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Genesis: Chapter 1

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1In the beginning when God created a Or when God began to create or In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, 2the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God b Or while the spirit of God or while a mighty wind swept over the face of the waters. 3Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

6And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” 7So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. 8God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.

9And God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. 10God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. 11Then God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.” And it was so. 12The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. 13And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.

14And God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, 15and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. 16God made the two great lights— the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, 18to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.

20And God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.” 21So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good. 22God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.

24And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.” And it was so. 25God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good.

26Then God said, “Let us make humankind a Heb adam in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, b Syr: Heb and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”

27

So God created humankind a Heb adam in his image, in the image of God he created them; c Heb him male and female he created them.

28God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” 29God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. 30And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Notes:

a Or when God began to create or In the beginning God created

b Or while the spirit of God or while a mighty wind

a Heb adam

b Syr: Heb and over all the earth

c Heb him

Text Commentary view alone

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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