July 31 - August 6
A Closer Look at the Creation Story
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Gen. 1:1-3:24.
MEMORY TEXT: "Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made" (Genesis 2:1-3, NKJV).
KEY THOUGHT: A close reading of Genesis 1 through 3 shows that God, through Moses, has provided us with a reliable account of human origins, the Fall, and the hope of restoration.
CHALLENGES TO UNDERSTANDING THE CREATION ACCOUNT. Here are some of the biggest Creation issues: Was there a gap of time somewhere between the first two verses of Genesis 1? Was there a gap between God's initial creation of the whole universe and His creation of life on this planet? Or was the whole universe created only a few thousand years ago? The Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy are quite clear that life was created on this planet a few thousand years ago.
Another issue is the challenge that Genesis 2 offers a contradictory account of the Creation from that of Genesis 1 and further assumes that both chapters were written by two different people, neither of whom was Moses. This challenge directly contradicts key statements in the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy about the divinely inspired authorship of this book by Moses.
What relationship do you find between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2? Do you think there was a time gap there? How would you write these two verses in your own words"
There has been considerable debate among scholars over how properly to translate Genesis 1:1, 2 and what these verses mean. The King James Version simply translates these first two verses as two independent sentences: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep."
Some individuals have suggested that these sentences actually say, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth became without form and void." What is implied in this approach is that life forms existed on the earth millions of years before the appearance of humankind, suggesting that the first two verses of Genesis portray a "double-creation." (This is sometimes called the "ruin and restoration" theory.)
Supporters of this interpretation argue that verse 1 actually describes an earlier creation of life on earth, millions of years before the Creation week presented later in chapter 1 and that verse 2 describes the destruction of that earlier life (it "became" without form and void). These Christians speculate that Satan was the ruler of this first creation, but because of his rebellion the earth "became" without form and void. Verse 3 supposedly begins a second creation of our present earth.
However, there are many problems that arise with this theory, not least of which is substituting the word became for was. Hebrew scholars are virtually unanimous that this is not a valid translation, because it contradicts fundamental laws of Hebrew grammar. The best translation remains the "earth was without form and void."
There is another interpretation, which argues that the first verse should be translated: "When God began to create the heavens and the earth, the earth was without form and void." The idea for this translation comes from comparing Genesis 1:1 with ancient Mesopotamian creation stories, which typically began with "when." This view suggests that before God began any creative activity with regard to this earth, something was already herealbeit, without form and void! Still the best reading is the simple, straightforward, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth."
|Compare and contrast the "ruin and restoration" theory with the straightforward view that God simply created the heaven and the earth. Why is the latter view the best way to interpret Genesis 1:1?|
What hints can we find for God's creative activity in the universe before the creation of life on our planet? Prov. 8:22-26, 30; Mic. 5:2; Job 38:5-10; Isa. 14:12-21; Ezek. 28:12-17; 1 John 3:8.
One wonders as to when the absolute beginning of the heavens and the earth in Genesis 1:2, 3 did occur. What else was created before our planet was created? A number of factors point to the existence of stars, planets, and other beings before the creation of life on this earth. Let's take a moment to explore some of these factors that are mentioned in our Bibles:
1. Proverbs 8:22-26, 30 appears to speak of a beginning prior to the "In the beginning" of Genesis 1:1. "The Lord possessed me [wisdom] in the beginning of his way, before His works of old."
2. Micah 5:2, NKJV, describes a Ruler (Christ) whose goings forth are "from of old, from everlasting" (see also Heb. 1:8).
3. Job 38:4-11 indicates that the sons of God pre-existed the creation of the earth since they were there to sing and shout for joy at the Creation.
4. The Hebrew of Genesis 1:16 suggests that the sun and moon received their appointments to govern the times and seasons "with" or "in addition to" the stars; the implication is that the stars were already there before Creation week, fulfilling their appointed tasks.
5. God's throne, which is in heaven, has existed from eternity (Ps. 45:6; 93:2). Heaven is also the home of the angels, who appear to have been created prior to the earth.
6. According to 1 John 3:8, the devil sinned from the beginning; this "beginning" of Lucifer's iniquity preceded the six-day Creation (see Isaiah 14; Ezekiel 28); by inference the creation of the angels preceded the creation of life on this earth.
These verses, among others, tell us that God the Father, Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit ever existed from eternity. Heaven, the stars, Lucifer, the angels, and perhaps other intelligent beings pre-existed the creation of our planet.
"The Lord has given me a view of other worlds. ... The inhabitants of the place were of all sizes; they were noble, majestic, and lovely. They bore the express image of Jesus."Early Writings, pp. 39, 40.
|The eternal God and the Creator of the vast universe chose our planet Earth, "without form and void," to create life on it. He also manifested His supreme love for our world by giving His only Son to die for us. What does this tell us about His commitment to us and to our planet?|
What name is used for God in Genesis 1 and 2? How is God portrayed in each chapter?
