Introduction to Genesis
In the beginning created God - the heavens and - the
Introduction to Genesis
Copyright©2006, 2011, 2014, 2015, 2020 by Daniel B. Sedory
One of the most important facts to be aware of when reading the first few chapters of Genesis is its brevity! The
words in these paragraphs are merely a summary of all that actually occurred at that time. Many of us have attended lectures where the speaker
has used images projected from a computer screen. Well think of Genesis chapters 1 through 3 as a Power Point presentation from God.
Each verse in chapter 1 is a bullet summary of God's actions during the days of Creation. Other important aspects of this book can be found
by asking: When was Genesis written, for whom and why?
We see no need to question the wide-spread early acceptance of Moses as its author; in spite of various documentary hypotheses which
oppose it. We also presume Moses obtained many of the facts recorded in Genesis 1-3 directly from God, including many of the details found in chapters
4 through 11.
Though Abraham may have had records of his immediate ancestors, which he could have passed down to his heirs, he probably had only a general knowledge
of Noah and pre-Flood historyas evidenced by some widely differing accounts of those events in various cultures of his own time. There was a span
of about 300 years from Abraham to Moses, but some family records and oral histories may have existed which Moses could have incorporated into Genesis.
Moses himself lived around 1525 to 1405 BCE; we assume a date of about 1445 BCE for both the composition of Genesis and Israel's Exodus from Egypt. This
makes the account we have of the Flood (Genesis 6:13 through 8:22) at least one thousand years after the fact; not to mention Creation
itself! That point is emphasized to show how far removed these early events were from those for whom the book was first written:
The nation of Israel. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that references to earlier cultures or abstract concepts would be described in a manner
familiar to the Israelites, and generally be discussed only if they were of significant relevance to them (such as the concept of "sin" entering
the world in Chapter 3, and how it led to the destruction of everyone but Noah's family!).
Thus the purpose of the early chapters of Genesis was not to provide a detailed account of earth's history, but rather to describe for Israel (and all
other nations), whom they were to worship, and why: The reason for going all the way back to the beginning of time was to explain that Israel's God
was not some localized or national deity, like the many false gods they'd seen in the paintings and stone works of Egypt. No, the God of Israel is the
Creator of the universe, the only one who rightly deserves to be worshipped by all nations! So in keeping with the author's intent, most of the book
of Genesis concerns the birth of the nation of Israel: The lives of Abraham (12:1 - 25:11; whose name was changed from Abram to Abraham in 17:5),
Isaac (25:19 - 35:29) and Jacob (37:1 - 49:33; who is first called Israel in 32:28, but named Israel by God in 35:10). The
final chapters of this section concerning Israel, include the time of Jacob's whole family moving to Egypt (45:9 - 46:27) and its last verse (50:26),
which declares the death of Joseph.
The Bullet points of chapters 1 and 2 of Genesis
[Scripture references (unless otherwise noted) are from the NET Bible; any emphasis is our own.]
Introduction and summary of all God created:
- In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (v.1)
- Now the earth was without shape and empty, and darkness was over the surface of the watery deep, but the Spirit of God
was moving over the surface of the water. (v.2)
Verse 1 only summarizes the full extent of God's creative acts, that he is the creator of all else that exists: Since God alone already existed
"In the beginning1," Israel could
infer that he created time itself (cf. "before all time" in Jude 25; see below), all space ("the heavens"2) and "the
earth"3; representing all matter4
in this summary statement. (On Day 4, God placed the sun, moon and all the stars into "the heavens," so even an Israelite would know God created
many material objects that were beyond their earthly realm.)
Genesis 1:3-5 Day One:
Although its first readers were primarily earth-centric regarding the universe, they still understood from this introductory chapter that God
created everything and is outside of both time and space: God is the only being who is truly eternal (Psalm 90:2; Isaiah
43:13; Jude 25: "before all time, now, and forever"5)
and knows all things (Psalm 147:5: "His understanding is infinite"); including the sense of being everywhere at the same time (Psalm
139:1-13). And just as He has never been confined by the limits of space, God is not constrained by time; neither of these two concepts can be truly
comprehended by us, since we are creatures of both the 'flow of time' and the dimensions of space.
- God said, "Let there be light." And there was
- God saw that the light was good, so God separated the light from the darkness. (v.4)
- God called the light "day" and the darkness "night." (v.5a)
- There was evening, and there was morning, marking the first day. (v.5b)
Verse 3 is a beautiful summary of how creation actually began. If
Genesis had been written for scientists of our own time, we can easily imagine there would be many details following
"Let there be light." Though its first readers surely pictured visible light, such as that from the sun or a
candle, we believe this represents the creation of the entire electromagnetic
spectrum and all other forms of energy (both kinetic and potential): Chemical, electromagnetic (EM), gravitational,
mechanical, nuclear and thermal.
In verse 4, we find the first of many phrases written in an explanatory way to help us make some bit of sense of topics
that are beyond our full understanding. Such words or phrases are often called anthropomorphic, because they
describe things from a limited human perspective. God knew the composition and character of all he would create
before ever doing so (Psalm 139; Isaiah 46:10: He knows "the end from the beginning and reveals beforehand what has
not yet occurred"; 1 John 3:20: "God... knows all things"). The descriptive element, "...saw that the
light was good," (and many others like it) are solely for the reader's benefit. God is never surprised by his
creation; He does not need to 'see what happens next' since all of His decisions in regards to His creatures have
already been made outside of time.
In keeping with the briefness of this chapter, the only mention of the actual creation of the planet earth (and
perhaps some other materials in space; not to mention the entire spiritual realm 6) is what was already stated in verse 1.
Genesis 1:6-8 Day Two:
- God said, "Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters and let it separate
water from water." (v.6)
- So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it.
It was so. (v.7)
- God called the expanse "sky." (v.8a)
- There was evening, and there was morning, a second day. (v.8b)
Genesis 1:9-13 Day Three:
- God said, "Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place and let dry ground
appear." It was so. (v.9)
- God called the dry ground "land" and the gathered waters he called "seas."
God saw that it was good. (v.10)
- God said, "Let the land produce vegetation: plants yielding seeds according to their kinds,
and fruit trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds." It was so. (v.11)
- The land produced vegetation--plants yielding seeds according to their kinds, and trees bearing fruit
with seed in it according to their kinds. God saw that it was good. (v.12)
- There was evening, and there was morning, a third day. (v.13)
Genesis 1:14-19 Day Four:
- God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the [heavens] to separate the day from
the night, and let them be signs to indicate seasons and days and years, and let them serve as
lights in the expanse of the [heavens] to give light on the earth."
It was so. (vv.14-15)
- God made two great lights--the greater light to rule over the day and the lesser light
to rule over the night. He made the stars also. (v.16)
- God placed the lights in the expanse of the [heavens] to shine on the earth, to preside over the day and
the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. God saw that it was good. (vv.17-18)
- There was evening, and there was morning, a fourth day. (v.19)
Do the items under Days three and four appear 'out of
order' to you? Vegetation before the sun? We can't help but believe God did so explicitly, to show that
the "days" in these verses cannot be long periods of time. Obviously, the plants growing on the earth
(and all life that depends upon them) could never exist very long without sunlight! (This thought, and many
similar ones found in Scripture, should lead us to conclude someone other than the men who penned its books,
was behind it all.) Another reason God created the sun and moon after the earth, was to ensure no one;
especially the Israelites, would have an excuse for thinking about the sun or moon as many Egyptians did:
No matter how great in appearance, they were fashioned by the Creator of the universe for reasons we can all
understand; not to be worshipped as gods: Apart from creating the sun to provide just the right amount of
energy for earth's needs (e.g., as both heat and light), God also made the sun, moon and stars as "signs to
indicate seasons and days and years". These 'lights' were of course not actually in the 'sky' as the NET
Bible translates it, but in space; which we've translated as "expanse of the [heavens]" here. However, one must admit
that the sun and the moon (especially in daylight) and even the stars, do appear to be just up there in the sky above the
earth; rotating around us. And much of Scripture is written from a simple anthropocentric observational perspective. Without the
insights from many 'scientific minds' and records of various planetary and stellar observations over hundreds of years; not to mention
the invention of the telescope, it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to prove otherwise! So why didn't God provide Moses
with some 'irrefutable proof' for His existence? Because God wants us to also exercise some faith in Him. Although nothing in Scripture
has been found that would refute His existence, it's also true that nothing in Scripture can be used to force someone to believe in Him;
some faith is also required, by design.
