Beginnings (2): Genesis 1

As we advance with the days of this year, we are also advancing with the days of Bereishit  and continuing to watch in awe God’s work of creation. Today, first of all let us consider different verbs that describe His work during these days.

VaYomer – and He said

And God said: “Let there be light.” And there was light.

Nine times, during six days of creation, we read: “And God said” –   וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים.  For me personally, these verses are the most wonderful evidence of that glorious beginning—that glorious order of things, when everything was so different from now.  In our fallen world we live by faith, by the evidence of the things not seen, and seldom in our lives do we experience this amazing turn of events: “God said” – and that is how it was, without any pause or delay in between. There are many things that we know God said – and we also know that these things will eventually come to be; but this glorious immediate embodiment of God’s word, this immediate visible fulfillment of what He said, is called and perceived as a miracle in our fallen world. Mostly, we see these things by faith, not by sight. But it was not a miracle then—it was the normal course of events in a world not distorted by evil.

Moreover, from this verb  VaYomer – and He said – we see absolutely clearly that not only is God the only one who has life-giving power, but the source of this life-giving power is His word—that He gives life by the authority of His Word only. According to the New Testament, Jesus is the Word of God, and therefore, we are not surprised to find almost the same description of the beginning of the creation in the New Testament—in the Gospel of John. The language of John clearly and purposely echoes the language of Genesis 1:1: both in the Genesis account and in John’s Gospel, it is the Word of God that brings forth life. This is one of the foundations of New Testament faith: “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God.[1]

For instance, we see a huge difference between how people restore life in the Tanach, and how Jesus restored life. Read, for example, the description of how the prophet Elisha raises a child from the dead. He prays, he stretches himself out on the child’s body to warm him, he prays again—then the Lord answers Elisha and the child is restored to life.[2] Jesus, on the other hand, restores life in exactly the same way God creates it, by the authority of His Word only: In every gospel story where Jesus raises the dead, He simply speaks: Talitha, kumi!” “Lazarus, come forth!” “Young man I say to you, arise!” This means that the gospel writers clearly saw His spoken word having the same life-giving, creative power as in Genesis: for the New Testament writers, the same Word creates life in Genesis, and restores life in the gospels.

 

VeYavdel  –and He separated

And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness.

We have to understand that during the first days of creation, God’s main action is lehavdil, “to separate”. We find this verb “separate” used several times in these verses. It occurs in Gen. 1:2, 6,7,14,18. On the first three days of creation, God separates 1) light from darkness, 2) the waters above from the waters below, 3) dry ground from the waters. The very first fruits of the land come only on the third day, after the work of havdala, separation, is complete. Like everything else in the Tanach, it definitely has profound spiritual meaning: God always wants to separate darkness from light, and in order to do the work of God, we must choose light and separate ourselves from darkness. One can bring forth fruits in one’s life only if the work of separation comes first—only if one separates oneself  from the darkness.

VaYikra –and He called (gave names)

As we have already seen, God’s word is the main part of the whole creative process – and this verb, VaYikra, also reflects this.

God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night[3].

And God called the firmament Heaven[4].

And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas[5].

God gives names to elements of His creation, and this becomes an essential part of their existence. In this light, it is extremely significant that the very first thing we see Adam doing is giving names – VaYikra – to all the animals (Gen. 2:19, 20). We will address this subject at length in my next posts, when we will talk about Adam.

The Creation of Man

The First, Second and Third days of creation prepare us for days Four through Six. On these days, He creates by 4) by providing lights in the firmament; 5) filling the sky and sea with winged life and sea creatures; and 6) finally creating animals and man to fill the dry land. Undoubtedly, there is a deep structure to this chapter: a careful reader gets a clear sense that there is a plan, and we are going somewhere with this. The first chapter of the Torah presents the ascent of the cosmic drama culminating in the creation of man. As we read the description of each day of creation, we feel the story building up, then in Genesis 1:26-27 we come to the crescendo: “So God created man in His own image…“[6] Everything that has been created so far, has to be seen now in the light of this verse—according to Jewish understanding, it is only when a man was created that the whole of creation became meaningful.

That is why, by the way, the day Jewish people celebrate as Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) – the first of Tishrei – is not perceived as the anniversary of Creation, it is the anniversary of the sixth day of Creation, when Adam and Eve were created. The anniversary of the first day of Creation would be five days before, on the twenty-fifth day of Elul. Why? – Because once again, in rabbinic tradition it is the birth of humanity that made the whole creation meaningful by adding to the universe the possibility for God to be proclaimed King. Next time, will speak more about this fascinating Sixth Day, and discuss in detail the creation of a man, and his relationship with his Creator.

[1] Heb. 11:3

[2] see 2 Kings 4:32-36

[3] Gen.1:5

[4] Gen.1:8

[5] Gen.1:10

[6] Gen.1:27

About the author

Julia BlumJulia is a teacher and an author of several books on biblical topics. She teaches two biblical courses at the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, “Discovering the Hebrew Bible” and “Jewish Background of the New Testament”, and writes Hebrew insights for these courses.

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Join the conversation (7 comments)

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  1. Dorothy Healy

    Thank you Julia for this very profound and thought-provoking post.

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you Dorothy, I am always very blessed to hear from you on these pages.

