Genesis 1:1-5

August 23, 2010 at 9:10 pm | Posted in Bible Study | 2 Comments
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With us beginning a new schedule for our blog and adding a Bible study, we believe that the best place to start at is the book of Genesis. This book is one of the most controversial of all those in the Bible. The book of Genesis provides the foundation of so many different doctrines that an understanding of this book is essential to anyone wanting to know the origin of Christian beliefs. In the book of Genesis, we find the Creation, the Fall, the Flood, the Tower of Babel, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. The history in Genesis spans about 2,200 years of history. It includes a number of things that will be followed throughout the rest of scripture.

Before we start the study, it is important to understand a couple of things concerning Biblical studies. To study the Bible properly, there are some things that need to be taken into account. The first and foremost thing that needs to be taken into account when studying the Bible is context. Context is “the text that is with” the studied passage. This starts with the verses located directly before and after the studied passage and expands from there to the chapter, and then the book, and then the entire Bible. If the studied passage doesn’t make sense in any one of these contexts, then it is being misinterpreted. This is important as we will see. The context is king and determines the meaning of the passage. Scripture will never contradict scripture! The second thing that we need to keep in mind is the cultural setting. We must understand the scripture the same way that those in that time period would have. For instance, if we’re reading Exodus, we must understand the times and cultures of the Exodus. We can’t read modern conventions into the text and understand what it means. Sadly, this is being done all the time without many even realizing it. History, cultural customs, language, etc. are all important to correctly understanding the text.

It is my hope that this study will be a way for God’s people to grow in holiness by better understanding the nature and character of God. All passages will be taken from the NASB. With that, today we’ll take a look at Genesis 1:1-5.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and morning, one day.

From the very first verses, the book of Genesis separates the Bible from every other “holy book” in existence. “In the beginning” shows that the history of the earth and of man started at one point in time, not after millions of years of cosmic evolution but at the very beginning of history. If we add the next word it makes yet another point. “In the beginning God” shows that God was already in existence at the beginning of the history of the universe. For this to be true, God must exist outside of time. This may sound a little suspect and more like sci-fi than history, but it has to be true. For God to create the earth at the very beginning of time, He must already exist. Throughout the Bible, God is shown to be the eternal, everlasting God who has existed forever. The first four words of the Bible point this out.

We also see in verse one that God created the heavens and the earth. God is the cause of all that we see as we look at our planet as well as when we look outside our planet to the vast universe. Stars, planets, comets, suns, trees, animals, and man were all created by God in His glorious work of Creation. This first verse is an overview of the entire Creation and sets the tone for all of scripture. The word God here is the Hebrew word Elohim. This name of God focuses on the great power and mightiness of God, His ability above and beyond any other being. It also denotes majesty or kingship.  In the context of the Creation, this only makes sense. The omnipotent, eternal God of all speaks everything into existence and the power of His word makes it happen. It is used over 2500 times in the Bible. The word Elohim is actually plural but is used with a singular verb. It is seen as the “royal we” often used by kings as well as a subtle indication of the trinity. If you find that you’re having trouble accepting the truth of this first verse, you will have trouble with every single verse that follows this one…

The second verse begins to get specific by laying out some of the other conditions as the Creation took place. The first condition listed is the fact that the earth was formless and void. The words “formless” and “void” are very important here. These two words have caused much debate between certain groups. Before 1850, those who studied the Bible understood the idea that the earth was “formless and void” to mean that the universe was unformed and unfilled in the beginning. The word formless is the Hebrew word tohu (Strong’s # H8414) and means “formless, waste, empty”. The word void is the Hebrew bohu (Strong’s #H922) and means “emptiness, desolation, a void associated with chaos”. This may seem like a no brainer, but the truth is that there are a number of ideas on the creation of the universe that misinterpret these words and their meanings. All of these other theories involve man’s efforts to fit millions of years into the Bible. The gap theory says that there is a gap between verses 1 and 2 that is millions of years long and includes pre-Adamites, Lucifer’s Flood (as a judgment for the devil’s rebellion against God), and then a “reforming and refilling” of the earth as portrayed in the rest of Genesis 1. This has no scriptural basis and can be easily dismantled by a plain look at scripture. Other theories include theistic evolution and progressive creation.

