Verses of Genesis 1


Genesis 1:1 Commentary - The Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary Edited by Joseph S. Exell


Gen. 1:1. In the beginning] Or, “at first,” “originally,” “to start with:” Sept. en archê (εν αρχῃ) as in Joh. 1:1. God] Heb. ’Elohim (אֱלֹהִים): w. ref. to this frequent and interesting Divine Name, note

(1.) its radical conception—that of POWER;

(2.) its formPLURAL, either “of excellence” (Ges. and others), or “of abstraction,” as in “lordship” for “lord” in English (B. Davies);

(3.) its construction—gen. w. SING. VERS, AND PRONOUN, as here w. bârâʾ (בָרָא), he created,—serving as an ever recurring protest against the wild vulgarity wh. wd. here understand “angels,” and as a plea for the unity of the Divine Nature. Elohim ═ “the Putter-forth of manifold powers, or the Living Personification of power in its most radical conception,” occurs about 2,500 times in O. T.

Gen. 1:2. And the earth] Here “the e.” is emp. by position (Ewald); and, as emphasis implies contrast, shd. be introduced by “but:” “But THE EARTH!”—a strangely overlooked hint for the expositor—“But THE EARTH had become,” &c.,—whether by first creation or subseq. catastrophe, it does not say. Without form and void] Heb. thóhu and bhóhu: words inimitably expressive ═ “wasteness and emptiness.” B occurs only thrice, each time with T: here, and Is. 34:11; Jer. 4:23. Deep] Heb. thehôm ═ “roaring deep:” Sept. and Vulg. abyss. Moved] Heb. participle expresses the continued process of life-giving love.



I. Then Atheism is a folly. “In the beginning God.” There have always been men who have denied the existence of God. All down through the ages their voices have been heard—their books have been read, and their arguments have been promulgated. Atheism is the supreme folly of which man is capable. It divests life of all spiritual enjoyment—of real nobility of character, and degrades almost to the level of the brute. The atheist must be blind to all the appearances of Creation, for one sincere outlook upon them would demonstrate the mockery of his creed. The fool hath said in his heart that there is no God. He dare not loudly articulate a conclusion, which his inner consciousness tells him to be so utterly devoid of truth, so criminal, and so likely to attract the retribution of heaven. Atheism is proved absurd:—

1. By the history of the creation of the world. It would be impossible for a narrative to be clearer, more simple, or more divinely authenticated than this of the creation. The very existence of things around us is indisputable evidence of its reality. If this history be a myth, then the world and man must be myths also. But if the universe is a fact, then it follows that this ancient narrative must be so. Then this chapter is perfectly natural in its subject matter. We should have antecedently expected that the first word of a Divine revelation would be of the Being of God, and that it would also acquaint us with the history of creation. Here, then, we have a cause adequate to the effect, for admitting an Omnipotent Being, there is no difficulty in the creation of the universe. A man who would reject the plain statement of this Book, to be consistent, would have to reject all history. True, we may imagine the pen of man as incompetent and unequal to record the creative fiat and energy of God. It would be difficult for him to spell the words, to mark the punctuation, to catch the accents of the Divine language. And who has not felt that the first verse of this chapter, trembles and is almost broken by the majesty and weight of the thought and revelation that resides within it. But this is no argument against the historical veracity of the writer, but rather the contrary, in that thoughts so sublime were ever conceived by the human mind, and crowded into the broken syllables of men.

2. By the existence of the beautiful world around us. The world standing up around us in all its grandeur—adaptation—evidence of design—harmony—is a most emphatic assertion of the Being of God. Every flower is a denial of Atheism. Every star is vocal with Deity. And when we get away from the merely visible creation into the inner recess and quietude of Nature, where are seen the great sights, and are heard the mysterious voices, when permitted entrance to the spiritual meaning of the things we see, we acknowledge ourselves to be brought into undeniable communion with the supernatural, and are ready there and then to worship at its altar.

