Welcome to Genesis 1… the perfect place to start, don’t you think? I should say at the outset, this is the first written Bible study I’ve shared. I don’t have a theology degree or any human credentials to speak of, just a heart for God and extracting layers of truth from His Word. I fully acknowledge that I may not always get it right. But being as though brilliant Bible scholars and teachers through the years have often disagreed and no human mind can fully comprehend the ways of God and always be correct, I’d say we’re in fine company. So if you’re studying along, this is your study too. Don’t be shy… feel free to post ideas and thoughts; I welcome respectful critique, challenges, corrections and questions. I do ask, however, that we do so in a way that honors God and each other. :) All that said… maps on our laps and away we go! I hope you’re not in a hurry, because we’re going to camp on each verse for quite a while. Slow and low, that is the tempo.
The Creation Hymn
The first interesting thing to note about Genesis, chapter 1 is that it’s actually thought to be a poem or song, which I’ve heard is more noticeable in the original Hebrew language. (Makes sense. If you’ve ever heard an American song being sung in Chinese while eating at Panda Garden… somehow, it’s not quite the same). “The Creation Hymn” actually spans all the way through chapter two, verse three. Scripture wasn’t originally written in chapter/verse format, but those have been added for easier referencing. (You can read more about that here, thanks to the folks at Wikipedia.) Sometimes the way it’s broken up doesn’t make sense to me, and this is one of these cases. For some reason, they broke up the hymn and put part of it in chapter 2—I assume to punctuate God’s day of rest—but that’s like breaking up a Psalm and starting a new chapter right at the end of it. I’ve read atheist critiques of Genesis which assert that chapters 1 and 2 contradict each other, but knowing that it’s not meant as a chronological account, that chapter 1 through 2.3 may even have been a song sung over a s’more or two around Adam’s campfire, and that chapter 2 backs up and fills in some of the gaps, helps rectify this concern, at least in my eyes.
Days, years — potato, patahto
Speaking of chronology, time is another factor that is highly debated regarding the Genesis creation account. For one thing, God’s thoughts are not our thoughts; to the Lord, a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day (2 Peter 3:8). There are many different ideas regarding the time-frame of creation (Google “old earth vs. new earth” and read the arguments till your heart’s content). In short, some think one creation day equals a literal 24-hour period; others think each day represents an age. (For an interesting look at how the days of creation might line up with fossil records and scientific ages, and a slew of other scientific articles from a faith perspective, check in with the brilliant people at Reasons.org.) I’m not a scientist, but I do like to reconcile the Bible with current scientific discoveries whenever possible. The Hebrew definition of “day” works much like ours. It can literally represent the time from sunrise to sunset, or it can figuratively represent a given space of time. To me, the day=age theory works best to this end. But since anything is possible with God, I keep an open mind on the subject.
The other issue we run into is with the Hebrew language—the syntax and tenses seem to be much different than English. (Check out this comparison of Genesis 1 in both English and Hebrew to see what I mean.) I don’t know Hebrew, so I’m going to have to trust the translators. But which translation? Each translation has its merits. I mostly use the NASB these days, but I like others too and often compare them, which is pretty easy to do today at sites like biblehub.com. I also like to look at the full definitions original Hebrew meanings of words. This is pretty nerdy stuff, I admit. And I certainly don’t think God intends for everyone to run out and learn Hebrew and Greek before studying the Bible. I am fully confident He will speak to your heart through His Word, in whatever language you speak and whatever translation you use. So if you’re not a word-nerd, no need to fret! Almost every time I read a portion of scripture, I discover a new layer that God wants to show me. The Bible transcends mere words on a page!
Whew, that’s a lot of background, but we’re climbing the hill to the text. Still with me? All that taken into consideration, let’s trek ahead.
Genesis 1:1 – In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Just when you thought we were moving, we’re going to stop right here. Before you breeze past this statement that you may have heard or read a hundred times, let’s read it again like it’s the first time. Pretend you don’t know who God is, or if there is a God. Even if you’re already a believer, sometimes it’s good to see things through the eyes of a child or a skeptic, both to boil things down to the most basic nugget for your own benefit, and so you can more readily explain it to anyone else God puts in your path. So go ahead, reread—I’ll wait. Now, let’s consider this: Before anything else existed, in the beginning (defined as, the “first place in space and time”), the Bible tells us that God existed. You can’t very well create if’n you don’t exist. (If you don’t believe the Bible is true, that’s a whole other can of worms… drop me a note to discuss this if you’d like.) If you’re like me, the next logical question is, “Well then, where did God come from?” Think long and hard on that one if you like, but many a brain has exploded trying to wrap itself around the answer. God tells Moses that His name is “I Am.” He is called the Alpha and Omega. The One who always was, is, and is to come. And this… would be a good time to fall on our faces like most wee humans in the Bible seem to when they come face-to-face with their creator (which always makes me giggle a little). Next time you have a complaint for God—without Whom there is nothing, no.thing.—take a peek at Job, chapter 38 and your complaint may not seem so merited. Not to worry if you’re prone to whining, like I tend to be… David showed us that it’s okay to be honest with God, so long as we remember: me human, You God.
And… that’s all we’ve got for today. Yup, one verse! I know this doesn’t seem like much in the way of actual Bible study so far, but we’ll get there, I promise. For today, I just want to camp right here. “In the beginning… God.” If you need a little help being wowed, check out this short video clip from Francis Chan on the Awe Factor of God. Goosebumps.
Psalm 8: A David Psalm
8 God, brilliant Lord,
yours is a household name.
2 Nursing infants gurgle choruses about you;
toddlers shout the songs
That drown out enemy talk,
and silence atheist babble.
3-4 I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous,
your handmade sky-jewelry,
Moon and stars mounted in their settings.
Then I look at my micro-self and wonder,
Why do you bother with us?
Why take a second look our way?
5-8 Yet we’ve so narrowly missed being gods,
bright with Eden’s dawn light.
You put us in charge of your handcrafted world,
repeated to us your Genesis-charge,
Made us lords of sheep and cattle,
even animals out in the wild,
Birds flying and fish swimming,
whales singing in the ocean deeps.
9 God, brilliant Lord,
your name echoes around the world.