Genesis Introduction

Genesis Introduction

These notes on Genesis and for that matter all the notes on this website, were created as a basis for Bible studies that I have led in homes and in businesses. They are not exhaustive but served to help me as I taught. In my classes I would expand on these notes and answer questions that arose from the notes and our discussions. Some of the classes have been recorded but most have not. So please use these notes as a jumping off point for more study. I hope they are help to you as you read. Nothing of course will substitute reading the Word of God itself. The Scriptures are the source of life and godliness. Moreover, it is through God ‘s Word that faith is grown and generated Romans 10:17 – So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Messiah. The Rabbis teach that all the Law and Prophets (ie. The Scriptures) were for nothing but the Days of Messiah. We believe that the Messiah is the incarnation of God’s Word. If you want to know what God is like, if you want to His Word embodied you simply need to look to Yeshua and you will see.

Genesis is the foundation of the entire Scriptures.  It explains the origin of all things. The origins of the universe, matter, space and time. Order and complexity are a concept in science that explains that things deteriorate from order to disorder.  Order and complexity never arise on their own; they are always generated from a prior cause.  The cause of our world is explained in Genesis. We learn about the creation of life; man; marriage; evil; languages; government; nations; religion; and the Chosen People. No other book of the Bible is quoted as often and, in more places, than Genesis. The writers of both Old and New Covenants viewed Genesis as historical, accurate, and authoritative. Genesis was written by Moses.  There are three possibilities as to how Moses received this information: 1) By direct revelation from God, either in the form of audible words dictated by God and transcribed by him, or else by visions of the great events of the past, which he then put down in his own words, as guided by the Holy Spirit. 2) By oral tradition, passed down over the centuries, and then he collected it and wrote it guided by the Holy Spirit. 3) He took documents and records in existence and recorded them with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The ultimate Author of Genesis and for that matter all of Scripture is the Holy Spirit, which composed and recorded God’s Word to man through the various personalities of the writers without error. This is a definition of what we mean by the “inspired word of God”. Inspired means “God breathed” and that breath is the Ruach ha Kodesh (Holy Spirit).

V. 1 – In the beginning God – The Hebrew word here is b’re’sheyt- This is where time and space began. Prior to this God existed in eternity. Now God creates time and space and places man in it. Space and time are measurable; God exists apart from this but has and does enter it for our sakes. The word for God here is Elohim. the suffix “im” in Hebrew is a plural ending, i.e. seraphim, cherubim. This verse is a summary of all of God’s creation that follows.  Prior to this God existed in eternity. The very first reference that we have of God places Him in a plural form. It is this form that is used most to describe God. Names in Scripture, especially those given by God described the character of those who bear them. We read in Psalm 9:10 “those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.

As Believers in the Messiah, we understand this problem and see it as one of many references to the unity or Tri-unity of God. This tri-unity is further demonstrated in the Shema the most important of Jewish expressions of faith from Deu. 6:4 “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! In Hebrew Deuteronomy 6:4 shema’ yisra’el adonai ‘elohenu adonai echad, hear o Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. The word echad is Hebrew word for one. However, this is not a singular one but a plural one. The same word that is used to describe the oneness of Adam and Eve, in Genesis 2:24.

”Beginning” speaks of God creating time and space and placing man in it. Space and time are measurable; God exists apart from this but has and does enter it for our sake and His glory. The word “created” is a Hebrew verb that always has God as its subject. Man may invent using existing material but only God creates. No preexisting material is mentioned or implied here (the Latin term ex nihilo). The New Covenant makes clear that all things created came from God (John 1:3; Rom. 4:17; Heb. 11:3). “Earth” (Heb. Eretz) means land or ground.  The heavens and the earth is a figure of speech that describes the totality of creation. The Hebrew word for heavens is plural and is used here to describe everything that is above the surface of the earth. Later, “heavens” refer to first heaven refers to the home of the birds and clouds, the word used in Dan. 4:12 is translated “sky”. The second “heaven” describes the sun, moon, and stars as in Ps. 19:1. Finally, in 2 Corinthians 12:2 we have third “heaven” will refer to the home of the angels and departed saints. All three use the Hebrew word or its Greek equivalent for “shamayim”. 

