Hints on Genesis 1-3

Genesis 1‑3  •  24 min. read  •  grade level: 6
Genesis does not begin with any counsels, nor even with the existence of God, though both are given in the New Testament.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth:” that is the opening of the creation. There is nothing of counsels, but you are before the world, and so get more in the New Testament too. Time begins with the responsible earth, the creation of that in which the first Adam was placed; but there is nothing of the plans of God here. Promises and ways come afterward, and the existence of God is assumed very naturally: His counsels are not brought out. This is not unimportant to notice; the whole plan of God is not here at all. There is the sphere first created in which the man was to be put, and the broad fact that God created everything; but, even so, we do not get everything, for the angels are not here. Yet we know from Job that “the morning stars sang together, and the sons of God shouted for joy,” when this took place.
The subject is really the responsible man, though you must have the earth where the man was and the dust to take and make him out of. And when we come to know the truth, this is really important. The whole of our glory belongs to God's counsels. We had the two things in the cross: Christ made sin for us, which looked back on the responsible Adam, the first; and also the foundation for bringing out God's counsels laid in the Second man. The first part only as to responsibility is here, promises come after. Even of creation it is only in respect of man, and not of angels. We see how different a sphere grace is from the creation, in that God takes up the first creature of the revelation here and goes down through his sin below any creature, for it is unto death, and then takes him up far above all creatures in His Son, and so makes a totally new and different thing altogether.
What a petty thing all the Darwinian theory of progress is! The author of it goes through all the lowest things up to the highest; God takes man and puts him (in the person of His Son) down lower than all. This is far more wonderful.
The first fact is, God created the heavens and the earth, that is, the universe. About what then happened nothing is said.
In verse 2 we get the earth in a state of chaos.
In verse 16 “the stars also” come in by the bye; for God had created them when He made the heavens. Afterward the earth “was without form and void, and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the deep” —that is, the formative agency of God.
The word “created” is right, that is, originally (though used of “great whales” and also said of “man,” when it is progressive formation). But in verse 2 the action is only where the darkness was, on the face of the deep.
This mention of the darkness sweeps away a whole range of geological infidelity, because they say light began here. But you find ichthyosauri had eyes, and they were created long before. All that is said is that darkness was upon the face of the deep, and not that there was no light; the contrary rather is implied. Where the ichthyosauri were, there must be light: and they are found in strata, which, if you take them for anything at all, would show that thousands of years had passed since they lived. If you get a thing with eyes, it is fair to suppose there was light for it. The deep was chaos, an unformed state of things. And this was subsequent to a state of light. I have no difficulty about the light. As for geology, it is not the object of scripture to teach it.
It is not that God formed the heavens and the earth in a chaotic state; but we here find the earth so, “without form and void.” It is not said how long elapsed; however I do not at all believe the dates that are given, though we need not allude to this here.
The scriptures do not tell me about these early animals. Why want the Bible to tell me about fish that eat other fish? There they are; and I can go and see the fossil, if I want it. As for death too, it may have existed long before among these animals; there is nothing to intimate that it did not. If it be urged, as the general thought, that death came on animals because of sin, the answer is that so it did in this present state of the world.
Geologists pretend that a given sandbank must have taken so many thousand years to form, and so on. Without believing them, one can let them take any length of time they like, and still the word of God is sufficient for the believer. There is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and then, all that scene of them being there left out, this earth is without form and void.
Who could tell what God ought to create?
The passage in Isa. 14:1818All the kings of the nations, even all of them, lie in glory, every one in his own house. (Isaiah 14:18), “he created it not in vain” (chaotic) is conclusive that the earth was not created chaotic at first.
The earth got into the state of chaos—it may be by what destroyed the animals; but we know nothing about it: what I do know by faith is that God created everything.
Then follows a detailed account of this earth, as we have it: God makes a place to put man in.
Not a word is heard that beasts wore created immortal. Rather, I suppose, animals were made to be destroyed, because Peter says they were made to be taken and destroyed. Yet the expression, “beasts that perish” is merely a fact stated; and Peter may possibly only refer to the present state of animals.
But it seems to me a much more laborious thought that God created all sorts of dead animals lodged in strata and stone and elsewhere, though I do not care to take up the question myself.
As a general fact there is an order from the positions relatively of these animals, shells, fishes, &c. There is a proof of order in these, though I have no interest in it myself one way or another. Clearly, too, scripture leaves a gap, and that gap is ample for any such purpose. We find God creates things “good.”
