|Topic: Creation||Type: Book||Author: E. J. Young|
The Days of Genesis - Defense
(4) The Fourth Commandment and the Scheme Six Plus OneThe fourth commandment actually refutes the non-chronological interpretation of Genesis one. It is to the credit of Professor Ridderbos that he recognizes the difficulty and endeavors to provide an explanation 72[Quarterly, p. 227]. He candidly states that we do not know what led the Israelite to work six days and to rest a seventh, other than the influence of Gods providence. Hence, the author of Genesis one could present his material in such a way as to give the impression that God worked six days and rested one day. The "rest" of God, argues Ridderbos correctly, is to be regarded as creations climax, and this rest was expressed by mentioning the seventh day. Man, according to the fourth commandment, is to work as God worked. He is not, however, to be a slave to his work, but, as God rested, so man at the proper time is to lay aside his work for rest. His work, like that of God, is to have the glory of God as its goal. The numbers of Genesis one, therefore, it is reasoned, have symbolic values 73[Conflict, p. 41. H. J. Nieboer (Lucerna, p. 645), in speaking of the problem, remarks, "het ligt echter voor de hand aan te nemen, dat voor ons als westerse mensenmet lineaal, weegschaal en chronometerzich hier een probleem voordoet, dat voor de gelovige Israëliet, wiens cultus vol was van symbolische transposities, helemaal niet bestond". A position that requires this type of defense must be weak indeed. Ezekiel had a measuring rod (EZE 40:3); Amos knew what a plumbline was (AMO 7:7); the ark was constructed according to certain measurements, so also were the tabernacle and temple. And as for the matter of weights we may note Deuteronomy 25:13-16. Nor should we forget Ahaz sundial (ISA 38:8).
In accordance with His decreefor Ridderbos rightly desires to retain the idea that the Sabbath ordinance is rooted in creationGod designated the seventh day as a day of rest, and so the number seven became a sacred number, "the number of the completed cycle", and this pattern is presupposed in the ten commandments.
There are, however, serious difficulties in any attempt to square a non-chronological scheme of the days of Genesis with the fourth commandment. One must agree, whatever position he is defending, that, irrespective of their length, the periods mentioned in Genesis one may legitimately be designated by the Hebrew word mwy (day). The fundamental question is whether or not Genesis one presents a succession of six days followed by a seventh. According to Exodus 20 such is the case. Six days shall you labor and do all your work, is the divine command, and the reason given for obedience thereto is rooted in Gods creative work, for in six days the Lord made Heaven and Earth. Man, therefore, according to the Ten Commandments, is to work for six consecutive days, inasmuch as God worked for six consecutive days.
The whole structure of the week is rooted and grounded in the fact that God worked for six consecutive days and rested a seventh. For this reason we are commanded to remember (rwkz) the Sabbath day. Man is to "remember" the Sabbath day, for God has instituted it. There would be no point in the command, "Remember the Sabbath day", if God had not instituted the day. The human week derives validity and significance from the creative week. Indeed, the very Hebrew word for week (uwbv) means "that which is divided into seven", "a besevened thing" 74[uwbvlit., a heptad. The form appears to be a Qal passive participle, at least in passages such as GEN 29:27, 28; LEV 12:5; JER 5:24. On the other hand, in certain instances the word is written with a naturally long a, e.g., DAN 9:24; NUM 28:26; DAN 10:2, 3; EXO 34:22]. The fourth commandment constitutes a decisive argument against any non-chronological scheme of the six days of Genesis one. And a non-chronological scheme destroys the reason for observance of a six-day week followed by a seventh day of rest.
The scheme of six days followed by a seventh is also deeply embedded in the literature of the ancient near east.
In Tablet XI of the Gilgamesh Epic, for example, we read [lines 127-130]:
Six days and six (nights)
The reference is to the six days of the downpour of the flood, days which are followed by a seventh. The meaning of course is that for a space of six days the winds blew and the rain fell. Certainly there would be no warrant for interpreting the phrase "six days" otherwise. Yet, inasmuch as it is used in precisely the same manner, if in the Gilgamesh epic the phrase "six days" means six consecutive days, why does it not have the same meaning in Exodus 20?
Again, in Tablet XI (lines 142-146) we read:
Mount Nisir held fast the ship and did not allow it to move,
Here the idea of succession is made very clear. The pattern is six successive days followed by a seventh. A similar pattern is given in the description of the loaves which the wife of Utnapishtim bakes for him.
His first loaf of bread was completely dried,
Here six distinct loaves are mentioned, and at the mention of the seventh, after the six have been described, Utnapishtim touches the man, and he awakes. It is diffificult to avoid the conclusion that in the order of the description of the loaves chronology is present.
In the Babylonian Creation Account (Enuma Elish) we read in the fifth tablet (lines 16, 17),
Thou shalt shine with horns to make known six days;
Here the shining forth is to occupy the space of six days, and the seventh day which follows is climactic.The same scheme of six days followed by a seventh is also found in the literature of Ugarit 79[The texts will be found in Cyrus H. Gordon: Ugaritic Handbook, Rome, 1955, and in G. R. Driver: Canaanite Myths and Legends, Edinburgh, 1956]. The following examples will suffice:
Go a day, and a second, a third, a fourth day,
From the evidence just adduced it is clear that in the ancient near eastern world there was recognized a scheme of six successive days or items followed by a climactic seventh. In its best known form this scheme appears in the ordinary week. That man thus began to distinguish the days did not derive from chance. It was rooted in the very creation. Men are to remember the Sabbath day for that was the day on which God rested from his labors. In adopting a six-day week climaxed by a seventh day of rest, mankind was obedient to its Creator, who also had worked for six days and rested on the seventh.
