Verses of Genesis 1
Genesis 1:1 Commentary - B.H. Carroll's An Interpretation of the English Bible
CREATION PART ONE
Genesis is the book of origins and developments. It supplies its own outline or plan of treatment in twelve sections:
1. In one sublime sentence it gives the origin of the universe. Gen 1:1 .
2. In a few other equally sublime sentences it gives the origin of this earth that part of the universe which is to become the arena of the Bible story, culminating with a general statement of the origin of man, as a race, appointed to occupy and subdue the earth. Gen 1:2-31 ; Gen 2:1-3 .
A certain oft-recurring formula introduces every important stage of subsequent development, serving as a bond of unity between the several parts, and as a title to the ten other sections of the book:
3. "These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth" (Gen 2:4 ).
4. "This is the book of the generations of Adam" (Gen 5:1 ).
5. "These are the generations of Noah" (Gen 6:9 ).
7. "These are the generations of Shem" (Gen 11:10 ).
8. "These are the generations of Terah" (Gen 11:27 ).
9. "These are the generations of Ishmael" (Gen 25:12 ).
10. "These are the generations of Isaac" (Gen 25:19 ).
11. "These are the generations of Esau" (Gen 36:1 ).
12. "These are the generations of Jacob" (Gen 37:2 ).
This framework of twelve sections is the designed skeleton of the whole book. We commence, therefore, with…
THE ORIGIN OF THE UNIVERSE "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Gen 1:1 ). "Beginning" here means the commencement of time; and shows that the matter of the universe had a definite origin. Matter is not eternal.
"God" is the explanation of this origin. Matter did not start itself. God alone is eternal.
"Created" means brought into being without the use of preexisting material. This verb, having God for its subject, is generally used in the Bible when something, not before existing, is brought into existence by divine power, and is distinguished in this chapter and elsewhere from other verbs signifying to make, shape, or to form out of pre-existing material.
As there could be no human witness when the original foundations were laid, and as human science deals only with preexisting material, our knowledge of this origin of things cannot come by science, history, or tradition, but by revelation, and must be received by faith. Hence a subsequent scriptural statement: "By faith we understand that the worlds have been framed by the word of God, so that what is seen hath not been made out of things which appear" (Heb 11:3 ; Psa 103:7 ). "Heavens and earth" means the whole universe.
ORIGIN OF THE EARTH (Gen 1:2-31 ; Gen 2:1-3 ) Quickening of inert, matter. "And the earth [i.e., the already created matter out of which the earth was to be formed] was waste and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God brooded upon the face of the waters" (Gen 1:2 ).
The story passes abruptly from the universe to that part of it which becomes the scene of the Bible history. The description of the earth matter is very vivid: waste, void, dark. The classical student cannot help recalling Ovid's description of Chaos, here freely rendered into English: Before the sea and land, and the heavens which cover all, Nature had one appearance in all the world Which men called Chaos a rude and unassimilated mass . . . because in one body Cold things fought with hot, wet things with dry, Soft things with hard, imponderable things with heavy.
The doctrine is that matter is inert of itself. It had no inherent potentiality. In itself has no capacity to become a world of order and beauty. The quickening of matter by the Holy Spirit was therefore the second creative activity. Given matter alone, and we have chaos alone; but given also an extraneous power, intelligent, beneficent, and omnipotent, to impart capacity to matter and to direct its movements, we will have a well-ordered and beautiful world.
ORIGIN OF LIGHT
"And God said, Let there be light: and there was light." Light is the first product of the Spirit's breeding power exercised on matter. As a primal subagent in the formation of other things its introduction was essential at this point. Well does it deserve Milton's apostrophe: "Hail, holy Light, offspring of heaven, first-born." It is the emblem of the divinity which created it: "God is light, and in him is no darkness at all." Jesus Christ is "the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world." His people, reflecting his image, are "the light of the world."
The creation, by the simple fiat of God, serves to illustrate a mightier creation, the conversion of the soul by the same Spirit: "God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness hath shined into our hearts, giving the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2Co 4:6 ).
