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Just as with many things in life, it is not enough to simply read the Bible to have a deep understanding of it. You must also analyze what you have read. We are quite fortunate that the most important parts of the Bible are the easiest to understand; the Bible’s central message of sin and redemption by sacrifice can be easily understood by even a child (see 1 Peter 2:2). But there is much more to the Bible than just the gospels; there are 62 other books yearning to be understood. Almost everyone thinks they are experts on scripture but few actually are experts. If you wish to be among the latter instead of the former, I invite you to read this commentary. It is the result of countless hours of studying scriptures, praying for understanding, and carefully reviewing past commentaries by other authors. By the time I have finished this commentary, I believe it will be the most comprehensive ever written.
I would feel remiss in my duty if I did not offer an introduction of myself and an explanation of my agenda. My name is John Everett. I am a Christian; I believe that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God. I do not believe that the Bible needs to be re-written. It needs to be reread. I believe that God and His word are always correct (when properly translated, anyway). Any time that a person disagrees with the Bible, it is the person’s opinion that must change. In writing this commentary, I have made the utmost efforts to ensure that what I am writing is correct. Know this well: I am not trying to push my opinion onto you. My goal is to change my opinion so that it matches the truth, and then push the truth onto you. I abhor bias in all its forms. I do whatever I can to challenge my beliefs and make sure that I change if need be. As soon as I find that something is incorrect, I stop believing it, and I demand the same of everyone else. No one ought to have any emotional attachment to their false beliefs, especially if such emotions impair proper judgment. While reading this commentary I am certain that you will read something you don’t like. When that happens, there will be three possibilities:
- You are wrong, in which case you need to get over it and stop being wrong.
- I am wrong, in which case you need to let me know so I can stop being wrong.
- We’re both wrong, in which case we need serious help.
All I can really say is, “Don’t be biased.” After that, it’s in God’s hands. With that having been said, let me reassure you that great pains have been taken to avoid any inaccuracies in my commentary. I truly, genuinely want to teach God’s word and help my brothers and sisters in Christ to have a deeper understanding of the Bible, and in turn deepen their relationship with Christ. And I want to convert any non-Christian who may happen to read this. That is my full agenda. I don’t mean to make any crackpot claims about a hidden prophetic code concerning first contact with space aliens, or a secret interpretation making myself the Messiah, or any other such garbage as cult founders are wont to do. I wish neither to add to nor take away from scripture (see Deuteronomy 4:2, Revelation 22:18–19). My goal is simply to explain what the Bible says, and to prove my claims with scripture and other evidence.
Without further ado, let us begin.
In the beginning God created Heaven and the Earth.
In the beginning… The beginning was the beginning. This is, paradoxically, such a simple concept that it has to be explained in detail. The beginning of the universe was the beginning of existence. Our current universe has existed since the beginning and is not a “replacement” universe–this universe is the first one (see Rev. 21:1)– nor is it the final draft to some “rough” universe from ages past (see also Isa. 65:17, 2 Pet. 3:10). The beginning of Heaven and Earth was the beginning. This means that there was no “before-time.” God did not float around in an endless nothingness for a few days or a few millenia before deciding to create Heaven and Earth. That’s because there were no days or millenia before the beginning.
It is difficult (for most of us) to understand an absolute beginning because everything in our world was preceded by something else. To imagine a lack of anything before THE beginning is hard. We may be tempted to think “Before the beginning there was nothing.” But this is inaccurate, because there was no “before the beginning.” You couldn’t even say with truth that there was no “nothing” before the beginning. There was never a moment in time when the universe did not exist; the universe has existed since the beginning because that’s when God created it. Now, because God is eternal, it is truthful to say that God existed before the beginning (see: John 17:24, Eph. 1:4, Col. 1:17, 1 Pet. 1:20); God has no beginning because He is eternal. For God, it was possible to exist in a “time” when there was no time, but to God time has no power anyway (see Psalm 90:4, 2 Pet. 3:8), and time could not exist if nothing existed, so saying this doesn’t make the situation any easier to understand. Since the word “before” can only apply to a reality where time exists, then there wasn’t a pre-beginning for the material world. The beginning of time and the creation of the universe are mutually determined. God caused the universe to have a beginning because He Himself has no beginning. One cannot ask “When did God begin,” because He is eternal and timeless. (Infinity goes in both directions, after all.)
