Genesis 1 Creation.
Genesis 1:1-13 In The Beginning God-The First Three Days.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). First point-revelation was required. These beginning words of the scriptures highlight the first axiom of all thought and existence-God spoke and continues to speak, and this revelation is written that we might have true knowledge of Him and His creation. The first thing we are to know about God is that He has spoken. We have no knowledge of God and no truth at all apart from God’s revelatory word-therefore it is the first axiom of all thought and existence. The second thing we learn from the first is, God is before all things-without beginning. Thirdly, this God is the only One-there is no other. Fourthly, He “created the heavens and the earth.” Everything in the whole of creation owes its existence to Him. He created all things from nothing.
One might ask two things here, in these beginning words. Why would God take six days, and why create from nothing that which was without form and covered in darkness? Whatever else may be said this much seems evident-God had more than the end in view. God could have went straight to the finished form without delay. However, like an artist with a blank canvas or sculpturer with a lump of clay, God seems to have enjoyed the process as much as the finished product. All good artists enjoy the journey as well as the finished piece. In the face of darkness and the deep waters the Spirit hovered, and the first of God’s creative acts was light (vv. 2-5). And from the beginning there was form and function united-for light was separated from the darkness. And in the process God created time-day and night-the first day.
It is only forever in His light that we see light. (Ps. 36:9) We thus learn from the beginning that God, in His word, is the source of all knowledge and existence. Secondly, in creating day and night He created time and history. History no more stands over and above God as any other part of His created order. Furthermore there is no indication that this day and night are anything different than our own day and night in time. They are no more different than time could be different. From the dawn of creation God is the author of time and the Lord of history. From the beginning we also see that everything has a place and purpose-there is the outworking of a plan. Nothing is arbitrary. There is no such thing as a chance occurrence.
God also created the sky (vv. 6-8). One purpose is to separate the water above from the water below, and in doing so God was creating an atmosphere for the water cycle and life itself (cf. Jer. 10:12-13). This was His wise work (Pr. 8:27-29). As G. Ch. Aalders pointed out, “the water that is above “at” the expanse is, then, the water in the clouds and the atmosphere, from which the rain and snow come down.” (‘Genesis Volume I,’ p. 60) And like the whole of creation they are ultimately for His praise (Ps. 148:4). There is an order here in the work of creation. A place was made for the grass, herbs, and trees of the next day. So what began with an earth without form and void, was being shaped into a place where growth, fruitfulness, and progress could take place.
On the third day He created land, seas, and vegetation (Genesis 1:9-13). God gathered the waters together, showing that the very boundaries of the waters are by Divine command, and the dry land also has it’s place and purpose (v. 9, cf. Ps. 24:1-2; 33:7; 95:5; Pr. 8:29; Heb. 6:7). Day three also introduced the idea of being fruitful and multiplying. Within the plantation of herbs and fruit trees were the seeds of their own kind that they would continue to spread and reproduce themselves. God intended His creative work to grow and spread from this initial planting. Jesus parables of the kingdom echo this very important principle which began here at the dawn of creation. God’s creative activity is mirrored in His re-creative activity as both show the spread of His kingdom in the earth (Cf. II Cor. 4:6).
We should also not lose sight of the fact that the very beginning verses of the bible introduce us to the Trinity. “In the beginning God” (v. 1), finds some differentiation when we read that “the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (v. 2). Just as God could have performed all this work in an instant, we could also read that this was done without the mention of the Spirit. Furthermore we also read, “then God said” (v. 3), when one assumes that creation could have also happened without the word being spoken. However, by this very revelation we understand that it was in fact through His Word that the whole of creation came into existence, a point which John in his gospel account echoes (1:1-3 Cf. Ps. 33:6, 9). At the dawn of creation all things were made through the Word, in whom has always been life and light.
Genesis 1:14-19 The Fourth Day-Sun, Moon, And Stars.
There is an interesting format which Moses followed with these following days of the creation order. On the first day God created light in the midst of darkness, and in so doing He differentiated the day from the night so that we read that this was “the first day” (v. 5). Now he informs us that God created the lights, sun, moon, and stars as instruments of governance to divide the day from the night. The shining of the sun would light and mark out the day and the moon the night (vv. -14-16). Moreover, they would also “be for signs and seasons, and for days and years” (v. 14) In other words, they went beyond any single day to the establishment of an order of day and night and ultimately to be not only the beginning of time but the very instruments to demarcate the course of history. So not only did they provide light to govern both day and night, they would serve as signs that would forever point, like the arms of a clock, to the progress of history as long as the earth should endure.
