Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, July 18th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
Take your personal ministry to the Next Level by helping StudyLight build churches and supporting pastors in Uganda.
Click here to join the effort!

Bible Commentaries
Genesis 1

Hole's Old and New Testament CommentaryHole's Commentary

Verses 1-13

Genesis 1.1-1.13 .

The first book of the Bible has a place of very great importance in the whole scheme of God-given truth which the Book brings to us. This may be stated with special emphasis in regard to its opening chapters, for in them is revealed to us the origin of the visible creation that surrounds us, together with the true account of how has come to pass the conditions of sin and sorrow and toil and pain and disease and death which fill the earth today. If we fall into untruth and delusion as to these things, we shall be deluded as to all things. If we are in doubt as to them, we shall be in doubt as to all else that is revealed.

Genesis 1.0 puts on record facts which preceded the appearance of man on the earth, and which therefore cannot have been derived from any kind of historical record. If its statements are not the record in writing of a revelation from God to man, they can only be the guesses and brainy concoctions of men who lived some 4,000 years ago. Such guesses were of course plentiful enough in the ancient world, and some of them have come down to us, grotesque in their deformity. We need not waste our time over them, or even mention them, save that they serve to throw into relief the calm certainty and sanity of the God-given record of Genesis 1.0 .

The first four words of our English Bibles "In the beginning God" present to us the primordial germ from which springs all that is revealed to us in the entire book. Here is the great fact that comprehends every other fact within its all-embracing sweep. The Bible begins with God and not man, and we must do the same. If we begin with man rather than God confusion will reign in all our thoughts.

That God exists and that He originated all things is assumed and stated. Unbelieving men may demand that proofs of His existence be produced, but nowhere in Scripture does God condescend to furnish such proofs. Were He to do so they would not be intelligible to the feeble minds of puny men. Moreover they are no more really needed than proofs that the sun exists and shines. That fact could only be doubted by a man who had neither sight nor feeling, and it is just because unbelieving men have neither sight nor feeling of a spiritual sort, that they doubt, or even deny, the existence of God.

The heavenly bodies above us and the earth beneath our feet are realities too plain to be missed, even by the most unthinking and degraded of men. What are they? Whence came they? Have they always existed? The first verse supplies the answer. They are not eternal, but had a beginning. Both heavens and earth came into being by the creative act of the eternal God. Three times in the chapter do we read, "God created ," and five times another verb is used, meaning to make . To make is to fashion out of existing matter, whereas when we read of God creating, then "through faith we understand . . . that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear " ( Heb_11:3 ).

But another thing confronts us in this first verse, though not apparent in our English Bibles. The Hebrew word for God is Elohim , a plural word, where the verb, created, is in the singular. This is the more remarkable in that Hebrew nouns can assume a dual form, meaning exactly two. Hence the plural form must mean three , or more. Reading this in the light of the New Testament, we at once see the Trinity in Unity. That great revelation of the Godhead is not explicitly stated, but the words, given by inspiration of God, are so framed as to be wholly consistent with it, when it is stated.

To sum up: verse Gen_1:1 gives us the original creative act of God by which the whole material and visible universe came into being, long before such things as "days and years" (verse Gen_1:14 ), were known. Its epoch may have been inconceivably remote, but that His work was perfect in its season, we firmly believe. In the New Testament, as we know this creative act is attributed to the Word and the Son, for creation was left in His hands, as also was redemption, and as judgment will be.

In verse Gen_1:2 we move from that remote epoch to a time much nearer our own, and we descend, as regards this earth, to a state of very great imperfection. It is found "without form;" that is, a ruin, a waste: it is also "void:" that is, empty. Isa_45:18 plainly says, "He created it not in vain, He formed it to be inhabited." This is very striking, for here again the proper word for creation is used, as in our first verse, and "in vain" is a translation of the same word as "without form" in our verse. So we have a definite confirmation of the thought that the state of the earth as in verse Gen_1:2 , was one that supervened, long after the original creation, as the result of some catastrophic event which is not revealed to us.