God created… This provides a solution to the Cosmological argument, which is as follows: Everything that begins to exist must have a cause. The universe began to exist at some point, therefore the universe had a cause. And the answer the Bible provides is satisfying, for all related questions are answered as well. It was God Himself who created the universe. This information is something that we take for granted. We seldom, if ever, think about the full meaning of the statement. But it is very important, partly because it tells us something of who the Creator is, and likewise what sort of creation He created. We know that God is eternal because He existed in the beginning and thus was around to create the universe. We know that if He was around “before” time existed then He transcends time–and therefore He is eternal. (see also Deut. 33:27, Isa. 57:15, Jer 10:10) Eternal doesn’t just mean “endless,” mind you–it also means “beginning-less.” We know that He is omnipotent (see Rev. 1:8) for He was able to create something out of nothing–an impossible feat for any ordinary creator, but no challenge to this extraordinary Creator. He did not “build” the heaven and the earth, nor did He “renovate” them. (He must be omnipotent to create not only Earth, which is material, but also to create Heaven, which is immaterial. We should be well-convinced by the mere existence of the world to ascribe omnipotence to God; but to also have second-hand knowledge of the existence of Heaven can only further vindicate this fact.) He created them, from nothing (see Heb. 11:3, see also Ps. 33:9). The Hebrew word for “to create,” bara, is only ever paired with God in scriptures, because it is only God who can create something from nothing. We learn quite a bit about God’s character by analyzing this creation, for God’s invisible qualities are seen through his visible creation (Rom. 1:20). We know that He created Heaven AND Earth in the beginning–not just one or the other. His ideal of creation includes not just the physical, but the mental and spiritual as well. There is nothing the body can gain from gazing upon the stars in the night sky, but their beauty enriches our minds. Because God is complete, His creation must necessarily serve all parts of a man, and not just the body. So moving further on from this, we can find many of God’s characteristics.
In order to create, God must have power and will. In order to create Heaven and the Earth He must have wisdom and skill. The fact that the universe did not disintegrate at the subatomic level as soon as it was created speaks volumes of God’s mighty skill as an engineer and mathematician (and physicist, and chemist, and so on) (see also Jer. 10:12). God is a being of freedom, for nothing constrained Him or prevented Him from creating (see Isa. 14:27). Because God exercised His freedom by creating, it must be true that He values freedom (see 2 Cor. 3:17). Because God created of His own free will, it must be that He is subservient to no one (see Deut. 10:17, 1 Tim. 6:15, Rev. 17:14). And because God continued to create for six days and not just one, it must be true that He is a continuous God–a God of commitment–, not a god of abandonment and neglect or fickle-mindedness (see also Num. 23:19, Isa. 40:26). He continued to improve His creation, from a shapeless mass of chaos all the way to a lush planet bearing the garden of Eden.
The account of creation in Genesis states that God molded and shaped the universe, causing the stars to give off light and the earth to form solid land, etc. If we think about what this means for Genesis 1:1, we can see that God is a Creator who likes to work on His creation. First He created the earth, then He improved it and shaped it just as a potter shapes His clay. Indeed, God is the Great Potter (see Isaiah 64:8). Even after creating great masses of waters, God still had work to do. And that brings us the question of why God created the universe. The verse merely states that He did–not why. But if we delve further into the scriptures, we can find many of the reasons. And it is important to ask why. Simply reading a Bible verse can only provide the most basic level of understanding, but to gain wisdom you must dwell on His word. After reading each verse of the Bible you must ask What, Where, When, How, and Why? (With most verses you must also ask their negatives: Why not, Where not, etc.) It is impossible for us humans to completely answer all of these questions, but it is nevertheless a good goal to reach for. We have already explored the Who, What, and When, so now we shall ask Why? of Genesis 1:1. Why did God create? There are three primary reasons which are easy to understand and easy to explain–they are as follows.
First, because a perfect life is not one of idleness but of creation and improvement. Even when God gave Adam a garden, He set the man to work. He placed Adam into the garden to dress it and to keep it (Gen. 2:15). Because God is the one who created Adam AND is the one who placed him into the garden for these purposes, it must be said that this is what God wanted, and that this is good. If it is good, and God is good, then He must have created the universe out of goodness. Thus, God created the universe because it was a good thing to do.
The second reason is closely related to the first: Because a good thought is abstract but a good deed is concrete (see 1 John 3:18, James 1:22). When Jesus was hungry one day He came upon a certain fig tree that did not bear fruit. Jesus then cursed the tree for its inaction (Matt. 23:19). This teaches us an important lesson in lukewarm spirituality and shows us that goodness must bear fruit to be truly good. Merely thinking about doing something good is not good enough. We must put our thoughts into action. God is not only goodness but is also good. God is not only Word but also Deed. He isn’t just positive in His heart but also in action. Incidentally, God created the universe with His words. We may like to say that “talk is cheap,” but talking itself is an action (see Matt. 12:37). And God is so genuine that the universe sprang into existence at His word itself. God created the universe because that creation was very good (Gen. 1:31). In so doing, He did something good. We can understand from this why God created the universe in the beginning. If He had waited around for any amount of “time” before springing into action then that would put a limit on how good God is. Could there be any moment in time when God is good only in thought but not in deed? Perish the thought. God would be of incomplete goodness if He did not create right away; in which case He could hardly be called God. Thus God created the universe in the beginning because a good Tree must bear good fruit.
