20. Genesis 1
— What it says and what it doesn't say —
Genesis 1; nice to meet you
Possibly the most loved and certainly the most famous piece of literary art ever produced may be more accurate than any of us ever expected. In the pages that follow we will have a look at what is known as "the creation account," a report of origins that lies at the heart of all monotheistic faiths, but which has been shrouded in mythological projections and maimed by religious zeal.
In every book on Genesis 1 the same stubborn mistakes appear and before we can even make an attempt in understanding Genesis 1, we should first familiarize ourselves with what is actually going on in there. We will be quoting from the NAS, except that the word 'God' will be replaced with the name Elohim.Day 1
In the Beginning Elohim created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was formless and void and darkness was over the face of the deep and the Spirit of Elohim was hovering over the surface of the waters.
Then Elohim said, "Let there be light"; and there was light.
And Elohim saw that the light was good; and Elohim separated the light from the darkness. And Elohim called the light day and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.
- The Hebrew word eres does not only denote planet earth, but also land, city, state, etc. It denotes the solidness under foot or the solidness of an organized shelter such as a city.
- The Hebrew word for light is ur, which also happens to be the name of the city from which Abram departed.
- Realize that darkness is not the opposite of light but the absence of it. When light is released in a dark room, nothing leaves; nothing is replaced. Darkness does not consist of substance; light does. Day one is not about something versus something-else, but about something-not-there versus something-there.
- On the second day the waters that were made on the first day are divided. This division is called heaven, not the upper aquatic body. The image is: lower water - heaven - upper water. We recognize the same thematic rhythm in Genesis 15, in the cadaver vision: half animal - God (flaming torch and fire oven) - half animal.
- Waters are again parted when the Israelites depart from Egypt, when they cross the Sea of Reeds: waters - Israel - waters. And finally, when Christ hangs between the two murderers we see again the same image: murderer - Christ - murderer.
- It is peculiar that the name of something that existed from the Beginning (namely heaven) is now given to the firmament created on Day 2. Remember that action defines the thing; the firmament of Day 2 executes the same defining action as the heaven of Day 1. Or else it would have a different name.
And Elohim called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas; and Elohim saw that it was good.
Then God said, "Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit after their kind, with seed in them, on the earth"; and it was so.
And the earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit, with seed in them, after their kind; and Elohim saw that it was good.
And there was evening and there was morning, a third day.
- On the third day something is done to the lower aquatic body and dry land appears. But the water is not moved away so that the dry land beneath it could appear. It reads: Let the lower waters be collected to one place, or a place of one-ness, and let dry land appear. This is not about waters retreating, not a low-tide story, but rather the peculiar message that dry land appeared when the lower waters converged.
- The verb qawa, 'to collect' is a special word, not as often used as in our languages. It occurs besides Genesis 1 in the strongly Messianic passage of Jeremiah 3:17, "At that time they shall call Jerusalem 'The Throne of the Lord,' and all the nations will be gathered to it, to Jerusalem, for the Name of the Lord...". All other occurrences of the word qawa are translated with forms of 'to hope' or 'await eagerly'.
- As with the word 'heaven' the word 'earth' is re-applied.
And Elohim made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also. And Elohim placed them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on earth, and to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and Elohim saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.
- The Creator repeats the creation command of day one, but in plural: Let there be lights!.
- Then He doesn't make two (Hebrew: shenayim) great lights but second or secondary (Hebrew: sheni) great lights. And that's what they are, great lights, a great light and a lesser light which is still great. Stars are mentioned but the sun and the moon are not mentioned in Genesis 1. Moses had words for sun and moon and he doesn't use them here. In stead he uses the phrase 'great light'. The only other occurrence of the phrase 'great light' is the Messianic paragraph of Isaiah 9:2-7, "The people who walk in darkness will see a great light." (Certainly, this image resonates with our solar-system - the Psalmist seems to think so; 136:9 - but we must conclude that our solar system is organized after a pattern that is even more fundamental).
- God likens Abraham's offspring to the dust of the earth, but He also likens them to the stars in the heavens (15:5). Daniel adds, "And those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever" (12:3).
And Elohim blessed them saying, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth." And there was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.
- The fifth day heads off with the creation of 'swarmers that swarm' to populate the waters. The word sharas (teem or swarm) is simply repeated: swarmers that swarm. What exactly those swarming swarmers are is not explained.
- Then birds arise to the scene to 'fly over the earth' and 'on the face of the heavens'.
- And after the birds the great tannin is called into being. What a tannin is, is not known. But the creature shows up a lot in Scriptures. Usually as something big and strong, but not always necessarily ocean dwelling.
Then Elohim said, "Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth after their kind; and it was so. And Elohim made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and Elohim saw that it was good.
Then Elohim said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let him rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on earth." And Elohim created man in His own image, in the image of Elohim He created him; male and female he created them.
And Elohim blessed them; and Elohim said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth."
Then Elohim said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird in the sky and to everything that moves on earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food"; and it was so.
And Elohim saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
- On the sixth day are born the behema, which are the larger four footed animals; cattle but also wild animals.
- After the behema the 'creepers' are made. As with the swarmers the word ramas is simply repeated: creepers that creep, most often denoting smaller animals such as reptiles.
- Then come the 'beasts of the earth,' a word derived from the verb 'to live,' which covers pretty much everything that lives.
- And finally God makes man. The word for man, adam is the masculine form of the feminine adamah, which means arable land, and is one of a few words for man. This particular word denotes man as a creature made from dust of the earth; a dustling, in short.
- The famous 'in His image' part has lead tradition to believe that God is a biped, like us. But that idea is countered by the notion that God has no space-time parameters, and doesn't look like anything. First of all, the 'image of God' is not a graven image. Second, the 'image of man' is not the bipedal snapshot we tend to keep in frames. That snapshot is a mere slice of the four dimensional space-time worm we really are. (If you need this explained, click here).
- The 'image of God' is the original instance of the Household Mould we discussed in chapter 12, the Household Set.
It now becomes possible to see Genesis 1 for what it really is. Not a messy rendering of ancient myth, but rather the most intelligent document ever entrusted to man.
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