3. By the moral convictions of humanity. There is probably not an intelligent man in the wide universe, who does not believe in, and pay homage to, some deity or other. The temples of the heathen filled with idols, are a permanent demonstration of this. Man’s conscience will have a god of some kind. That there is a deity is the solemn conviction of the world. Hence the folly of Atheism.

II. Then Pantheism is an absurdity. We are informed by these verses that the world was a creation, and not a spontaneous, or natural emanation from a mysterious something only known in the vocabulary of a sceptical philosophy. Thus the world must have had a personal Creator, distinct and separate from itself. True, the Divine Being is present throughout the universe, but He is nevertheless independent of, and distinct from, it. He is the Deity of the Temple. He is the King of the realm. He is the Occupant of the house.

III. Then matter is not eternal. “In the beginning.” Thus it is evident that matter had a commencement. It was created by Divine power. It had a birthday. We wonder that any number of intelligent men should have credited the eternity of matter. The statement involves a contradiction in terms. How could matter be eternal? It could not have produced or developed itself from some generic form, for who created the generic form? The world must have had a commencement. The Mosaic record says it had. This is the only reasonable supposition.

IV. Then the world was not the result of a fortuitous combination of atoms. “In the beginning God created.” Thus the world was a creation. There was the exercise of supreme intelligence. There was the exercise of an independent will. There was the expression in symbol of great thoughts, and also of Divine sympathies. There is nothing like chance throughout the whole work recorded in this chapter. If atoms were originally gifted with such intelligence and foresight as to combine themselves instinctively into such beautiful forms, and wonderful uses, as seen in the world, how are we to account for their degeneracy, as at present they appear utterly devoid of any such power. How is it that we are not the spectators of a little spontaneous creation now, similar to that of the olden days?

V. Then creation is the outcome of supernatural power. “In the beginning God created.” There must of necessity ever be much of mystery connected with this subject. Man was not present to witness the creation, and God has only given us a brief and dogmatic account of it. God is mystery. The world is a mystery. How very limited then must be the knowledge of man in reference thereto? Science may vaunt its discoveries, but the mystery of creation is open more to the prayerful reader of this record, than to the philosopher who only studies it for the purpose of curious inquiry. But there is far less mystery in the Mosaic account of the creation than in any other, as it is the most natural, the most likely, and truly the most scientific, as it gives us an adequate cause for the effect. The re-creation of the soul is the best explanation of the creation of the universe, and in fact of all the other mysteries of God.


Man naturally asks for some account of the world in which he lives. Was the world always in existence? If not, how did it begin to be? Did the sun make itself? These are not presumptuous questions. We have a right to ask them—the right which arises from our intelligence. The steam engine did not make itself, did the sun? In the text we find an answer to all our questions.

I. The answer is simple. There is no attempt at learned analysis or elaborate exposition. A child may understand the answer. It is direct, positive, complete. Could it have been more simple? Try any other form of words, and see if a purer simplicity be possible. Observe the value of simplicity when regarded as bearing upon the grandest events. The question is not who made a house, but who made a world, and not who made one world, but who made all worlds; and to this question the answer is, God made them. There is great risk in returning a simple answer to a profound inquiry, because when simplicity is not the last result of knowledge, it is mere imbecility.

II. The answer is sublime. God! God created!

1. Sublime because far-reaching in point of time: in the beginning. Science would have attempted a fact, religion has given a truth. If any inquirer can fix a date, be is not forbidden to do so. Dates are for children.

2. Sublime because connecting the material with the spiritual. There is, then, something more than dust in the universe. Every atom bears a superscription. It is something, surely, to have the name of God associated with all things great and small that are around us. Nature thus becomes a materialized thought. The wind is the breath of God. The thunder is a note from the music of his speech.

3. Sublime, because revealing, as nothing else could have done, the power and wisdom of the Most High.

III. The answer is sufficient. It might have been both simple and sublime, and yet not have reached the point of adequacy. Draw a straight line, and you may describe it as simple, yet who would think of calling it sublime? We must have simplicity which reaches the point of sublimity, and sublimity which sufficiently covers every demand of the case. The sufficiency of the answer is manifest: Time is a drop of eternity; nature is the handiwork of God; matter is the creation of mind; God is over all, blessed for evermore. This is enough. In proportion as we exclude God from the operation, we increase difficulty. Atheism never simplifies. Negation works in darkness. The answer of the text to the problem of creation is simple, sublime, and sufficient, in relation.