Third, because of love. We shall know by reading the Bible that God is a God of love (see 1 John 4:16); He loves the human race and desires companionship with us. The only way God could have companionship with us, though, is for us to exist. God created us (and the Earth for us to enjoy) because He loves us. Why does the painter paint? Is it because he hates art and despises its practice? No, it is because he loves art. Why does the builder build? Out of love. Why does the musician play? Out of love. Why do parents sire and keep their children? Out of love. Even though we know that our children will commit evils and fall victim to many more, we nevertheless desire their existence. Likewise God, even knowing that we would fall and suffer, still desired our existence. But even before we existed, He created out of love for His Son. For scripture tells us, “By Him (the Son) were all things created, that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible — all things were created by Him and for Him” (Colossians 1:16). Dean Alford wrote, “I hesitate not then in saying that all creation was the result of the love of the Father for the Son; the result of His Almighty will to carry forward, and to glorify, His Divine character of love, by the glorification of His beloved and only-begotten Son. This world is Christ’s world — made by and made for Christ — made as the theatre whereon, to all created beings, and even to the Father Himself, was to be shown forth the glorious self-denying love of the Son of God. Thus the world is to the Christian a fact in the very path and process of his faith, and hope, and love. Thus creation is to him part of redemption; the first free act of love of his God, which provided for his being called into existence, as the next free act of love provided for his being called to be a partaker of the Divine nature.” Thus, God created the universe because it was a loving thing to do and God is love.
When we consider these three causes, then the question ought not to be, “Why did God create the universe,” but rather, “How could He not?” The universe is an expression of God’s character. A good architect can design a hundred buildings, each a unique expression of his creativity and personal philosophy. God, too, has created an infinite number of wonders throughout existence. Here on earth He created sweet-smelling roses and sparkling water. He created a wide variety of furry creatures which give us different delights. He also created the wonders of the deep (see also Ps. 107:23–24), with groaning whales and glassy diatoms. If we look to the cosmos, we see still more wonders. He created the haunting, ethereal radio waves of Neptune. He created the tree-branch-like filaments of the Crab Nebula. He created pulsars, white dwarf-stars, planets made of diamond; trailing comets, and black holes. What is perhaps the most amazing of all is that no matter how much our technology advances, we are no closer to seeing the end of the universe than we were in the time of Abraham. We can see about 3,000 stars on a clear night with the naked eye, and we can see many thousands of galaxies with our telescopes and probes. In a photograph taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, a single pixel may be an entire galaxy containing 100 Billion stars1. Yet, despite our advances, there is always more to discover. So too is the insurmountable infinity of God.
(And for this reason you must be cautious to remember that there will be answers beyond what is written in this or any other commentary. No one understands scripture completely except God Himself. Above were listed three reasons for God creating the universe, but of course there are other reasons–some simple, and some not. A simple reason is that God created because this creation brought Him delight–He does that which is pleasing to Him (see Isa. 46:10, Matt. 11:26). A reason that is harder to understand fully is that He created the universe so that His plan could be carried out (see Isa. 25:1, Eph. 3:11). Of course, these other reasons may only be understood after a thorough reading of the rest of scripture, and therefore ought not to be further explained in a commentary on Gen. 1:1. )
But who is this infinite God? In order to even more properly understand the meaning of Genesis 1:1, we must study the verse in its original tongue.
בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית בָּרָ֣א אֱלֹהִ֑ים אֵ֥ת הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וְאֵ֥ת הָאָֽרֶץ׃
בְּ In רֵאשִׁ֖ית the beginning בָּרָ֣א created אֱלֹהִ֑ים God אֵ֥ת [accusative] הַ (with) שָּׁמַ֖יִם heaven וְאֵ֥ and ת [accusative] הָ (with) אָֽרֶץ׃ earth.
The meaning of “beginning” and “created” have already been discussed in paragraphs above, so let us study the word אֱלֹהִ֑ים (Elohim). Perhaps the first thing to be noticed is the root word אֵל (El). This primary root is most simply translated as “God,” and rightly so, but in Hebrew carries the meaning of “strong, binding; lasting, eternal; Lord.” The name “El” always speaks of immutable power. It is an awesome name which stands for an equally awesome God. We were not meant to think of the word “God” as referring to Yahweh and as a nonspecific noun meaning “some deity, or just the concept of a higher power if you prefer.” No, “El” originally meant just that–El. There was no “other,” there was no sense of ambiguity. Using “God” in a general sense diminishes our understanding of its true power. Many persons mention God in everyday conversation but do not think specifically of El; rather, they vaguely imagine some nondescript higher power. Many persons say “Thank God for that,” or “God only knows,” without thinking of El specifically. And men may refer to false deities as “God” but this is only a necessary product of failing to appreciate His Infinity. Barnes explained well that “Many real or imaginary beings came to be regarded as possessed of the attributes, and therefore entitled to the reverence belonging to Deity, and were in consequence called gods by their mistaken votaries, and by others who had occasion to speak of them. This usage at once proves it to be a common noun, and corroborates its proper meaning. When thus employed, however, it immediately loses most of its inherent grandeur, and sometimes dwindles down to the bare notion of the supernatural or the extramundane.” Because of this shortcoming, we have many gods who lack omnipotence, or who make mistakes, etc. But those gods are only a reflection of our lack of godliness. El is hindered by nothing and His name is Powerful, Almighty.
Before revealing His true name as Yahweh, God referred to himself as various forms of “El.” He introduced Himself as “El-Shaddai” to Abraham, which is difficult to translate because of its extreme antiquity, but most likely means “God Almighty” (see Gen. 17:1, see also Ex. 6:3). There is always a sense of supreme power, for the true El can do anything. Of course, Genesis 1:1 doesn’t use only the name “El,” but “Elohim.” What does this mean?
