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The New Oxford Annotated Bible New Revised Standard Study Bible that provides essential scholarship and guidance for Bible readers.

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Commentary on Genesis

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1.1–11.26 : The primeval history.

From creation to the birth of Abraham. This unit is composed of two principal layers, a Priestly source that also provides an editorial framework, and a non‐Priestly narrative, identified by many scholars as belonging to J (the Yahwist)

1.1–2.3 : Creation culminating in sabbath.

This Priestly account of creation presents God as a divine ruler, creating the universe by decree in six days and resting on the seventh.

1.1 :

Scholars differ on whether this verse is to be translated as an independent sentence summarizing what follows (e.g., “In the beginning God created”) or as a temporal phrase describing what things were like when God started (e.g., “When God began to create … the earth was a formless void”; cf. 2.4–6 ). In either case, the text does not describe creation out of nothing (contrast 2 Macc 7.28 ). Instead, the story emphasizes how God creates order from a watery chaos.

2 :

As elsewhere in the Bible, the deep (Heb “tehom”) has no definite article (“the”) attached to it in the Heb. Some see “tehom” here to be related to the Babylonian goddess Tiamat, a divinity representing oceanic chaos, whom the head god, Marduk, defeated in Enuma Elish, a major Babylonian creation story. Christian interpreters have tended to see the “Spirit” of the Trinity later in this verse. Wind fits the ancient context better (see 8.1 ).

3 :

The first of eight acts of creation through decree. Like a divine king God pronounces his will and it is accomplished.

4–5 :

These verses introduce two other themes crucial to this account: the goodness of creation and the idea that creation is accomplished through God's separating, ordering, and naming elements of the universe. The seven‐day scheme of 1.1–2.3 requires the creation of light, day, and night at the outset. Since in some traditions the Jewish day began with sundown, the order is evening and morning.

6–8 :

The dome/Sky made on the second day separates an upper ocean (Ps 148.4; see Gen 7.11 ) from a lower one. This creates a space in which subsequent creation can take place.

9–13 :

Two creative acts: creation of dry land and command of that land to bring forth vegetation. Earth is a feminine noun in Heb. The text thus echoes other ancient mythologies and the life cycle in having a feminine earth bring forth the first life in the universe (cf. Job 1.21 ). God is only involved indirectly here, commanding the earth to put forth.

14–19 :

There is a correspondence between days one to three and days four to six (1 ∥ 4, 2 ∥ 5, 3 ∥ 6), which heightens the symmetry and order of God's creation. Here, God's creation of heavenly lights on the fourth day corresponds to creation of light, day, and night on the first. In a critical response to non-Israelite cultures who worshiped these heavenly bodies, the bodies are not named and are identified as mere timekeepers.

20–23 :

See vv. 14–19n. Where the second day featured the dome separating upper and lower oceans, the fifth day features the creation of birds to fly across the dome and ocean creatures, including sea monsters (Ps 104.25–26 ). God's blessing of the swarming creatures ( 1.22 ) anticipates a similar blessing that God will give humanity ( 1.28 ).

24–30 :

See vv. 14–19n . Where the third day involved creation of land and plants in turn, this sixth day involves the creation of two types of plant-eating land-dwellers: animals and then humans.

24–25 :

Again, earth is involved in bringing forth life (see 1.9–13n. ).

26 :

The plural us, our ( 3.22; 11.7 ) probably refers to the divine beings who compose God's heavenly court (1 Kings 22.19; Job 1.6 ). Image, likeness is often interpreted to be a spiritual likeness between God and humanity. Another view is that this text builds on ancient concepts of the king physically resembling the god and thus bearing a bodily stamp of his authority to rule. Here this idea is democratized, as all of humanity appears godlike. This appearance equips humans for godlike rule over the fish, birds, and animals.

27–28 :

The text stresses the creation of humanity as simultaneously male and female. This leads to the emphasis in the blessing of v. 28 and the book of Genesis as a whole on the multiplication of humanity in general ( 6.1; 9.1–7 ) and Israel in particular ( 17.2–6; 47.27 ).

29–30 :

The text envisions an ancient mythological time before violence disturbs God's perfect order (cf. 6.11 ).

31 :

Where individual elements of creation were “good” (vv. 4,10 , etc.), the whole is very good, perfectly corresponding to God's intention.

2.1–3 :

This day is the point to which the whole seven‐day scheme has led. God does not command the sabbath, but does rest (Heb “shabat”) on the seventh day and bless it, weaving the seven‐day rhythm into creation. The “creation” of institutions is found in other ancient creation stories as well.

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