There had been pitch darkness; and then it is not that the evening and the morning make a day, for they would not. But after the darkness, which did not count, we get the light, and then the evening and the morning make the day. The pitch darkness did not count for time. God creates light; that is day, and He calls it day: then came the evening and the morning with the light again. In Israel it is clear they counted any part as a whole; if a king reigned as from December 30, they would count in a whole year, and the king that had reigned through that year had that year too, and this creates many difficulties in the chronologies. You must count the day first and then get the evening and the morning to complete the day. The morning is the coming back of dawn. It comes from the revolving of the earth now; but when God said, Light be, it came at once, and that is day, not morning, that is broad day, it lights all up; and it is said, “He called it day.” Light was; the sun is not mentioned here, though I have no doubt it was created long before. But as to the earth there was light before the sun was set to give light by day. This is revealed. Think now, if I had been making a book, should I ever have thought of making a difficulty like this on purpose?
They say by light there is no gold or silver or lead in the sun, but plenty of iron and other things. When observing a total eclipse, they were astonished to see like little red mountains round the sun; by enlarging the spectrum they lessened the light as the sun shines, and then they saw all this without an eclipse.
If the question be asked whether God created everything in the earth in maturity, such as the coal measures, I answer that, if God had said it, I should have believed it directly, in spite of all the geologist in the world.
Observe, in verse 20, “and fowls that may fly” should be “and let fowl fly.” It is not that the water brought them forth.
The firmament is the expanse. God made a heaven, so to speak, to this earth.
Were they six days of twenty-four hours each? I believe so myself, having no scripture reason against it.
Now we get after the sixth day's work in verse 25, “and God saw that it was good;” and what is important for us to notice is that the creation of that day is finished like the others (except the first two), “and God saw that it was good.” He has done with creation, as creation, and now begins counsels in the most solemn way: “Let us make man in our image, and after our likeness, and let them have dominion,” &c. But the creation as the sphere and scene is quite complete, and then God makes man in His own image and sets him over it all. But you have it in the most formal manner: the subject creation is completed, and then the lord of it is brought forward in this way. I get, over fish, and fowl, and beast, and everything that is created, something in God's counsels that is lord over all. Man stands quite alone; all is finished; and then he has dominion over it.
“Image” is different to “likeness.” In the image he stands as the representative of God. If I say, image of Jupiter, it is not likeness merely, but the image stands there to represent him. And so did man. He was there the center of all the affections of the whole world, and he ought to have stood so. You never have an angel set over anything so, but here man is the central object of all and he represented God too. He was not righteous and holy, but sinless and innocent. Righteous supposes a judicial estimate of right and wrong, but man had not that at all until he had eaten the forbidden fruit. And there was nothing evil in him.
Likeness is moral. Man was made like God morally; he was made upright.
There is a figure here in a man and woman before the fall; for the apostle uses it so. But Eve came out as a distinct thing.
It is well to notice that God takes counsel: “let us,” &c. If you make the distinction of the persons of the Godhead, I am not aware that creation is personally attributed to any but Christ and the Spirit. Every operation is the direct work of the Spirit, not that He is an independent Spirit, but God. The three are united in scripture. The Son was working and He says “the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works,” and again, “if I by the Spirit of God cast out devils.” But you do not find stated in scripture that the Father created; it says, God; and this is Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. It is so far important to see that we have the divine agency. The particular operation of miracles was by the Spirit; “if I by the Spirit cast out;” by “his Spirit garnished the heavens;” and when Christ was raised. He was “quickened by the Spirit.” I can allow nothing therefore that attempts to lower our thoughts of the Son and of the Spirit.
Holiness supposes good and evil, and the hating the evil and the loving the good; innocence does not know of evil. In righteousness I get judicial authority about it, but holiness is the nature repelling or delighting in. Righteousness is the judgment formed either in mind or in act.
So God created man in His own image. Verse 27 states the fact, though they were created afterward. The animals were there, and now God says, I am going to have something higher, and man stood there representing God in the earth, made with no evil in him. He still has that character, though it is all in ruin. 1 Cor. 11:77For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. (1 Corinthians 11:7) says he is the image and glory of God. James 3:99Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. (James 3:9) speaks of men made after God's likeness.
Then God gives the seeds to man and the green herbs to animals. “We shall see in chapter 2 that man's responsibility rested entirely on the forbidden fruit, the eating of which was evil only because God had forbidden it.
“To every beast of the earth I have given every green herb for meat.” This would imply that animals were not carnivorous. There is a difference between cattle and beasts; but in that statement the cattle are left out; the “beasts” are what we call wild beasts. It is perfectly competent to God to have restricted them for the time, or to have changed them.
Chapter 2. It is striking to notice that, except in setting the seventh day apart, you never get holiness mentioned in Genesis, nor do you get it anywhere until redemption is accomplished. And you never get God dwelling with man until then. He visits Adam and Abraham, and no more; but the moment we find redemption, holiness and a dwellingplace for God are spoken of. God created them in innocence, but there is no habitation for Him on earth then. Immediately after redemption, He says, “make me a habitation,” and He did dwell among them. So, the moment the people were redeemed, He says, “be holy.”