The word Elohim contains the ending הִים (im) which is masculine plural. Beware those who try to recreate God in their own image. God is male; neither female, nor neuter, nor hermaphroditic. Some persons wish to attest that God is at least partially female because the Hebrew word for spirit or wind, ר֫וּחַ (ruach), is usually feminine, and so the Holy Spirit must also be feminine. We can easily discount this claim on the basis of three facts. One: “Elohim” is masculine plural, and not neuter–therefore it must refer to components that are unanimously male. Two: the New Testament was written in Greek and the Greek word for spirit, Πνεῦμα (pneuma), is neuter, but the Holy Spirit certainly can’t be female and neuter at the same time. Just because a common noun is feminine or neuter, that does not mean that the Proper Noun must also be. The Proper Noun Elohim is masculine plural, and such a distinction supersedes any distinction reserved for a common noun. Three: Mary was impregnated by the power of the Holy Spirit (see Matt. 1:18), which could not work in such a manner if the Spirit were also female. The male (who provides the seed) creates by means of a female who bears the seed and gestates the result of creation. If the Holy Spirit were female, it could not carry out God’s creative will but could only gestate the result of that creation. Yet throughout scripture we see the Holy Spirit carry out the work of God in every way deemed fit. Those who refer to the Spirit as the “Heavenly Mother” are deceived.
But the most important part of this word is the “plural.” Elohim can be translated as “gods.” When the word refers to false gods (for example, the three brothers Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon) it is always preceded by a plural verb so that the two are in agreement. When Elohim is used to refer to Yahweh, however, it is usually preceded by a singular verb. Such is the case in this verse, wherein בָּרָ֣א (created) is a singular verb in agreement with a plural noun. Notice, though, that Elohim when referring to Yahweh does not always follow a singular verb; nor does the singular El always follow a singular verb. Genesis 35:7 states that El appeared to Abraham; in this verse El is singular and is in agreement with the plural verb נִגְל֤וּ (niglu– appeared). Therefore one cannot simply write off the word “Elohim” as being exceptional in Hebrew. It is not a singular noun that just so happens to be written in the plural–it is a plural noun that is written in the plural.
This, of course, does not mean that Yahweh consists of multiple gods. If this were true then Yahweh would not be referred to sometimes in the singular, and sometimes in the plural. He is referred to as El, Eloah, and Elohim throughout the Old Testament. Elohim is by far the most common, appearing almost 3,000 times in the Old Testament. He is called one and plural in a seemingly interchangeable fashion, joined with singular and plural verbs alike. The verse Deuteronomy 6:4 states “Hear, O Isreal! The Lord (Yahweh) our God (Elohim) is one Lord (Yahweh).” This explains that although Elohim is plural, He is nonetheless a single being. The word אֶחָֽד׃, used for “one” in that verse, refers to a unity comprised of parts (e.g. a bunch of bananas) as opposed to יָחִיד֙, a unity consisting only of itself. Deut. 6:4 is known as the SHEMA and leaves no room at all for ambiguity or disagreement on the matter. God is, indeed, comprised of several distinct Persons who form a single being.
“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.
“Gen 1:26 Genesis 3:22 Genesis 11:7 Genesis 20:13 Genesis 31:7, Genesis 31:53 Genesis 35:7. “Deut 4:7 Deut 5:23; Joshua 24:19 1 Samuel 4:8; 2 Samuel 7:23; Psa 58:6; Isaiah 6:8; Jeremiah 10:10, Jeremiah 23:36. “See also Proverbs 9:10, Proverbs 30:3; Psalm 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, and Daniel 7:18, Daniel 7:22.” – Parkhurst.
Elohim is not just plural, however, but is made up of Three. We know from the book of Isaiah and elsewhere that there are in total three Persons composing this unity. Consider that the Son of God spoke to Israel in Isaiah 48, saying “I am He; I am the First, I am also the Last. Mine hand also hath laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand hath spanned the heavens […] And now the Lord GOD and His Spirit have sent Me.” Since the Son of God is “the First and the Last,” He is eternal–a descriptor that may only apply to God Himself. Because He created the heaven and the Earth, He must be God. The Son is therefore God, and was sent by His Father and Spirit. There are thus three Persons composing God. Nowhere in the scripture is a fourth person said to be divine (see Matt. 28:19). There are only three Persons who compose Yahweh: The Lord GOD, His Spirit, and His Son, each having just as much divinity as the other. Although scholars Jewish or otherwise may wish to debate this, there is no sound argument supporting the claim that God is fewer than Three–every valid argument points to a trinity, whether in the Old Testament or the New. God was made of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the time of Moses and in the time of John. The sheer number of verses pointing to the divinity of the Son Jesus are even more abundant than the number of verses pointing to the existence of the Trinity. (see also Gen. 48:26 Mark 2:28, John 6:51, John 8:19, John 8:24–8:28, John 8:58, John 10:30–10:33, John 17:5, Philippians 2:6–7, Hebrews 1:6,2:14, 2:17) The evidence is unassailable for those to whom the truth is more important than personal opinions. We are blessed to have the benefit of learning wholesale from scripture what the prophets had to discover piecemeal. What Jacob saw indistinctly we can see distinctly.