The fact remains that a plain reading of scripture here gives no indication that there were long periods of time or millions of years. The earth was empty and desolate before God began to form and fill it. Darkness covered the surface of the deep and there was no light at all. The Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. We don’t have any idea from scripture as to what the Spirit was actually doing here, but we do know that the Holy Spirit was involved in the Creation. This is the second person of the Trinity we see in as many verses. And then it all began:

And then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.

This light is brought into being by the spoken word of the Lord of all. With just four words, God has changed the way that everything looks. This direct command from God is His Word and is the eternal, pre-Incarnate form of Jesus Christ that we see (see John 1:1-3, 14 for confirmation). After its creation God calls the light “good” and then separates it from the darkness (verse 4). The word for separated is the Hebrew word badal and means “to distinguish between”. How this was done is not ultimately known, but we do know that it was done. God then defines the light and darkness. He calls the light day and the darkness night. Already we can see a couple of important things. God is the One who defines what things are and how they are to work. If we define something and that definition doesn’t match God’s already given definition, then we are wrong. We also see that He has begun to fill and form the universe He has created. With the dividing and defining of light (day) and darkness (night) we see time being marked as well. Evening and morning are now used to mark the passing of one day’s time (24 hours).

There has been much debate/discussion over the time periods denoted in Genesis. The Hebrew word for day is yom. There are some (progressive creationists like Hugh Ross) who claim that the days of Genesis are long periods of time (millions or billions of years). This cannot be found in Genesis but instead is the result of man trying to add the millions of years supposedly needed for evolution into the Bible. Again, if you read the Bible plainly, there is no indication that the word yom means anything other than a 24 hour day. While yom could have different meanings, in the context of the Creation, it can only mean a 24 hour day. Outside of Genesis 1, the word is used with a number 359 times, and every time the word means a 24 hour day. Yom is found with evening or morning 23 times. Evening and morning are found together another 38 times. In all 61 cases, the word means a 24 period of time. If night and day are used together, which occurs 53 times in scripture outside Genesis 1, it is always a 24 hour period. It is funny when you think about some of the things that have happened outside of Genesis 1 that use the word yom. For instance, Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for 3 days. If the word yom meant millions of years this would be a problem.

After the first five verses of Genesis 1, we have learned much about the eternal, all-powerful, all-knowing God who created the universe with the power of His word. As we go on, we will see more of how this awesome God reveals Himself. It is this same God that calls us to repentance and provided His Son as the sacrifice for sin…

If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment asking them. If you enjoyed this first study, please let me know as well; and tell others about it! God willing, we will see you back here next week for verses 6-8!

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  1. Mike,

    Will read this study today. Ironically, I have been praying for direction on what book to begin teaching studies again. God has shown me that starting at the beginning is a good thing. Laramie and Jessie Mae are studying ancient literature and Old Testament – our church is going through a study of Genesis on Sunday nights. And, now You! I guess I will follow suit. Looking at teaching the Precept study of Genesis this Fall or Spring. Let me know how you enjoyed it and what you would recommend in teaching it.

    BTW, our pastor was talking about remembering the “context” of Moses writing Genesis. The people (Israelites in Egypt) were leaving a known place (although pagan) and going into the unknown. Moses had to provide some context and history for them to rely on through the stories and histories of Genesis. We, today, as Christians, are asked to leave the known (although Pagan) culture and walk in faith to an unknown new life. Genesis is therefore applicable to us today.

    Thought you might like that…

    Donna

    • I absolutely loved the book of Genesis! The foundational truth you learn helps support everything else you study. If you are going to teach it to a class, you may want to understand some of the theories and other information in the studies before you even begin teaching it. There is a lot of science in the first one as well as some other theories that are used to try and mix the biblical worldview with the evolutionary one. The only other book I would look at teaching if I were starting a class is 1 John. That is a very special book for me. It is very blunt when it comes to defining what a Christian is and is not….

      If there is anything that I can do to help you prepare for the study, please let me know! I would be happy to!


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