The first eleven chapters of Genesis tell about the first few thousand years of human history. The Book of Genesis is the book of beginnings. In fact, the word “Genesis” is a Greek word meaning “origin.” Genesis sets forth the beginning of the heavens and the earth; the beginning of man and of sin; the beginning of salvation and of punishment. Genesis is the seed-plot of the Bible. Almost every doctrine of major importance has its roots in the Book of Genesis.
Moses was the writer of the Book of Genesis. He was trained in the wisdom of the Egyptians; he spent long hours in communion with God on Sinai; he had plenty of opportunity to receive direct revelation from God. People sometimes say, “But how did Moses know that God created the earth in six days? Surely Moses wasn’t there; he didn’t see God create the earth.” But if God could reveal to the prophets the details of the distant future (and He did it), surely He could reveal to Moses the details of the remote past. Genesis is quoted more than sixty times in the New Testament. Jesus obviously accepted the book of Genesis as historical and trustworthy and divinely inspired. He quoted from it, and never once did He indicate that anything in Genesis was unreliable.
Some of the sharpest attacks against the Bible, have been leveled against the early chapters of Genesis. The devil knows that the quickest way to demolish a building is to strike at its foundation. If a person can be persuaded to pull out the first pages of the Bible, the last pages will fall out too, and soon not much will be left.
The first several thousand years of human history are described in Genesis one through eleven, and these chapters revolve around four outstanding events—the Creation, the Fall, the Flood, and the Tower of Babel. In this study we will take a look at the Creation.
1. The Origin of the Universe (Genesis 1:1)
The Bible begins with the simple and yet profound statement that God is the Creator of all things. Genesis 1:1 is the only original, full, complete, true account of creation found anywhere. It is amazing to observe that the entire story of the creation of the universe is told in just ten words, “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.” (In the original Hebrew account, there are only seven words in Genesis 1:1, the number of perfection).
The Scripture says, “in the beginning.” The writer takes the reader back before all time, into the unsearchable reaches of eternity past. We think back to a time before the Flood that covered the earth; before Cain slew his brother Abel; before God created the angels; before God made the sun and the moon. The writer gives no actual date for the beginning. We don’t know when it was. He just says, “In the beginning.” Certainly it was a number of thousands of years ago. In the beginning (whenever that was), there was nothing but God and His creative power.
The verse continues, “in the beginning God.” The writer focuses attention upon God. Elohim (God) is the Beginning, the Source, the Cause, the Creator of all that exists. The Bible makes no attempt to prove the existence of God, nor to describe His origin. It simply says, “God has spoken; God has acted,” and of course, if God has acted to create the universe, then God exists. This is an underlying assumption. The first chapter of Genesis uses the word “God” thirty-two times. It is the most God-centered chapter in the Bible. “Elohim” is the word. It is plural in form, but used with a singular verb, and thus suggests the Trinity right here on the first page of the Bible.
The verse continues, “In the beginning God created.” The word “bara” is the Hebrew word used in Genesis 1:1. It is a word that means “to call into being something that never previously existed.” It describes a miracle. Only God can create. Man can build a skyscraper that stands one hundred stories high; man can build a bridge to span a mighty river; man can build a plane that flies more than 600 mph; but in all his building, he must use material which is already here. When God created the universe, He brought into being matter that never previously existed, and endowed it with fixed properties and laws. God simply spoke the word, and nothing became something. The material universe (and all that we see about us) did not come into being by long, slow, gradual processes. In the beginning God created. He brought something into existence out of nothing.
It is impossible to be a real Christian and an evolutionist at the same time. Some scientists believe that in the beginning there were several heavenly bodies that collided, and pieces flew off, forming the planets. Of course they can’t explain where the heavenly bodies came from in the first place, but still this is one of the theories they offer. Over the years, they say, the earth became covered with slime, and as a result of chemical reactions, the slime began to crawl, and finally developed fins, and became a fish. And the fish became a reptile; and the reptile grew hair and became a monkey; and over the years, the animal developed into a human being. Is it not far more sensible to believe the Bible account of creation, than it is to believe that some kind of primeval slime (and mere blind chance) worked together to produce life? May every believer reaffirm his faith in the great God who spoke all things into existence by the word of His Power! And may we determine to stand with David the Psalmist, when he said, “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made . . . for he spoke and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast” (Psalms 33:6,9).
You say, “I agree—but who believes what the evolutionists are saying anyhow?” You read carefully the textbooks that children are using in the public schools, and you will find that nearly every writer assumes evolution to be true and treats it as a fact. As far as I know, there is not a textbook on geology in an American public high school that teaches the creation of the world in six days, or its destruction by a Flood like that described in the first chapters of Genesis.
