This first chapter of Genesis is both impossible to understand and it’s not so difficult to understand. It uses literal language and it uses symbolic language. The key to understanding it, and in fact the key to understanding anything in the Bible, is the ability to determine the difference between the two and also in understanding the meaning of the symbolic words.
I might be the world’s expert with the English language and know the definition of each and every word, but that only helps a little with respect to understanding an English translation of the Bible. The same is true for the world’s foremost expert in the Hebrew language and of the Greek and Aramaic languages.
The Bible is not like a manual that tells you how to repair an automobile. Much of the Bible’s information is hidden in poetic language, or in the use of metaphors and parables and such. Many times in the Bible one word means something else. For example: The word light may mean electromagnetic radiation of a certain frequency that enables our eyes to see something, but then again it might mean the revealing of understanding of something that exists only in heaven and therefore cannot be seen with the eyes. The common phrase, “I’ve seen the light” doesn’t mean that the person has seen any literal light, but rather they have come to understand a spiritual truth or fact.
This truth, the poetic nature of the Bible, must be understood before any meaningful understanding of the Bible can occur. One must read the words of the Bible and then ponder the true meaning. One must allow the true meaning to come alive within oneself.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (NIV84)
This first sentence of the English translation of the Bible is mostly literal, but it is also spiritual. God created something, that’s literal, but the rest of this sentence means more than the words alone. When is the beginning? The beginning of what? You need to ask yourself these questions. The answers to them are important. All understanding builds on other understanding. The more you truly know, the more you can learn and understand. Why is the word “heavens” plural? Why is the word “earth” singular? Ponder these questions in your heart. Think about them. Always keep them bouncing around in your thoughts. Keep these and others like them alive in your mind so that you can find the answers to them. I guarantee that if you don’t try to understand the Bible you will not understand it (not that I can guarantee anything).
If something has a beginning then it has an ending, which means that it is temporal and finite. God is eternal and infinite and so he has no beginning and no ending. But this statement starts out with, “In the beginning…” and so we know that we are talking about something that is temporal and finite, and the sentence goes on to tell us what is temporal and finite, the heavens and the earth, that which God created.
The word “heavens” here is interesting. It’s plural, as in more than one. In the Bible we see and understand that there are three heavens. The first heaven is the atmosphere of the earth. The second heaven is everything beyond our atmosphere to the ends of the physical universe. The third heaven is the place of God’s abode. In the above Scripture we can understand that in the beginning God created the earth with its atmosphere and all of the heavenly bodies, that is the entire physical universe—there is your plural heavens.
There is another aspect to the word “beginning” and that is the reality of time is expressed. It is a real mind expanding experience trying to grasp how God can exist in eternity, a place with no time. Trying to wrap your mind around this concept is difficult. We are so time aware that the idea of beings living in a place without time is hard to really understand. I don’t think it is possible for us to really understand such a concept but we can build mental pictures that give us insight into God and his reality. If I live in eternity and I create a physical universe that spans billions of years within it, how much time does it take me? Such a question is unanswerable. To us such a thing is inconceivable, but to the eternal God such a thing is certainly possible for we have seen the evidence of it. The eternal God created the physical universe and time began for those that exist within the physical universe.
Looking back again at that first sentence we can see another oddity. It says that God created the entire physical universe, and the earth. That’s a pretty strange statement when you think about it. What I mean is that God could have said anything, right? He could have said that he created the heavens and the sun for example, but he didn’t. He said the entire physical universe, all thirteen plus billion light-years of it, and the little tiny insignificant earth. Can you ponder out the meaning of that? What does that statement tell you of the relative importance of the earth to God?
The entire physical universe is nothing more than the setting for the beginning of God’s plan and the earth is the most important place in the entire physical universe with respect to God’s plan. The universe was created by God for a purpose and the earth is a major part of it.
Years ago a man by the name of Nicolas Copernicus informed the western world that the earth was not the center of the universe. Such thinking created quite a stir. The Catholic Church at the time was in an uproar about such talk. The church knew that the earth was at the center of the universe and along comes this guy with his proof that it was not. This discrepancy perfectly illustrates what I said at the beginning of this article concerning the need to separated literal truth from spiritual understanding. The earth is not literally in the center of anything, but it is none the less right smack dab in the center of the purpose of the universe. God created the entire physical universe so that he would have the necessary setting for his earth to play out its purpose.
Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. (NIV84)
Again, these are poetic words. We are focusing here on the earth now. The earth when it was first created didn’t yet have a purpose. It was there but the reason for it was not yet evident. There is an aspect of the creation that most people don’t consider and that is that the angels in heaven were watching and are watching everything that God was/is doing. First God made the physical universe and the earth but it was just a curiosity to the observers. What it was for was not at first understood by the angelic observers.
Saying that darkness was over the surface of the deep is just a poetic way of saying that this new physical universe with its earth was a mystery to the observers. In order to understand its purpose light would have to be shined on it (the light of revelation from God).
The word “waters” is another special word, like the earth. Waters in the Bible symbolically represent that from which life is made. This verse is saying that the earth’s purpose was not at first evident and its meaning was not known. There was not yet any life on it but that the Spirit of God was about to change that.
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day. (NIV84)
The light here is not literal light, but rather truth and revelation. God is forming from the heavens and the earth a teaching tool. He is taking from the raw materials and revealing truth.
The words “day” and “night” are also not literal in this context. Day is life in the presence of God and night is existing out of God’s presence. Right now, today, we live in the night, spiritually speaking. At the fall of Adam man entered into an existence that was separated from God (sort of). Right now Jesus Christ, that is the Word of God, is our source of light. Jesus is represented by the moon with shines God’s truth down on a darkened earth (see Psalm 89:37).
The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. (NIV84)
After reading this statement can you see what I mean? The idea here is that we now live in the night and we are waiting for God to bring us to heaven so that we can live forever with him in the day. The day and night in Genesis 1:4-5 is talking about God setting up a plan through which he can reveal truth from darkness. He calls the truth day and he calls the dark night—symbolically.
And God said, “Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water.” 7 So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. 8 God called the expanse “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day. (NIV84)
On the second day God made a distinction between the two types of life, that is, spiritual life and a new type of physical life, that is, the life from above (heaven) from the life below (earth). The barrier between the two types of life God called “sky”, in others words, physical life would exist on the earth and above that life, above the sky as it were, was spiritual life (the angels and God himself). It is helpful in understanding this to remember that from the angels’ perspective all of this was very new. God was putting together an environment in which and through which he could reveal some very important information. This information would be critical to both the future man and the angels in heaven.
And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good. (NIV84)
More poetic language. From the waters below, that is, from the earth, God would make physical life. The words “land” and “seas” here are again symbolic words. God is taking from the chaos of the beginning and he is forming things into meaningful origins. The water here is that which life can be made from and the land is the place where that life would be visible. The word “Seas” here represents bodies of life forms that are the same. Most people are familiar with the phrase, the sea of humanity, and is an example of what this passage is talking about. The idea here is that from the waters (which is general) God formed groups like as a sea in the ocean might have a different name than the ocean as a whole.
Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day. (NIV84)
It is interesting to me to note that God commanded the land to produce vegetation. God did not say, “Let there be a tree” and a tree popped into existence. That is not the way it was done. God commanded the land to produce the various plant forms and the plants then came into existence from the land. Again, I must repeat the fact that all of this was completely new to the observers. No one in heaven had ever seen any type of life other than spiritual life. God was creating something very new and for the reason of bringing light to all that would listen to God’s explanation. The light that God commanded on the first day was being systematically organized so that God’s intended lessons could come.
And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day. (NIV84)
Like most of this chapter of the Bible there is both literal and symbolic things going on here. The lights in this paragraph are literal lights, that is, stars, but God here is assigning symbolic meaning to them. God is not bringing them into existence here. He is assigning purpose to the various heavenly bodies.
Day and night have special meaning in the Bible when used in a poetic context. In heaven there is no night (see Revelation 22:5), meaning that the revelation of the truth is always visible to everyone in heaven. On the earth we have darkness and light, that is, there is day and night.
Symbolically today we live in the night. We cannot see the sun, and are governed by the lesser light, the moon, which reflects the light of the sun onto the land at night. The moon is symbolic of Jesus Christ (see Psalm 89:37). We now live in the night and we are waiting for the dawning of the eternal day when we shall be able to see God forever. It is interesting that the moon and the sun are the same size when viewed from the earth. Jesus is a perfect image of God, but doesn’t reveal any of his own light. Jesus shows us what the Father wills (see John 5:19, Colossians 1:15).