Besides the ruin and the emptiness there was also darkness, not everywhere but "on the face of the deep." It looks as if at this stage the earth was covered with water, the face of which was swathed in darkness. God is light, and elsewhere in the universe light was shining, but something hindered light from reaching the earth. In this condition of things the Spirit of God acted. We believe it was Herbert Spencer, an atheist philosopher, who said that, to account for things visible, five things must be predicated: viz., time, space, matter, force, motion. All five appear in our chapter. The Spirit of God is indeed Force , and He moved on the face of this watery matter.

But not apart from the Word of God. It is remarkable how in the New Testament the Spirit and the word are brought together, and specially so in connection with the new birth see Joh_3:5 , Joh_3:6 , and 1Pe_1:25 . Hence we cannot but see a striking analogy between God's work here in things material and His even greater work in things spiritual. When our spiritual condition was one of ruin and emptiness and darkness, light shined into our hearts by the moving of the Spirit of God and the power of the word of God. The first word recorded as proceeding from the mouth of God is "Light," for we understand that "Let there be light" is more literally, "Light be!" This is alluded to by Paul in 2Co_4:6 , only there he carries us beyond new birth in itself to its glorious result, in beholding "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." What a contrast between the glory of His face and the darkness that once was on the face of the deep!

Note those words, "And God said." As we travel through the chapter we shall find they occur ten times. "The worlds were framed by the word of God," as Heb_11:3 has told us; or we may adopt the words of Psa_33:9 , "He spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast." How significant in this connection is the opening of John's Gospel, "In the beginning was the Word;" that is, He was pre-existent to the first beginnings of creation. Moreover He "was with God, and . . . was God . . . All things were made by Him." So it was the Word, who later, "was made flesh, and dwelt among us," that uttered the words of power that created and made all things. Hence creation contains very definite word as to the power and wisdom and glory of God, though the revelation falls far short of that which reached us when the Word became flesh.

Notice another thing. Six times in the chapter the words, "And God said," has the appropriate sequel, "and it was so." The word of God is seen at the very outset to be powerful, never failing of its effect. How encouraging to be assured of this fact in the first chapter of the Bible, for we may be sure it applies to every word that God has spoken. When the end of the story is reached we shall be able to say with triumph, "and it was so," in regard to every promise He has made, every prediction He has uttered.

As the result of God's first utterance light shone upon the face of the deep, and God saw that it was good. This indeed it must be since, "God is light." Do we ask what is light? Scientists have their theories as to what it is, or how it comes to be, but no better answer can be given than that which Scripture furnishes, "Whatsoever doth make manifest is light" ( Eph_5:13 ), or as another translation puts it, "That which makes everything manifest is light." In darkness unrealities may deceive us because realities are obscured, and that is not good. To have everything brought into manifestation is good indeed.

So God divided the light from the darkness. There was not to be a compromise, a mixture, a sort of indefinite twilight, but the darkness was for a season to give way completely to light, and thus there was a division between them. Hence there was evening and there was morning a first day. For a long time great exception was taken by unbelievers to this statement of verse Gen_1:5 , because the sun does not appear until the fourth day. But the sun is not the only source of light.

The question is raised as to whether the days of Genesis 1.0 are to be understood in a literal sense or figuratively as indicating immense periods of time, and it has provoked much discussion, as neither interpretation of the word is free from difficulties. For ourselves, we believe it is to be understood literally. The figurative sense occurs in Scripture "man's day," "the day of salvation," etc. But this sense is most evidently a secondary one and the literal sense is the primary. In our judgment this fact alone is pretty decisive. We must have the primary meaning established before we can arrive at any secondary meaning at all, and Genesis 1.0 deals with primary things. When we reach Isaiah's prophecy we get "the day of the Lord," but even that, though not a day of 24 hours is not a long period of time. The repetition of "the evening and the morning" fits in with the primary meaning, and would have very little meaning in the secondary sense. Further, in verse Gen_1:16 , where the sun is made to rule the day and the moon to rule the night, we do not see how the primary sense can be avoided.