(5) The Nature and Structure of Genesis OneGenesis one is a document sui generis [one of a kind, unique]; its like or equal is not to be found anywhere in the literature of antiquity 80[For this reason we cannot properly speak of the literary genre of Genesis one. It is not a cosmogony, as though it were simply one among many. In the nature of the case a true cosmogony must be a divine revelation. The so-called "cosmogonies" of the various peoples of antiquity are in reality deformations of the originally revealed truth of creation. There is only one genuine cosmogony, namely, Genesis one, and this account alone gives reliable information as to the origin of the Earth. Nor is Genesis one an epic of creation, for an epic is actually a narrative poem that centers about the exploits of some hero. Whether in writing Genesis one Moses by divine inspiration was led to express the truth in a literary form, which by its use of recurring phrases and small compact units, was similar to literary forms of Canaan is difficult to determine. Gray, for example (The Legacy of Canaan, Leiden, 1957, p. 213), remarks that there are no exact replicas of the Canaanite literary types in the Old Testament although he does think that some of the main features and much of the imagery familiar in the Canaanite myth are found in the myth of the conflict of Cosmos and Chaos which, according to Gray, was adopted by the Hebrews. With this latter thought we cannot agree, for we do not believe that there is evidence extant to support the view that the Hebrews ever adopted any myth of the conflict of Cosmos and Chaos. The basic reason why Moses used the device of six days was that creation occurred in six days]. And the reason for this is obvious. Genesis one is a divine revelation to man concerning the creation of Heaven and Earth. It does not contain the cosmology of the Hebrews or of Moses. Whatever that cosmology may have been, we do not know. Had they not been the recipients of special revelation their cosmology probably would have been somewhat similar to that of the Babylonians. There is no reason to believe that their ideas as to the origin of the Heavens and Earth would have been more "advanced" than those of their neighbors. Israel, however, was favored of God in that He gave to her a revelation concerning the creation of Heaven and Earth 81[This conclusion follows inasmuch as Genesis one is a part of the holy Scriptures. In Thy Word Is Truth (Grand Rapids, 1957) I have set forth the reasons why I believe the Bible to be the Word of God], and Genesis one is that revelation. Genesis one is written in exalted, semi-poetical language; nevertheless, it is not poetry. For one thing the characteristics of Hebrew poetry are lacking, and in particular there is an absence of parallelism. It is true that there is a division into paragraphs, but to label these strophes does not render the account poetic. The Bible does contain poetic statements of creation, namely, JOB 38:8-11 and PSA 104:5-9. Ridderbos aptly points out that if one will read GEN 1:6-8; JOB 38:8-11 and PSA 104:5-9 in succession he will feel the difference between the Genesis account and the poetic accounts 82[Conflict, p. 36. The following quotation from Visée (op. cit., p. 636) makes an interesting point. "In Genesis 2 komt wel een dichterlijk gedeelte voor. Reeds B. Wielenga heeft er op gewezen dat we in Adams bruidegomslied te doen hebben met het eerste lied. Maar juist dit om zn poëtische vorm in deze prozäische omgeving terstond opvallende lied accentueert destemeer het niet-poëtisch karakter der eerste hoofdstukkem" The reference is to Wielengas book, De Bijbel als boek van schoonheid, Kampen, 1925, pp. 237, 238, a work which I have not seen]. The latter two passages are poetic for they contain parallelism, and it is this feature which is lacking in the first chapter of the Bible. Genesis one is the prelude to a severely historical book, a book so strongly historical that it may be labeled genealogical. Indeed, the first chapter stands in an intimate relationship with what follows. By its usage of the phrase Jrahw mysvh Genesis 2:4a connects the prelude [GEN 1:1-2:3] with the genealogical section of the book. It is an intimate relationship, for chapters two and three clearly presuppose the contents of chapter one. This is seen among other things in the usage of the phrase myhla hwhy which is intended to identify hwhy with the myhla of chapter one 83[For examples of double names of deity in the ancient near east see the informative article of K. A. Kitchen: "Egypt and the Bible: Some Recent Advances", in Faith and Thought, Vol. 91, Nos. 2 and 3 (Winter 1959, Summer 1960), pp. 189, 190]. Furthermore, chapter two assumes the creation of the Earth, the Heaven and the sea, the account of which is given in chapter one. The chapter is thus seen to constitute an integral part of the entire book and is to be regarded as sober history. By this we mean that it recounts what actually transpired. It is reliable and trustworthy, for it is the special revelation of God. If this involves conflicts with what scientists assert, we cannot escape difficulties by denying the historical character of Genesis. We cannot agree, for example, with Vawter, when he writes, "It is therefore apparent that we should not be seeking a concord between the poetry of Genesis and the scientifically established data on the development of the universe" 84[A Pathway Through Genesis, New York, 1956, p. 48. Nor is it consistent to regard the entire chapter as a figurative scheme and yet hold that it teaches that God is the creator of all. For if we interpret the greater part of the chapter as not corresponding to what actually happened (and how can the non-chronological view escape this?) by what warrant may we say that Genesis 1:1 corresponds to what did happen? We have not then derived the doctrine of creation from this chapter by exegesis, but have simply assumed it in an a priori fashion. For the so-called "framework" hypothesis demands inconsistency of its adherents. It tells them that they themselves may choose what in Genesis one corresponds to reality. Surely such a hypothesis cannot be regarded as exegetically well grounded. Visée (op. cit., p. 639) is to the point when he writes, "En niets geeft ons het recht allerlei zakelijke en feitelijke gegevens uit Genesis 1 te elimineren en het geheel te verschralen tot de hoofdsom, dat alles van God is"]. To dismiss Genesis one as poetry, and it is Genesis one of which Vawter is speaking, is to refuse to face the facts. At the same time, although Genesis one is a historical account, it is clear, as has often been pointed out, that Moses does employ a certain framework for the presentation of his material. This may be described by the terms fiat and fulfillment, 85[Oswald T. Allis: "Old Testament Emphases and Modern Thought", in Princeton Theological Review, Vol. XXIII (July 1925), p. 443. Kramer points out [op. cit., p. 9] that the fiats of Genesis one have a parallel in the words of Enki, "Let him bring up the water, etc.". He also calls attention to the repetitions in lines 42-52 (cf. GEN 1:11) and lines 53-64 (GEN 1:12) and to the phrase "and it was indeed so" (hur he-na-nam-ma) as a correspondence to /k-yhyw]. and the scheme may be represented as follows:
A careful study of Genesis one, however, will show that this arrangement is not consistently carried through for each of days. Indeed, even the mere fiat-fulfillment is not consistently maintained. Nor can we agree with Deimel that the writer has consistently employed seven different literary elements (the sacred number) 86[Anton Deimel: Enuma Eli und Hexaëmeron, Rom, 1934, p. 80. "In dem obigen Schema entsprechen sich das 1. und 8. Werk in bezug auf die Zahl der Formeln, 2. und 5. in bezug auf Zahl und Reihenfolge der Formeln, 2. und 6., 3. und 7. in bezug auf die Zahl der Formeln" (p. 81)]. These are said to be (1) God said; (2) the fiat; (3) the fulfillment; (4) description of the particular act of creation; (5) Gods naming or blessing; (6) the divine satisfaction and (7) the conclusion. These seven literary elements are thought to interlock in the following fashion:
1. The divine speeh And God said
2. The fiat Let there be
3. The fulfillment And there was or and it was so
4. The judgment And God saw that it was good
5. Conclusion And there was evening and there was morning
I 7 6 IV
II 6 6 V
But is this arrangement actually found in Genesis? In the opinion of the writer of this article these literary elements are more accurately enumerated as follows:
I 7 II 8 III 7, 6 IV 9 V 7 VI 5, 10
Thus, on the second day there is actually a double fiat, "let there be an expanse . . . and let it be dividing". In response to this there is also a double fulfillment, "and God made. . . and He divided". On the fifth day, to which the literary elements of the second day are supposed to correspond we find also a double fiat, let the waters swarm . . . Let the birds fly. Corresponding to this, however, although three objects of His creative activity are mentioned, there is but one fulfillment, and God created. Here, therefore, there is no perfect correspondence of form with the description of the second day.