This is very important for understanding the creation of man, for God created man in His own image. Just as God has three parts, so do we. Each person consists of mind (rendered in older translations as “soul”), flesh, and spirit, just as the Lord consists of the Father (Mind), Son (Flesh), and Holy Spirit. Because we know from the Hebrew that God consists of Three, then we know from the creation account that we humans, being made in His image, have a special place in God’s creation. Note further that there is no introduction to God in Genesis 1:1. God needs no introduction for the very concept of God is imprinted on the minds of all. All men of all civilizations have had some knowledge of God and godliness, and all have known that humans are the greatest of all the creations. Even they who never heard God’s name had some vague notion of our special place. But not only do we have a special place, we also a special responsibility. Although God is three distinct Persons, They all work together as one. Despite God being endlessly vast there is no disagreement between the Father and the Son. There is no war between the Flesh and the Spirit. This surely speaks to God’s expectation of us. We must do well without giving into our carnal desires or neglecting our spiritual ones. If God is in agreement with Himself and fully dedicated in His Will, we must be as well. God did not create the heaven and the earth by being divided against Himself. And as God is the master of the universe, so are we to be masters of the Earth, having been made in His image. So we must not be stewards of strife and war but of peace and love. God intended us to be in the position of dominance over the Earth (see Ps. 115:16). Because we are created in God’s image, we are to function in a godly capacity. Thus He told Adam and Eve to have dominion over the Earth. (This is not, however, to say that we are gods, but that we act in a godly capacity. Moses was told to be “a god to Pharaoh” in that Moses was acting as the medium between God and Pharoah, or as the representation of God. So we must be God’s representatives to the creation.)
The… The next word, אֵ֥ת, is untranslatable in English because we have no separate word denoting the direct object, but we often use articles “a” or “the” before direct objects. Thus the King James Version of the Bible reads, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Clarke’s Commentary offers the explanation:
“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 heaven 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 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.”
This meaning of “substance” is complemented by the inclusion of the word הַ, which can mean “and” but in this case means “with,” and denotes the whole substance. The meaning of the verse can be rendered as “God created Heaven (and all substance therein) and the Earth (and all substance therein). At the Earth’s creation it had neither the mass of a corn cob, nor of Jupiter, but of Earth. As we shall see from Genesis 1:2, Earth was indeed far different from how it is today, but nonetheless contained the mass it does now. There may not have been any dry land, but the matter was still there. The heaven, likewise, at the moment of creation contained the equivalent of all it contains now (human spirits exempted). Now, we must be quite clear what is meant by “heaven.”
Heaven and the earth. The Hebrew word for heaven, שָׁמַ֫יִם (shamayim), is always plural in the Hebrew (note the masculine plural ending -im), but depending on context can be translated as either “heaven” or “heavens.” The word “heaven” refers to three different locations. It can refer first to the sky (Gen. 1:8), second to outer space (Nahum 3:16), and third to that which we call Heaven, wherein sits the throne of God (1 Kings 8:27, 2 Cor. 12:2). We have to use context to understand what is meant in this verse. The first heaven (the sky) was created on the second day (see Genesis 1:6 – 1:8) and the second heaven (space) was created on the fourth day (see Genesis 1:14 – 1:19). You may be tempted to say that space was there from the beginning because it’s just nothingness, so God created it on the first day. But if it was nothing, then how could it be created? How do you create nothing, anyway? Space today isn’t nothing–even the “void” in between the stars contains a lot of stuff. But all of that stuff was created on the fourth day. Before that the second heaven was nonexistent. So if the first and second heavens didn’t exist in the beginning, then that leaves only the highest heaven. This Heaven was created at the beginning along with the chaotic mass of water that became the Earth. Many English translations today read “heavens” in Genesis 1:1 but this is simply not correct. The earliest English appearance of the plural “heavens” in 1:1 was the 1901 American Standard Version which was based on the 1881 perversion of the Bible by two cultists named Westcott and Hort. Every good and valid translation for thousands of years has made the heaven singular in 1:1. Even the Latin Vulgate, which is notorious for its many errors, managed to get it right in 1:1. In principio creavit Deus caelum et terram. This may seem like nitpicking over an inconsequential detail, but God’s word is extremely important. Getting it right is imperative.
The highest Heaven must have been in the same shape that it is now (or very similar), for there is no indication in the Scriptures of God fine-tuning Heaven. Since it is God’s Kingdom, there is no reason to think that it was not completed from the start. Because Heaven was completed the instant it came into being, then, its residents must also have been. Angels, God’s ministering spirits, were created at the very beginning of creation, for there is no other time when they could have been created. The book of Job 38:7 says that angels shouted joyously when God laid the foundations of the Earth, so they were made before the earth was founded upon the waters on the third day. No verse before that mentions angels being created, so angels had to have been created in the beginning. If not for this time, then when? You may say that they were brought into existence on the first or second day, but that would contradict the meaning conveyed by the particle את discussed in the previous section. (Besides, when on the first or second day did God say, “Let there be angels?” Can you point to that verse?) Either way, angels were certainly created (Col. 1:16). Gnostics (they who believe that Good and Evil are both eternal and equally powerful) should be quite dismayed by the discovery that Satan, being a fallen angel, did not co-exist with God before the beginning but was indeed created by God along with Michael and all the other angels. God is the source of all beings and has not been influenced by the universe, but rather has influenced it.