Atheistic philosophers vainly attempt to solve the mystery of light. Apart from Revelation, the Almighty's questions propounded to Job remain unanswered: "Where is the way to the dwelling of light? . . . By what way is the light parted?" (Job 38:19-24 ). The eye is made for it, and truly light is sweet; but what unaided wisdom can comprehend its mystery? Mysterious in origin, exquisitely beautiful in combination of colors, immaculate and incorruptible. It cannot be defiled by contact with impurity as can earth, air, or water.
This was not solar or stellar light, for there was yet no atmospheric medium through which the light of any previously formed part of the universe could reach and influence the inert mass of the earth. To call it cosmical light is to name it and not explain it. The only ultimate explanation is that it was a creative product resulting from the moving, brooding, quickening Spirit of God.
Some object to regarding earth light as a creative product because it now reaches us from second causes the sun, moon, and stars. The objection perishes by pushing back the inquiry far enough. Some one of the existing words of the universe must have been fashioned first out of the originally created matter. In the case of this first one the origin of its light must be referred to the first cause, i.e., creative fiat, since there was no other world from which, as a second cause, its light could come. In the case of the earth, the only one whose history is revealed, external light at the beginning had no medium of approach.
ORIGIN OF ATMOSPHERE "And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters." Firmament or expanse, i.e., what is outspread, is the visible result of the formation of the earth's atmosphere. This formation is the effect of supernatural power. The psalmist declares: "The firmament showeth his handiwork." Milton, in Paradise Lost, expresses the Bible thought:
The firmament, expanse of liquid, pure, Transparent, elemental air, diffused In circuit to the uttermost convex Of this great round.
The atmosphere is the outer sphere of air fluid enveloping the earth as the rind of an orange encloses the pulp. Its depth is supposed to be about forty-five miles. It would be out of place here to discuss in detail its manifold uses. We merely state in a general way that without it there could be no vegetable or animal life, nor transmission of sound, nor the conveyance, refraction, or decomposition of light. Its particular use specified in the text is to separate waters from waters. The power to do this lies in its specific gravity or weight. This weight, greatest at the sea level, gradually diminishes as it ascends, until, by extreme rarity, its upper boundary is lost in the higher enveloping sphere of ether. All waters expanded by heat into vapor or cloud rise above the air; all vapors condensed until heavier than atmosphere fall below it. You see clouds above clouds. The highest ones are the lightest. Whatever condenses them brings them lower until their weight, exceeding that of the atmosphere, precipitates them in the form of snow, sleet, hail, or rain.
The cloud, while seemingly only the natural result of light (or heat) and atmosphere, is really the product of divine power. "Hath the rain a father? Or whom hath begotten the drops of dew? Out of whose womb came the ice? And the hoary frost of heaven, who gendered it?" (Job 38:28-29 ).
He giveth snow like wool; He scatterest the hoar frost like ashes; He casteth forth his ice like morsels. Who can stand before his cold? He sendeth out his word and melteth them. Psa 147:16-18
"For he draweth up the drops of water, which distill in rain from his vapour, which the skies pour down and drop upon man abundantly. Yea, can any understand the spreading of the clouds, the thunderings of his pavilion?" (Job 36:27-29 ). "Dost thou know the balancings of the clouds, the wondrous works of him who is perfect in knowledge?" (Job 37:16 ).