On this fourth day Moses starts his parallel of days four through six, with days one through three, to reveal to us what it is that governs the elements of the spheres which He first created on those beginning days. With this revelation we have the beginnings of the biblical philosophy of many things. Of the philosophy of time and history we see a number of key points. First of all, God created both. Secondly, He created time and history as linear. He could have created all things in an instant, but instead He chose to create with a progressive plan, wherein everything He made would have a place in His plan and purposes. Thirdly, He did not create time without history-the two are inseparable. Life goes forward not simply in a series of repeating days. These days are also part and parcel of larger seasons and years (Cf. Ps. 104:19-20). In creating the instruments of historical governance, God revealed to us that history would not only progress, but it would also have seasons and years.
Fourthly, all that had been created up to this fourth day would now pass through these days, seasons, and years, including the seeds of fruitfulness and multiplication that we find on day three. Fifthly, in that “he made the stars also,” he fashioned time and history beyond a year or two. He has ordained them for their place and purpose (Ps. 8:3). Some are even designated “morning stars” (Job 38:7). On the sixth day Adam and Eve could look up at the stars and their descendants might one day see that many are light years away. The stars were countless in number, at least to Abraham (Gen. 15:5), symbolic of the seed of promise, as well as the promise of its preservation (Jer. 31:35-36). But to God one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years a day (Cf. Ps. 90:4; II Pet. 3:8), and on this fourth day of creation He created the stars and gave them their place-in time and space. Finally, in all these things we see God’s wisdom displayed, and in this work of creation we also see His mercy (Ps. 136:4-9; Pr. 8:22-31).
Genesis 1:20-25 The Fifth And Sixth Days-Creatures Of The Sea, Sky, And Land.
Just as a place was created for the sun, moon, and stars, even so the creatures of sea, sky, and land were created in an environment already prepared for them, showing that everything in creation has a place and purpose. From the very beginning God would feed and care for the creatures He would make (Ps. 104:25-28). This commitment would also be renewed in the covenant of redemption with Noah (Gen. 8:17, 22). Furthermore, like the plants, herbs, and trees which were created with seeds each according to its kind, even so these creatures are commanded to be fruitful and multiply (vv. 20-23).
We should note that part of this good creation included the “creeping thing” (vv. 24-25). There is therefore no basis for suggesting that this was a curse on snakes, but that the curse of 3:14 was on Satan alone. From the beginning there was also a distinction made between beast and cattle, between the “wild” and the domesticated. There was no call for humans at this point to eat the cattle, but they would provide things like milk etc. Furthermore, if humans could live without meat, there is no indication that the beasts could not also live without meat. Therefore, the distinction is not necessarily between carnivores and non-carnivores.
Genesis 1:26-31 Humanity And Dominion.
As indicated in the previous verses, the distinction between beast and cattle was not between carnivores and non-carnivores, for just as the herbs and fruit were given to humans to eat, even so the birds, beasts, creeping things, and cattle also (vv. 29-31). As every other work of God’s creation, humanity also had a place and purpose that they were to occupy, which included the whole earth, for this was the full extent of the dominion mandate which God has given (vv. 26-27). Furthermore this mandate is directly related to and reflective of their uniqueness as that creature who has been created in God’s image. Humanity would act as His vice regents in the whole earth, and being made in his image gives humanity everything that is needed to fulfill this dominion mandate. Our understanding of all that is meant by this image, can be seen in the mandate given. We should also note that subduing was part of this mandate, even here before the fall. Man is called to discipline creation to run in an orderly and productive course, ensuring everything serves its intended purpose.
We also find in these verses a reiteration of what we have already learned about God when He said, “Let Us make man in Our image” (v. 26). God, His Spirit, and the Word, counselled together to create man in their image. From the very beginning words of scripture, we see that God is One in essence, but three in persons, equally engaged in the work of creation, but taking on their respective roles, nevertheless they together as “Us” and “Our” making humanity, male and female, in their image and likeness. Furthermore, both male and female are created in His image, and in creating humanity as male and female, and commanding them to be fruitful and multiply, He established that part of that image was society, a community of persons which also is in the image and likeness of the Trinity. At the same time spouses must separate from their parents but nevertheless remain separate persons in the marriage bond. Everything God had made not only had a place and purpose, but it was all declared to be “very good” (v. 31).
Genesis 2:1-3 Kingdom Rest.