Bible scholars have long noted that in the Hebrew language, God is addressed differently in chapters 1 and 2. In chapter 1 God is called Elohim (God) while in chapter 2 He is called Yahweh (Lord) or Yahweh-Elohim (Lord God). Moreover, in chapter 1 God is portrayed as very powerful, orderly, and transcendent-He merely speaks, and things come into existence! In chapter 2, on the other hand, we see God down on His hands and knees, so to speak, gently forming man out of clay with His own hands and breathing into the lifeless nostrils the breath of life.
After reading the following comments why do you think two different names for God are used in Genesis 1 and 2?
An earlier generation of biblical critics thought that the use of two different Hebrew names for God in chapters 1 and 2 was evidence that different authors wrote these two chapters and that the chapters were indeed two different, and in places, contradictory accounts of Creation. However, more recent scholars such as Egyptologist Kenneth Kitchen have noted that the use of different names for the same God in the same text was actually a common practice in Egyptian and Mesopotamian texts.
Why, then, would different names have been used in the Genesis account of Creation? Hebrew scholar Umberto Cassuto suggests that the use of the two Hebrew names for God simply points out two different aspects of God's characterYahweh is the covenant name for God, and Elohim emphasizes His universality as God of all the earth. To put it another way, Yahweh describes who God is, and Elohim describes what He is. Biblical scholar M. H. Segal argues that the different names were used merely for the sake of variety. Whatever the purpose for the different names, there is no question that a more detailed, personal, and intimate picture of God is given in the second chapter.
|Jesus implies that Moses wrote the book of Genesis (Matt. 19:4, 5; Mark 10:2-9). Also Mosaic authorship of Genesis was repeatedly endorsed by most New Testament writers (Rom. 4:17; Gal. 3:8; 4:30; Heb. 4:4; James 2:23). How does this affirm your confidence in God's Word in Genesis?|
What are the four things that God had not yet made when He had finished creating the earth and heavens? Gen. 2:4, 5.
Some wonder as to why Genesis 1 indicates that plants and man were created during the first week of Creation (Gen. 1:11, 12, 26, 27), while chapter 2 seems to suggest that God did not get around to making these until later (Gen. 2:4-6). According to Genesis 2:4-6 the four things that God had not yet made were: (1) the shrub of the field;(2) the plant of the field; (3) a man to till the soil; (4) and rain to water the earth.
To what kinds of shrub and plant of the field are Genesis 2:5 and 3:18 alluding? Were they created before or after the Fall? Study the following explanation and summarize it in your own words.
Upon reading the text in English, one might think that the writer of chapter 2 ignores the fact that these four things were already created during the first week of Creation. However, in the Hebrew text it is clear that the four things mentioned in chapter 2, as having "not yet" been created, have nothing to do with the things created during the first six days of Creation. The Hebrew words for the first two items, the shrub of the field and the plant of the field, are not the same names for the plants created on day three of Creation-vegetation, seed-bearing plants, and seed-bearing fruit trees (Gen. 1:11, 12). Actually, the Hebrew word translated "shrub" in Genesis 2:5 (siah) is quite rare in the Bible, occurring only in two other textsin Genesis 21:15 and Job 30:4, 7. The contexts of these latter two texts have persuaded botanists who have studied the biblical flora that the siah is a desert plant; that is, a spiny or thorny plant. The full expression siah hassadheh ("shrub of the field," or better, "field thistle") occurs only in Genesis 2:5! Significantly, the first time thorns and thistles are explicitly mentioned in the Bible is in the next chapter, in Genesis 3:18, where they are introduced as a direct consequence of the Fall! What the writer of Genesis 2 is actually doing is setting up the question Where did thorny plants come from? They were not part of the "very good" Creation that was completed after the six days of Creation; rather, they came as a result of the Fall! For more details on this, see Further Study in Friday's section.
|What are the spiritual thorns and thistles in both your character and in those around you that hinder your spiritual growth? How do you deal with them?|
What does the expression "a man to till the ground" refer to? When did the tilling of the soil occur? Gen. 2:5.
In Hebrew the adjectives that modify a word are very important. "A man to till the ground" in Genesis 2:5 is not man who was created on day six (Gen. 1:26, 27). Rather, it is a description of man that applies only after the Fall when Adam would have to contend with the ground (by tilling and irrigation) for his food (see Gen. 3:17). This new kind of man is in harmony with the "shrub of the field" and "plant of the field," which likewise make their appearance only after the Fall. Thus, again, "a man to till the ground" did "not yet" exist in chapter 2, because he would not become such a man until chapter 3, after the Fall.
Who provided the original cultivation and irrigation in Eden? How was it done? Gen. 2:8-15.