Here we have a day set apart to God, which I confess I attach importance to, and to what the day meant also. In connection with the question, I believe the sabbath day is an essential part of man's nature and of his rest in God. I remember outside a town in Germany, when looking at some crows flying, I said, “Well, there is a creature that has nothing to say to God, and to it one day is the same as another.” But the fact that man has something to say to God proves that he must have a day set apart from the remainder. It was God's rest here, and man was to have part in it. According to the commandment everything men had was to enjoy that day.
Man ought to have enjoyed it before Ex. 16, but did not, because the first thing he did was to sin. The point of this is, that it is the rest of the first creation; and, now that sin has entered in, you cannot have a rest to the first creation. “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” How can a holy God have rest in the midst of sin and misery? What kind of rest can God have here? That is Christ's answer. God could have destroyed them as sinners; but if not, He must work.
If revealed to Adam, he did not enter into it. There are signs of it from Adam to Moses in a way, but no sign that man really kept it. Man had fallen away from God, and all was wrong. There is nothing to show that he did not know of it.
It is referred to in Hebrews: “As I have sworn in my wrath if they shall enter into my rest, although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.” Then he quotes this passage and says after “there remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God;” and you get this too, that our Lord says “the sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.” But then He takes it up there in this way: that He, Christ, was the head of it and so was not bound by it.
Christ was dead and gone into the grave on the sabbath: this indicates a great deal.
The sabbath is given in Exodus on the ground of creation, but in Deuteronomy because they were brought out of Egypt. Exodus is a typical book, and Deuteronomy consists of direction for what they were to do in the laud. Exodus applies only to the wilderness in its latter half.
Then there is a very important thing—God was resting, and man does not enter into it; but still there is a rest. The next point is, God sanctified it. He set it apart from all the rest of time. The reason was God had rested, and, sin having come in, man could not rest in sin.
Now we come to “Jehovah God.” Some have made a great talk about the difference between God and Jehovah, His nature as such, and His relationship with Israel. He was specifically revealed to the Jews by that name, because it is a term of relationship, and it was important for the Jews to know that their national God was the eternal true God, and no God beside Him, Jehovah Elohim.
First in creation you have God, Elohim, made this, and that, and the other. Now we find Him having to say morally to a particular part of His creation; and the moment we come to relative things, we get Jehovah, as in chapter ii. 4. The whole chapter becomes relative now. Read verses 4-7. There is the history of the character of man, in his great moral elements. Man not made like the beasts of the field, but formed out of the dust of the ground; and when He has done that (and there one sees what death simply is, “dust thou art,” and death is going back to it), then I get something that is not dust, something directly from God, and this makes all the difference.
The beasts were formed out of the earth, and the man is formed into shape first, and then God says “I am going to connect this with myself,” and breathes into his nostrils the breath of life. By “connect” I do not mean that the man might not fall away from God in will, for he could; but the breath of life which made him a living soul was directly from God. He was capable of dying, but still he had the breath of life, which was a distinct thing.
“A living soul” means anything that lives by blood and breath. I say this because it says, “whereinsoever was the breath of life, died;” all animals were living souls. Man was, and the animal was; but the essential difference was that God breathed into man's nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living soul. This might be separated from his body, and the body return to the dust. That is what is referred to in “for we also are his offspring.” As I said to an Annihilationist, Do you mean to call a pig God's offspring? Neither would he have died if he had not eaten of the forbidden fruit. His body is formed first without life, and the way he gets life is by God's breathing into his nostrils the breath of life; he receives it as a creature, but direct from God. Adam was not made as other animals were.
“This mortal,” or “mortal body,” leaves the soul by implication immortal. “Mortal” is always used of the body, and it is clear that death does not touch the soul, for you have the wicked man in Hades after death. I am quite satisfied that it is true to say “immortal soul.” The opposite thought is founded on the words, “who only hath immortality,” spoken of God, of course (that is, who only hath it in Himself), but this does not mean that He cannot communicate it. So the angels are only immortal by God's making them so; and we the same. If I were immortal in spite of God, then I am to do as I like without fear of death. In the rich man and Lazarus is a perfectly clear case; the one goes to torment, the other to Abraham's bosom after death.
But they say “these are only figures.” “Yes,” I reply, “but figures of what?” I am not going to Abraham's bosom, but I am to Christ. I asked them this, “Could God give eternal life to a dog?” “Yes.” But would the dog be answerable for what he had been doing while he was a dog? and if he would not be, Christ had not to die for him, and so they destroy atonement. Put it in another way; if I am a mere brute, only a clever brute, until I get Christ as my life, my responsibility is gone.