The account of creation in Genesis 1:1 is not something that has to be understood; it is something we need simply to believe. It is “by faith” that “we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God” (Hebrews 11:3). If you can’t believe this simple statement on the first page of the Bible, then you can hardly believe the rest of the Bible. The first verse of the Bible is a kind of test of our faith. If the Bible is not true about creation, it may not be true about redemption either. If Genesis 1:1 is not true, then John 3:16 might not be true either, and thus one would need to abandon Christianity altogether.
2. The Origin of the Earth (Genesis 1:2-2:3)
The earth is only a small speck in the vast expanses of the universe, but according to Genesis one, God lavished a great deal of attention upon the earth. It was on the earth that God created man, and it was on the earth that God carried out the drama of redemption.
Genesis 1:2 indicates that the earth was empty and formless and covered with darkness. At this stage it was void of all life; it was not yet completed. Of course, God could have filled the earth with all living creatures immediately, but Exodus 20:9,11 indicates that God created the plants and animals and man, in six days, instead of immediately, to give a pattern for man’s workweek. Exodus 20 says, “Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work . . . for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested on the seventh day.” And then in the rest of Genesis one (beginning with verse 3), the writer describes how God filled the earth with living things, and fashioned it as a beautiful home for mankind.
Each creative day described in Genesis one was very likely a twenty-four hour day, and not a long extended period of time. When a numeral precedes the word “day” it refers to a twenty-four hour day. We say, “in George Washington’s day, there were no automobiles.” This refers to an extended period of time. But we say, “Thursday is the fifth day of the week.” This refers to a twenty-four hour day. Whenever a numeral is associated with the word “day,” it speaks of an ordinary solar twenty-four hour day.
We must also remember that the plants were created before the animals. Thus if each creative day was a long extended period of time (thousands or even millions of years), as some would have us believe, how could clover (for example) reproduce itself, without any insects (without any bees) to pollinate it? This is further evidence for the twenty-four hour creative day.
The first day (Genesis 1:3) witnessed the creation of light. The light merely existed without being localized in any heavenly body. Light flooded the universe, and dispelled the darkness which had covered the earth. On the second day (verse 6), God made the atmosphere. He caused the waters to divide into two great reservoirs; there were waters on the surface of the earth, and there were vapors above the earth. These vapors kept the earth uniformly mild year round. This third creative day was marked by two events (verses 9,11)—the separating of the land from the waters, and the introduction of plant life. The dry lands appeared on the third day, and the waters that covered the earth, retreated into the deeper basins and formed the oceans. Then God caused a beautiful blanket of vegetation to cover the earth. The earth brought forth living plants. The grass began to grow. Trees yielded fruit.
Note, (as you read verse 12) that the herbs were already bearing seeds, and the trees were already yielding fruit at the time of their creation. Everything was created in a fully-developed and mature form. When scientists try and assign dates to the origin of the universe, they assume that the rates of change in the physical processes have always been the same, and that the entity being measured started from a “zero point.” It is impossible for men, however, with all their various dating methods, to determine the age of the universe. Rates of change have not always been the same. The Flood, according to Genesis 6:13, destroyed not only man, but also the earth. And thus the physical processes were interrupted. And neither did life begin at a zero point. The first trees were full-grown trees; the first man was a mature adult. And so the assumption that life began at a zero point, and that physical processes have always continued at the same rate, is a false one.
Note that each living object of God’s creation reproduces “after its kind.” It is true that each “kind” has the power to vary within the species, and thus there are hundreds of varieties of apples and many breeds of dogs, and yet an apple never becomes anything other than an apple, nor a dog anything but a dog. Apples don’t grow on peach trees and dogs don’t give birth to kittens—each reproduces its own kind. And thus the theory of evolution (which claims that higher forms of life gradually developed from lower forms of life) is seen again to be only so much nonsense.
The fourth creative day (Genesis 1:16-18) was the time when God appointed the sun and the moon and concentrated light in these two bodies. He assigned them the function of illuminating the earth, and marking the division of time. On the fifth day, the animal kingdom (an entirely new form of life) was created. All kinds of birds and sea-animals were brought into being. Many scientists try to explain the origin of animal life by saying that some tiny plants developed animal-like characteristics and that plants gradually became animals. But God uses the word “bara” in verse 21 to indicate that the animal world was another distinct creative act of God. God brought the animals into being out of that which never previously existed.