That these mighty works should be accomplished with extreme rapidity presents no difficulty to faith. Mighty works, though of another order, were done instantaneously by the Word, when He became flesh and took "the form of a servant." He was "in the form of God" when He acted in creation and everything displayed His unqualified omnipotence.

But we must carefully bear in mind that after verse Gen_1:1 the verb "create" does not occur again till we come to verse Gen_1:21 . In between we have "God made," an expression which indicates His action in forming or re-forming already existing matter. In the days of Genesis 1.0 , God was dealing with the earth that had been in a state of chaos, putting it into order with a view to the creation of man.

On the second day a "firmament," or "expanse," was called into being. As a result of this a further division took place; not now of light from darkness but of waters from waters. God called this expanse, Heaven. In verse Gen_1:1 "the heaven" indicates what we should call the stellar heavens. In verse Gen_1:8 the atmospheric heavens are indicated. There it is that immense quantities of water float above in the form of clouds, divided from the far greater quantities that lie on the earth beneath. As the result of the work of the second day the earth was surrounded with an atmosphere. It was accomplished by His word, "God said . . . and it was so."

Again on the third day there was division. The waters above the expanse were not affected but those beneath were gathered together into one place, and this permitted dry land to appear. In result that which was stable and fixed appeared, where previously all had been unstable and m motion. Other things followed before the third day closed, but this was the essential preliminary.

We have now had five things before us, the naming of which came from the lips of God. We observe this because in the next chapter we find God bringing to Adam the living creatures that He had made on the fifth and sixth days, that he might give them names; and in keeping with this the vast variety of creatures, indicated in verses Genesis 1.20-1.25 , are only mentioned generically. The word "whales" in verse Gen_1:21 might seem to be an exception, but the word so translated only means "sea monsters." So though Adam was permitted to display his powers of discernment in many a minor detail, these five things he had to accept as named by God Day, Night, Heaven, Earth, Seas.

As we go through the Scriptures we find the five things become symbolic and have spiritual significance. Our true "Day" will be found in the light of the knowledge of God, and there is complete division between that and that alienation from God which is "night." The division between Heaven and earth we all recognize. It is clear too that in the world of men "earth" symbolizes that which is ordered and stable, separated from peoples restless and agitated under the powers of evil, like the seas. As before, in the division between light and darkness, so now in the division between earth and seas, we get the remark, "God saw that it was good." There are divisions that are good because Divinely made. It is only man-made divisions that are evil.

The third day did not close before the newly revealed earth had brought forth grass and seed-producing herbs and fruit-producing trees. Here we note another step forward in the work of making the earth a fit habitation for man. Vegetable life is perhaps the lowest form of life that is known to us. It has neither the instinct and limited intelligence that animals possess, nor has it their powers of movement, yet we all know the difference between the plant that is dead and the plant that lives. And God saw that even this lowest form of life was good.

Here for the first time we meet with the idea of variety and of species, and consequently for the first time we meet with the significant words, "after his kind." They occur no less than ten times in this chapter, and always in connection with the appearance of some form of life, which had within itself power of reproduction. Here at the outset then is stated most emphatically a great law that is binding on all animate creation. However great and many the varieties which may occur, or be induced, within a species, there is no development into another species.

No idea has been more diligently propagated by unbelievers during the last century than that of evolution, and though Darwin's theories as to how evolution can have been brought about have been, we understand, largely abandoned, yet the idea itself is still clung to as affording an alternative to the disliked truth of creation. In Genesis 1.0 , with Divine foreknowledge we have this ten times repeated fact, which flatly denies evolution, and in practice it is continually verified. No species ever has developed into another species. Every creature reproduces itself after its kind, and never into another kind.