Many people wonder when creation occurred. The earliest date that can be accounted for in Scripture is 10,000 years ago. There are many Christian theories that try to accommodate evolutionary theories of the earth being billions of years old.  The Gap theory is one, the geological age theory is another and there are more.  The Geological age theory is that the world in its present condition evolved from its original creation.  That there have been successive ages corresponding to the days of creation.  This theory is based on the record of fossils in the various layers of the earth.  The flaws of this theory are numerous, one glaring flaw is that death must have come about before sin came on the scene since fossils are evidence of death.  If each day of creation represents an age rather than a 24-hour literal day, then how could plant life created on day three survive an age without sun which was created on day four?  Moreover, how could the plants have been pollinated if the insects were not created until the 6th day? The simplest solution is to believe God’s account of creation as outlined in Genesis which is six 24 hour days. 

V. 2 – The earth that the Lord created was unformed and uninhabited.  It was not finished in its shape and without creatures to inhabit it.  It was the Spirit of God that began the process of creation activated by the second person of the Trinity, the incarnate Word, who is also present in creation (Ps 2; Ps. 33:6; John 1:1–3; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2).   

A theological alternative to the unfolding work of creation in verses 1 and 2 is described with four different names: The Gap Theory, The Recreation Theory, The Restitution Theory, or The Divine Judgment Theory. These four are basically the same but focus on different aspects of what occurred.  They hold that the events of verses 1 and 2 are chronological, one following the other. Verse 2 describes an action following the creation so that the created earth transitioned from order to disorder.  Two Hebrew words are used in v 2 tohu and vohu. Tohu is defined as formlessness, confusion, unreality, emptiness. It is translated in the Old Covenant as chaos, confusion, desolation, emptiness, empty space, formless, futile, futile things, meaningless, meaningless arguments, nothing, waste, waste place. While bohu is translated emptiness, desolation, a void associated with chaos.

The word “was” in v. 2 should then be translated “became.” The earth was created perfect in verse one. But in verse 2 the earth is seen as a waste and void. Between verse 1 and verse 2 it is believed that there was a huge gap of time. Between those two verses something catastrophic happened that caused the earth to “become a waste and void”.  It is believed that Satan’s fall occurred at this time, and his rebellion against God caused a catastrophic judgment to fall upon the earth (Is. 14:12; Eze. 28:12.) Genesis 1:1 describes a perfect creation, and verse 2 describes what happened after the judgment of God fell on it. Verse 3 begins the recreation of the earth by the Spirit of God who had been hovering over the earth. Scripture says that the earth was not created “a waste place” (tohu; Is. 45:18). So, when God created the earth, it was perfect. The earth reflected the perfection of God’s nature, glory and majesty.  The darkness in v 2 in Scripture is a symbol of divine judgment (Exodus 10:15; 21–23; 1 Samuel 2:9; Job 3:4-5; Psalm 35:6; Psalm 105:28; Isaiah 8:22; Isaiah 13:10; Isaiah 45:7; Joel 2:2; Eph. 6:12). 

The Bible teaches that Satan (Heb. adversary) was the most exalted angel in all of heavenBut Satan rebelled against God along with a third of the angels. Just as man was cast out of the Garden of Eden, so Satan was cast from his exalted position before God. The Gap Theory teaches that Satan’s fall caused a catastrophic judgment to fall on the earth. Apparently, part of his rule and reign was the earth. When judgment fell on Satan, it also fell on all that he ruled over, which included the earth. The chaos of verse 1:2 is a description of the judgment resulting from the fall of Satan. Ezekiel 28:11–16 teaches that the created earth of Genesis 1:1 became the abode of Satan; and he was the guardian over the earth in its original form. Originally, the earth had no oceans or seas. It is described as a beautiful mineral garden described in Ezekiel 28:13. They are described as stones of fire in verse 14. This beautiful realm under God’s judgment became formless and empty. The earth was covered by salt water with the precious stones and dry land no longer visible and “darkness was on the face of the deep.” The Book of Revelation 21:1-22:5 describes that earth will return to its original condition. There will be no oceans and seas and will be covered by the same types of precious stones mentioned in Ezekiel 28:13. The new earth will look like the earth once looked before the fall of Satan. 

