Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Genesis 1:2-5

Genesis 1:2 describes the early state of “formless and empty” (chaos). Genesis 1:3-10 will describe separation and gathering to give it form in days 1-3a; Genesis 1:11-26 will describe creation/making and allowing things to fill it in days 3b-6.

The Holy Spirit makes an appearance here—filling out the Trinity in Creation (see: Col 1:16-17, Jn 1 for Christ). Holy Spirit hovers as the apparent agent—a picture of waiting, observing, and anticipating. Eugene Peterson notes that Holy Spirit is present and responsible for three key formative works: the beginning of Holy Creation (here), Holy Salvation (Mk 1:9-11), and Holy Community (Acts 2:1-4).

After the mysteries of Gen 1:1-2, Kass notes: “Happily the accessibility of the account improves…”

The creative pattern of Genesis 1:3ff has some combo of a creating word and a fulfillment word—“God said…Let there be…" and then, "God made/created" &/or “and it was so”.

God created merely by speaking (Rev 4:11). Again, his creating implies distinction from and sovereignty over that which He created. More important, it underlines His power and authority (Mt 8:26).

A.W. Tozer: “The Word of God is quick and powerful. In the beginning He spoke to nothing, and it became something. Chaos heard it and became order, darkness heard it and became light. “And God said—and it was so.” These twin phrases, as cause and effect, occur throughout the Genesis story of the creation. The said accounts for the so.”

Unfortunately, that’s note always the case with us. As Matthew Henry notes: "with us, saying and doing are two different things"

God often names/labels, giving the created things significance and implying his ownership and dominion. And He commends the created things after seeming to evaluate them—"God saw that it was good". “Saw that…” implies carefully observing it before evaluation, the complexity of creation, and the care of Creator. Further, it implies an objective standard—almost as if outside of God or could be verified outside of God. (Is this a reference to “natural law”?)

And God repeatedly says that "it is good". In contrast, artists and writers are (and can never be truly) satisfied: it is not good; it always needs more. How is “good” defined here? Not in terms of moral goodness (given 2:18’s “not good”), but perfection in terms of quality &/or completeness and readiness for function/purpose.

Genesis 1:3-5 describes the first “day”—and the creation/appearance of light/dark and day/night. Fittingly, God’s first creative act is in calling out light from darkness, resulting in an evening/morning (not a morning/evening).

Light is necessary to make life possible for us and to make God's works visible (II Cor 4:6, Jn 3:21, 11:9-10). As Matthew Henry notes: “In the creation of grace, as of the world, the first thing created is light.” Elsewhere, heaven is portrayed as fully lit (Rev 21:23, 22:5); hell is described as darkness (Mt 8:12, 22:13); and the earth is a mix of light and dark (Mt 4:16, Jn 1:5, 3:19). This also provides an opening hint about the important Biblical theme of redemption—light, creation, beauty, and value are meant to come out of darkness and chaos (II Cor 5:17).

But there is a lot left unanswered here. Is Satan’s fall connected to 1:2’s chaos &/or 1:3-5’s light/dark? 1:3’s creation is described in 1:4 as separation (a key biblical theme). Day 1’s light is sufficient for day 3’s plants, but is it related to day 4’s sun? We’re not sure what to do with this—and skeptics like to chuckle at the last question—but surely the author/redactor was sharp to anticipate such basic questions. If so, what was he trying to tell us with this particular presentation?

One point is clear: while the sun is first in other creation myths, it is not here. It will not even be named on day 4. The sun is/was, not surprisingly, a common subject of worship. Rhetorically, the Bible makes clear that the sun is not divine; rather, it is subservient to God and light.


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