Creation Stories (part 2)

Creation – Separating and populating We have seen that there are several creation stories in Genesis, each telling the story from a different perspective. This repetition is a typical Hebrew way of writing. Something is said once, then it is repeated in a different way, and then perhaps repeated a couple more times each in different ways again. This structure is typically used in poetry, so the Psalms and the wisdom literature are full of this type of writing. Now what’s interesting is that we find this repetition, this poetry, even in this first story of creation. Notice Day One – what does God create? Light. How does He do it? He separates the light from darkness. Day Two? God creates the sky, and He separates the waters above from the waters beneath by creating an atmosphere. Day Three? He creates dry land by separating the waters. So he creates light, then sea/sky, then land – by separating things. Moving on to Day Four, and what does God do? He creates the sun, moon and stars. In other words, He populates the light he has created on Day One. On Day 5, he populates the waters and sky he has […]

Creation Stories (part 1)

“Beresheit bara elohim”, our story begins. When God began to create ”. Genesis is not written as a complete history of the world. It is written as a backdrop for the other four books of Moses, and the focal point of these five books is the covenant which God made with Israel at Mt Sinai. So it won’t be a surprise as we go through this chapter to find images that relate directly to the people of Israel and the Exodus from Egypt. Genesis seeks to explain the beginnings of Israel as God’s chosen people – where, why and how they’ve come to be called by God as a kingdom of priests, set aside as a nation, to mediate God’s love to His world. This has implications in how we try to read the book. We cannot read it like an exhaustive history of how the world began, because it is only a selective history. It leaves out far more than it tells us, but what it tells us, it tells us for a purpose. And that purpose is to describe how Israel came to be chosen by God to carry out His purposes in the world, and how Israel […]

When God began to create

The Bible displays an elegant informality in the way in which God is introduced. “Beresheit bara Elohim et ha-shamayim vet ha-arets”– “When God began to create the heavens and the earth”. God is introduced as the One whom we all know has created the heavens and the earth. There is no attempt to prove His existence, no attempt to say what He was doing before He began to create, no attempt to explain the mechanics of his creation. Simply “When God began to create”. God is the One who needs no explanation as to His existence, and Moses (the author of Genesis) makes no attempt to probe behind God’s self-revelation in His creating of the universe. God is a personal friend of Moses, One with whom he spoke face to face, we are told. God’s presence and His being are plain to all. Now traditionally, and even still today, most versions of the Bible translate this opening phrase as “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” But Hebrew scholars would challenge the traditional English translation of verse 1. They point out that the phrase “beresheit bara Elohim et hamashayim vet haaretz” is actually an irregular construct phrase […]

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