Stars when used in poetic verse represent the angels in heaven. God made the lights in the expanse of the sky and he also made the stars, that is, the angels. There is more here than the literal. The greater light represents God and the lesser represents Jesus, the Son of God. The understanding here is that the earth was in darkness and then God and Jesus started revealing spiritual truth thus illuminating the earth with truth.
Imagine that you go to see a play and the story conveys some spiritual truth which you receive, but your friend who came to the play with you is fascinated with the type of paint used to make the sets. Truth is not in how it is made, but in what it all represents and conveys. One can look at the universe and see how many stars there are and how big they are and how old they are etc. etc. etc. but completely miss why they are here and what they represent when God is telling his story.
And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.” 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” 23 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day. (NIV84)
God is explaining the set that he has created. There are more types of life than we can ever know. Life is everywhere.
The birds of the air represent spiritual forces that fly about. We also see here the hidden forces that work below the waters. There are forces at work in the earth that are not manmade. I mentioned before that the seas represent groups of life, mostly people, and that here we see that there are hidden forces that swim among the people and move things along in certain directions. These revealed things are spiritual truths.
And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. (NIV84)
Now we see the life that we can see, that is, the animals that are visible to us. Did you notice that the animals that we can see were produced by the land? The biggest problem between the Bible and the theory of evolution is not the fact that the animal came from the land, but rather the fact that God is directly behind the creation of each and every life on the planet. God commanded the land to do his exact will and the land did it. This is symbolic. Land can’t actually produce anything. God brought the land together from out of the chaos and then used it to bring into existence all of the various life forms. The focus here is not the land but God. God and his will are always the focus if you ever want to understand the meaning of anything in the Bible.
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (NIV84)
This passage is very misunderstood. People read it and tend to get it backwards. They tend to think that this passage is about the creation of the animal man, that is, the Homo Sapiens creature. This is not in any way about that. God is not an animal. He is not made out of atoms and energy. God is spirit. God is eternal. God is not of this creation, but rather the creation is from God. This passage is not talking about making children for God that are like him, and that look like him. This is talking about making spirit people that are like God.
…the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. (NIV84)
This statement is about the creation of the Godlike spirit nature of man and it is not about the formation of the animal Homo sapiens. If you read this carefully and pay attention you will see that the animal man is alive and kicking before God breathed into his nostrils. The sentence says that “…the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground…” which is just another poetic way of saying that God commanded the land to bring forth all of the animals. Before God breathed his spirit nature into the nostrils of the man the man was just an animal. Physically he was exactly like you or I today, but he didn’t have a spirit nature inside. He was just an intelligent hairless ape. Then God took from himself his own spirit nature and breathed that nature into the body of the hairless ape and the ape became something all together different than he was before. It was a transformation of unprecedented proportions. The man became a hybrid being. The man became a son of God, created in God’s image and likeness, inside.
This passage introduces to us the understanding of a new type of life. Life and death mean very different things in heaven than they do on earth. Earth’s life and death are metaphors for the real life and death that exist in heaven. Life in heaven is eternal. It goes on forever and ever. Death in heaven is not so much about the ceasing to exist, but rather it is about an eternal relationship with God. The statement above that says, “the man became a living being” is of monumental importance for man. You are not your body. You are so much more than that that it is difficult to see what it means. The difference between animal man and son of God man is like comparing an ant to a man. Both are living organisms but one is so much more. The understanding of what man now is changes everything for us. Our human life is so unimportant by comparison as to be of essentially no importance whatsoever. This fact of what we truly are is what makes the Bible so very important. The Bible is the only source of reliable information that we have concerning the most important aspect of our being. Let there be light and that light is shining right now on this all important truth.
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.
31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.
2 Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.
2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. (NIV84)
The reason for the creation is twofold. I can’t say which reason is the most important as they both work together and are inseparable. One reason was to bring the light of understanding to all of the living beings, that is, spirit beings, concerning life and the consequences of death. The other reason was to bring into existence the pinnacle of the whole of creation, that is, actual children of and for God.
Before God made the physical universe there was a rebellion in heaven. Satan and a full third of the angels separated themselves from God in an effort to rule their own destinies, as it were. Spiritually speaking they died. The consequences of such an action were only known by God. The reason for the rebellion was self pride, the thinking of you over others.
The reasons for the physical universe was to reveal the consequences of spiritual separation from God so that God could prevent any more of the angels going that way, and also, so that he could bring into existence beings that would be so much like God that they would surely succumb to pride and die themselves if there weren’t for the lessons revealed in the Bible. The most important thing in the universe is the Bible.