(1) To the inductions of Geology.

(2) To the theory of evolution. Practical inferences:—

1. If God created all things, then all things are under His goverment.
2. Then the earth may be studied religiously,
3. Then it is reasonable that He should take an interest in creation [City Temple].


Gen. 1:1.

I. A revelation of God.

1. His Name: names have meaning.

2. His nature: spirituality, personality.

3. His mode of existence: manifold unity.

II. A revelation of nature.

1. Matter not eternal.

2. The antiquity of the earth.

3. The order of creation [Pulpit Analyst].


1. In what it consisted.
2. When undertaken.
3. By whom accomplished.


1. Its commencement.
2. Its progress.
3. Its completion.


1. As a history.
2. As a doctrine.
3. As a prophecy.

This history of creation:—

1. Contains a rich treasury of speculative thought.
2. Capable of poetical glory.
3. Free from the influence of human invention and philosophy.

Our history of creation differs from all other cosmogonies as truth from fiction. Those of heathen nations are either hylozoistical, deducing the origin of life and living beings from some primeval matter; or pantheistical, regarding the whole world as emanating from a common divine substance; or mythological, tracing both gods and men to a chaos or world-egg. They do not even rise to the notion of a creation, much less to the knowledge of an Almighty God, as the Creator of all things [Keil & Delitzsch].


1. Before all things.
2. The cause of all things.
3. The explanation of all things.
4. The destiny of all things.

In the beginning:—

1. The birth of time.
2. The birth of matter.
3. The birth of revelation.

This verse assumes:—

1. The Being of God.
2. His eternity.
3. His omnipotence.
4. His absolute freedom
5. His infinite Wisdom
6. His essential goodness.

Admonitory lessons to be learned from the Divine-creation of the world:—

1. To admire it carefully.
2. To trust it cautiously.
3. To rely on God entirely.

The first circumstance which here offers itself to our consideration and observation, is the phrase and manner of speech which the Holy Ghost makes choice of, in this narrative, which we see, is as plain as it is brief, without any manner of insinuation, by way of preface, and without any garnishing by art, or eloquence, which men usually make use of, for the setting out, and gracing of their writings: the Spirit of God suddenly, as it were, darting out the truth which he delivers, like the sunbeams breaking in an instant as out of a cloud, as being a light visible, and beautiful in itself, and therefore needing no other ornament, or varnishing, to commend it to the world [J. White]

“The heavens and the earth”:—Heaven is named first, as being first, if not in time, yet at least in dignity.

1. Let us make heaven our chief desire.
2. Learn from the heavens to stoop to these below us.


1. The sign of man’s origin.
2. The direction of his prayer.
3. Inasmuch as the earth is contained in this narration, we must regard it as the work of God, and associate it with our thought of heaven.

We are all of us familiar with this idea, that in contemplating the works of creation, we should ascend from Nature to Nature’s God. Everywhere we discern undoubted proofs of the unbounded wisdom, power, and goodness of the great Author of all things. Everywhere we meet with traces of just and benevolent design which should suggest to us the thought of the Almighty Creator. It is most pleasing and useful to cultivate such a habit as this; much of natural religion depends upon it, and Holy Scripture fully recognises its propriety: “The heavens declare the glory of God,” &c.; “All Thy works praise Thee,” &c. It is apparent, however, that even in these and similar passages, that created things are mentioned, not as arguments, but rather as illustrations; not as suggesting the idea of God the Creator, but as unfolding and expanding that idea, otherwise obtained. (Rom. 1:20) [Dr Candlish].