Again, it is very questionable whether a true correspondence of form can be shown to exist between the third and the sixth days. With respect to the first work of the third day there are actually seven elements, for there is a double fiat, let the waters be gathered . . . and let the dry land be seen. At this point, however, no fulfillment of these fiats is mentioned, but merely the statement, and it was so. With respect to the first work of the sixth day, however, there are but five literary elements. There is but one fiat, let the Earth send forth, and this is followed by the statement, and it was so. Then comes the actual fulfillment in the words, And God made, etc. This is quite different from the arrangement of the first work of the third day.
As to the second work of the third day there are six elements; one fiat (let the Earth send forth grass etc.) followed by the words, and it was so, and then the fulfillment, And the Earth sent forth grass etc. Very different in arrangement, however, is the second work of the sixth day. True enough, there are here six elements, but they include a double fiat, followed by the fulfillment, and God created, and a command of God. This is entirely different in arrangement from the second work of the third day. Furthermore, there is added to the second work of the sixth day an additional and God said, and this is followed by an and it was so, and the summary statement, and God saw everything that He had made etc., and then the conclusion in which the evening and morning are mentioned.
From this brief analysis, it is evident that we cannot find the exact correspondences which Deimel believes exist in the first chapter of Genesis. It is perhaps accurate to say that the account of creation is told in terms of fiat and fulfillment, although not even this arrangement is carried through consistently. Hence, it would seem that the primary interest of the writer was not a schematic classification or arrangement of material. His primary concern was to relate how God created the Heaven and the Earth. There is enough in the way of repetitive statement and schematic arrangement to arrest the attention, and when it has arrested the attention, it has fulfilled its function. The arrangement of the material serves the purpose merely of impressing upon the readers mind the significance of the content.
(6) Survey of Genesis One
The First Day
What follows is merely a sketch of the contents of Genesis one, which seeks to point out the progress and development that characterize the chapter. It in no sense pretends to be a full scale commentary. The presence of this chronological succession of events constitutes one of the strongest arguments against any non-chronological view of the days.
Although the beginning of the first day is not mentioned in Genesis one, it would seem from EXO 20:11 that it began with the absolute creation, the very beginning. After the statement of creation in verse one, the first divine act mentioned is the command, let there be light. The conditions existing at the time when this command was uttered were those set forth in the second verse of the chapter. Against the dark background described in verse two the light shone forth. As a result of Gods speaking, the light sprang into existence. This light is not an emanation from God, nor is it an attribute, but is the result of Gods creative Word.It must be noted that Genesis one teaches the creation of light before the sun, nor is this to be regarded as an accident. Even if the chapter be considered a mere human composition, we may be sure that its author knew well enough that the light of the present-day world comes from the sun. This representation was intentional. And it is well to note that Enuma Elish has the same order. Here also light comes before the Sun. Not until the fifth tablet do we meet with a statement of the making of the heavenly bodies. In this respect therefore, namely, relating the production of the heavenly bodies after the existence of light, the Enuma Elish is in agreement with Genesis. When Apsu wishes to revolt, light is already present, for he says: "Their way has become grievous to me. By day I cannot rest, by night I cannot sleep" (1:37, 38). Heidel also points out that there was a radiance or dazzling aureole about Apsu (1:68), "He carried off his splendor and put it on himself" 87[Cf. Heidel; op. cit., p. 101. The light, according to Genesis, does not spring from water, nor is it the result of divine action upon the inert mass of tehom (Albright: "Contributions to Biblical Archaeology And Philology", Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 43, p. 368). According to Genesis, light is the result of the creative Word alone. Nor can we say that in throwing off the mythical point of view and adopting a cosmogony in which water was the primal element, Thales, founder of the Ionian school of philosophy, showed that he was influenced by a common milieu which also had influenced the writer of Genesis one]. And Marduk himself was a solar deity, "Son of the sun-god, the sun god of the gods" (1:102). In Enuma Elish light is really an attribute of the gods; in Genesis it is the creation of God. That such an order should be present in Enuma Elish is what might be expected, for this document represents the garbled version of the truth that finally trickled down to the Babylonians. Is Genesis, however, correct in its teaching that light was created before the Sun? Leupold well remarks, "But it ill behooves man to speak an apodictic word at this point and to claim that light apart from the Sun is unthinkable. Why should it be? If scientists now often regard light as merely enveloping the sun but not as an intrinsic part of it, why could it not have existed by itself without being localized in any heavenly body?" 88[H. C. Leupold: Exposition of Genesis, Columbus, 1942, p. 52. Cf. also the interesting remark of U. Cassuto (A Commentary on the Book of Genesis, Part I, Jerusalem, 1953, p. 14), >l?ml myqrbh rwa .twrwam ylb sn rwa ?y? udwy mda /b lk yrh? ,y?wq mw? /bwmk /ya twrwamh tryxy ynpl mh rwah twayxmb]. In an area so filled with mystery and about which we know so little, who can dare to assert that Moses is in error in declaring that light was created before the Sun? Can one prove that the presence of light demands a light-bearer? What about the lightning flash? May there not have been rays