Genesis 1:1 — 2:4a
Analysis by Joseph Justus van der Sabb
Genesis 1:1 In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. 3Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
6And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” 7So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. 8God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.
9And God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. 10God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. 11Then God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it.” And God saw that it was good. 13And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.
14And God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, 15and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. 16God made the two great lights — the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night — and the stars. 17God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, 18to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.
20And God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.” 21So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with whivh the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good. 22God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.
24And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.” And it was so. 25God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good.
26Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”
27So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
28God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” 29God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. 30And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
2:1Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. 2And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. 3So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.
4These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.
A Few Thoughts:
This Song of Creation speaks hope and meaning and the Gospel to a people who have good reason to doubt all three. She sings “It is God’s. It is Good! Trust in God!” so clearly that the folks who first heard it, believed it. It changed the way they saw everything. What a hymn! God reigns! Our God?? AWESOME! Someone (the Author?) was so enthusiastic about this Song that it was placed (and has remained!) as the opening lines of the greatest story ever told. It is, sadly, the fashion of this faithless age to debate the pedantic veracity of the account. As though something (faith? righteousness? truth?) is gained when the lyrics are unswervingly held to be historically/factually accurate though in obvious contradiction to everything else we know about our universe. Rightness is a poor substitute for trust in our God. The Song is True in the sense that by hearing it, faith in God is born and nurtured. The Song (like all of Holy Scripture) was (and is!) a part of the Trinity’s multi-faceted project to get into our hearts and heads… to breathe new life into dry bones. New life for those crazy Hebrews who didn’t know any better. New life for us today who think we do, but are just as clueless. This world is not just atoms and accidents. It is not just conflict and counter-conflict, money, sex and pride. Life does not begin with ego and advance through selfishness. Listen. Listen to this Song. The Voice of God, guiding like a father, warm and gentle like a mother, the Words of the Son, Love incarnate beyond death, still for his brothers and sisters, the Passion of the Spirit breathing life and hope and joy into the depths of human hearts… New Creation, in God’s image … It is God’s. It is Good.
DIAGNOSIS: Dominion! (Titularily Speaking)
Step 1: Initial Diagnosis (External Problem) : Mightily Clever
Have you seen the most recent ultraviolet enhanced photo from the Hubble Ultra Deep Field project? It took the telescope 841 orbits around our lonely blue planet to complete … and shows 10,000 galaxies in one frame. Infreakingcredible! And you’ve heard about the Hercules-Corona Borealis Great Wall? A ‘wall’ of galaxies 10 billion light years in width, give or take a billion… Ten Billion Light Years?! My mouth is hanging open a little bit. Wow! Gamma rays can tell us that? There’s something that BIG in the universe?! There is… and we know it.
We’re mighty clever these days. From flexible touch screens to 3D printing to cloning and drones and the cloud (all dated developments already!) and all that will be, humanity is mightily clever… mighty AND clever. We can impress ourselves. A lot. We can explain and understand so much. And except for a few insignificant quandries: why there is something instead of nothing, dark matter/energy, what was there before the Big Bang, the why and how and why-then of the Big Bang, why life, what is consciousness, how to convince folks that, en masse, they need to voluntarily self-commit to ecological austerity to mitigate climate change, etc, we’re well on track to being the masters of our own situation!
And we’re going to keep figuring things out and making toys that make the ones we have now look positively quaint. We’re going to figure out how to stop aging and cure cancer and beat AIDS. At least for a few people. We’re going to discover life on an exoplanet and, for starters, put a colony on the Moon and on Mars. Our dominion over the planet will gradually become a dominion over the universe. Unfortunately, however, most people and every other species will have to keep going with that other thing … being exploited… lives that are nasty, brutish and short … scratching the soil to try to grow some food … suffering … dying …
This is a problem? Eh. This is our dominion!
Step 2: Advanced Diagnosis (Internal Problem) : Bared: Clever Unashamed…
And we’re smart too. Really smart. We know that Genesis 1 is Elohist, and Genesis 2 is Yahwist and that Marduk and Tiamat came first and that Six Days were… not Six Days. Because we’re very clever and we’ve been down the yellow brick road to the Great Rift Valley and peeked behind the curtain. Fig leaves don’t grow there.
It’s one thing to sing about humanity being made in the image of God, male and female, and God thinking it’s all mighty fine and giving them dominion over the world… but reality hits. Hard and fast. She is in God’s image? Not buying it. Him? If God was a childish ogre! So we tell a second tale, about how what was good turned out to not be so good after all. Their names were Adam and Eve. And we ought to call them Pseudo-you and Pseudo-me. Two who could not bear to be who they were when they could be like God. And we’ve tried to outdo them ever since… thinking we’re in a place to second-guess God. Trying to rule the weather and the atoms, molecules and DNA, life and death. We want to be God instead of to be in the image of God. Just look at our shiny toys. Trusting in them, and in our ability to make more…we too have “words” which we think will speak a better world into being: degrees and money, design and technology, genius and innovation, expertise and hard work, progress and development and rights and equality…
Our Dominion over the psyche and the soul and the structure of reality, the economy and the politics of the planet… is utterly unprecedented. Where empire and creed were once thought to hold sway, a few people lording it over the earth, the agents of this Dominion have built a new edifice from the ruins and its roots are as old as Adam. We finally know the difference between good and evil. But no two of us will agree… agreeing only that we are neither culpable nor responsible for the wreckage in our wake, for we plucked but one illicit fruit… as one does…
Step 3: Final Diagnosis (Eternal Problem) : Not “Very Good”
Not Good Enough … But for all our cleverness… unashamed as it pretends to be … it is a sham. The Dominion is hollow. For all the noise and glitter, it cannot generate meaning. Glamor is a parody and pleasure tastes like sand. Having it all, we have nothing that matters. The blessing to bear the image of God is unfulfilled: thwarted by the seduction to Dominion and power, authority and manipulation. Instead of inter-subjectivity with God, we’ve tried to satisfy ourselves with the objectification of each other and creation. And it doesn’t work.
The Song that matters, that binds us into the imagining of God for a whole creation declared “Good!” isn’t being heard. We can’t see each other as Good. We can’t see ourselves as Good. We like the word Domination when we’re on top… but feel helpless and angry when we realize where wanton failure to be faithful stewards (by all involved, us and them!) has landed us. This is as good as it gets? This isn’t very good. The reed is breaking. The bones are dry. The last strand of hope is pulled thin and now has finally snapped. And the God who supposedly thought this was a good idea has let us let this all unravel, bit by bit… a disaster, nay, a debacle.
PROGNOSIS: Vox Dominus
Step 4: Initial Prognosis (Eternal Solution) : Voice Over
In the darkness, the void, in the turmoil and sorrow and hurt, there is a Beginning. In the beginning is the Word, with the Father, and the Spirit who hovers and moves, stirs and breathes, One God. And where there is no light, God is. God is the New Beginning. And God says, Let there be Light! And there is. There is. And the Word is the Light of the World and so there are lesser lights and they reflect his Light, and so for those in darkness, among them Light dawns. And it is good. And there is morning and there is evening. The days go by.
The Project of God is the Word of God, the Song over the Waters, that God would become flesh and make a dwelling among the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve. That God would take back this universe of human hearts from the bondage of powers and selfishnesses that afflict us. That God would be a Father and that we would trust our Father. That a New Creation will be born in human hearts and that Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
The Jews in Exile hear the Word of God through the prophets – and receive this Song. Hope is born and cherished anew despite turmoil. The existence of the cosmos is not a whim and not a joke, not a freak accident. It is emanation and comes from God the way a word comes from a mouth… effortlessly, by intention and will, with all authority, gently, borne on a breath, to every heart in a slightly different way, bringing comfort and joy. The God who speaks this cosmos into being — every nanometer of those 10 billion light years — every proton and electron in those ten thousand galaxies — is our God. For us. A God who knows each of us through and through and loves us.
Step 5: Advanced Prognosis (Internal Solution) : And it was so …
Does this matter? Like nothing else can matter! The God of the hosts of heaven is for us! We are safe in God because of Jesus Christ the only begotten Son of God! Who then will condemn us? What then can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord?
A space is open now, a space to be the people of God, bearing the likeness of God, in response to God… in communion with God. The Word which brings this New Creation into being isn’t Technology and Progress, Sweat, Blood and Toil. It never was. In fact, it sounds like a Word we’ve heard before: Take and Eat. Peace be with you. Let your light so shine, Blessed art Thou, Lord our God, King of the Universe. For we are not the Kings of this universe. Not the Lords. Not the ones with Dominion. We are the shepherds, stewards, servants, caretakers, guardians, fishers of men. We are the children of God, disciples of the Crucified One who conquered death and has promised to be with us always, to the end of all things.
This is the New Creation — hearts that trust Jesus Christ, in whom dwells the glory of God. The Project of God, this Song, the Word that speaks through the Spirit the love of the Father will continue to move over the depths of creation, over labs and space stations, over kingdoms and empires, schools and churches, wastelands and the slaughtering fields. And we will be in those places. And there will be light.
Step 6: Final Prognosis (External Solution) : … made in the image of God
… and they knew they were bare, though clever. And God covered their nakedness. With the forgiveness of sin and the gifting of the Spirit, those who are in Christ are a new creation. What modest proposals could we offer for what being in the image of God looks like in the world today? Just a couple notes: We live boldly while trusting more boldly still in the Triune God who is for us, always, through every trial and thorn of life. We are not afraid to peer through microscopes and telescopes. We feed the hungry and clothe the naked. We steward creation well. And we do it because of who we are in Christ. (Not for golden crowns in heaven or pieces of silver on earth.) Because of the hope that is breathed into us… order in the chaos, structure in the rubble, community in exile, endless Light in the blackest night.