ORIGIN OF THE DRY LAND "And God said, Let the waters under the heavens be gathered unto one place, and let the dry land appear; and it was so" (Gen 1:9 ). Chaos, meaning a commingling of elements, is now eliminated. There was first a separation of light from darkness; then a separation of waters by the intervening atmosphere; finally a separation of land and sea. This may have been brought about either by upheaval of some parts of the land through the action of subterranean fires, or by subsidence of the submerged crest of the land in other places through cooling and shrinking of the interior mass, or by the convulsions of mighty electric storms. It matters little what second causes were employed. The omnipotent energy of the brooding spirit was the first cause. "Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters, who maketh the clouds his chariot; who walketh upon the wings of the wind; who maketh winds his messengers; flames of fire his ministers; who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be moved forever. Thou coveredst it with the deep as with a vesture; the waters stood above the mountains. At thy rebuke they fled; at the voice of thy thunder they hastened away. [The mountains rose, the valleys sank down] unto the place which thou hadst founded for them. Thou hast set a bound that they may not pass over; that they turn not again to cover the earth" (Psa 104:3-9 ). "Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if thou hast understanding. Who determined the measures thereof, if thou knowest? Whereupon were the foundations thereof fastened? Or who laid the cornerstone thereof, when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Or who shut up the sea with doors when it brake forth, as if it had issued out of the womb; when I made clouds the garments thereof, and the thick darkness a swaddling band for it, and marked out for it my bound, and set bars and doors, and said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further; and here shall thy proud waves be stayed" (Job 38:4-11 ).
ORIGIN OF VEGETABLE LIFE "And God said, Let the earth put forth grass, herbs yielding seed, and fruit-trees bearing fruit after their kind, wherein is the seed thereof, upon the earth: and it was so." We now come to consider the origin of life in its lowest form. Matter is organized and vitalized into vegetation. Three distinct classes of vegetable life are specified: the grass, the herb, and the fruit tree. The first is a simple organism, all blade, and propagated by division of its part; the second, complex, having a pithy stalk, and propagated by its seed; the third, more complex, having a stem of wood, so being able to rise above the ground, and bearing fruit which encloses the seed for propagation.
At this first appearance of life, human science must acknowledge God. All the research of the ages has never been able to prove even one case of spontaneous generation or a biogenesis; that is, an origination of living organisms from lifeless matter. Every living organism known to science proceeded from a parental living organism. Professor Huxley concedes that science sees no reason for believing that the evolution of living protoplasm from nonliving matter has yet been performed.
Between nothing and matter was an infinite chasm which omnipotent creative energy alone could span. Between the chaos of matter and order there was another infinite chasm which God alone can span. Between matter and life of the lowest order is yet another infinite chasm which God alone can span. We here consider also for the, first time the great law of reproduction and multiplication within the limit of species. Each divided root of grass produces grass only. Each herb, through its own seed, reproduces only its own kind. Each fruit tree, through its own seed, reproduces only its own kind. This law of reproduction of species applies, as will be seen later, to the higher animal life (Gen 1:21 ; Gen 1:25 ; Gen 1:28 ), and is equally applicable to the highest order of animal life, man himself (Gen 1:28-5:3 ).
There is indeed a scriptural law of evolution following from a previous involution. That is, there is development in everything according to its nature. All potentiality in the germ may be developed, but wholly along the lines of its own nature. "The earth beareth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear" (Mar 4:28 ). "By their fruits you shall know them. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?" (Mat 7:16 .) "Doth the fountain send forth from the same opening sweet water and bitter? Can a fig-tree, my brethren, yield olives, or a vine figs? Neither can salt water yield sweet" (Jas 3:11-12 ).
The plan of God's creation shows an ascending grade of life in all organisms. While one kind never produces another kind, it may produce indefinite varieties of its own kind. The margin between the several kinds is so slight that you may compare it to the morning twilight, in which it is difficult to say when night ceases and day begins. This narrowness of margin continues until we reach man, the highest organism, and in his case, as will be shown, the chasm is infinite.
ORIGIN OF THE LIGHT HOLDERS "And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of heaven." The reader will observe that in the first verse of Genesis we have a statement of the creation of the heavens. The reference, here, therefore, is not to the bringing into being of the heavenly bodies, for the verb to create is not used, but the appointment of them for offices or usefulness to the earth. The whole statement is from an earth viewpoint, and in reference to their relations to the earth. The earth atmosphere having been established, and chaos eliminated by the separation of the elements, to one on earth the heavenly bodies would seem to begin to be. Their service to the earth is threefold: first to divide the day from the night. That is, to continue and render permanent the separation and distinction which was effected on the first day. Second, for signs, seasons, days, and years. Third, as a permanent arrangement for the distribution of light upon the earth.
In many places in the Bible it is made clear that God is the maker of the heavenly bodies. Some of the references are unspeakably sublime and instructive. "That maketh the Bear, Orion, and Pleiades, and the chambers of the south" (Job 9:9 ). "Canst thou bind the cluster of the Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion? Canst thou lead forth the Mazzaroth in their season? Or canst thou guide the Bear with her train? Knowest thou the ordinances of the heavens? Canst thou establish the dominion thereof in the earth?" (Job 38:31-33 ). "When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; what is man, that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that thou visitest him?" (Psa 8:3-4 ). "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech nor language; their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun, which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run his course. His going forth is from the end of the heavens, and his circuit unto the ends of it, and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof" (Psa 19:1-6 ). "He appointed the moon for the seasons; the sun knoweth his the forest creep forth. The young lions roar after their prey and seek their food from God. The sun ariseth, they get them away, and lay them down in their dens. Man goeth forth unto his work and to labour until the evening. O, Jehovah, how manifold are thy works I In wisdom hast thou made them all; the earth is full of thy riches" (Psa 104:19-24 ). "That ye may be the sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and unjust" (Mat 5:45 ). "And yet he left himself not without witness, in that he did good and gave you from heaven rains and fruitful seasons, filling your hearts with food and gladness" (Act 14:17 ). "Because that which is known of God is manifest in them; for God manifested it unto them. For the invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made even his everlasting power and divinity; that they may be without excuse" (Rom 1:19-20 ).
The object of these lengthy quotations from the Word of God with reference to the creation and usefulness of the heavenly bodies is to show how clearly God's revelation establishes the fact of his creation and guards against the tendency in Man to worship the creature more than the Creator. The earliest and most persistent form of idolatry was the worship of the heavenly bodies; or of nature considered apart from God. The history of idolatries upon this point is full of interest, and all through the Bible story we see a conflict between the worship of the one true God and the creatures which he made. Paul, in his letter to the Romans, gives the grounds and process of-idolatry. "Because that, knowing God, they glorified him not as God, neither gave thanks; but became vain in their reasonings, and their senseless heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God for the likeness of an image of corruptible man, and of birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things" (Rom 1:21-23 ). The Hebrew prophets were very earnest in their exhortations against these idolatries. "Hear ye the word which Jehovah speaketh unto you, O house of Israel: thus sayeth Jehovah, Learn not the ways of the nations, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the nations are dismayed at them" (Jer 10:1-2 ). "Thou art wearied in the multitude of thy counsels: let not the astrologers, the star-gazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up, and save thee from the things that shall come upon thee" (Isa 47:13 ).
In all literature there is nothing to compare in sublimity of thought and expression with Gen 1 , Psa 104 , which is a hymn of creation, and the address of the Almighty to Job (Job 38-41). There can be no sound theology, no true conception of the material universe, of vegetable and animal life, of the nature, dignity and relations of man, without a revealed groundwork of creation. On this account so much attention, relatively, is given to the first chapter of Genesis.
ORIGIN OF MARINE ANIMALS AND FOWLS "And God said, Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven" (Gen 1:20 ). As in the case of vegetable life, animal life commences with the lowest forms: those developed from water. In his apostrophe to the ocean, Byron well says:
Even from out of thy slime the monsters of the deep arc made.
Again let the reader note that life comes from God's fiat, and not from any inherent power in water and air.. Both sea and sky are thick-peopled at his word:
Yonder is the sea, great and wide, Wherein are creeping things innumerable, Both small and great beasts. There go the ships: There is leviathan, whom thou hast formed to play therein. These wait all for thee, That thou mayest give them their food in due season. Thou givest unto them, they gather; Thou openest thy hand, they are satisfied with good. Thou bidest thy face, they are troubled; Thou takest away their breath, they die, And return to the dust. Thou sendest forth thy Spirit, they are created. Psa 104:25-30
ORIGIN OF LAND ANIMALS
"And God said, Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind, cattle and creeping things, and beasts of the earth after their kind: and it was so" (Gen 1:24 ). This language means: Let there be live beings of the substance of the earth. And now land, air, and sea are populous. The organs of movement are adapted to the element fins for the sea, wings for the air and feet for the land. Some are amphibious at home on land or sea, and some in air, or land, or sea. In wisdom God made them all.