In v 2 we also have the introduction of the Third Person of the Trinity. The Talmud, the Rabbinical commentary on the Torah teaches that this is the Spirit is the Spirit of King Messiah (Midrash Rabbah 2:4; M. Berachot 1:2.). This compliments John 1:1–3 where The Holy Spirit through the Son created all things. 

Moved. The Hebrew word for moved in 1:2 is merachephet, which means “to hover,” “to brood,” “to flutter,” or “to fly.” It is used two other times in the Hebrew Bible: Deuteronomy 32:11, where it is used as an eagle hovering over her young; and Jeremiah 23:9, where it is translated by the word “shaken,” all my bones are shaken. The concept of merachephet is a concept of caring and protecting, as a mother bird cares for and protects her eggs. The concept of “fluttering” provides substance. The concept of “hovering” is in preparation for the hatching of the eggs. Here, the Spirit, like a mother bird, is hovering over the deep, waiting for the hatching of the dry land through the deep. So, clearly, the Holy Spirit was actively involved in the work of creation. This is affirmed twice elsewhere: in Job 26:13, By his Spirit [He adorned] the heavens; and Psalm 104:30, you sent forth your Spirit, they are created; And you renew the face of the earth. So the formlessness and foreboding darkness was being kept in check by the Spirit of God. Upon the face of the waters. The Hebrew word for water in 1:2 is mayim, the life-giving water, not the chaotic abyss of the deep. The water itself is lifeless, but the Spirit of God now quickens and transforms it. The unformed, lifeless mass of watery earth was under the watchful care of the divine Spirit Who hovered over it, guaranteeing its future development. The Jerusalem Targum, an Aramaic translation, translates 1:2 as follows: The earth was vacancy and desolation. [sic] Solitary of the sons of men and void of every animal, and darkness was on the face of the abyss and the Spirit of Messiah from before the Lord brooded upon the face of the waters.[1]

V. 3-5 “Let there be light” The first word that God spoke brought forth light.  There are varying opinions as to what this “light” was.  It couldn’t have been light from the sun for that was not created until day 4.  Light in Scripture is described as God’s garment (Psa 104:2); Serving God is described as walking in His Light (Isa 2:5). In the N.T. Jesus is described as the light of the world (Mat 5:14; John 8:12) Probably the greatest illustration of the light of Gen 1:3 is found in Rev 21:23‑25.  In the Scriptures it is a symbol of life and blessing. This light corresponds to the light spoken of later in Scripture as the “shekinah,” which is a manifestation of God’s glory (Exodus 40:34-35; 1 Kings. 8:11;). This does not mean that God’s glory was created on the first day but only that it was revealed to illuminate His creation. This will be the light that will illumine the world in the future Kingdom spoken of in Revelation 22:5. 

Darkness is the absence of light and later in Scripture it will often signify evil (Exodus 10:21-23; Job 3:4). But here at this point no evil is mentioned. The phrase “and there was evening, alludes to a 24-hour period that will be clarified when the sun and moon are created. The Jewish tradition holds that the day therefore begins with the setting of the sun because the evening is mentioned first in this day and the other days. That God called each day good speaks to His approval and that they were complete. Though not mentioned in Gen. 1 the angels may have been created at this time (Job 38:4‑7). Heb. 1:14 tells us that they were created to minister to the heirs of salvation.

Vv. 6-8 – The waters are separated by an expanse or firmament.  The word would be better translated “space”.  God called this space “heaven”. The Hebrew word is Shawmayim or as translated in the KJV “heavens.”  There are three heavens mentioned in Scripture. 1.  Atmosphere or sky (Jer 4:25, where birds fly). 2.  The constellation or stars (Isa 13:10) 3. The heaven of God’s throne (Heb 9:24).  The firmament is the atmosphere which separated the two bodies of water.  This was a vast blanket of water vapor forming a canopy that circled the earth.  There was no rain upon the earth in those days (Gen 2:5). This canopy provided a greenhouse effect allowing warm temperatures evenly over the earth.  There would not be the windstorms we now experience.  No rain, yet lush vegetation.  The canopy filtered out the harmful ultraviolet rays so that health and longevity was abundant.  The canopy was also the source of the waters of the great flood and the resultant change in climate, health, and longevity.

