The Early Chapters of Genesis: Chapter 2:1-3

Genesis 2:1‑3  •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 9
These verses are really the necessary supplement and close of chap. 1, if we divide into chapters on a sound principle. It is well known that such a division, save in the Psalms etc., has no authority and is not seldom erroneous. The new title given to God, Jehovah Elohim, indicates consistently a new subject, as will be shown in its place. Hitherto it is simply Elohim, the abstract name of the Creator. Here as everywhere the name has nothing whatever to do with the question of authorship, as ignorant unbelief has suggested with misplaced confidence, but springs exclusively from internal reasons, as may be seen throughout scripture to much interest and instruction.
“ And the heavens and the earth and all their host were finished. And God had finished on the seventh day His work which He had made; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made. And God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it; because that on it He had rested from all His work which God had created in making” (or, and made, lit. to make) (vers. 1-3).
The last is without doubt a remarkable phrase, falling in naturally with what we have seen in the opening verses, an original creation where man was not, succeeded by catastrophe, and by fresh creative energy, the details of which refer to the scene where and when man was to be brought into being. Here the work and the rest of God are in clear view of the race; and the seventh day or sabbath has immense importance. On its first mention it was unmistakeably the witness of God's rest: His rest, not from weariness of course, but from the work of creation and making. This work was now ended for the life that now is. And as the six preceding days were literal, so is the seventh the closing day of the week.
This is amply and strictly confirmed by Ex. 20:1-111And God spake all these words, saying, 2I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3Thou shalt have no other gods before me. 4Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: 5Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; 6And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. 7Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. 8Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: 10But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: 11For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. (Exodus 20:1‑11). The sabbath is not a but the seventh day, the memorial of creation finished—of the Adamic world. “For in six days Jehovah made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day; therefore Jehovah blessed the sabbath day and sanctified it.” The language is precise. It is not said “created” but “made”. This was the right phrase as a whole for the work of the six days, however well creating is said of parts within that work. It was not the original production, but a special construction of divine will and power with man in view. That the seventh day is the sabbath is with equal care impressed in Deut. 5:12-1512Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee. 13Six days thou shalt labor, and do all thy work: 14But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou. 15And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day. (Deuteronomy 5:12‑15), though the connection of heart here is with the deliverance from bondage in the land of Egypt rather than with creation.
Nor is there a commandment on which scripture laid greater stress, when the law was bound on the sons of Israel, than that of the sabbath. All the others were moral in a sense which this was not; for of their own selves they could not but feel and own the duty. But the hallowing of the sabbath was of God's initiation exclusively, and singularly marked out for His people that they should not even look to gather the manna on that day. His honor was pre-eminently identified with its observance; and so was His blessing.
For us, Christians, the first day of the week, and not the sabbath, is characteristic. That only is to us the Lord's-day, as the day of His resurrection, and the witness of our accomplished redemption and of the power of His life as risen from the dead, and our life. It is accordingly as much marked by the new creation and grace as the sabbath day was by the six-days' creation and the law. And, though we have to do with the Lord on the first day, as the N. T. makes plain in manifold ways, the sabbath is not done with but will assuredly re-appear, when Zion arises from her long slumber in the dust, and the light of Jehovah shines in Israel for the universal blessing of the earth and the nations, as it never did even in the days of David and Solomon: so the prophets proclaim, and scripture cannot be broken.
Ours meanwhile is a higher call and a brighter hope; for we are by the Holy Spirit united to Him Whom Jew and Gentile crucified, Whom God not only raised but set at His own right hand in the heavenlies, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named not only in this age but also in that which is to come; we are the body of the glorified Head. Those who had the sabbath, as a sign between them and Jehovah, rejected their own Messiah, Who, slain by the hand of lawless men, lay in the grave that sabbath, “high” or great day as it emphatically was. It was the sin and the death of Israel, the ground of a still more terrible scattering than that of Assyria or of Babylon; yet in God's grace the divine and only efficacious means to faith of blotting out that sin and every other; as we prove who believe the gospel, while hardening in part has befallen Israel. But all Israel shall be saved by-and-by; and when they are, from one moon to another and from one sabbath to another, all flesh shall come to worship before Jehovah. We now by the Spirit sent down from heaven draw near by faith within the holiest, and this with boldness by the blood of Jesus. Of our peculiar blessing the first day, not the seventh, is the witness. Nor can lack of Christian intelligence be more decided than confounding the Lord's-day with the sabbath.