of original light? We do not know; what can be said with assurance is that at this point Genesis makes no statement that scientists can disprove. Perhaps one reason why Genesis mentions light before the Sun is to disabuse our minds of the idea that light is dependent upon the Sun and to cause us to turn our eyes to God as its creator. "Therefore the Lord", says Calvin, "by the very order of the creation. bears witness that He holds in His hand the light, which He is able to impart to us without the Sun and Moon" 89[John Calvin: Commentaries on The First Book of Moses Called Genesis, translated by John King, Edinburgh, M.DCCC.XLVII, Vol. 1, p. 76]. There is also a second reason for this order of statement. The light is necessary for all that follows, and Moses places emphasis upon the light, mentioning it as the specific object of Gods approval. Elsewhere we have only the general phrase without a specific object, and God saw that it was good. Only in verse thirty-one is an object again introduced after the verb "saw." Thus:
The Second DayIn the work of day one the emphasis falls upon the light, but in day two the Earth is the center of attention 93["Eigentlich beginnt die Erschaffung der Welt erst mit der Feste (Vers 6); die Erschaffung des Lichts ist vielmehr Vorbedingung des Erschaffens der Welt" (Claus Westermann: Der Schöpfungsbericht vom Anfang der Bibel, Stuttgart, 1960, p. 17). This emphasis seems to be more accurate than that of Gunkel (op. cit., p. 104) who labels the work of the second day "Schöpfung des Himmels"]. Indeed, the purpose of the second days work is to separate the Earth from all that is beyond it. This is done by means of the firmament which divides the waters above it, i.e., beyond it, from those which are beneath it. i.e., those which adhere to the Earth 94[uyqr, i.e., that which is hammered, beaten out. Cf. ISA 42:5; PSA 136:6 and the Phoenician qrm "plating" (Cooke: North Semitic Inscriptions, Oxford, 1903, p. 75). Note also the LXX sterewma and Vulgate firmamentum, which are satisfactory renderings. I am unable to accept the opinion that the waters above the expanse refer to the clouds, for this position does not do justice to the language of the next which states that these waters are above the expanse]. The order of Genesis, namely, the creation of the firmament after the light, is also paralleled in Enuma Elish. When Tiamat is slain, Marduk split her open, and half of her he used to form the sky or firmament. Then he fixed the crossbar and posted guards that the waters in that part of her body which was used to form the sky should not escape. Crass as is this mythology it nevertheless reflects, albeit in a greatly mutilated form, the originally revealed truth that the firmament was made after the light and before the appearance of dry land 95[The account of the making of the "firmament" is found on Tablet IV, lines 137-139, which may be rendered,
He split her open like an oyster? (nu-nu mas-di-e) into two parts,
Half of her he set up, and the sky (sa-ma-ma) he made as a covering,
He made fast the par-ku (crossbar? bolt?) and watchmen he stationed].
From this point on, the chapter concerns itself with the waters under the expanse. In the nature of the case the creation of the firmament must have preceded the division between land and earthbound waters; it could not possibly have followed it. The work of day two, therefore, has to be chronologically previous to that of day three.
The Third DayLight has been created in order that the dry land may be adorned with verdure, and the firmament has been made that the waters underneath it may be gathered into one place. A twofold fiat introduces the work. First, the water under Heaven is to be gathered into one place, and secondly, the dry land is to appear, and the fulfillment is simply stated by the words and it was so. The magnitude of the work to be accomplished baffles the imagination and yet, in the simple words, and it was so, the accomplishment is recorded. Nothing is said about means or method of accomplishment that we may concentrate in wonder and adoration upon Him Who alone can perform such a marvel. Me will you not fear, says the LORD, or from before Me will you not writhe, I who have placed the sand as a boundary to the sea, an eternal statute, nor will it pass over it (JER 5:22a).
If process is here involved, Scripture does not mention that fact; the entire stress appears to be upon the directness with which the task was accomplished. At the same time, it could well be that in this work of division there were tremendous upheavals, so that the mountains were formed and the processes of erosion set in motion.
The land is named, and from this point on the word indicates the dry land in distinction from the ocean. Likewise the collection of the waters God called seas, the word being plural in order to indicate the extensive and vast surface covered by water.
All has been preparatory for the second work of the third day, the covering of the land with foliage. With His Word God empowers the Earth to bring forth plants, and with this fact a certain progress in the order of statement may be noted. Up to this point all had been produced by Gods creative word, and all that was produced was inorganic; light, firmament, gathering of waters, dry land. With Gods command to the Earth, however, there comes into existence objects that are organic, and yet do not move about.The language of verse eleven is closely guarded, for it precludes the idea that life can orignate apart from God or that the Earth of itself can produce life. The Earth upon which man is to live is one that is hospitable to him, providing him with seed-bearing plants and fruit-bearing trees, but it is only the creative command of God which makes this possible. In vegetation there is distinction, as in the entire creation, so that all mans needs will be met. This distinction together with the idea of propagation according to its kind 96[The word /ym in verse eleven, whatever its etymology, is a general term and is not the equivalent of our "species", as this word is technically employed. It does not rule out the production of freaks or the possibility of hybrids. It means merely that the producer will beget what is essentially the same as itself. Hence, this term clearly rules out the possibility of one "kind" reproducing anything that is essentially different from itself.
