars, tempering the darkness with some rays of light. From the ereb of Moses came the ερεβος Erebus, of Hesiod, Aristophanes, and other heathens, which they deified and made, with Nox or night, the parent of all things.
The morning - בקר boker; From בקר bakar, he looked out; a beautiful figure which represents the morning as looking out at the east, and illuminating the whole of the upper hemisphere.
The evening and the morning were the sixth day. - It is somewhat remarkable that through the whole of this chapter, whenever the division of days is made, the evening always precedes the morning. The reason of this may perhaps be, that darkness was pre-existent to light, (Genesis 1:2, And darkness was upon the face of the deep,) and therefore time is reckoned from the first act of God towards the creation of the world, which took place before light was called forth into existence. It is very likely for this same reason, that the Jews began their day at six o'clock in the evening in imitation of Moses's division of time in this chapter. Caesar in his Commentaries makes mention of the same peculiarity existing among the Gauls: Galli se omnes ab Dite patre prognatas praedicant: idque ab Druidibus proditum dicunt: ab eam causam spatia omnis temporis, non numero dierum, sed noctium, finiunt; et dies natales, et mensium et annorum initia sic observant, ut noctem dies subsequatur; De Bell. Gall. lib. vi. Tacitus likewise records the same of the Germans: Nec dierum numerum, ut nos, sed noctium computant: sic constituent, sic condicunt, nox ducere diem videtur; De Mor. Germ. sec. ii. And there are to this day some remains of the same custom in England, as for instance in the word se'nnight and fortnight. See also Aeschyl. Agamem. ver. 273, 287.
Thus ends a chapter containing the most extensive, most profound, and most sublime truths that can possibly come within the reach of the human intellect. How unspeakably are we indebted to God for giving us a revelation of his WILL and of his WORKS! Is it possible to know the mind of God but from himself? It is impossible. Can those things and services which are worthy of and pleasing to an infinitely pure, perfect, and holy Spirit, be ever found out by reasoning and conjecture? Never! for the Spirit of God alone can know the mind of God; and by this Spirit he has revealed himself to man; and in this revelation has taught him, not only to know the glories and perfections of the Creator, but also his own origin, duty, and interest. Thus far it was essentially necessary that God should reveal his WILL; but if he had not given a revelation of his WORKS, the origin, constitution, and nature of the universe could never have been adequately known. The world by wisdom knew not God; this is demonstrated by the writings of the most learned and intelligent heathens. They had no just, no rational notion of the origin and design of the universe. Moses alone, of all ancient writers, gives a consistent and rational account of the creation; an account which has been confirmed by the investigation of the most accurate philosophers. But where did he learn this? "In Egypt." That is impossible; for the Egyptians themselves were destitute of this knowledge. The remains we have of their old historians, all posterior to the time of Moses, are egregious for their contradictions and absurdity; and the most learned of the Greeks who borrowed from them have not been able to make out, from their conjoint stock, any consistent and credible account. Moses has revealed the mystery that lay hid from all preceding ages, because he was taught it by the inspiration of the Almighty. READER, thou hast now before thee the most ancient and most authentic history in the world; a history that contains the first written discovery that God has made of himself to man-kind; a discovery of his own being, in his wisdom, power, and goodness, in which thou and the whole human race are so intimately concerned. How much thou art indebted to him for this discovery he alone can teach thee, and cause thy heart to feel its obligations to his wisdom and mercy. Read so as to understand, for these things were written for thy learning; therefore mark what thou readest, and inwardly digest - deeply and seriously meditate on, what thou hast marked, and pray to the Father of lights that he may open thy understanding, that thou mayest know these holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation.
God made thee and the universe, and governs all things according to the counsel of his will; that will is infinite goodness, that counsel is unerring wisdom. While under the direction of this counsel, thou canst not err; while under the influence of this will, thou canst not be wretched. Give thyself up to his teaching, and submit to his authority; and, after guiding thee here by his counsel, he will at last bring thee to his glory. Every object that meets thy eye should teach thee reverence, submission, and gratitude. The earth and its productions were made for thee; and the providence of thy heavenly Father, infinitely diversified in its operations, watches over and provides for thee. Behold the firmament of his power, the sun, moon, planets, and stars, which he has formed, not for himself, for he needs none of these things, but for his intelligent offspring. What endless gratification has he designed thee in placing within thy reach these astonishing effects of his wisdom and power, and in rendering thee capable of searching out their wonderful relations and connections, and of knowing himself, the source of all perfection, by having made thee in his own image, and in his own likeness! It is true thou art fallen; but he has found out a ransom. God so loved thee in conjunction with the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Believe on HIM; through him alone cometh salvation; and the fair and holy image of God in which thou wast created shall be again restored; he will build thee up as at the first, restore thy judges and counsellors as at the beginning, and in thy second creation, as in thy first, will pronounce thee to be very good, and thou shalt show forth the virtues of him by whom thou art created anew in Christ Jesus. Amen.
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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Genesis 1". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany