In John Walton’s NIV Application Commentary he points out that the verb “Bara”, translated “to create” occurs 48 times in the Hebrew Old Testament. Every single time God is the subject of the verb and when God creates he doesn’t manufacture out of existing materials. God creates from nothing (ex nihilo). God is on a completely different level than we are. We say we create things but it has a completely different flavor and level of power and authority than when God creates something. We are really more like assemblers of things that already exist than we are actual creators.
God’s orderly creation:
Many have pointed out that there is a pattern to how God created the heavens and the earth. First he creates the space and then he fills the corresponding space. Longman charts it out in his book “How to Read Genesis” on p.105
Day one Day two Day three
Light/Dark Sky/water Land
Day four Day five Day six
Sun, moon, stars Birds/fish Animals & humans
Walter Brueggeman points out more order to the creation story pointing out the symmetrical nature of each day (Genesis, Interpretation, 30):
- Time: “there was evening and morning”
- Command: “God said, ‘Let there be…'”
- Execution: “And it was so.”
- Assessment: “God saw that it was good..”
- Time “there was evening and morning”
His point is that God’s creation is not chaotic. It is orderly and created with purpose and precision. He believes that God’s commands are somewhat passive, “Let there be” rather than strictly authoritative, “Light appear!” He says God “gives permission” for creation to take place. God certainly does the creating. He is not negating that but the way in which he creates is spoken permission for things to be. His authority speaks for itself when those things appear just as he said they should.
Man’s special place in creation:
Not only does God differentiate Day six from the rest by saying it was all “very good” but even the verb used in creating man is different from the other five days. God made everything else but when it comes to man God “formed” him (Gen 2:7). Why the different verbage from the rest of the creation story when it comes to mankind? In his excellent Genesis commentary Nahum Sarna points out that this verb is “yasar” and has the same root as the Hebrew word for potter “yoser”. He says that Hebrew word is translated both potter and creator. Does that mean God was “hands on” when he created Adam from the dust of the ground? What is more the word for “dust” here is the same word as “clay” which a potter uses to form his pots. Now that is something. God cares for us. God is personally involved in creating us. David said God knit him in his mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13). What is more God “breathed” life into man. Did God do that with the fish and birds? Did God make the animals “in his image”?
Made in God’s image:
Several commentators point out that kinds often used images to stand in their absence in distant lands they had conquered. It was a reminder of who the king was, his power and his sovereignty. People are made in God’s image. We are here on the earth proclaiming that God is sovereign and that he rules over our lives. Our very bodies are bear witness that God is real. God is alive and well.
God is still involved in the creation process:
On the seventh day God rested. So what is he doing now? Deists say God is like a clockmaker who made the world, wound it up and lets it run down. He is hands off. The Bible teaches us that God continues to create. Although God rested on the Sabbath the Jews believed that God continued to work in creation. The most obvious examples were God’s work in conception of babies in the womb and through circumcision that had to be done 8 days after birth even if that day was a Sabbath. God was still at work and God could accept circumcision on the Sabbath. One of the accusations brought against Jesus was that the messiah would not work on the Sabbath but Jesus points out that God still did and so would he (John 7:21-24)
It is important for us to realize that God has revealed himself through scripture to be active and engaged in the world. He didn’t wind it up and put it on a shelf. God works in and through creation because God loves us too much to leave us alone. I am reminded of the opening lines of Gensis…” 1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”
The Spirit of God was right there hovering over it all. God is present and God is working. God is forgiving sin and creating people and newly creating people. God is love and God is creative and all God makes is good. If anything in all creation is messed up it is because we tend to do that to the things we “create” on this earth. Fortunately in all the new beginnings in Genesis redemption is on the list!