The Fourth DayIf it be raised as an objection to the accuracy of the Genesis narrative that it is geocentric, the answer must be that it is geocentric only in so far as the Earth is made the center of the writers attention 100["It is not reflection on the Genesis account to say that it is geocentric. It is geocentric, because the Earth is the abode of man and the scene of his redemption, the story of which is told in the Bible" (Allis, God Spake By Moses, Philadelphia, 1951, p. 12)]. Even though we are dealing with a divine revelation, nevertheless the human author was a holy man who spoke from God (2PE 1:21), and he wrote from the standpoint of an Earth dweller. The most advanced astronomer of our day will speak of the sunrise and the sunset and of sending up a rocket. Such language is geocentric, but it is not in error. Genesis one also speaks from the standpoint of the Earth dweller, and in that respect may be labeled geocentric, but none of its statements is contrary to fact. It does not claim that the Earth is the physical center of the universe.
By means of the work of the third day the Earth was prepared to receive its inhabitants. Before they are placed upon the Earth, however, the present arrangement of the universe must be constituted. For the regulation of Earths days and seasons, there must now be light from a specific source which will rule the day and the night.Hence, the Sun and Moon are made, a truth which is reflected even in Enuma Elish. In the Babylonian document, however, the order is reversed, namely, stars, Moon and Sun. In the ancient oriental religions, the stars were considered to be divinities, and possibly for that reason appear first in Enuma Elish. In Genesis, however, mention of the stars appears almost as an after thought. This is intentional, for while it brings the stars into the picture, it does so in such a waythat they are not nade prominent 101[Von Rads comment (op. cit., p. 43) is quite penetrating. "Vielleicht hängt mit dieser Betonung ihrer Kreaturlichkeit die merkwürdige Trennung von Lichtschöpfung und Erschaffung der Gestirne zusammen. Die Gestirne sind in keiner Weise lichtschöpferisch, sondern durchaus nur Zwischentrager eines Lichtes, das auch ohne sie und vor ihnen da war"]. Emphasis is placed, not upon the stars, but upon God, their Maker. Marduk, in the epic, entrusts night to the Moon, and what is said of the Moon calls to mind the more beautiful biblical statement, the lesser light to rule the night (GEN 1:16). The existence of the Sun, however, is assumed in the Babylonian document, and there is no express mention of its formation 102["Im babylonischen Schöpfungsbericht ist die Erschaffung der Gestirne das erste Werk Marduks nach dem Drachenkampf." "Aber die Ähnlichkeit des Wortlauts der beiden Sätze (i.e., GEN 1:16 and Enuma Elish V. 12) macht hier den tiefen Abstand nur noch deutlicher. Der Mondgott Sin ist in Babylon einer der Hauptgötter; er war von überragender Bedeutung in ganz früher und dann wieder in ganz später Zeit; aber von ihm kann geagt werden; dass er von einem anderen Gott geschaffen und in sein Herrschaftsamt eingesetzt ist!" (Westermann: op. cit., p. 20). We may render Tablet V:1-4 as follows:
The creation of the moon is related in V:12 ff.:
He erected stations for the great gods
The stars (kakkabani) their likenesses, the signs of the zodiac (lu-ma-si) he set up
He fixed the year (atta), the signs he designed
For twelve months (arhe) he set three stars each.
The moon (il Nannar-ru) he caused to shine forth, the night he entrusted (to her)
He set her as an ornament (u-uk-nat) of the night unto the setting (i.e., the determining) of the days (a-na ud-du-u ûme).
Monthly without ceasing with a tiara go forth (u-sir)
At the beginning of the month, (the time of) shining forth over the lands
With horns shalt thou shine for the determining of six days
On the seventh day (i-na ûm 7-kam) with half a crown].
Very different, however, is the narrative of Genesis. Here the Sun is first mentioned, for the Sun rules the day upon Earth, and man, who is to rule the Earth, needs the sunlight first and foremost. For the night time the lesser light-bearer is to rule. Of yet less importance for man are the stars, and hence they are mentioned last.That the heavenly bodies are made on the fourth day and that the Earth had received light from a source other than the Sun is not a naive conception, but is a plain and sober statement of the truth 103["Nun ist darüber schon genug gespottet worden, dass hier das Licht vor den Himmelskörpern geschaflen wird Naturwissenschaftlich ist dies heute kein Problem mehr, denn der Begriff ,Urstrahlung besagt genau dasselbe." "Auch wird uns hier keine kindlich naive Auffassung vorgeführt, denn zur Zeit der Aufzeichnung der Genesis wusste wohl auch der Dümmste schon, dass das Tageslicht mit der Sonne zusammenhängt" (Rabast: op. cit., pp. 47, 48). And again, "Das Lachen darüber, dass es schon Licht vor der Erschaffung der Sonne gegeben haben muss, gehört einer vergangenen Zeit an, und eine solche Tatsache ist der modernen kosmischen Physik mit ihrer ,Urstrahlung kein Problem mehr" (idem, p. 69)]. It should be noted, however, that the work of the fourth day is not a creatio ex nihilo, but simply a making of the heavenly bodies. The material from which the Sun, Moon and stars were made was created, i.e., brought into existence, at the absolute beginning. On the fourth day God made of this primary material the Sun and Moon and stars, so that we may correctly assert that the creation of these heavenly bodies was completed on this day. In similar vein we may also say that on the third day the creation of our globe was completed, although the primal material of the globe was first brought into existence at the absolute beginning. If we were to employ the language of day four with respect to the first work of day three we might then say that although the Earth (i.e., in its original form) was created in the beginning, nevertheless, on day three God made the Earth. Inasmuch as this is so, the formation of the heavenly bodies may be presumed to have proceeded side by side with that of the Earth, and on day four their formation as Sun, Moon and stars was completed. The reason why Genesis says nothing about the step by step development of the heavenly bodies is that its purpose is to concentrate upon the formation of this Earth.
The origin of Heaven and Earth, however, was simultaneous, but the present arrangement of the universe was not constituted until the fourth day. The establishment of this arrangement is expressed by the verb /tyw, but we are not told how God "gave" or "set" these light-bearers in the firmament. What is of importance is to note that the universe is not an accidental arrangement, but was constituted in orderly fashion by God.Day four and day one do not present two aspects of the same subject. Indeed, the differences between the two days are quite radical. On day one light is created (yhyw); on day four God makes light-bearers. No function is assigned to the light of day one, but several functions to the lightbearers. God Himself divides the light which He has created from the darkness 104[The creation of light, however, was no annihilation of darkness, no transformation of the dark material of the world into pure light, but a separation of the light from the primary matter, a separation which established and determined that interchange of light and darkness, which produces the distinction between day and night" [Keil: op. cit., p. 50]. "Die Scheidung (i.e., between light and darkness) ist räumlich, indem die Lichtmasse und die Finsternismasse je eine Hälfte des Chaos einnehmen, zugleich aber zeitlich indern Tag und Nacht entsteht" (Procksch: op. cit., p. 427)]; the light-bearers are to divide between the light and the darkness. It is important to note this function. The light and the darkness between which the lightbearers are to make a division are already present. They have manifested themselves in the evening and morning which closed each day. How a division was hitherto made between them we are not told; it is merely stated that God divided between them (1:4). From the fourth day on, however, the division between them is to be made by light-bearers 105[rwam luminary. Von Rad (op. cit., p. 42) thinks that the expression is intended to be prosaic and degrading (prosaisch und degradierend), and that these objects purposely are not named "Sun" and "Moon" in order to remove every tempting connection (in Umgehung jeder Versuchlichkeit). The words Shemesh and Yareach were of course names of divinities]. This one consideration in itself is sufficient to refute the idea that days one and four present two aspects of the same subject. The light-bearers are made for the purpose of dividing between already existing light and darkness. Day four, we may assert with all confidence, presupposes the existence of the light which was created in day one and the darkness which was mentioned in verse two.
The Fifth DayWith the fifth day progress in the writers mode of statement is apparent. There are now to be produced those creatures which are animate and which move about. Moses uses the verb arb to designate the creation of three varieties of creatures, namely, the great sea monsters, every living thing that moves about and every winged fowl 106["Mit Nachdruck wird der Begriff arb, v. 21 (cf. v. 27) dafür gebraucht wie v. 1, weil das Leben gegenüber der leblosen Schöpfung etwas spezifisch Neues ist, aus ihren Stoffen und Kräften unableitbar" (Procksch: op. cit., p. 430). There is no evidence to support Prockschs statement, "der Begriff arb entspricht der Theologie von P, der Begriff ayxwh einer altertümlichen, von P wohl übernommenen Naturphilosophie, nach der ,Mutter Erde alles Lebendige auf ihr gebiert (cf. y 139, 15)" (op. cit., p. 431). Aalders is in accord with the total scriptural emphasis when he writes, "Het spreekt vanzelf dat we hier evenmin als bij de plantenwereld te denken hebben aan een vermogen dat in de aarde zelf gelegen was ... door den Goddelijke wil kwamen de dieren uit de aarde voort" (op. cit., p. 93)]. Upon all of these a blessing is pronounced, and the content of that blessing is given. By means of the work of the first four days the Earth is now prepared to receive life.
It goes without saying that day five does not form an adequate parallel to day two. The sea creatures of day five belong, not to the waters of day two but to the seas of the first work of day three. The seas were formed in day three; the primal waters, however, are mentioned as existing in verse two. Furthermore, the realm in which the birds are to rule is not the firmament but the Earth, which also was made in day three.
The Sixth DayAs on the third so on the sixth day two works are mentioned. On the third day the Earth had brought forth plants and on the sixth it is to bring forth the animals. Instead, however, of a statement that the Earth did bring forth the animals, we are told that God made them (verse 25). It may be that this manner of statement is deliberately chosen to refute the concept of a mother Earth, for in many of the cosmogonies of antiquity it is the Earth which of herself produces the animals. Here the emphasis is upon the fact that God made the animals. At the same time at this point (verse 25) Moses uses hcu and not arb. With arb (in verse 21) there had followed an accompanying blessing (verse 22), and likewise in the second work of the sixth day a blessing accompanies arb. Here there is no blessing, and hence hcu is used. The blessing of the sixth day is not appended to each individual work but only to the second, the creation of man who is to rule over the animals. Hence, it may not be amiss to claim that indirectly, at least, the animals are blessed, even though no express blessing is pronounced over them. That the creation of man is the crowning work of the narrative and presupposes what has previously been narrated, hardly needs to be mentioned. The second work of the sixth day presupposes the first, and both presuppose the work of the fifth day. Were this not so, the command to rule over the fish of the sea and the fowl of the air (verse 28) would be meaningless. That man is not merely one of the animals is also emphasized by the fact that God engages in deliberation with Himself concerning the creation of man 107["Aber ebenso klar ist auch, dass der Mensch grundsätzlich von allen Tieren verschieden ist. Das wird sogar schon rein formal deutlich gemacht: Einerseits wechselt noch einmal das Metrum in den Gottesspruchen." "Anderseits findet sich bei der Erschaffung des Menschen eine besondere feierliche Einleitung" (Rabast: op. cit., pp. 57, 58)]. Furthermore, man is created in the image of God, and upon him a divine blessing is pronounced in which his position as ruler over all things is set forth. The chapter then closes with a pronouncement as to the nature of all that God had made, namely, that it was very good. It is this remarkable fact of progression, both in method of statement and in actual content, which proves that the days of Genesis are to be understood as following one another chronologically 108[Cf. Young: "Genesis One And Natural Science", in Torch and Trumpet, Vol. VII, No. 4 (September 1957), pp. 16 f.]. When to this there is added the plain chronological indications, day one, day two, etc., climaxing in the sixth day (note that the definite article appears only with the sixth day) all support for a non-chronological view is removed. In this connection the question must be raised, "If a nonchronological view of the days be admitted, what is the purpose of mentioning six days?" For, once we reject the chronological sequence which Genesis gives, we are brought to the point where we can really say very little about the content of Genesis one. It is impossible to hold that there are two trios of days, each paralleling the other. Day four, as has already been pointed out, speaks of Gods placing the light-bearers in the firmament. The firmament, however, had been made on the second day. If the fourth and the first days are two aspects of the same thing, then the second day also [which speaks of the firmament] must precede days one and four. If this procedure be allowed, with its wholesale disregard of grammar, why may we not be consistent and equate all four of these days with the first verse of Genesis? There is no defense against such a procedure, if once we abandon the clear language of the text. In all seriousness it must be asked, Can we believe that the first chapter of Genesis intends to teach that day two preceded days one and four? To ask that question is to answer it 109[It should be noted that if the "framework" hypothesis were applied to the narratives of the virgin birth or the resurrection or Romans 5:12 ff., it could as effectively serve to minimize the importance of the content of those passages as it now does the content of the first chapter of Genesis]. There is, of course, a purpose in the mention of the six days. It is to emphasize the great contrast between the unformed universe of verse two and the completed world of verse thirty-one 110[At least in a formal sense von Rad acknowledges this. "Wir sehen hier, das theologische Denken von 1. Mos. 1 bewegt sich nicht so zwischen der Polarität: Nichts-Geschaffenes als vielmehr zwischen der Polarität: Chaos-Kosmos" (op. cit., p. 39)]. Step by step in majestic grandeur God transforms the unformed Earth into a world upon which man might dwell and which man might rule for Gods glory. How noble and beautiful is this purpose, a purpose which is obscured and even obliterated when once we deny that the six days are to be taken in sequence. If Moses had intended to teach a non-chronological view of the days, it is indeed strange that he went out of his way, as it were, to emphasize chronology and sequence. We may recall the thought of Aalders that in the first chapter of Genesis there is not a hint that the days are to be taken as a mere form or manner of representation. In other words, if Moses intended to teach something like the so-called "framework theory" of the days, why did he not give at least some indication that such was his intention? This question demands an answer.
(7) The Real Problem in Genesis OneIt is questionable whether serious exegesis of Genesis one would in itself lead anyone to adopt a non-chronological view of the days for the simple reason that everything in the text militates against it. Other considerations, it would seem, really wield a controlling influence. As it stands Genesis might be thought to conflict with "science". Can Genesis therefore be taken at face value? 111[Conflict, p. 29]. This type of approach, however, as we have been seeking to point out, must be rejected. One who reads the Gospels will receive the impression that the body of the Lord Jesus Christ actually emerged from the tomb and that He rose from the dead. But will not this first-hand impression cause needless stumbling-blocks in the path of faith? If we wish to rescue thoughtful people from a materialistic conception of life will not our purpose be harmed by an insistence upon miracle? As a recent writer has said, "The school of opinion that insists upon a physical resurrection will not satisfy a scientifically penetrating mind" 112[Cf. the letter of Robert Ericson in Christianity Today, Vol. VI, No. 1, (Oct. 13, 1961), p. 44].
Dare we reason in this way? If we do, we shall soon abandon Christianity entirely, for Christianity is a supernatural religion of redemption one of its chief glories being its miracles. And this brings us to the heart of the matter. In the study of Genesis one our chief concerns must not be to adopt an interpretation that is necessarily satisfying to the "scientifically penetrating mind". Nor is our principal purpose to endeavor to make the chapter harmonize with what "science" teaches. Our principal task, in so far as we are able, is to get at the meanings which the writer sought to convey.Why is it so difficult to do this with the first chapter of the Bible? The answer, we believe, is that although men pay lip service to the doctrine of creation, in reality they find it a very difficult doctrine to accept. It is easy to behold the wonders of the present universe and to come to the conclusion that things have always been as they are now. To take but one example, the light of the stars, we are told, travelling at the rate of about 186,000 miles per second, in some instances takes years to reach this Earth. Hence, men conclude it would have been impossible for the days of Genesis to have been ordinary days of twenty-four hours each 113[Allis goes to the heart of the matter when he says "We need to remember, however, that limitless time is a poor substitute for that Omnipotence which can dispense with time. The reason the account of creation given here is so simple and so impressive is that it speaks in terms of the creative acts of an omnipotent God, and not in terms of limitless space and infinite time and endless process" (God Spake By Moses, p. 11). Cf. also Allis excellent article, "The Time Element in Genesis 1 and 2" in Torch and Trumpet, Vol. VIII, No. 3 (July-August, 1958), pp. 16-19].
In other words in employing an argument such as this, we are measuring creation by what we now know, and whether we wish or not, are limiting the power of God. Why could not God in the twinkling of an eye have formed the stars so that their light could be seen from Earth? We cannot limit the creative power of God by what we today have learned from His providential working.Those catechisms and creeds which have made a distinction between Gods work of creation and His work of providence have exhibited a deep and correct insight into the teaching of Scripture 114[Thus, the Westminster Confession of Faith devotes a chapter to the work of creation (chapter IV) and one to that of providence (chapter V). The same distinction appears in the Larger and Shorter Catechisms. Questions 15-17 of the Larger Catechism deal with creation and questions 18-20 with providence. The Shorter Catechism devotes two questions (9, 10) to the work of creation and two (11, 12) to that of providence]. Creation and providence are to be distinguished, and it is not our prerogative, in the name of science, to place limits upon Gods creative power. In a helpful article on "The Old Testament and Archaeology", William F. Albright wisely comments respecting the first chapter of Genesis, "In fact, modern scientific cosmogonies show such a disconcerting tendency to be short lived that it may be seriously doubted whether science has yet caught up with the Biblical story" 115[ed. Alleman and Flack: Old Testament Commentary, Philadelphia, 1948, p. 135].