Adam in his fallen condition and all his race are bound by this law. No fallen sinner can evolve into a child of God. Our only hope lies in a new creation, and this is what we have in Christ, as becomes manifest when we turn to the New Testament. The "man in Christ" is a man of an entirely new order. Such is the work of God by His Spirit and through the Gospel.

Gen_1:14 Gen_2:3 .

God's work on the fourth day lay outside the earth, though in its effects a powerful influence on the earth was exerted. On the first day light had shone upon the earth, and day had been divided from night, but we are not told just how this result had been produced. The light-bearing matter may have been diffused; if so, it was now concentrated into one "great light," and the earth was set in relation to it. Also the "lesser light" was set in relation to the earth. They were now to give light not in a general way but specifically on the earth.

But more than this was included in God's purpose as to them. They were to be "for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years." We are well aware that the times whether days or years and the seasons are determined by them but the fact of their being signs is perhaps not so familiar to us. Yet there are illustrations of it in Scripture, such as Jos_10:12-14 ; 2Kings 20.8-20.11 . There is also the Lord's prediction in Luk_21:25 . The beginning of Psalms 19.0 points in the same direction.

Then again, they were to rule the day and the night respectively. From the outset the earth was placed under the rule and control of heaven, even as regards the action of inanimate matter, so that in this these heavenly bodies become a sign that "the heavens do rule" ( Dan_4:26 ), and a faint prophecy of "the kingdom of heaven," of which we read in the Gospel of Matthew. The sad fact confronts us that fallen man soon perverted all this, and began to worship these lights as though they were creator and not creature, thereby changing God's truth into a lie. Rom_1:25 refers to this, we believe.

At the end of verse Gen_1:16 we have three words "the stars also" and with this brief mention they are dismissed. The ancients were acquainted only with those visible to the unaided eye, but those they did see they misused in the attempt to foretell the future, and astrology aided many heathen practices. Here we are simply told that they are the creatures of God's hand.

It is worthy of note that here the two "lights" are not named. The word "sun" does not occur until Gen_15:12 is reached, and the first mention of "moon" is in Gen_37:9 , where sun, moon and stars appear together, and their symbolic meanings are fixed in connection with the family - the original and most primitive unit of government in the earth. Jacob, the patriarch was supreme in his family. The mother reflected his authority, and was secondary. The brethren were entirely subordinate. Sun, moon and stars symbolize authority, supreme, secondary and subordinate, and this right through Scripture.

Again we have the words, "and God saw that it was good." That creation should be under authority and control was good. We find, alas! that man, when created as the head of things, soon repudiated the Divine authority and plunged into lawlessness, which is sin. That emphatically is not good, but it should make every believer keenly realize how important it is to be subject in all things to the authority of the word of God.

The rule of heaven being thus established, God proceeded on the fifth day to bring into being an order of life much higher than the vegetable kingdom of the third day. Moving creatures that had life now appear, to fill the seas and the air immediately above the earth. The word translated "whales" simply means monsters that inhabit the waters, whether seas or rivers. All these too, like the herb and tree previously, are made after their kind, and are bidden to reproduce themselves and multiply.

In verse Gen_1:21 we get the word "created" for the second time. It appeared in verse Gen_1:1 , the original creation of the heaven and the earth. The intervening verses have told us what God made out of His original creation. Why does the word occur again here? We believe, because here the waters were commanded to bring forth "the moving creature that hath life." We see nutrition growth and reproduction in the vegetable kingdom. Here we see another order of things altogether, creatures with powers of sensation and of voluntary motion. Indeed the word translated "creature" in verses Gen_1:20 and 21 is really "soul." On this fifth day then there was the introduction of a higher form of life, involving soul, so this was distinctly and properly creation.

As the result then of God's work on the fifth day both the waters and the air were furnished with living souls, that would be fruitful and multiply until both were filled.