QUESTIONS 1. Derivation of the English word, "Genesis"?
2. From what version of the Bible do we get the name?
3. What is Genesis?
4. State the twelve sections into which the book divides itself.
5. First origin?
6. Meaning of "beginning"?
7. What does the first verse show?
8. What one word is the explanation of the universe?
9. Meaning of "created"?
10. With God for its subject, how is this verb used in the Bible?
11. Do we obtain our knowledge of creation from tradition, history, science, or revelation?
12. What New Testament scripture expresses the fact?
13. The next origin set forth in the Bible story?
14. Give the Bible description of the earth matter.
15. What mighty agent is introduced to deal with matter?
16. What doctrine does this teach?
17. Given matter alone, what result?
18. Given matter and the Holy Spirit, what result?
19. First product of Spirit energy?
20. Of what is it the emblem?
21. What mightier creation does it illustrate?
22. Can atheistic philosophy account for light?
23. What questions concerning light does the Almighty propound to Job?
24. Was this first light either solar or stellar?
25. Why not?
26. What is the only ultimate explanation of light?
27. Have you read Milton's "Apostrophe to Light"?
28. Second product of Spirit energy?
29. What is the firmament?
30. What is atmosphere?
31. Mention some of its uses.
32. What special use in the text?
33. What property of atmosphere enables it to divide the waters?
34. Explain the process.
35. Of what natural agencies does the cloud appear to be the product?
36. What is the ultimate explanation?
37. Cite some scriptures attributing clouds, rain, snow, and hail to divine origin.
38. The third product of Spirit energy operating on matter?
39. How has chaos been eliminated?
40. What second causes may have been employed to make dry land appear?
41. Cite some scriptures showing that second causes were but the servants of the first cause.
42. Fourth product of Spirit energy?
43. What three classes of vegetable life are mentioned?
44. What word alone explains life?
45. What is abiogenesis?
46. Can human science prove even one instance of it?
47. What four infinite chasms which divine power alone can span appear in Genesis I? Ans.: (1) Between nothing and matter; (2) Between the chaos of matter and order; (3) Between matter, even when reduced to order, and the lowest form of life; (4) Between the highest order of brute life and man.
48. State the great law of reproduction and multiplication of original forms of life.
49. Is there any evidence that this law has been violated?
50. What is scriptural evolution?
51. What grade and margin in life organisms does God's plan of creation show?
52. In what one case is the margin infinitely wide?
53. Fifth product of the Spirit energy?
54. Does this mean that these heavenly bodies were then first created?
55. What does it mean?
56. What three offices of usefulness do the heavenly bodies render to the earth?
57. Cite some scriptures showing the fact that God did create the heavenly bodies.
58. Against what sin was the revelation designed to guard?
59. How does Paul state the ground and processes of idolatry?
60. What psalm is a hymn of creation?
61. What chapters of Job should be studied in connection with Genesis I?
62. Sixth product of Spirit energy?
63. Seventh product?
64. What organs of movement are adapted to the several elements, sea, air, land?
65. Mention an amphibious animal.
66. One at home in all three elements.
Verses of Genesis 1
Consult other comments:
B.H. Carroll's An Interpretation of the English Bible
An Interpretation of the English Bible is a 17 volume study of the Bible by Benajah Harvey Carroll (1843-1914).
Interpretation is not a verse-by-verse commentary, but instead examines sections (usually chapters) of Scripture, suitable for classes and as a Biblical survey. The sections contain expository comments, consistent with Carroll's statement that this is not a commentary on the Bible, but an interpretation of the Bible. Each section contains questions about the content.