If the church fathers had insisted that Genesis one conform to the "science" of their day, how tragic the result would have been. Had Luther done the same thing, the result would have been no better. And we must be cautious not to reject Scripture merely because at some points it may appear not to harmonize with what some modern scientists teach. Of one thing we may be sure; the statements of Genesis and the facts of nature are in perfect harmony.The Bible does not state how old the Earth is, and the question of the age of the Earth is not the heart of the issue 116["Scientists, who speak in terms of light years, and add cipher to cipher in estimating the time of the beginning of things, ridicule the idea of twenty-four-hour days. But when they multiply thousands to millions and millions to billions and billions to trillions, figures practically cease to have any meaning, and they expose their own ignorance. From the standpoint of those who believe in a God who is omnipotent, and who recognize that time and space are finite and created things, this adding on of ciphers is absurd. It is a distinct feature of the miracles of the Bible that they are limited neither by time nor space" (Allis: God Spake By Moses, pp. 10 f.)]. What is the heart of the issue is whether God truly created or whether we, merely upon the basis of our observations of the universe, can place limits upon the manner in which God worked. Although the Bible does not state the age of the Earth, it does clearly teach that the world was created by the Word of God. The fiat was followed by the repetitive fulfillment. God spoke, and His Word accomplished His will. It was a powerful word that brought His desires to pass. For He spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast (PSA 33:9); by the word of God the Heavens were of old (2PE 3:5); Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God (HEB 11:3) 117[It must be noted, however, that process is not necessarily ruled out by the fiats. In the second work of the third day, for example, there could very well have been process. We cannot state to what extent process may have been present. Cf. Allis in Torch and Trumpet, vol. VIII, No. 3, p. 18]. Before the majestic declarations of Scripture we can but bow in humble reverence. How meager is our knowledge; how great our ignorance! Dare we therefore assert that only in such and such a manner the Creator could have worked? Are we really in possession of such knowledge that we can thus circumscribe Him? Of course there is much in the first chapter of Genesis that we cannot understand. There is however, one thing that, by the grace of the Creator, we may do. We may earnestly seek to think the thoughts of God after Him as they are revealed in the mighty first chapter of the Bible. We can cease being rationalists and become believers. In the face of all the strident claims to the contrary we can believe, and we need never be ashamed to believe that in six days the Lord made Heaven and Earth, the sea and all that in them is (EXO 20:11a).
From the preceding examination of Genesis one there are certain conclusions which may be drawn.
1. The pattern laid down in GEN 1:1-2:3 is that of six days followed by a seventh.2. The six days are to be understood in a chronological sense, that is, one day following another in succession. This fact is emphasized in that the days are designated, one, two, three, etc. 118[There is no exegetical warrant to support the position (Lucerna, p. 645) expressed by H. Nieboer; "Gods scheppingsdagen (werkdagen of ook dagwerken) zijn steeds present en actueel (aldus dr. J. H. Diemer). De dagen-van-God zijn aspecten van zijn werkzaamheid, voorheen en thans. Deze dagen zijn niet met menselijke tijdsmaatstaf te meten, evenmin als bijvoorbeeld het ,duizendjarig rijk. Wie dus vraagt naar de tijdsduur van bijvoorbeeld de scheppingsdagen voor de vierde dag en daarna, maakt vanuit dit standpunt gezien dezelfde fout als degene die na een uiteenzetting, in de eerste plaats dit, in de tweede plaats dat, vraagt naar de geografische bepaling en de afmetingen van die plaatsen; of na een betoog in verschillende stappen, naar de lengte in centimeters van die stappern"]. 3. The length of the days is not stated. What is important is that each of the days is a period of time which may legitimately be denominated mwy (day).
4. The first three days were not solar days such as we now have, inasmuch as the sun, moon and stars had not yet been made.5. The beginning of the first day is not indicated, although, from EXO 20:11, we may warrantably assume that it began at the absolute beginning (GEN 1:1).
6. The Hebrew word mwy is used in two different senses in GEN 1:5. In the one instance it denotes the light in distinction from the darkness; in the other it includes both evening and morning. In GEN 2:4b the word is employed in yet another sense, in the day of the LORD Gods making.7. If the word "day" is employed figuratively, i.e., to denote a period of time longer than twenty-four hours, so also may the terms "evening" and "morning", inasmuch as they are component elements of the day, be employed figuratively 119["Man hat dafür auf des rqb yhyw bru yhyw berufen [vgl. rqb bru DAN 8, 14 Abend = Morgen = Tag], aber verlieren denn diese Tage die Wahrheit ihres Wesens, wenn der Wechsel von Licht und Dunkel, nach welchem sich ihr Anfang und Ende bestimmt, nach anderen als irdischen zeitlangen gemessen ist und nach andern Gesetzen, als den nun innerhalb unseres Sonnensystems naturgemässen, erfolgt?" (Delitzsch: Commentar über die Genesis, Leipzig, 1860, p. 101). "but if day is used figuratively, evening and morning must likewise be" (John D. Davis: Genesis and Semitic Tradition, London, 1894, p. 17)]. It goes without saying that a historical narrative may contain figurative elements. Their presence, however, can only be determined by means of exegesis.
8. Although the account of creation is told in terms of fiat and fulfillment, this does not necessarily exclude all process. In the second work of the third day, for example, the language suggests that the vegetation came forth from the Earth as it does today. This point, however, cannot be pressed.9. The purpose of the six days is to show how God, step by step, changed the uninhabitable and unformed Earth of verse two into the well ordered world of verse thirty-one. 120[One fact which Visée insists must be maintained by the study of Genesis one is "dat er ook een bepaalde volgorde was in dat werk Gods van ,lager tot ,hoger, van ,minder tot ,meer samengesteld, waarbij elk volgend geschapene het eerder geschapene vooronderstelde" (Lucerna, p. 639)]. 10. The purpose of the first section (1:1-2:3) is to exalt the eternal God as the alone Creator of Heaven and Earth, who in infinite wisdom and by the Word of His power brought the Earth into existence and adorned and prepared it for mans habitancy. The section also prepares for the second portion of Genesis, the Generations, which deals with mans habitancy of Gods world. 11. Genesis one is not poetry or saga or myth, but straightforward, trustworthy history, and, inasmuch as it is a divine revelation, accurately records those matters of which it speaks. That Genesis one is historical may be seen from these considerations. 1. It sustains an intimate relationship with the remainder of the book. The remainder of the book [i.e., The Generations] presupposes the Creation Account, and the Creation Account prepares for what follows. The two portions of Genesis are integral parts of the book and complement one another. 2. The characteristics of Hebrew poetry are lacking. There are poetic accounts of the creation and these form a striking contrast to GEN one. 3. The New Testament records certain events mentioned in Genesis one as actually having taken place. We may safely allow the New Testament to be our interpreter of this mighty first chapter of the Bible.
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This Page Last Updated: 12/18/98 A. Allison Lewis firstname.lastname@example.org