The sixth creative day marked the creation of a more complex class of animals, and also the creation of man. Man’s creation differs from the animals, in that he is made “in the likeness and image of God.” The phrase hardly suggests that man bore a physical resemblance to God, because God doesn’t have a physical body—but man is like God in moral nature. Man has the power to reason; he can think in abstract terms and solve algebraic equations. He has the ability to choose; he can decide between right and wrong. He has the capacity to communicate with God; he is capable of knowing and loving God. These are capacities that animals simply do not have. No animal ever heaped stones together and offered a sacrifice on an altar to God. The animal doesn’t have God-consciousness; the animal is not made in the image of God; the animal cannot communicate with God. God created man intelligent and upright, capable of knowing and loving Him. Early men and women were people that looked much like people today. They were not stoop-shouldered, hairy, ape-like creatures with deep-set eyes and gaping lips and protruding mouths. Adam was an intelligent human being created in the likeness of God, not a snorting cave-man swinging a club.
The seventh creative day was sanctified as a day of complete rest. It is not that God required rest because He was exhausted. He simply stopped creating and ceased from His labor. The day of rest (the seventh day) was sanctified in memory of the finished creation and in the New Testament, the early Christians observed the first day of the week in memory of the finished redemption.
3. The Origin of Man (Genesis 2:4-2:25)
The second chapter of Genesis gives some additional information about the first man and the first woman.
Verse 7 describes man’s constituency. Man is really a part of earth, and also a part of heaven. His body was molded from the dust of the ground, but his spirit was made in the image of God. When God breathed into man’s nostrils the breath of life, the Bible says he became a living soul. Man received something supernatural, something that can hardly be explained or analyzed. When we look at a person who suddenly passes into eternity, at one moment we see a living human being, but in the next moment we see merely a dead body. And no one can explain really what has gone from the body. We know something is gone; the real person seems so very, very far away. When God breathed into man’s nostrils, He made man a creature of eternity.
Verses 8-17 (of Genesis 2) describe man’s circumstances. God planted a beautiful Garden, and in this quiet place of indescribable beauty, man was to enjoy fellowship with his Creator. Special attention is given to two trees in the midst of the Garden—the tree of life, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The Tree of Life was designed to render death an impossibility, but because of man’s sin, it was never used. Man was driven from it, for if man in his sinful state would have partaken of the Tree of Life, he would have remained in that sinful state forever. The Tree of Knowledge of good and evil was singled out to provide for Adam and Eve a test of their loyalty and obedience to the will of their Maker.
Genesis 2:18-25 describes man’s companion. The chapter tells how the woman was created. The same Hand that formed the body of man, took part of that body and made the woman to be a companion for man. The Hebrew word translated “rib” in verse 21, is really a broad word including not only a bone, but flesh and bone. And so Adam said, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh.” (Cutting the flesh of Adam released blood through the open side, and just as God formed the woman from the open side of the man, so Paul says that God formed the church from the wounded side of Christ). But someone says, “Do you really believe that God put Adam into a deep sleep, and that from his side He formed a woman?” I most certainly do! Paul did. It’s a great mystery, but it is nevertheless true. God’s provision for marital companionship, for the conception of children, and for their training from childhood into adulthood is wonderful evidence of the wisdom of God. God intended that the marriage bond should never be broken, except by death. Jesus says, “What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” That’s an old statement, but it is still God’s Word for today. Jesus spoke these words to demonstrate that divorce and adultery and other distortions of the marriage relationship, have no place in God’s purpose for man.
An article in a leading magazine several years ago was entitled “How Man Began.” The writer says it is clear that early apes became gorillas, and then chimpanzees, and thus were “well on the way toward evolving into men.” He is strongly convinced that evolution is true, but even this writer acknowledges in the closing paragraph of his essay, that evolution is not based on known facts, but on what he calls “reasonable guesses.” The Encyclopedia Britannica says “We are not in the least doubtful as to the fact of evolution . . . the evidence is overwhelming.” But a few pages later, it says the evidence is “very imperfect, and often interrupted by gaps.”
Evolution is of satanic origin. The rapid increase in crime and sadism and bestial sexual acts can in part be traced to the teaching of evolution. What a man believes about his origin, will determine what he believes about his present life. If he thinks that he is merely a complex animal (instead of a creature of God with an eternal destiny), there is no real meaning to his existence, and he eats and drinks and becomes merry, for tomorrow he dies. May God help us to live in light of the fact that we are indeed creatures of God with an eternal destiny, and to live each moment in light of the fact that some day we shall give an account to Him.