— In The Beginning —
The opening statement of the Bible: Genesis 1:1, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth," is probably the most famous line ever written. But besides famous, it is also perhaps the most profound statement ever made.
The name of the letter beth, בית (bayit), means house in the sense of a building, but also household; wife and children. This word also serves to mean House Of The Lord, or Temple. As preposition the letter means 'in'. As such it is the first letter of the Bible.
-From our article on the Hebrew Alphabet.
'In The Beginning God Created The Heavens And The Earth' argues God's nature as Creator, proves God's ownership of creation, and makes the astounding, utterly extraordinary confession of an Author who seeks to address that which he has written. The opening line of Genesis constitutes a philosophical storm such as there never was or will be again. It states core identities. It explains all essence. And it contains the greatest promise ever made, that God is intimate and seeks intimacy.
Not a single line in all of literature is so rich in meaning, so connected with everything else as this famous phrase, and just like the way Jesus compressed the entire Law and the Prophets with "love the Lord with all your heart and mind, and your neighbor like yourself," so may the opening line of Genesis be compressed into its initial letter, the letter beth, meaning 'house' or 'household' (as in Beth-lehem; house of bread). From this singular idea of a House (consisting of God and His Bride), the entire Bible Big-Bangs forward, to meet its purpose in Christ and the Body of Christ:
...you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house...—1 Peter 2:5
The first word of the Bible is ראשׁית (reshit), first, beginning, best. The meaning of 'best' allows us an insight of how the Hebrews viewed a collection of things. That what came first may be called ראשׁית but just as well whatever comes out on top; that which is best, and leading in the sense of quality rather than chronology. This sheds light on the first line of the Bible, because not only does it state that God created the heavens and the earth in the beginning of everything, but also that He created everything in its finest moment!
The word ראשׁית occurs at the following locations:
Genesis 1:1—In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
Genesis 10:10 And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.
Genesis 49:3— Reuben, you are my first-born, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity and the excellency of power.
Exodus 23:19— The first of the firstfruits of your land you shall bring into the house of the LORD your God. You shall not boil a kid in its mother's milk.
Exodus 34:26— The first of the first-fruits of your land you shall bring to the house of the LORD your God. You shall not boil a kid in its mother's milk.
Leviticus 2:12— As an offering of the firstfruits , you shall bring them to the LORD. But they shall not be burned on the altar for a sweet savor.
Leviticus 23:10— Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, When you have come into the land which I give to you, and shall reap the harvest of it, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest.
Numbers 15:20— You shall offer up a cake of the first of your dough, a heave offering, as the heave offering of the threshing-floor, so you shall lift it up.
Numbers 15:21— Of the first of your dough you shall give to the LORD a heave offering in your generations.
Numbers 18:12— All the best of the oil, and all the best of the wine, and of the wheat, the first-fruits of them which they shall offer to the LORD, I have given them to you.
Numbers 24:20— And when he looked on Amalek, he took up his parable and said, Amalek was the first of the nations. But his latter end is to destruction.
Deuteronomy 18:4— You shall give him the first-fruit of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the first of the fleece of your sheep.
Deuteronomy 21:17— But he shall acknowledge the son of the hated as the first-born by giving him a double portion of all that he has. For he is the beginning of his strength. The right of the first-born is his.
Deuteronomy 26:2— you shall take of the first of all the fruit of the earth which you shall bring of your land that the LORD your God gives you, and you shall put it in a basket, and shall go to the place which the LORD your God shall choose to place His name there.
Deuteronomy 26:10— And now, behold, I have brought the first fruits of the land which You, O LORD, have given me. And you shall set it before the LORD your God, and worship before the LORD your God.
Deuteronomy 33:21— And he provided the first part for himself, because there was the portion of the lawgiver hidden. And he came with the heads of the people. He executed the justice of the LORD, and His judgments with Israel.
1 Samuel 2:29— Why do you kick at My sacrifice and My offering, which I have commanded in My house? Do you honor your sons above Me, to make yourselves fat with the best of all the offerings of Israel My people?
1 Samuel 15:21— But the people took from the spoil, of the flocks and herd, the best of the things devoted to sacrifice to the LORD your God in Gilgal.
2 Chronicles 31:5— And as the command spread, the sons of Israel brought plentifully of the firstfruits of corn, wine, and oil, and honey, and of all the increase of the field. And the tithe of all things they brought in abundance.
Nehemiah 10:37— and that we should bring the firstfruits of our dough, and our offerings, and the fruit of all kinds of trees, of wine and of oil, to the priests, to the rooms of the house of our God; and the tithes of our ground to the Levites, and they, the Levites, might have the tithes in all the cities we farmed.
Nehemiah 12:44— And at that time some were chosen over the rooms for the treasuries, for the offerings, for the firstfruits , and for the tithes, to gather to them out of the fields of the cities the portions of the Law for the priests and Levites. For Judah rejoiced for the priests and for the Levites who waited.
Job 8:7— And if your beginning was small, yet your end would greatly increase.
Job 40:19— He is the first of the ways of God; his Maker brings near his sword.
Psalm 78:51— and struck all the first-born in Egypt, the first of the strong in the tents of Ham;
Psalm 105:36— He also struck all the first-born in their land, the chief of all their strength.
Psalm 111:10— The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all practicing them have good understanding; His praise stands forever.
Proverbs 1:7— The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Proverbs 3:9— Honor the LORD with your substance, and with the firstfruits of all your increase;
Proverbs 4:7— Wisdom is the main thing ; get wisdom; and with all your getting get understanding.
Proverbs 8:22— The LORD possessed Me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old.
The first word of the Bible is an extension of the word ראשׁ (rosh), which denotes pretty much anything that comes first: head, top, upper part, chief, total, sum. And by the usage of 'sum' we learn that a ראשׁ not simply denotes whatever comes first or whatever is highest, but rather that which represents whatever follows. The word ראשׁ contains the entire set of what it is the chief of.
This is highly remarkable because as good as every usage of ראשׁ is in one form or another applied to Christ:
Psalm 118:22 The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief corner stone (by Jesus applied to Himself in Matthew 21:42).
Ephesians 2:19-22 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household, having been put upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord in whom you are also being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.
Ephesians 5:23 Christ [...] is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.
1 Corinthians 15:20, 23 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who are asleep.
Isaiah and others speak of the Mountain of the Lord which will exist above and beyond any other mountain. The obvious summit of this Mountain is Jesus Christ.
Another remarkable occurrence of ראשׁ is in Psalm 119:160, where it says, "The ראשׁ of Thy Word is truth."
All things considered it becomes even more profound when Paul writes,
And He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation. For by Him all things were created [...]; all things have been created by (or rather through) Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; so that He Himself might come to have first place in everything.—Col 1:15-18 (abridged)