Finally for this verse, let’s note that Genesis 1:1 does not say that God spoke Heaven and Earth into existence. Why is this? He spoke everything into existence, from light on the first day to Adam on the sixth. Why didn’t God say “Let there be Heaven and a body of water?” Or even “Let there be angels,” as discussed above? The answer is likely a very simple one. Whenever anyone speaks, time passes. Before the universe existed there was no time, so there could be no time for a sentence to be spoken. God may indeed have spoken, but not as we understand it. His words would have had to be instantaneous, and so to human understanding nonexistent. It seems unlikely that any book could explain God speaking Heaven and Earth into existence, so 1:1 suffices to say that He created them in the beginning. After the initial creation of water, then there was time and God’s words could be more conventional.
All of the words in this verse have now been explained, but there is even more to realize beyond the words themselves. Each verse of the Bible is rich in meaning not only because of its content, but also its context. Yes, Genesis 1:1 says all of this, but why? If we look outside the scripture itself and into the modern day world we can see the use of such detailed scripture. Empiricism can only offer knowledge of the world as it exists now (and clues to the past). We may know that Argon is a noble gas or that the Earth’s crust contains many layers, but all of these things avail little understanding of why the world exists or for what reason it came to be as it is (and archaeology, although offering many clues about Earth’s past, cannot tell us its beginning). And if we know not where we came from, we certainly can’t fully understand where we are now or whither we should go. Having an account at our disposal of the Earth’s beginning offers invaluable perspective for our benefit. It reminds us of life’s impermanence and the need to live a life that is godly rather than mundane. For if we know that the Earth is not eternal then we know that we ought not to value it higher than the One who is eternal. We know where we stand as entities, for we were made with purpose; and did not come about as cosmological accidents. Not only was Jesus present with the Lord at the point of creation, but all things were created by Jesus and through Jesus (John 1:3, Heb. 1:2,). It was not only in love that He became a sacrifice, but also in love that He made us to begin with. He did not create us impulsively, for He had a plan from the beginning to save us when we sinned. Thus the first verse of the Bible offers not only a satisfactory account of the world’s beginning, but also enables a proper cognizance of the context for that which came after.
Being given this verse, we also are given a true understanding of creation and hence cannot be led astray by false teachings. With only the first verse of the Bible, already every false account is done away with. The pseudo-scientific belief that the universe created itself in a big bang can confidently be brushed aside by the scripture-abiding Christian (and by anyone with a good understanding of physics). All religions including Atheism, by the knowledge of this verse, can be dismissed as the nonsense that they are. Furthermore, all Christian-derived cults are instantly proven false. Because God is the source of all things, Gnostic Christianity has no legs to stand on. Because God is neither hermaphroditic nor female, there is no hope for Christian Science. Because God is a Triune, there is no basis for Islam, Mormonism, Unification, or any others. This is no coincidence. God is not stupid, and He did not write the Bible without due diligence. Every word transcribed by Moses and the prophets was carefully selected by a God with immense foresight and discretion. God knew that false prophets would arise who would twist His Word while claiming to be true believers. But lo! Witness the swift victory of scripture which, in its very first verse, immediately discredits all who wish to distort it for their evil purposes! How remarkable it is to have a scripture which is so strong that it needs no defense. Its first verse preemptively and indiscriminately destroys all ignorant arguments against it. God’s Word is like a roaring lion–you needn’t defend it, you need only to set it loose.
And so with all of these things having been known, we can arrive at a fairly detailed picture of the creation, even with just a single sentence. We can now read Genesis 1:1 with the following understanding: An eternal, infinite God created a seemingly infinite cosmos in a single instance at the beginning of time. He did this out of love and goodness even knowing (especially knowing) what course of events should happen afterwards. He is a Trinity consisting of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a single God who encompasses all aspects of creation in His composition. In order to serve all aspects He created works pleasing not only to the body but also to the mind and spirit. He is a God of liberty, intellect, imagination and creativity, goodness, action, word and deed. And the earth He created was not abandoned by its Creator but was attended to as a mother attends her children.
1: Known as the Hubble Deep Field, an area of space that appeared empty was found to contain about 1,500 new galaxies when revealed by long exposure.
And the Earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
וְהָאָ֗רֶץ הָיְתָ֥ה תֹ֙הוּ֙ וָבֹ֔הוּ וְחֹ֖שֶׁךְ עַל־פְּנֵ֣י תְהֹ֑ום וְר֣וּחַ אֱלֹהִ֔ים מְרַחֶ֖פֶת עַל־פְּנֵ֥י הַמָּֽיִם׃
And the earth… We must first be sure of what this verse is referring to when it says “Earth.” Oftentimes the simplest things are made the most complicated by learned men who love to over-think; such is the case here. Several scholars have claimed that “Earth” refers not to the Earth, but to a small plot of land in the Middle East. As the Pulpit Commentary tells us, however,
It is a sound principle of exegesis that a word shall retain the meaning it at first possesses til either intimation is made by the writer of a change in its significance, or such change is imperatively demanded by the necessities of the context, neither of which is the case here.