But the seventh day is also decisively against the day periods. For what can be conceived more unnatural, save when we let a system of private interpretation carry us away alike from simplicity and from spiritual understanding? Till the six days introduced Adam and his world, it could not be said that the heavens and the earth, still less “all their host,” were finished. Previous states of the creation had their importance; but till man and his congeners, animal and vegetable, there was a great lack. Neither on earth nor even in the heavens was there a creature made in God's image or after His likeness. This was not a little in itself as bringing in moral ways of and with man, and room for God's manifestation in promise and government, till the infinite fact of Immanuel, the Word made flesh, the Son of God a man, and His work no less infinite of redemption, yet to be the basis not only of the church's blessedness, as also of all saints and of Israel to come, but of the new heavens and new earth through all eternity.
What possible evidence from scripture that “the seventh day is the modern or human era in geology” (Archaia, 235)? or as the author of “Footprints of the Creator” puts it, “God's sabbath of rest may still exist; the work of redemption may be the work of His sabbath day”! Does it need the words of any one to refute such a reverie of self-destroying fancy? The scripture before us points out His rest as cessation from work, not merely from creation, but from creating to make. No doubt, if six immensely protracted periods of several thousand years each were certainly meant by the six days, analogy would claim a proportionately lengthened term for the seventh. But the doctrine of God's word even then would be thrown into confusion. For sin violated the rest of creation; and as God could not rest in sin, so He would not in misery, its effect. This is not our rest; it is polluted.
The argument of Heb. 3-4 is that, even though Messiah is come and the work of propitiation wrought, and we that believed do enter into the rest of God, we are only as yet in the day of temptation in the wilderness. Hence we are exhorted to fear lest any might seem to have failed, and to use diligence to enter in. A sabbatism, then, remains to the people of God. It is not yet come. It is the day of glory and not before when God has no more work to do, all being done so perfectly that He can rest forever. So our Lord pleaded to those who indulged in somewhat similar imagination in His day, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work". But work and rest are in contrast. Hence our Lord did on the sabbath what roused the enmity of the Jews implacably. God's rest was in no true sense come. He must work in grace, yea, the Father and the Son; and this has been done beyond all thought of the creature, and God is glorified thereby, yet the rest remains for another day.
But that work, infinitely acceptable and efficacious, is the very opposite of His rest, though the foundation of it. Meanwhile the heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ are being called; the delay, the longsuffering of God, is salvation; and the people of God must be by faith fitted to enjoy His rest. In due time they will enter in, in heaven and on earth. But it still remains; it is not yet come. The idea of a sabbath from Adam till now is a dream wholly antagonistic to all revealed truth. It will be at the end when God makes all things new, and the first things have passed away. This is in the fullest sense the rest of God, not the morning cloud that enveloped the entrance into Canaan, nor the dew that passed so early away in Eden. They were but shadows. The reality is to come, the true rest of God. There cannot be rest and work at the same time in the same sense. To view the sabbath or rest of God as contemporaneous with His work is to be in a mist and to lose completely the truth of both in strange fancifulness.
The absurdity which thus inevitably attaches to the age-day theory is proved by no consideration more clearly than by the seventh day or sabbath. That the natural day is meant is only the more evident from the fact that scripture leaves no room for a symbolic or age-lasting sabbath, after the Adamic world was made, but casts us only on its sure but still future dawn. It is “a promise left us” which the day of glory alone fulfills. Of this the sabbath, the natural day at the beginning, was the pledge, the blessed antitype, when God and the creature shall by redemption and resurrection power enjoy the communion of His own rest, sin, sorrow and death completely effaced, and love, righteousness, and glory triumphant forever through our Lord Jesus. This the scriptures hold out abundantly and unambiguously; but an allegoric sabbath stretching over the fall and the deluge, the kingdom of Israel and the Gentile world-powers, to say nothing of the law, the gospel, and the church, is a mere fiction of some few geologists speculative beyond the rest, for which not a word of revelation has ever been truly advanced.