Thus, in a spiritual view, and for spiritual purposes, the truth concerning God, as the Creator, must be received, not as a discovery of our own reason, following a train of thought, but as a direct communication from a real person—even from the living and present God. This is not a merely theoretical and artificial distinction; it is practically most important. Consider the subject of creation simply in the light of an argument of Natural Philosophy, and all is vague and dim abstraction. It may be close and cogent as a demonstration in Mathematics, but it is cold and unreal; or, if there be emotion at all, it is but the emotion of a fine taste and a sensibility for the grand and lovely in nature and thought. But consider the momentous fact in the light of a direct message from the Creator Himself to you—regard Him as standing near to you, and Himself telling you, personally and face to face, all that He did on that wondrous week—are you not differently impressed and affected?—

1. More particularly,—see first of all, what weight this single idea, once truly and vividly realized, must add to all the other communications which He makes on other subjects to us.
2. Again, observe what weight this idea must have if we regard God Himself as personally present, and saying to us, in special reference to each of the things which He has made—“I created it, and I am now reminding you that it was I who made it.” What sacredness will this thought stamp on every object in nature [Dr. Candlish].

In the first two chapters of Genesis we meet with four different verbs to express the creative work of God, viz:—

1. To create.
2. To make.
3. To form.
4. To build.

This narrative bears on the very face of it the indication that it was written by man and for man, for it divides all things into the heavens and the earth. Such a division evidently suits those only who are inhabitants of the earth. Accordingly, this sentence is the foundation-stone of the history, not of the universe at large, of the sun, of any other planet—but of the earth, and of man, its rational inhabitant. The primeval event which it records, in point of time, from the next event in such a history; as the earth may have existed myriads of ages, and undergone many vicissitudes in its condition, before it became the home of the human race. And, for aught we know, the history of other planets—even of the solar system—may yet be unwritten, because there has been as yet no rational inhabitant to compose or peruse the record. We have no intimation of the interval of time that elapsed between the beginning of things narrated in this prefatory sentence, and that state of things which is announced in the following verse [Dr. Murphy].

Taken along with the context, the drift of the whole verse seems to be to give, in a brief and compendious form, a summary of the work of creation, which is more fully detailed in its various particulars in the account of the six days following. Such general statements but unfrequently occur in the sacred writers as a preface to more expanded details that follow. Thus it is said, in general terms (Gen. 1:27) that, “God created man in His own image, male and female created He them;” whereas the particulars of their creation are given at full length—Gen. 2:7; Gen. 2:18; Gen. 2:25 [Bush].

The Eternal God hath given being to time.
The Almighty Creator hath made all things to be out of nothing.
The vast heavens and all therein are God’s creatures.


Gen. 1:2.

I. That the most elementary and rude conditions of things are not to be rejected or overlooked. “And the earth was without form and void.”

1. This may be true of the world of matter. The earth was at the time of this verse in a state of utter desolation. It was without order—it was without furniture. There was not a human being to gaze upon its chaos—there was not a voice to break its silence. There were no animals to roam amidst its disorder. There were no trees, or flowers to relieve its barrenness. The earth was desolate.

2. This may be true of the world of mind. There are many minds in the universe whose intellectual condition would be well and fitly described by the language of this verse. They are desolate. They are not peopled with great thoughts. They are not animated by great and noble convictions. They are destitute of knowledge. The intended furniture of the mind is absent. The cry “Let there be light” has not been heard within their souls. Darkness is upon the face of the deep.

3. This may be true of the world of the soul. How many souls are there in the universe—in the town—in the village—whose moral condition is well described by the language of this verse? Their soul-life lacks architecture. God designed that it should be based on elevated principles, animated by lofty motives, and inspired by great hopes; but instead of this it is based on expediency, and is but too frequently animated by the delusion of the world. Their souls ought to be occupied with divine pursuits, whereas they are busy with the transient affairs of time; they ought to be filled with God, whereas they are satisfied with little rounds of pleasure; they ought to be enraptured with the visions of eternity, whereas they are spell bound by the little sights of time. Such a soul is in a state of chaos far more lamentable than that of the world at the Creation, inasmuch as the one is matter, and the other an immortality. But chaos is not irretrievable. It must not be despised.

II. That the most rude and elementary conditions of things, under the culture of the Divine Spirit, are capable of the highest utility and beauty.

1. This is true of the material world. The earth was without form and void; but now it is everywhere resplendent with all that is esteemed useful and beautiful. It opens up realms of knowledge to the scientific investigator. It discloses beauties that kindle the genius of the artist. It manifests a fertility most welcome to the husbandman. Whence this transition? Is it to be accounted for on the principle of development? Is it the result of atmospherical influences? Is it to be accounted for by the law of affinity or attraction? Is it attributable to the achievements of human effort? True, man placed the seed into the soil; he cultured it, but where did the life come from? That must have been a creation, and not an education. It was the gift of God. It was the result of the Spirit’s hovering over the darkness of Nature. So it is the Divine agency, however many human instrumentalities may be employed, that makes the desolation and solitude of nature wave with fields of plenty, and echo to the joyful cry of the reaper. The world is under a Divine ministry.

2. This is true of the world of mind. The chaos of the human mind is turned into order, light, and intellectual completion, by the agency of the Divine Spirit. True, the man is naturally a student; he is diligent in the pursuit of information, and he has a fine opportunity for mental culture. But who has given him the power of intelligent inquiry, the disposition of diligent study, and the means of education? They are the gift of God. The avenues of the human mind are under the guardianship of the Spirit much more than we imagine, and all the noble visitants that enrich our intellectual life are largely sent by Him. The brooding of the Divine Spirit over the darkest human mind, and the voice of God sounding in its empty abyss will produce light, and, ultimately, the highest manifestation of thought. A noble education is the gift of God, and so are great ideas. A man may have much knowledge and yet great chaos: hence, God not only gives the life-principle to the mind, but also its harmonious development and growth to a complete and orderly mental world.

3. This is true of the world of soul. The chaos of the soul of man can only be restored by the creative ministry of the Holy Spirit. He will create light. He will restore order. He will cause all the nobler faculties of the soul to shine out with their intended splendour. He will make the soul-a fit world for the habitation of all that is heavenly. This ministry of the Spirit should be more recognised by us. Despise not the chaos—the darkness. It may yet be turned into a world of glory—a realm of light, by the kindly hovering of the Divine Spirit.

The earth:—

1. Without form.
2. Without light.
3. Without life.
4. Not without God.

The Spirit of God:—

1. Removes darkness.
2. Imparts beauty.
3. Gives life.

The Spirit of God:—

1. Separating.
2. Quickening.
3. Preparing.

Without form and void:—

1. A type of many souls.
2. A type of many lives.
3. A type of many books.
4. A type of many sermons.
5. A type of many societies.

All things are empty until God furnisheth them.



Gen. 1:1

Science, Godless. Godless Science reads nature only as Milton’s daughters did Hebrew; rightly syllabling the sentences, but utterly ignorant of the meaning [S. Coley].

Design! Creation is not caprice or chance. It is design. The footprints on the sands of time speak of design, for geology admits that her discoveries all are based upon design. And this verse, as the whole creation narrative, confirms the admission of science as to design. Therefore both the Revelation of God and the Revelation of Nature go hand in hand. The one has on its bosom the finger marks of God, the other wears in its heart the footprints of God. Both of them sketch cartoons more wonderful than Raphael; friezes grander than those of Parthenon; sculptures more awe-inspiring than those of Karnac and Baalbec; which then is the higher? Surely, Revelation. And why?

(1.) Because Revelation alone can tell the design. Nature is a riddle without revelation:—A Dædalian labyrinth with Gen. 1:1 for its gold thread. I may admire the intricate mechanism of machinery; or even part of the design hanging from the loom; but all is apparent confusion until the master takes me to the office, places plans before me, and so discloses the design. Revelation is that plan—that key by which man is able to unlock the arcana of nature’s loom.