Genesis 1:20-23 Day Five:
- God said, "Let the water swarm with swarms of living creatures and let birds fly above the
earth across the expanse of the sky." (v.20)
- God created the great sea creatures and every living and moving thing with which the water swarmed,
according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. God saw that it was good. (v.21)
- God blessed them and said, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the water in the seas, and
let the birds multiply on the earth." (v.22)
- There was evening, and there was morning, a fifth day. (v.23)
Genesis 1:24-32 Day Six:
- God said, "Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: cattle, creeping
things, and wild animals, each according to its kind." It was so. (v.24)
- God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the cattle according to their kinds, and all the
creatures that creep along the ground according to their kinds. God saw that it was good. (v.25)
- Then God said, "Let us make mankind in our image, after our likeness, so they may rule
over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the cattle, and over all the earth, and
over all the creatures that move on the earth." (v.26)
- God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created
- God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply! Fill the earth and subdue
it! Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and every creature that moves on the
- Then God said, "I now give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the entire earth and
every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the animals of the
earth, and to every bird of the air, and to all the creatures that move on the ground--everything that
has the breath of life in it--I give every green plant for food."
It was so. (vv.29-30)
- God saw all that he had made--and it was very good! (v.31)
- There was evening, and there was morning, the sixth day. (v.32)
Genesis 2:1-3 Conclusion
concerning God's Creative Works:
- The heavens and the earth were completed with everything that was in them. (v.1)
- By the seventh day God finished the work that he had been doing, and he ceased on the seventh day
all the work that he had been doing. (v.2)
- God blessed the seventh day and made it holy because on it he ceased all the work that he had
been doing in creation. (v.3)
Further Resources on Genesis:
We’d recommend these 16 lectures on Genesis 1 - 11 by Dr. William (Bill) Barrick:
Lectures on The Book of Genesis.
Paradise to Prison, by John J. Davis (Copyright©1975, Baker Book House).
NOTES for Genesis 1:1 through 2:3
1 [Return to Text]
(בְּ) (the) beginning (רֵאשִׁית),
God (’e-lo-hiym; אֱלֹהִ֑ים)
created (bah-rah’; בָּרָ֣א).
2 [Return to Text]
heavens, all space. God also created at least one 'plane of existence' beyond the three-dimensional universe
we are confined to within our earthly bodies, a 'place' where both angels (currently) and humans in 'glorified bodies' (in
the future) can dwell in the presence of God.
3 [Return to Text]
הָאָֽרֶץ). The earth.
4 [Return to Text]
As Scripture states in John 1:3, "All things were created by him (Greek: panta di'
autou egeneto; πάντα δι᾽ αὐτοῦ
ἐγένετο), and apart from him (kai chōris autou;
καὶ χωρὶς αὐτοῦ)
not one thing was created (egeneto oude hen; ἐγένετο οὐδὲ ἕν) that has been
created (ho gegonen; ὃ
5 [Return to Text]
"Even before ... you brought the world into being, you were the eternal God" (Ps 90:2), "Even from
eternity I am He," (Is 43:13; NAU), and Jude 25: "Before (Greek: pro; πρὸ) all (pantos; παντὸς)
time (tou aiōnos; τοῦ
αἰῶνος), and now (kai nun; καὶ νῦν), and forever [or: for all eternity]
(kai eis pantas tous aiōnas; καὶ εἰς
πάντας τοὺς αἰῶνας).
Amen (amēn; ἀμήν)."
6 [Return to Text]
We know from Job 38:7 that all the angels were already present when God created the earth: "Where were you when I
laid the foundation of the earth?" .... "and all the sons of God shouted for joy?" (Man did not yet
exist when God created the earth. In Job 1:6, "the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD,"
providing further proof of their supernatural nature!)
This page is still under construction;
and will remain so for a very long time !!!
Revised: 19 December,
2009 and August 7, 2010.
Updated: September 3, 2010; November 28, 2010; February 17, 2011; September 3, 2011; July 30, 2014;
December 30, 2015.
Last Update: October 26, 2020 (added link to Dr. Barrick's lectures on Genesis).