Well, man was put in his place of responsibility not to eat the forbidden fruit, a thing in which there was no evil, save that it was forbidden.
And you get a striking thing here, one which has been a question even with heathens, and it is also a ground of discussion between Calvinists and Arminians: the tree of life, which is free gift; and the tree of knowledge of good and evil, which is responsibility. Man has been trying to undo this in himself and never can. Man did take the responsibility-tree and was lost. Then the promise came to Abraham to show that grace was really the thing after all—the tree of life; and then came the law, the other tree. People have made the life dependent upon the responsibility-tree, which is utter folly. But we find in Christ the two united; for He is the man who charges Himself with our responsibility, as He is Himself the life. If I have Christ for my life, with whom also I have died, I can bring the two together. But if taken out of Christ, it is impossible to unite the two things, any more than they were one in the garden.
If Adam had eaten of the tree of life, he would have been an immortal sinner. As he was, we have got the responsibility man, not the man of God's counsels; but to faith the first or responsibility man is set aside for Christ the Second man. We have Christ as our life, and are bound to live in that life, and not in the old man. When it comes to a question of responsibility and judgment, I say I am not in the old man, but in Christ. And in my actual condition I say, Christ is in me, and I am to manifest Him as my life. God took the man and put him in the garden to dress and keep it, gave him one commandment, and then said, It is not good that the man should be alone. So He gives him a wife, and also puts him in the place of authority, which is shown by bringing everything to Adam to be named. Giving a name is an act of authority all through scripture. And Adam says of his wife, “This is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh, she shall be called woman.” There we get the institution of marriage, but, above all, Christ and the church. We see dominion, which is entirely in Adam, not in the woman. Dominion belongs to Christ; but, being rejected and accomplishing redemption, He is exalted on high, and instead of dominion he gets the church, which He associates with Himself now, as well as when He is in the dominion. This is the place of the church, which is neither the Lord nor the subject creature, but is associated with the Lord over the creation. God's plans are here in imagery. Adam was “the figure of him that is to come.” (Rom. 5:1414Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. (Romans 5:14).) He was head over all things to Eve, who was bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. We have in this relationship two states, the actual responsibility as created (which Christ was in a certain sense) and then what was historically true, the image of Him that was to come. Christ gave up everything, leaving father and mother (that is, Israel, if you take it as a figure). How often we hear it said that Christ was bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh! But really it is when He is in glory, we are made bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh; the other is never said in scripture. Then we have the responsible man set up, but still a figure of Him that is to come.
We are all taken out of Christ in a sense, we are all quickened together with Christ when He has gone down into death, and we are set aside in the place He has taken; just as the deep sleep fell upon Adam, and the rib is taken and made a woman and is brought to him.
But observe in chapter 3 that the point is not knowledge of good and knowledge of evil, which is a mere blunder. The question of the tree was not conscience: there was not the tree of knowledge of right and wrong. If it had not been forbidden, he was just as free to eat as anything else. Thus we acquired the knowledge of good and evil, and hence conscience. You see it as early as anything in a child. It slaps its mother, say: and you hold up your finger—it understands very well that it has done wrong. God says, “the man is become as one of us;” that is, he has got intrinsically the knowledge of good and evil. If a boy at school steals one of his companions' marbles, he hides it, for he knows he has done wrong. It is no question of commandments here.
Adam was enjoying good in the garden, although the knowledge of good would not have been so full. I quite admit my knowledge may be corrupted; still I do a thing because it is right. I may think I am doing a very good thing to put my father in the Ganges at a certain time of life, because then he will go to Buddha or some one; but it is only the difference of good and evil I know; it is not knowledge of good and knowledge of evil. The thing for Adam was not an intrinsic knowledge of good and evil, which was not required, but only a question of obedience. Man got a conscience by the: fall, and he never got a conscience till it was a defiled one. But it may get hardened or seared.
Observe in the account of the fall that, before a lust comes in, there is another principle shown, which is that Adam, as Eve, lost confidence in God. The devil suggested that God kept something back from her because it would make her like God. “God doth know” —this is the reason you “may not eat this” — “you will be as God knowing good and evil.” At this suggestion that the Lord had kept back the very best thing, Eve lost her confidence. But mark, when Christ comes into the world, I see Him walking through the world where all the evil is, to show to man that, no matter how defiled it all is, we can have the fullest confidence in God. He comes to win back man's heart to God. There He was reconciling man to God. Were you a woman ever such a sinner who could not show your face to a fellow creature, come to Him and God will receive you. But this loss of confidence is just the same in all of us. If I trusted God to make me happy always, 1 should always do God's will. Suppose 1 do not trust Him to make me happy, then I must turn to myself. This is just what we see: men do not trust God to make them happy, and so they try to make themselves happy.