Moses informs us that with these six days of creation, God (Elohim) finished his work (v. 1 Cf. Ps. 33:6). He did not simply set a process like evolution in place, He finished His work-everything created for its own place and purpose, with his image bearer exercising dominion stewardship over and through it all. The rest of the seventh day was therefore not a rest because somehow God was tired. The rest of the seventh day was a rest from what was finished. No more needed to be done or could be done. God had established His rule as sovereign Creator, His kingdom over the whole universe. For this reason the seventh day is set apart and given a unique blessing (v. 3 Cf. Ex. 20:9-11). It would serve as a sign of His finished work (Cf. Ex. 31:17). This idea of resting from a finished work will also reappear in redemption, issuing in a new manifestation of the kingdom of God (Jn. 17:4; 19:30). Furthermore this latter administration of the kingdom will also one day be finished (Rev. 20:3). The rest of one day in seven is rest from kingdom work. This rest is an acknowledgment on our part that the work is ultimately His (Cf. Is. 58:13).
Genesis 2:4-7 The LORD God, And The History Of Creation.
With the word “history,” the NKJV rightly translates what might otherwise be translated as “generations” (v. 4). As previously noted, with the creation of the first day, and then later with the instruments of daily governance and history of the fourth day, including the stars, we have the creation of time and history. However, with these present verses Moses introduces us to some things which are new. He now refers to God as “the LORD God” or Jehovah Elohim. We should not forget that this is Moses writing many years after the events of which He wrote, making it all the more significant his specific use of words at each stage of development. The name Jehovah would become the most common name for the covenant people to refer to their God. What He has revealed to us is the history of the creation of those things necessary for humanity’s existence if we were “to till the ground,” that is, fulfill our kingdom purpose of dominion stewardship (v. 5). From the stuff of this environment the LORD God created humanity to be His vice regent image bearers in this environment. From the LORD God man also became a living being. Humanity is both body and spirit (v. 7 Cf. Job 33:4; I Cor. 15:45). This is something Moses also adds here, with a reflection on the history of creation by the LORD God.
Genesis 2:8-25 Life In The Garden.
As noted earlier, God created an environment for humanity to fulfill its purpose as God’s vice regents to exercise dominion stewardship in the whole earth. However, it began with a garden (v. 8), and in addition to all the fruit trees God planted both the tree of life, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (v. 9). So important and symbolic were trees, that nations like Egypt would be spoken of as great trees (Ezek. 31:8-9). Whatever is meant by the knowledge of good and evil, we know that it was something not yet entered into by young children (Dt. 1:39). It is often viewed strictly as a matter of good and evil, but at this point there was no evil, and Adam and Eve were in the condition of innocence. However, there are at least two other points to be noted. Firstly, with this tree God made clear that humanity was dependent on God for knowledge. Secondly, it spoke to the idea of unlimited and comprehensive knowledge. The ultimate test to come would be whether humanity, represented in Adam, would accept God’s word as the first axiom of all thought and existence.
The garden was in Eden, and from within Eden a river flowed to water the garden and extended out from there. Being four river heads shows that there was no part of the earth where this mandate did not extend (vv. 10-14). Not only this, but as humanity spread out throughout the whole earth, they would find other valuable resources like precious metals and stones. In short, God gave humanity what it needed to fulfill the mandate to extend the conditions of the garden, into the whole earth. This would also be the renewed goal of redemption and the mission of the church, based on the law-word of the covenant (Is. 51:3-4). In this garden man was placed “to tend and keep it” (v. 15). In fulfillment of the dominion mandate the question would be, would Adam look to God for the needed knowledge or would he look to himself (vv. 16-17). There was only this one prohibition against eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. At this point there was no prohibition against eating from the tree of life. Adam was given a life and death choice based on epistemology.
From this expansion of the account of humanity’s creation we learn that it was not good for man to be alone. Previously we learned that it was only after the creation of man as male and female did God declare that everything He made was very good. Adam was a good creation, but being alone was not. Man would need a society and a culture if he were to fulfill the purpose for which he had been created. Furthermore, men and women would not be independent of each other (I Cor. 11:8-9). God gave Adam his name, and in so doing He continued to exercise His authority over him. In turn Adam would name the other creatures which God had put under Adam’s rule (Cf. Ps. 8:6). However, Adam was not able to find “a helper comparable to him (vv. 18-20). God therefore performed surgery (vv. 21-22). After putting Adam to sleep he made a woman from one of Adam’s ribs, and Adam would call her “woman, because she was taken out of man” (v. 23 Cf. I Tim. 2:12-13). This would be the basis for man leaving his parents and being united to his wife in the honourable bond of marriage (vv. 24-25 Cf. Mt. 19:5; Mk. 10:6-8; Heb. 13:4).