We must not forget that the book of Genesis was handed down to us from the pen of Moses, a man who spoke plain Hebrew just as every other child of Israel did. He was neither a riddler nor an oracle, and he had no reason to speak in obscure and mystic oratories. If he had meant to refer to a small section of the planet, surely he would have written thus. But he wrote, אָ֫רֶץ (Earth), and this word refers to the third planet of the Sun. So let us take a look at this Earth of yore.
Was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep…. With this verse we are shown quite vividly what manner of body the Earth was in its earliest moments. It was not a world of order; for God created order out of chaos. It was an indefinite mass of turbulent waters, without any rhyme or reason to it. Proverbs 8:27 says that God inscribed a circle on the face of the deep, which of course means that the Earth was not originally circular–it was originally chaotic and without form. Because light had not been created yet, the Earth was saturated with darkness. Its depths stretched for thousands of miles in any direction. Even those of us who are expert swimmers ought to pause and reflect at the thought of this great water. If you could travel back in a time machine, could you imagine the dread you would experience upon arriving at such a place? To be in complete darkness on endless rapids of desolate waters? If you were to fall onto the surface and be swept away, there would be no hope; and when you inevitably drown, your skeleton would sink for thousands of miles before arriving at the Earth’s center. Around it, there would be nothing but pitch-black water. If one were to only read the first sentence of this verse, it should seem hopelessly bleak. What a terrible thing had been wrought! It is only because of the second sentence in this verse that we know everything will be all right.
And the Spirit of God moved upon… In this Earth there was nothing desirable, but the Spirit of God moved upon the face of these waters. He had a vested interest in this planet, and took great care in not only its creation, but also its development. The Hebrew verb used here, מְרַחֶ֖פֶת, means to relax, to hover, to cherish, to brood. God was not frantic, He was relaxed and at peace. He brooded over the planet as a mother hen broods over her eggs. God moved, not with fear or panic, but with loving tenderness and reassurance. He knew what was about to happen to this shapeless mass of chaos and confusion. Isaiah 45:18 tells us that “He did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited.” He moved upon these waters because He had a very good reason to. He was preparing it to sustain life. Just as a mother thinks of her dear baby as she prepares his bed, God was thinking of us while preparing the Earth. His creation was in increments, but not with rest. He never halted or lingered. Each day brought its own work and in each day His work was done.
The face of the waters. Most other celestial bodies were created (at least partially) to serve as lights and patterns in the sky, but not all bodies of water were subsequently made into stars, planets, etc. From NASA, we learn of a great body that still exists as water.
Researchers at NASA have found a body of water so large it could supply every living person an entire Earth’s worth of water, 20,000 times over. This body of water is a cloud hanging around a black hole; this black hole constantly sucks in matter and sprays out energy (this type of black hole is called a quasar), and the energy it releases creates water by knocking hydrogen and oxygen atoms together. NASA’s official release equates this water to “140 trillion times all the water in the world’s oceans,” which is staggering to even think about. This cloud could water 140 Trillion planets so that they’re each as wet as Earth. Now, the Milky Way is estimated to contain about 100 Billion planets, so if each one had as much water as Earth, this cloud would contain enough water for 1,400 galaxies. “It’s another demonstration that water is pervasive throughout the universe, even at the very earliest times,” says Matt Bradford, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and leader of one of the teams that made the discovery.2
Water truly is the beginning of all things. Water and the Spirit, of course. Jesus said that no one may enter the kingdom of Heaven unless they are “born of water and of the Spirit.” (John 3:5) These two things were the beginning of creation and they are also the beginning of the new creation in Christ. To know that the beginning of the Earth was a flood of water and the presence of the Spirit ought to be very comforting indeed. It is important to find common ground when speaking with your opponents. If even atheists believe that the universe contained water at the earliest times, then we ought to take advantage of that common ground and say that Christians believe that too.
And although it cannot be said that a claim is made true by the number of men who believe it, we can nonetheless find satisfaction in the reminder that virtually every ancient myth of the Earth’s creation corroborates this story of Earth originating from water. The original terms תהו tohu and בהו bohu, meaning “without form and void,” 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. The descriptions of Chaos in Ovid’s Metamorphoses and elsewhere come quite close to the account in Genesis. The fact that these myths differ in their details matters not–for no judge would throw out the accounts of several eyewitnesses just because their testimonies differed somewhat. On the contrary, their testimonies are made all the more believable by the fact that they mostly agree. So in Genesis 1:2, just as with 1:1, we see a clear, concise, and satisfactory account of the beginnings of the world.
In 1:2 we can also see the first action of the Godhead–the first showing of His latent powers. The Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. This is not to be understood as a breath or wind of God, since the wind is a part of the sky and the sky was not created until the second day (and because it is impossible for wind to relax or brood). Rather, this is the Holy Spirit. The Spirit, which throughout scriptures has carried out the work of the Father, is here working silently on the empty world. Not all work that God does must be dramatic and spectacular. God works quietly and calmly just as often as He works extravagantly. We must remember that waiting is not a crime or a calamity.
