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EXEGESIS > Old Testament > Pentateuch > Genesis > Gen. 1:1

God and His Creation
Gen. 1:1

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Textual Considerations  

    “In the beginning”  

Three words that translate the single Heb. word bereshith; mark the absolute beginning of time; before this moment there was eternity, and at this moment time began.

Phrase is also found in Jo. 1:1, a verse which relates the Word (Logos), who is the Son, and Creation; the assertion is that the Word was in existence at the time of Creation; He who was before time; He was at the beginning of time (see: In the Beginning);  in John the Word is identified with God and the Word is said to be responsible for Creation.

Before the beginning of Genesis the Trinity existed; fellowship between the Persons of the Trinity existed; and every aspect of Creation and Redemption was known.


Heb., Elohim; translated “God” in the NJKV and other translations; appears over 2500 times in the OT, the most general word for God in the OT; also a common word referring to deity that is even used of idols; related forms are: El, used over 200 times; Elah, found in Ezra and Daniel; and Eloah, which appears mainly in the poetical literature.

Elohim is from the root el, meaning “strong one”; when applied to the God of Scripture, the word speaks of God as the Strong One, the Mighty One, the One to be feared; He is above and beyond man. The word speaks of God’s majesty and authority; it speaks of His exalted position and absolute power (see: God is Sovereign).

Elohim is the plural form of the word and is the form appearing most often in the Old Testament. Several explanations have been offered for the use of the plural.

One, the form is a verbal vestige of polytheistic thought; as man has evolved so his concept of deity has evolved; the evolutionary process has gone from animatism (aliveness in nature—the rustling of the leaves) to animism (belief in spirits) to polytheism (many gods) to henotheism (worship of one god while believing in many gods) to monotheism (belief in one God). Thus, the plural is a reflection of man’s evolving concept of a higher power.

Two, the plural form is an intensive word and speaks of a fullness, completeness, or majesty; in reference to God it speaks of His fullness, completeness, majesty, and plenitude of existence. So the plural “heavens” in Genesis 1:1 and the plural “waters” in Genesis 1:2 speak of fullness or completeness.

Three, the plural form contains the latent concept of the Trinity; though the form of the word is plural, most often the accompanying verb or adjective is the singular form as in Genesis 1:1 (Genesis 20:13 is an exception where Elohim has a plural verb); this is a strange combination, a plural noun using a singular verb; what is the significance of such a construction? In the form of the noun Elohim—(“God,” a plural noun) and in the form of the verb bara—(“created,” a singular verb) we have the incipient teaching of a profound Christian truth: the one God (suggested by the verb) who exists in three persons (suggested by the noun); in the words and syntax of Gen. 1:1 we are confronted with the Trinity.

Elohim is the Creator; the word is used 32 times in 31 vs. in the Hebrew Bible, thus, the emphasis on God in the Ch. that is devoted completely to the account of Creation; (see: The God of Creation).

In the KJV the following are found: God created, God said, God saw, God made, God called, God set, God blessed, God divided, the Spirit of God, and the image of God.


Heb. bara; verb form appears 35 times and is used exclusively of God (Gen. 1:1, 21, 27; 2:4; 5:1-2; 6:7; used approx. 18 times in Isa. of Divine activity); taking the verb in the absolute sense of origination makes impossible the concept of a process or an evolution as is implicit in the translation: "when God began to create," a translation that some scholars state is syntactically possible but highly improbable, while others assert emphatically that the syntax will not allow such a manipulation (Keil & Delitzsch: process is a concept that is "opposed to the grammar of the language" and opposed "to the simplicity of style which pervades the whole chapter").

If this act is absolute, then this act denotes the beginning of matter; before this creative act there was no matter, no pre-existing material that was used by God; so creation is said to be ex nihilo, "out of nothing"; that which was not came to be by the word of Elohim, the Powerful One; support for ex nihilo is found in Jo. 1:1; Rom. 4:17; Heb. 11:3; II Pet. 3:5.

Other words are also used of God’s creative work: "made" (asah) and "formed" (yatzar) are also used of God's creative work in Gen. 1-2 and serve as virtual synonyms for bara:

God "created" (bara) heavens and earth (1:1), fish and birds (1:21), and man (1:27);

God "made" (asah) the firmament (1:7), the sun and moon (1:16), and beasts (1:25);

God "formed" (yatzar) man (2:7-8); beast and bird (2:19).

    “the heavens”

Plural noun speaks of the upper regions; it has several possibilities:

one, the area around the earth;

two, the cosmos, that is, all the planets and stars were created at this point, though made to appear and given their specific function on Day Four;

three, the word speaks of space (what we might refer to as "outer space"), the vast void of the universe that was later filled with the heavenly bodies created on Day Four.

    “the earth”

Heb. word speaks of that which is lower, the planet we know as earth; the earth was created before any of the other heavenly bodies, before the sun, before the moon, before any of the stars; the priority of the earth is taught without question; how can the Big Bang be reconciled to this simple and profound fact? The earth came first!

Together "heavens and earth" speak of the universe, without implying the existence of all the heavenly bodies that would appear later.

Theological Thoughts

* Gen. 1:1 is perhaps the most profound statement ever written; with these ten words the worldview of Scripture is established; these words challenge the intellectual life, inspire and comfort the emotional life, and condemn the moral life; a little child can easily memorize it, and the genius can reflect upon it for a lifetime; no other pronouncement is so pregnant with implications; the verse teaches that:

God is (His existence is simply stated; Atheism is denied).

God is one and the only One (Polytheism is erroneous).

God is personal—He communicates and acts (God is not a mere concept, Idea, Force, or Impersonal Power).

He is responsible for the existence of everything (matter was created, hence the concept: ex nihilo, and man was created; Materialism is denied as well as Humanism; matter is not eternal and man is not his own master but is subject to the Creator).

He is separate from everything and is not a part of His creation (Pantheism is incorrect).

Creation was a specific and completed act, not a process (Evolution cannot be accepted).

* Without evidence or proofs and without debate, God is simply declared and affirmed to exist and to act; Atheism is not an option; (see: The Foolishness of Atheism); the psalmist affirms: “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God” (Ps. 90:2); man’s worldview must be Biblical Theism.

* In the first verse of the Bible man is confronted with God, informing us that it is with God that we have to do; in fact, all of the Bible is about God; God is inescapable; you meet Him in life and you meet Him in death—God cannot be avoided.

* Unless one begins with the Creator there will never be proper reflection on Creation; the Cosmos must be studied from the perspective of God; all of creation can only be understood in reference to Him; the proper starting point for both theology and philosophy is God (see: Foundations and Significance of Truth
* A fundamental decision must be made with reference to this verse: Does Scripture inform science, or does science inform Scripture?

See: Gen. 1:1 - God Created

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