How the Bible Pictures the Beginning
By Don Ruhl
The first Book of the Bible is Genesis, which means “origin.” It shows the origin or beginning of practically everything. Listen to its grand opening, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light” (Gen 1.1–3). Right away we get the idea that the Book of Genesis will show us the beginning of everything.
As the crew of Apollo 8 orbited the moon in December 1968, on Christmas Eve they made a television broadcast, which at the time was the most watched broadcast ever, and the astronauts read from the Book of Genesis. Why do you think they did that?
Click here to: Listen to the astronauts read Scripture from space
People have these basic questions, answered by the Book of Genesis:
- How did the world come to be?
- What is the nature of humanity?
- How are humans the same as or different from the rest of creation?
When we start reading the Book of Genesis, we discover that we have opened a Book that will answer those questions for us, and will ask us questions, and give the answers to other questions we have.
Some people see two creation accounts in the opening chapters, but read it as it is and you will see one account of the same creation. Some see 1.1–2.3 as one creation and 2.4–25 as another creation. In the latter part, the writer, Moses, simply goes back and details one part of the overall creation he first presented.
A writer can first list things chronologically and then pick certain events and give more detail. Frequently, writers show the general picture, then focus on a certain event.
What Moses recorded in 1.1–2.25 has had more influence on our world than we will probably ever know. The opening chapters of Genesis (chapters 1–11) show that we must live in harmony with one another or there will be serious consequences.
God the Creator
Genesis shows many characters, but the One continuing figure is God Himself. Other creation stories shows many gods, often in conflict, but Genesis shows God operating in harmony with Himself. He was not created, but He created all things. He needs nothing, but gives to all. He did not happen upon materials to use in creating the world, but He created the original material and used it to make what He desired. Without Him, nothing exists.
The Book of Genesis shows a God who loves, chooses, punishes, and shows mercy. What we see in those things is a God who cares for people and is involved in their lives.
Seven Days of Creation
The first two chapters of Genesis show the what, why, and how of creation. Moses used a pattern (with exceptions) for revealing the creation days:
Introduces God: “Then God said…”
Shows God’s formula: “Let…”
Shows creation happening: “And there was…” or “And it was so.”
Shows God’s reaction: “And God saw that it was good.”
States the day: “So the evening and the morning were the ________ day.”
This formula shows up on the first day, but without the statement of goodness, “Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day (Gen 1.3–5).
Notice how God made environments first, then those to dwell in them. On the first three days, He created environments (Light and Space; Heavens, or sky and waters; Dry land). On the second three days He made “creatures” for those environments in order (Light bearers; Birds and fish; Animals and man).
On the sixth day of creation, God did something very special, “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth’” (Gen 1.26).
What is different about the creation of man? God made man in His own image. What responsibility does that passage say God gave to man? We have dominion over the rest of creation, because we are made in God’s image. He can create everything and we can manage everything. We are like God. After the end of the sixth day, what did God conclude? “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day” (Gen 1.31).
Other parts of creation alone were good, but when all of it was together as a unit, God declared that it was very good. What then should our attitude be toward creation?
Stewards of Creation
The opening chapters of Genesis show God and man working together for the good of creation, “Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it” (Gen 2.15). Yet, Christians, as well as others, are often careless of creation. We need to remember that this is our Father’s world and He put us here to take care of it.
The First Humans
While Genesis 1.1–2.3 stands back and shows the creation of all things, 2.4–25 moves in closer to show us the creation of man and woman. According to this text, how are the man and the woman perfectly suited for one another? She was made from him. Therefore, she was like him. Interestingly, God’s presentation of Eve to Adam, is mirrored in the bride’s father giving her to the groom during a wedding ceremony, showing further how the Bible has influenced our world.
The Power of Names
In the creation, names have special meanings. Why do we give certain names to people and things? We like the way a name sounds. We pick what is popular. Yet, in the creation account, and frequently in the Scriptures, names were given because they signified something. What does Adam mean in Genesis? Earth, red, and man are translations. So then, how does naming the first man Adam, have meaning? According to 2.23, why did Adam name Eve “woman”? She was taken out of man. Adam also gave her the name “Eve,” “And Adam called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living” (Gen 3.20).
God’s View of Man
What does the creation account show about the ancestry of all people? We are all from one family, one set of parents. Should we not then, love our neighbor as ourselves, because we are all family? Early Americans recognized these truths.
“The Bible is a book of faith, and a book of doctrine, and a book of morals, and a book of religion, of special revelation from God; but it is also a book which teaches man his own individual responsibility, his own dignity, and his equality with his fellow-man” (Daniel Webster).
“The Mosaic account of the creation, whether taken as divine authority or merely historical, is full to this point, the unity or equality of man. The expression admits of no controversy…the equality of man, so far from being a modern doctrine, is the oldest upon record” (Thomas Paine).