In the early part of the sixth day God similarly furnished the earth with living souls, both beast and cattle and also creeping things. We notice that God made them: it does not say that He created them. Though so different externally from the denizens of the waters and the air, they were still only "living souls," and hence the word created is only used when first "soul" was created as distinct from matter.

We notice too that in both verses Gen_1:24 and 25 the "beast of the earth" is distinguished from the "cattle." We gather from this that originally, and before sin came in, God designed certain animals to be specially for the upkeep and benefit of the man He was about to create. After sin came in the beasts developed their wild and savage nature, while the cattle remained comparatively docile and useful to man.

Man was to be the climax of all this work of God, and before the sixth day closed he appeared.

Verses Genesis 1.26-1.28 are of the deepest importance, and for the third time in this chapter we get the word created. This is because once more a totally fresh element was introduced, though we do not find it mentioned until Gen_2:7 is reached. Man possesses spirit by the inbreathing of God. We may say therefore that in Genesis 1.0 we get three acts of creation. First, the original creation of matter. Second, the creation of soul. Third, the creation of spirit, which is man's prerogative as far as this world is concerned, since the creation of angels is outside the range of this chapter. All three acts bear upon man, for he possesses spirit, he is a living soul; his body is composed of terrestrial matter.

Verse Gen_1:26 shows us that from the outset man was the subject of Divine consultation or counsel. That God should say, "Let US," is worthy of note. Elohim is, as we have said, a plural Name. In the Old Testament the three Persons in the Godhead are not revealed, but now that They are revealed we can see that, inspired of God, the language of our chapter is quite consistent therewith. There was present to the Divine mind all that man would turn out to be, and he was only brought into existence after this consultation within the Godhead Himself. In verse Gen_1:26 it is " Our image:" in verse Gen_1:27 it is " His image." There is no incongruity for it is the eternal "Three in One" who speaks.

Man was treated in both the image and the likeness of God. The former word seems to be used in Scripture for that which represents unseen realities. The images of the heathen world represented their gods, without necessarily being like them, for indeed they had never seen the demons they worshipped by means of the images that represented them to their eyes. Man was made, then, to represent God to the lower creation over which he was set. But he was also made after the likeness of God; that is, he was really like God in certain important respects. Not in all respects of course, for God is infinitely holy and man was merely innocent. Still man was God's "offspring" ( Act_17:28 , Act_17:29 ), a spirit being, though clothed in a body of flesh and blood, and hence with intelligence and moral sensibilities, which are a reflection of that which subsists on an infinite scale in God Himself.

Here let us pause a moment that we may realize the frightful debasement in both mind and morals which must flow from the degrading theory that man is only an improved ape, or come up from the protozoa, that are supposed to have existed in primordial slime, millions of years ago. Evolutionary theories have about them the fatal fascination of enabling their adherents to ignore the fall of man, and the state of sin in which he is found. What the Bible calls sin they regard as being merely unpleasing traces of animal ancestry manifesting themselves. The past 80 to 90 years have witnessed two things: the revival of the theory of evolution under the speculations of Darwin, which enables men to theorize on their ascent; and the descent of the more civilized peoples, where the theory has been mainly propagated, to a level of savagery and bestiality, far below the level of the heathen. This has been seen more particularly in the past ten years.

NO! Man was created in the image and likeness of God, and his present condition of sin and degradation is the fruit of a great spiritual catastrophe, which is on record in Genesis 3.0 . He is now a fallen sinner; he never was an exalted ape.

Another thing about man confronts us in verses Gen_1:26 and 28 he was created to hold dominion over the lower creation. In this feature he appears to be unique. There are rulers in the angelic world "principality, and power, and might, and dominion" ( Eph_1:21 ) but their rule only extends over beings of their own order. Dealing with angels, Heb_1:14 asks, "Are they not all ministering spirits?" Yes, all , even to the archangel himself, were created to serve. As far as Scripture informs us, only man was made to have dominion over others.

