Where life got its start
Day 1, Lights1It all started when God created the universe—everything on earth and in the sky. 2Earth was shapeless and empty. Darkness cloaked the deep water. God’s Spirit cruised through the darkness, above the water.
3God said, “Lights.” Lights came on. 4God liked the light. He gave it a place, separate from darkness. 5God called the light’s place “Day.” He put darkness in its place, too. He called it “Night.” Nighttime passed. Morning came. The first day was over.
Day 2, Living space6God said, “Open up some room. Put it in a dry place, sandwiched between water on the ground and water above.” 7God made a huge space. That’s what happened. Then he parted the water. He put some on the ground, below the space. He put the rest above the space. 8God called the huge room “Sky.” Nighttime passed. Morning came. The second day was over.
Day 3, Gardens9God said, “Water under the sky, flow into one place to make room for dry ground.” That’s what happened. 10God called the dry ground “Land.” He called the wet place “Ocean.” God liked what he saw. 11God said, “Land, grow a garden. Grow plants that make their own seeds. Grow trees that produce fruit, which make their own seeds, too.” That’s what happened. 12The land grew a garden. All the plants made their own seeds. Trees produced fruit that made its own seeds. Each kind of tree had its own unique seeds. God liked what he saw. 13Nighttime passed. Morning came. The third day was over.
Day 4, Lights for the sky14God said, “Lights for the sky. Hang 'em high. They'll mark time, separating day from night. They’ll mark not only the days, but the seasons and the years, too. 15These sky lights will light the room below.” That’s what happened. 16God made two bright sky lights. The biggest and brightest lit the day. The smaller one lit the night. God made the stars, too. 17God put these lights in the sky to brighten the earth 18and to separate light from darkness, and day from night. God liked what he saw. 19Nighttime passed. Morning came. The fourth day was over.
Day 5, Fish & birds20God said, “Life, fill the waters below and the sky above. Fish and other water-loving creatures, start swimming. Birds, fly above the ground in the big room I made.” 21God created the sea creatures. Big, monster-sized ones, too. All kinds. Everything that lives and moves in the water. He did the same for every bird that flies. God liked what he saw. 22God showed his approval with a blessing: “Make lots of baby swimmers and fliers. Fish and all swimmers at sea, fill the water with your babies. Birds, fill the sky.” 23Nighttime passed. Morning came. The fifth day was over.
Day 6, Animals and humans24God said, “Land, produce animals. All kinds. Everything that moves on the ground including tame livestock and wild, untamable animals.” Sure enough, that’s what happened. 25God made the animals. All kinds. Mild. Wild. Everything that lives and moves along the ground. God liked what he saw.
26God said, “Let’s make humans. They’ll resemble us. They’ll be in charge of the planet: the fish in the water, the birds in the sky, and the animals on the ground. Sky high to ocean deep, they’ll make the call about what happens on the earth. 27God created a man who resembled him. A woman, too. Man and woman. They both resembled God.
28God showed his approval with a blessing: “Have lots of children. Fill this world with your children and your children’s children. Take charge of the planet. Manage the fish, the birds, and every life form around you. They are your responsibility.” 29God said, “Take a good look at all the plants that produce seeds and all the trees that fill with fruit. They are your food. 30They are food for the animals, too. For the creatures large and small, high and low—from birds that soar to creepy, crawly critters scurrying through the dirt. If it’s a green plant, it’s animal food.” And that’s the way it was. 31God saw what he made and liked what he saw. He liked it very much. Nighttime passed. Morning came. The sixth day was over.
Some Hebrew language experts say it should read “started to create,” which suggests a process, with the process taking a week or perhaps an eon of weeks.
“Spirit of God” could read as “wind of God.”
“Human” or “man” is pronounced Adam in Hebrew.
“Us” is possibly a reference to other celestial beings such as angels or to the Trinity: Father, Son, Holy Spirit.