The Covenant Of Life-A Special Act Of Providence.
Many have objected to the designation ‘covenant of works’ for a number of reasons. Firstly, the most obvious objection is the fact that the word for ‘covenant’ does not occur in regard to this relationship. In fact, the first occurrence of the word is with Noah (6:18). However, the word ‘Trinity’ nowhere occurs in the scriptures, but no orthodox believer would suggest that the proof is not present for the doctrine. Secondly, the covenant with David, as we find it in II Samuel 7 and I chronicles 17, also does not include the word, but other scriptures do speak of it as being a covenant relationship (Cf. II Sam. 23:5; Ps. 89:3). In the same way, other scriptures, either directly or indirectly, refer to God’s relationship with Adam as a covenantal one (Hos. 6:7). Jeremiah draws a connection somewhat indirectly by referring to the “covenant for the day, and My covenant for the night” (33:20-21, 25-26). This might refer to Noah (8:22), but just a few verses earlier, Jeremiah also refers to sun and moon as light-bearers with another word used for covenant, namely ‘statute’, and this further aspect of light-bearing does not occur with Noah (Cf. I Kgs. 11:11; II Kgs. 17:15; Ps. 50:16; 105:10).
Thirdly, and directly related to the first point, if all the elements of a covenant are present then this is all that is required to make the point. Of chief importance is the second point above-that all the elements of a covenant relationship are indeed present in this relationship between God and Adam. O. Palmer Robertson did a seminal job of demonstrating a truly biblical definition of God’s covenants with humanity, both before and after the fall, as “a bond in blood sovereignly administered” (‘The Christ Of The Covenants’, pp. 3-15). The relationship with Adam was clearly a bond of life and death (2:15-17), and one which was also clearly sovereignly administered. It was not a contractual relationship which they negotiated as equals. God initiated the relationship from the moment man was created as his vice regent, and the promises and conditions were given by Him. The commands given to humanity were to exercise dominion as His stewards, and to that end to be fruitful and multiply (vv. 26-27; 2:5, 15, 18). God blessed this relationship. He also gave the promise that that earth would also be fruitful and multiply to fulfill this covenant (vv. 29-30).
Humanity was also given a specific probationary test, a prohibition to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. To this end Robertson also makes a very important point, that this covenant relationship wasn’t just about the probation test, but it was also a relationship which included the promise of life, which spelled out humanity’s place in the universe. Whereas the Westminster Confession calls this relationship “a covenant of works” (Ch. VII.), this has the danger of only focusing on the probation test. The catechisms speak of a covenant of life, which does also speak to the positive outcome of this covenant of works, but also to the other aspect of the life present from the beginning of this covenant relationship. Robertson prefers the designation of ‘Covenant of Creation’ (Ibid. pp. 67ff.). However, such a designation might very well serve the opposite problem of not capturing the idea of the probation test as clearly being a matter of works. There is also a danger in the contrast with the subsequent covenants being called various administrations of the covenant of grace, that this first covenant did not stem from grace, something which Dr. Murray pointed out, and Robertson also reiterated (Cf. Murray, ‘The Covenant Of Grace’, Robertson, pp. 56-57).
The first covenant was also an expression of God’s unmerited favour. God did not need to create the world or humanity, and He didn’t need to establish a relationship. Furthermore the promises which this covenant contains were promises which He in no way was required to give. By the same token, Robertson refers to the subsequent covenants as administrations of the one covenant of redemption, for in these covenants God expressed His grace in redemption of a portion of fallen humanity. Whatever the designation, it is certainly the case that there were these two aspects to this covenant relationship. As Robertson points out, the Larger Catechism, even more so than the Shorter, elaborates on what constituted this covenant of life, namely, dominion, marriage, and the Sabbath (Cf. Robertson, pp. 56-57, 67ff.; WLC. Q & A 20; WSC. Q & A 12). Furthermore, the Westminster Shorter Catechism makes the important point that this covenant of life is a “special act of providence” which God exercised “toward man in the estate wherein he was created” (Q. 12). In other words, this was part of His governance of all His creatures (Q. 11). In making this statement, we declare that God’s providence is inseparable from His covenant.