This is deeply interesting for it shows us that the Second Man was before God from the outset. The defection of the first man did not take God by surprise. When God said, "Let us make man," He knew what was involved. Man was not to be a mere machine, or unintelligent and irresponsible like the brute creation, but a moral agent capable of representing God, but capable also of rebellion against Him. As the fruit of sin man has lost control of himself and misused his dominion, but God's original thought for man is going to be realized on a vastly larger and grander scale in the Son of Man, who is the last Adam. Psalms 8.0 envisages this glorious prospect.

Verse Gen_1:27 states that duality characterizes man. It says that God created " him ; male and female created He them ." This fact is elaborated in Genesis 2.0 , but the few words here show us how closely male and female are identified. The word, "man" covers both, and jointly they were to have the dominion, though the male from the outset was given the leading place. From the outset too they were blessed by God and bidden to multiply and replenish the earth. Before sin came in therefore children were in God's purpose for them.

The closing verses of the chapter show that the vegetable kingdom was designed to provide food for both man and beast. After the flood animal food was given to man see, Gen_9:3 , Gen_9:4 . Before sin came in, and death by sin, no animal was to be slain for man's food.

With the creation of man male and female and his being set in dominion and blessed, the work of the sixth day reached its end. As it concluded, God surveyed all that He had made. Six times already we have been told that God saw it was good, now on this seventh occasion, when the whole was inspected, we are told that all was very good. Let us take note of this for it demolishes at one blow the whole system of error, miscalled "Christian Science," which has, as one of its most fundamental dogmas, the idea that matter is evil and only spirit is good. The truth is the exact opposite of this, for when evil entered it came in by way of spirit and not matter.

We have seen that this chapter, from the first verse onwards, refutes Unitarianism, for GOD Elohim in the plural occurs no less than 32 times. We have seen how it refutes Evolution, for every species reproduces itself "after his kind." We have just seen how Christian Science is refuted; and now as we open Genesis 2.0 , we meet with a statement that reinforces what has been apparent all through Genesis 1.0 ; namely, that God is outside and above all that He created and made. Thus, on the seventh day when creation was what we may call "a going concern," God is said to have rested. Thus Pantheism the idea that God is only to be conceived of as immanent in creation, pervading all nature is wholly denied. He may indeed act in nature, but He is transcendent, essentially above it in Person and Being.

Genesis 2.1-2.3 , really belongs to Genesis 1.0 , and completes the paragraph. The seventh day was a day of rest for God. His work had involved both creating and making, but all was now complete, and evidently He has not set His hand to work of that order from that time until now. The entrance of sin necessitated His taking up work of another order, and the Lord Jesus alluded to this in saying, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work" ( Joh_5:17 ).

Thus the seventh day was specially blessed and set apart, and we may say that a seventh day of rest after six days of work is a thought that dates back to the very beginning of man's history. The word "sabbath" does not occur until we reach Exo_16:23 , where it designates the seventh day after the manna was given. After that the law was given, and this "sabbath" this "ceasing" as the word means became a legal institution for Israel, and a sign between them and the Lord for ever, as stated in Exo_31:17 . Hebrews 4.4-4.10 also alludes to this, and evidently Israel will yet enjoy her sabbath in the millennial age; God thus redeeming the sign He had given.

The sabbath was never given as a sign to the Church. In Christ we have not the sign but the things signified. The Seventh Day Adventist would put us back under the law, and into the comparative darkness of Judaism, ignoring the fact that for us the new moons and sabbath days are over, as indicated in Col_2:16 . Nevertheless we are as Christians very thankful to be able to observe one day's rest in seven, as indicated from creation, and to have that day of rest on the first of the week, the day when our Saviour rose from the dead.

Bibliographical Information
Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on Genesis 1". "Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/fbh/genesis-1.html. 1947.
Ads FreeProfile