In reading this, we also come to know that God is distinct and separate from the universe that He created. God moved upon the face of the waters but God was not Himself the waters. The belief that God (or some part of God) exists within every thing can be laid to rest with this verse. The creation does bear a resemblance to its Creator and proclaims the truth of its Creator, but is not itself divine. The Creator transcends His creation.
He showed great wisdom in creating an earth of water, for water is an amazing substance.
- Even today, it is the only substance to exist on Earth in four physical states (ice, in the polar regions; liquid, in the oceans; vapor, in the clouds; and supercritical fluid, in hydrothermic vents). Oxygen combines with hydrogen to form a liquid at temperatures where all the elements surrounding Oxygen on the periodic table (N, Fl, Ph, S, Cl) form gases. Water has a high boiling point and high melting point because of hydrogen bonding (largely as a result of its polar structure), which causes water molecules to be attracted to one another. This is called cohesion. Water also has high adhesion, allowing it to stick to other substances. At the same time, water molecules are constantly moving in relation to each other, and also constantly break apart and rejoin at imperceptibly high frequency. Water’s strong hydrogen bonding allows it to moderate Earth’s temperature. Climates tend to be more stable the closer one gets to the ocean, as water holds 1000x as much heat as air. The thermal conductivity of water is necessary for cells in our body to prevent overheating. If the polarity of water were any greater, the heat of fusion and vaporization would be too great for life to exist. If it were any smaller, everything would freeze.
- The enthalpy of fusion of water is nearly the highest among common substances–only that of ammonia is higher. This specific heat capacity of water allows ice to resist melting. Water also resists pressurization, only becoming 2% less voluminous at the bottom of the ocean. As water cools it becomes more dense, but becomes less dense again below 39*F (4*C). This negative thermal expansion is extremely unusual; it causes ice to be less dense than water, and thus it floats. If ice sank then lakes would gradually fill with ice from the bottom up, eventually becoming completely solid. While floating, the layer of ice prevents the water underneath from freezing. If not for this, lakes and other bodies of water would be uninhabitable during the winter for all but the hardiest of creatures; and the north pole would not be able to host polar bears. Seawater is even more resilient, since any water that freezes will purge itself of salt, and the seawater around it will become less likely to freeze. The physical state of water is also highly dependent upon pressure and motion from an external source. Still water can easily be supercooled without freezing.
- Water is extremely miscible, allowing for homogeneous fluids. It’s often called the universal solvent. This property is necessary for the sustaining of life. Lakes and rivers distribute minerals throughout nature necessary for life. Water’s miscibility also makes it possible for us to excrete waste from our bodies. Water is completely miscible with air, resulting in humidity and also allowing us to cool via perspiration. Water can be easily separated into its components Hydrogen and Oxygen by means of an electrical current. Water’s high cohesion allows it to have an unusually strong surface tension (second only to mercury) and makes it the perfect liquid for capillary action. Without this, tall plants such as trees could not draw water into them.
- Water has a neutral pH of 7, making it the perfect buffer for most acids and bases. Water is not very reactive so it easily catalyzes reactions without becoming a part of the reaction itself. It is also amphoteric, meaning it can become acidic or basic in a reaction if the equilibrium is disturbed. Water is very good at absorbing carbon dioxide and becoming acidic in the process–this ability of water to absorb carbon dioxide is necessary for life. Water absorbs UV, IR, and microwave radiation. The Mpemba effect refers to the unusual ability of hot water to freeze more quickly than cool water. Water’s various forms allow it to be used in many different applications. Since water is extremely miscible, it is usually impure and conducts electricity; but when water is purified it becomes an insulator. Most water contains protium, but some water molecules contain deuterium or even tritium. This “heavy water” is commonly used in nuclear applications. The density of water is perfect for life, for if water were any denser then there would be a strict limit on how big (and thus how heavy) organisms can be.
All of these unique properties show that water is a miraculous substance and it is fitting that God would choose to compose the heavenly bodies from water. Water is an unusual chemical and is necessary for life, itself an unusual phenomenon in an otherwise lifeless universe.
Finally, we must look at the narrative flow of this account. Some scholars wish to believe that Genesis 1:1 is not connected narratively with 1:2. They believe that 1:1 is akin to a headline, an introduction to a narrative account that begins in 1:2. But when we see that verse 2 begins with the word “and” (וְ), we can put to rest any silly belief that the two are unconnected. However, they must not be connected as if they were the same sentence. For example, a translation saying something like, “In the beginning, when God created the heaven and the Earth, the Earth was without form and void,” gives a slightly wrong idea of what the verses are meant to convey. The document is clearly saying that God created the earth in the beginning AND the earth was without form, etc. We are again reminded that the Word is immovable. If our opinions oppose the Word, it is we who ought to change.
2 The journal article reporting the discovery is titled “The Water Vapor Spectrum of APM 08279+5255: X-Ray Heating and Infrared Pumping over Hundreds of Parsecs.”
(On subsequent pages there are commentaries by other authors, as much as they are useful. Any parts that are incorrect or useless have been removed, but no part has been added.)
Page 2: Barnes’ Notes, Benson Commentary
Page 3: Biblical Illustrator
Page 4: Clarke’s Commentary, Gill’s Exposition, Pulpit Commentary