Jewish tradition says Moses wrote Genesis. But many scholars seem to doubt that. Some list clues that suggest someone else either wrote Genesis or edited it after Moses died. What do you think of the idea that Moses may not have written the Book of Genesis?
Some Hebrew language specialists say the Bible shouldn’t begin with “God created.” It should begin with “God started to create.” If those specialists are right, what difference do you think it would make to how we understand the Creation story?
NASA uses the following words to describe the birth of the universe, which they say is made up mostly of mysterious substances they call Dark Energy and Dark Matter: “When the universe was young, it was nearly smooth and featureless. As it grew older and developed, it became organized” (A Visual Walk Through Genesis, page 17). That sounds a little like “Earth was shapeless and empty. Darkness cloaked the deep water” (1:2), along with all the universe-building that follows in the rest of Genesis 1. Do you think that suggests we should read the Creation story as though it’s reporting accurate history and science?
The Creation story reads like rhythmic poetry, beating a drum “through six wonderfully pulsing choruses.” He says each Day in the Creation story sounds a lot like every other day—at least in the way the events are told. For example, each day ends with the same lyrics: “Nighttime passed. Morning came. The first day was over” (1:5). Do you think that might suggest we should not take the story quite so literally—as history and science—but perhaps allow for the possibility that the writer was driving with a poetic license?
For Christians who read the story as accurate history and science, what do you think would be their counterpoint to the Genesis writer’s report that God created plants on Day Three—one day before he created the sun that provides the radiation that the plants need to live?
Do you find the following two statements as interesting parallels or as unrelated to one another?
- The Bible quotes God as saying, “Water under the sky, flow into one place to make room for dry ground” (1:9).
- Some geoscientists theorize that Earth was a waterworld 2.5 billion years ago.
The Genesis writer doesn’t say God created the sun and moon. The writer says God created “two bright sky lights. The biggest and brightest lit the day. The smaller one lit the night” (1:16). Some scholars speculate that the writer skipped the names of sun and moon because in Bible times the sun and moon were names of pagan gods. The sun was Shamash (SHAH mahsh). The moon was Yarikh (YAR ack). Would you buy into that theory?
God gave humans the job of taking care of Creation. The Casual English Bible quotes God this way: “They’ll be in charge of the planet….Sky high to ocean deep, they’ll make the call about what happens on the earth” (1:26). Do you think the paraphrase got it right? And if we are Earth’s caretakers, how do you think we’re doing?
God says “Let us make human beings” (1:26 New Living Translation). Who is the “us”? There are several theories. Can you warm up to any of them?
Here are the three theories. “Us” means:
- the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
- God is talking to others in his heavenly home
- God is talking about himself in the first person plural, like a star quarterback, “Yeah, we threw that ball right into the numbers.”
God says humans will “resemble us” (1:26). Bible experts serve up lots of educated guesses about what that means. Here are several. Do you like any one of them more than another:
- We reign. In the very next sentence, God puts humans in charge of life on the planet. We’re the caretakers of his creation. (See 1:28, 2:15 New Living Translation.)
- We create. God gives us the ability to create. Babies, for one. Books for another.
- We have character. We resemble God in some of our characteristics: we reason, we love, we’re inventive, and we have a sense of justice.
- We look like him. Adam had a son that resembled him, too: Seth, “who was just like him, his very spirit and image” (5:3 Message).
There’s no mention of meat-eaters in Genesis 1. “If it’s a green plant, it’s animal food” (1:30). Prophets will later talk of a vegan paradise: “The lion will eat hay like a cow” (Isaiah 11:7 New Living Translation). Does that suggest a vegan diet is God’s preferred menu? Or do you think poets are simply trying to help readers picture a world of perfect peace in which blood doesn’t get spilled?
LIFE APPLICATION. As you think about the universe, from stars in the sky to fish in the sea, what makes you feel most inclined to believe that there’s a Creator behind this creation?