V. 9-13 – God creates the oceans and continents.  Three groups or orders of plant life are described here; grasses herbs and trees all of which had seed so that it might produce after its own kind.  This of course made it possible for reproduction as well as establishing the genetic makeup of distinct classes of plant life.  God declared His work on the third day as good and the third day is now complete.

V 14-19 The Heb. word refers to the sources of light and is best translated “luminaries”.  Some ancient nations saw the stars as being signs for good or bad, in fact so do many today.  God’s response is articulated by the prophet Jeremiah (Jer 10:2)The sun the moon and the stars were given for signs, and navigation.  They will be used in reference to future events (Luke 21:25). They were also given for seasons to regulate the calendar, and to give seasons, as well as seed time and harvest.  From this day forward the sun, moon and stars would be the way that earth would receive its physical light. With this creation the fourth day ended.

V 20-23 – The creation of the birds and fish.  The word translated “living” comes from the Hebrew Nephesh chayah which means literaly, a living breath.  Unlike the plants, animals have breath unlike the plants.  God also created not only the smaller species but the largest ones as well. Whales, and other large fish are spoken of here.  God then blesses these creatures with the ability to reproduce after their kind.  No such blessing was bestowed on the plants.  This might give credence to the idea that animals have the characteristics of will and in some ways can choose to obey God or not.

V 24-25 The sixth day – The sea and the air are now filled with living creatures, and the word of God now goes forth to the earth, to produce living beings after their kind.  From the Hebrew we find these are divided into three classes.  Cattle, (behaymah) which generally refers to the larger domesticated four-legged animals. The creeping animals (raymesh), which includes the smaller land animals that move with scarcely perceptible feet.  Some examples are reptiles, insects, and worms.  The beasts of the earth (Chaiyat eretz), refer to the freely roving wild animals.

Now comes the crown of God’s creation, man.  The reference to “Us” is one of many evidences of the Tri-unity or Trinity.  In Gen. 1:1 the Hebrew “Elohim”.  Deut. 6:4 is perhaps the strongest evidence as well as an apologetic.  “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!  The Hebrew word for one here is echad, which is clearly an allusion to plurality.  The other word for one in the Hebrew is yachid, which is always understood to be an only one.  Examples are in Gen 2:24, where Adam and Eve became one flesh, and in Gen 22:2 where God tells Abraham to take his only son (yachid), and offer him on a mountain that God will show him.  The typical Jewish response is that the “us” here is a reference to the royal “we” that is commonly used.  

The idea of communication between the Persons that consist of the essence of God is found in many places in the Tanakh (Psa 2:7; Isa 48:16 Psa 45:7 Psa 110:1). In the N.T. we have many examples of Yeshua (God the Son) communication with His Father in Heaven (Mat 11:27; Eph 4:24; Col 3:10; John 17:24). “In our image”, refers to man being patterned in the likeness of His Creator.  This distinctive is not found in any other of God’s creation.  We, unlike animals have a moral conscience, the ability to think abstractly, an understanding of beauty and emotion, and above all the ability to worship and follow our Creator.  So then, our soul, or nephesh is completely different from that of animals.  God is not physical (John 4:24). But we have been designed to function in ways physically that God functions without a body.  God sees, hears, smells, touches, and speaks.  When He choose in both Old and New Testament times, to appear on earth, he came in the form of a man (Gen. 18, Gen 32, Phil 2:7, Heb. 1:3, Col 1:15). Still another aspect in the likeness of God, is man’s eternal aspect.  The soul of man lives forever.  Either he will spend eternity with God in heaven or be eternally separated from God in hell. The title “man”, in the Hebrew comes from the root “adamah”, which is the substance that the ground is made of. Man, then was taken from the ground or formed from the materials of the ground.  Scripture makes clear that “man’ is a generic term, which includes both male and female.  Both men and women were created in the image of God.  In fact, the complete image of God is male and female. God then pronounces a blessing on them and gives them their basic instructions and commission.

[1] Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Ariel’s Bible Commentary: The Book of Genesis, 1st ed. (San Antonio, TX: Ariel Ministries, 2008), 41–42.

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