It is interesting to note that in the Mesopotamian creation stories, one of the blessings of the gods to the earthly kings was to provide humans "who would work like cattle" and who would "irrigate" the fields. The God of the Bible, however, did not create humans to provide slave labor. Rather, He lovingly and thoughtfully planted the garden Himself and provided for its irrigation! He then gave it to Adam and Eve as a gift. A number of scholars have noted this important difference between the Bible's account of Creation and the nonbiblical accounts. They have concluded that the author of Genesis was clearly offering a "polemic" of Creation; that is, an account that was deliberately designed to challenge the erroneous views about Creation that were then in circulation, with a correct account.
The work God gave our first parents to do in the garden of Eden was to "tend and keep it' (Gen. 2:15, NKJV). This is not the same kind of work that Adam would have to endure after the Fall "by the sweat of... [his] brow" (Gen. 3:19, NIV). "Their occupation was not wearisome, but pleasant and invigorating."Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 50.
There is a more specific recapitulation of the Creation account in chapter 2, but it begins with verse 7 instead of verse 4. The picture given in these verses is indeed one of a loving God providing everything Adam would need in his new existence, including a place to live, plenty to eat and drink, dominion over his dwelling, and a loving companion and wife, Eve.
|In what ways do you find your work a blessings?|
FURTHER STUDY: Read Romans 4:17; Galatians 3:8; Hebrews 4:4; James 2:23. What do these texts suggest about the authorship of Genesis? Read Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 251.
Like the "shrub of the field," the Hebrew expression translated as "plant of the field," 'esev hassadhe, is very rare in Scripture. Indeed, it appears only twicein Genesis 2:5 and 3:18. The key to understanding the nature of this plant is found in Genesis 3:17, 18 (NIV), where we are told that the 'esev hassadhe is the very plant that Adam will have to eat as a result of his Fall! "Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field" ['esev hassadhe]. These plants are not the fruit-bearing trees that God provided for man's food on day three. Rather, they are the plants humans will have to cultivate after the Fall.
When did the absolute beginning of the heavens and the earth in Genesis 1:1 occur? By this we are not referring to just the life on this earth, which Genesis 1:3-2:4 is clearly talking about, but the entire universe. Creationists generally have been of two opinions on this:
First, the "no gap" idea. The possibility that all things in the entire universe, including the stars and the "raw materials" of Genesis 1:1, 2 that went into the making of this earth, are included in the first day of the seven-day Creation week.
Second, the "passive gap" idea. The possibility that the stars and perhaps even the "raw materials" of the heavens and the earth in their unformed, unfilled state were created by God long before the seven days of Creation week.
SUMMARY: While we cannot be certain exactly when God began creating the universe, yet Scripture says that He was there in the beginning. Genesis 1 and 2 provides us with a unified and complementary account of God's Creation activity, showing especially His love in the way He provided for humankind.
Imagine ministering to millions of people every day, people you cannot see and may never know. Imagine trying to meet their spiritual needs and lead them gently to Jesus. This is the work of Adventist World Radio every day.
The success of AWR's efforts to reach specific language and people groups must be gauged by the mail it receives. Letters from some countries bring a special joy, especially as the staff considers the danger which the writers face just to mail their letters.
AWR broadcasts into countries where no missionary can go. Programs in Farsi, a language spoken in several Middle East countries, are broadcast 11 hours a week on short- and medium-wave. Letters from listeners reveal their enthusiasm and gratitude for the programs. Here are some extracts from their letters to AWR. To protect the listeners, we cannot reveal the country from which the letters were mailed.
Darius writes, "Today marks the tenth day that I came upon your radio programs. I have become so attached to the programs that even in the most difficult circumstances I try to arrange my schedule so that I can listen. I pray to God, asking that He arrange my time so that I can listen to your programs without interruption. I also pray that God will grant me success in my attempt to become better acquainted with you.
"Despite my best efforts, I have found it impossible to obtain a copy of the Old Testament in [my country]. Could you send me a copyin Farsi preferably, or in Englishso that you could guide this lost soul and seeker of truth?"
Another writes, "'One of my friends told me about your programs, and from that time on I became your number-one fan. I would like to offer my thanks for all those who, with great effort, prepare such interesting and varied programs.' "
I am 17 years old and am a regular listener. Your program is one of the most beneficial in the world. At nights when your programs speak about prayer and God and good, pure thoughts, when you speak of the Holy Bible, I feel a transformation taking place in my soul. I express my praise and thanks for the efforts you put forth to make these programs possible.' Signed, Manochehr."
These letters clearly testify that the Farsi programming presented on Adventist World Radio is making a real impact in the lives of the listeners, especially in areas where missionaries cannot go.
Bert Smit is from the Netherlands. He is regional director for Adventist World Radio in Europe.
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