  2. Suliaman lbn Smith

    Todah Prof. for the wisdom you have explain to us.May the Good Lord Increase you in Wisdom and Knowledge to do His Work.
    Todah.

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you for your kind words, Suliaman.

  3. pierre-marie BOUBAY

    Je suis très intéressé par votre étude mais je ne comprends pas bien l’anglais…serait possible de l’avoir en français? Merci

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you for your interest Pierre-Marie, unfortunately, currently we don’t have French translation. Of course, I will let you know if we will have it in the future.

  4. Lazzaro

    Thank you Julia for your article and the insight you have provided, though i may honourably disagree with suggesting rabbinic traditions is something the Lord Jesus would have us appeal to for understanding of His Holy Writ when He clearly made apparent to seek Him/The Comforter for spiritual understanding and to teach us all things, and though i honourably disagree with using the word “Gospels” when in the Greek and English, you never see the word “Gospels” but “Gospel” because it is four witnesses to one event, and thus one Gospel, not four Gospels and four witnesses of four Gospels. If i may be allowed to share some thoughts righteously about that word ‘create’ that is in line with what you have expounded upon;

    Only God/Jesus creates (ex-nihlo), not man nor the Devil, this is what His Holy Writ makes indisputably, incontrovertibly, irrefutably and inescapably clear. This used to be known by a certain amount of mankind, especially genuine Bible believers, up until modern history before language started to become corrupted and perverted seeing as how most languages have kept the meanings of their words for thousands of years on purpose. I am one who was taught Italian first and English soon after, and it can be argued by linguist researchers and investigators in varying strengths of English, Greek, Latin and some other Indo-European Mediterranean languages and as a former e-teacher student of Biblical Hebrew as myself, to which i’ve researched and investigated for many years, and have found that it was around since the 1800s roughly in English that certain words began to be a serious victim of serious catachresis and barbarous philological hijacking and destruction of proper/correct, sound, intelligent English especially – and it can further be argued that this was intentional more than not due to the Socialist and Communist ideologues who started coming to power in influential positions of politics and dictionary publishing houses and universities etc, who by nature of their ideology, seek purposely to destroy the true meanings of words and to re-define them as they see fit for their nefarious and diabolic ideology.

    The word “create” in English, from what i’ve learned and discovered over the years via meticulous, relentless, exhaustive, competent lucubrating study and investigation asking Jesus the Christ who is the only God ultimately to guide me in all things and teach me all things as He promised He would, through such ongoing study of how the word used to be used in proper Scriptural definition after the 1700s, it has become so clear to me that the word ‘create’ started to be used by certain Socialist and Communist ideologues for something man can supposedly do, which is undeniably a serious affront and provocation to the sole Creator, for if man can supposedly ‘create’, then what is the point of having an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, omni-judex God who is the only God who is the sole Creator of all that is holy, pure, truthful, good, just and what is the only God/Jesus good for if supposedly His creation can ‘create’ like Him when there is only truly one Creator which the factual etymology of “create” unquestionably implies there can only be one Creator and we are the creation? The Socialist and Communist ideologues in utter rebellion as the children of the Devil they are seek to dethrone the Almighty God, to de-deify Him and to deify man, a beyond words megalomaniacal ultra self-delusional top shelf severe insult of rebellion to Father God.

    Nowadays just as Jesus prophesied, as the mind of man becomes more morally corrupt and perverse, so too does the language become more corrupt and perverse. The word ‘create’ has become corrupted and perverted to supposedly mean something man can do? Utterly blasphemous and abominable to the Lord God it is to claim us imperfect mere mortals can ‘create’ for only the Almighty Father can create, only He can truly create something new that has never existed before. What a sign of the times it is (Matthew 24, 2Timothy3:1-9 etc) as Jesus prophesied by Himself and through His Apostles that much of mankind will become so full of moral decay, depravity, debauchery, and degeneracy, that as Jesus declared that as man becomes more and more wilfully spiritually stupid and thus morally corrupt and perverse, because he has rejected the only Father God he will be in such spiritually severely strong delusion to actually so fatally believe he is getting “smarter” which is the true embodiment of how vanity/pride truly leads to utter self-destruction (Proverbs 10:14, 29, 15:11, 16:18). Even Michangelo knew this;

    “Only God creates. The rest of us just copy.”

    Only Jesus is God, we are NOT!

    Rev 21:5 Then the One sitting on the throne said, “Look! I am making everything new!” Also he said, “Write, ‘These words are true and trustworthy!'”

    There is NONE like Him, only HE creates and He shall again, a new heaven and a new earth and all that goes with that as He promised, amen, amen.

    “The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words. If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use the words.” – Philip K Dick.

    “As societies grow decadent, the language grows decadent, too. Words are used to disguise, not to illuminate, action: You liberate a city by destroying it. Words are used to confuse, so that at election time people will solemnly vote against their own interests.” – Gore Vidal, Imperial America, 2004

    “And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale — then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.'” – George Orwell, “Nineteen Eighty Four” pg. 32

    “Political language…. is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give a appearance of solidity to pure wind.” – George Orwell

    “It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.” – NEF by George Orwell.

    “How strangely will the tools of a tyrant pervert the plain meaning of words.” – Samuel Adams