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“God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.” Gen. 1:5
Most English translations of this verse read very similarly. So do most Jewish translations, however the English is different from the Jewish. Most Jewish translations read something like:
God called to the light: “Day”, and to the darkness He called: “Night”. (emphasis mine)
So instead of simply declaring a formal name for light and darkness, it is more like God is now telling these newly created entities what their roles, or jobs, will be; the divinely declared ordinance of their operation. Before we rule this out, we must consider that we do not know or understand God’s relationship with His created things, aside from humans. For instance, we are told that the rocks can cry out (Luke 19:40), and Isaiah 55:12 reads:
“”For you will go out with joy And be led forth with peace; The mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you, And all the trees of the field will clap their hands.”
In fact, part of the context of Isaiah 55 is declaring that the things God created have specific purposes that they will fulfill. That chapter also happens to be home to the verse which reads:
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9)
Lastly, we note that the verse ends with “and there was evening, and there was morning, one day.” This shows us the Jewish pattern of a day, that the day begins at sundown (evening, then morning.)
“Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness” Gen. 1:3-4
God saw the light He made was good, and then He separated it from the darkness. He never says the darkness is good, only the light. There is no mention of the darkness being created here, only separated from the light. However in Isaiah 45:7, the creation of darkness is mentioned:
“The One forming light and creating darkness,
Causing well-being and creating calamity;
I am the LORD who does all these.”
The Hebrew word for light (“owr“) and the word for darkness (“chosek“) are the same between Isaiah 45 and Genesis 1.
It is passages like this that force us to question how we think we understand the scriptures. In this case, we must consider that:
A) Perhaps other things were created in Genesis 1 that were not specifically mentioned, (such as the darkness); or
B) Is it speaking of the same type of darkness, even though the same original word was used?
Further, if it is not actual darkness we are dealing with in Isaiah, but instead calamity as the verse suggests – then we may be dealing with allegory here, unless, of course, calamity was what was meant in Genesis 1:4. In the end, we may wonder if we are speaking of physical creation, or something more.
“The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.” Gen. 1:2
In the first two verses of the book of Genesis, we see the presence of God Himself, the spirit of God (or the breath of God, depending on the translation), and we see mention of “the waters”.
In the original Hebrew, each of the three entities mentioned carry their own weight and significance. God Himself as subject (grammatically), and author of all things in creation. The spirit, or breath of God, is referred to as ‘hovering’ over the waters. Rashi notes that the breath of God hovered ‘like a dove hovers over the nest’. The word used for spirit, ‘ruach‘, implies a sense of power. (Plaut).
Rashi notes that the water was pre-existent – it had existed before the earth and the heavens, due to the definite article “the” (waters). Thus the water used during creation was water that existed before the creation of earth and heaven. In the New Testament writings, parallels are drawn between Jesus and water – namely that He is the source of the living water. (see John 4:14, 7:38)
What emerges, then, is a picture of what is commonly referred to as the Christian doctrine of the ‘Trinity’. The presence of God the Father, Christ, the Messiah as the Son of God, and the Holy Spirit.
These first few verses in Genesis also strongly parallel the scene of Jesus’ baptism, in which the same three elements are present (the voice of God from heaven, Jesus standing in the water, and the Holy Spirit descending ‘like a dove’ upon Him. (see Matthew 3:16-17, Mark 1:10-11, Luke 3:22, and John 1:32)
Another New Testament passage which parallels the first few verses of Genesis, with an emphasis on Christ, is John 1:1-5:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overpower it.”
In the past two years, my study resources have greatly expanded, my writing ability (hopefully) somewhat augmented, and I have had the privilege of taking part in a Torah study at a local church. As such, I have decided to revise and further expound upon some early postings, as well as add much more commentary on Genesis 1 through 6. I have decided to back-date the postings as as not to interrupt the flow of the site while browsing. You can access the new writings via the side menu as always, or by using this shortcut:
“The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep…” Gen. 1:2(a)
This verse has been translated several different ways. The words “formless”, “void”, and “empty” are quite common in popular English translations, however some Hebrew translations employ words such as “chaos”, “unformed”, “bewilderment”, even the phrase “waste and wild”. Rashi tells us that this phrase means “astonishment and bafflement”, with the implication that the person seeing the emptiness is astonished at it.
This begins to paint a bit of a different picture. These words all describe a life in confusion, a life that seems empty, a life that is, for the most part, a chaotic mess. Unfortunately we are unable to mend what is most broken in our own souls.
We are no longer merely talking about the creation of the earth; rather, we are seeing a reflection of a person’s life before God has done His work in them. The creation story itself is about new creation, and just as God shapes and handcrafts the earth, so He performs His creative work in us – making all sorts of good things within us. And just as He does with creation, ultimately He declares us good in the end, once He has had His way.
And what lies at the end of the creation process? The same thing that is also at the end of His creation process within us: a Sabbath rest.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Gen. 1:1
The Holy scriptures begin with a bold opening; the first five words alone challenge the conventional educational wisdom of today. If the reader believes these words, they should not have much trouble with the rest of the scriptures, for they will have believed that God exists and that He made all things.
That said, ownership is implied here, as is re-stated in Psalm 24:1
“The earth is the LORD’S, and all it contains, The world, and those who dwell in it.”
Most Jewish translations read along the lines of “In the beginning of God’s creating”, which should not change our understanding at all, only offer that the act of creation is either happening, or perhaps being revealed to Moses, in the present tense.
“Then God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” God made the expanse, and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so.” Gen. 1:6-7
Through Moses, God is recounting creation, specifically the creation of the sky (the space between the waters) and the sea below, and at the time, whatever water was above, some say this would be the clouds. But the phrase when read by itself – “separate the waters from the waters” – conjures up familiar imagery, that of a story to happen in the future. But even before we get that far, take note of the river in Eden; it starts as one river, but divides into four rivers (Gen. 2:10). In effect, God separated water from water.
The future story I am referring to is the story of the parting of the Red Sea in Exodus 14. Pharaoh’s army was in pursuit of the Israelites who had nowhere to run, God told Moses to lift up his staff and stretch out his hand over the sea and divide it. In effect, God again “separated the waters from the waters”, this time to save the Israelites.
Moses’ name is generally believed to mean either “Drawn out of the water” or “One who draws out of the water.” In any case, both are true, as we see in the story of his birth he is drawn out of the water by Pharaoh’s daughter; and later as mentioned above, he brings his people Israel through the Red Sea, drawing them ‘out of the water’.