(2.) Because that design is the law of Christ. All are parts of one mighty creation, of which Christ is the centre. He is the Alpha and the Omega—the eternal pivot of creation, like Job’s luminous hinge (chimeh, a pivot), known as Alcyone, around which Madler has established that the universe revolves in wondrous circuit, and of which Jehovah asks the patriarch: “Canst thou bind the sweet influences of the Pleiades?” The Pythagorean idea of the “music of the spheres” has its origin after all from the design displayed by Revelation. And it is that design—that Divine law in Nature we accept; not Darwin’s theory of development—not Powell’s universal dominion of law—not Wallace’s “law a necessity of things.” When he asserts that he is merely saying a loud Amen! to the simple, sublime, and sufficient solution that the grand ideal of Revelation and Nature is the glory of the God-man, who is the brightness of the Father’s glory and the express image of His person.

As Layard and Rawlinson have proved the truth of the Scripture narrative from relics left behind in the mounds of Khorsabad and Temples of Memphis and Thebes—as the Palestine Exploration have established the truth of the sacred assertions as to ancient Jebus, and the huge foundation stone and water seas of Solomon’s temple—as Professor Porter has substantiated the Mosaic account of the Giant Cities of Bashan by discovering the ruins of these vast stone fortresses, towns—and, as Mr. George Smith has, by exploring the ruins of Nineveh and Babylon, confirmed the Noachic narrative of the Deluge from the brick and tile slates in broken fragments; so pious-minded geologists have dived among the pages of Nature’s volume, and from the remains of the Pre-Adamite world constructed the successive scenery wrapt up in Gen. 1:1-2. Still, even then they are as far as ever from the Beginning, and are glad to fall back upon the simple, sublime, and sufficient solution: In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.

The mind of the atheist is like a vessel which has been filled with paint, and into which water is subsequently poured; it retains its prejudices, so that its conclusions are affected by them.

Atheism, Wilful.

The owlet Atheism,

Sailing on obscene wings across the moon,
Drops his blue-fringed lids and shuts them close,
And, hooting at the glorious sun in Heaven,
Cries out, “Where is it?” [S. T. Coleridge].

If heathenism is like the North Pole in its natural characteristics, by laying too much stress upon the bare letter of creation (see Romans 1); then Atheism is like the North Pole, by laying too little stress. It, i.e. positive philosophy—as Mr. Harrison and John Stuart Mill euphoniously style Atheism—strangles all life, and leaves creation like the inaccessible and impenetrable wilds of the Antartic Circle—bleak, dreary, dead.

If the charge has been true in past times that some students of Revelation wished to make Revelation an inverted pyramid resting on a narrower apex; it is certainly far more justifiable to assert that these Atomic philosophers would make Revelation like a broken pillar in the churchyard of death; whereas God has made it a temple—not only radiant with fair colours and radiating with sapphires—but teeming with living worshippers.

Cultivation. The eye can be trained to discover beauty in the landscape, and in works of art—or it may have its many powers of vision impaired and destroyed, by gazing at the sun, or on the snow. So man may train his mind to discern the beauties of Divine wisdom, power, and goodness in the processes of nature. Or still further to pursue this subject: if a person in perversity shuts out the light from his dwelling, and lives for years in darkness, the effect would be that eventually he would grow sickly and wretched—like those plants which are reared in cellars, from which all sunlight is rigidly excluded. The mind that shuts out God from nature, becomes sickly, and loses the power of enjoying the sunlight. It is therefore not only pleasing, but profitable to cultivate the habit of tracing tracks of the Divine foot-prints on Nature’s breast. To him, who can read it aright, that surface is covered with celestial types and prophetic hieroglyphics—marked like the dial-plate of a watch. Not that Nature has on her page hieroglyphics, which spell out a pardon for sin. Those marks only tell of His wisdom, benevolence, and majesty; and so far as Nature is concerned, the proposition, that must be solved before my dying pillow can be peace, remains unexplicated—unreconciled—and unknown.

Reason and Revelation. Sailing over the great oceans of our earth, the voyager sometimes sees on the far-off horizon a thin mist-cloud or streak, which to my telescope leaps up a green island, cut off from the mainland by a broad belt of waters, too broad to look across, and whose indwellers have no means of passage, well represents our world regarded apart from revelation. You stand on the highest hill in the island, and you see nothing but the girdling sea. The people of the island “dwell alone.” There are traditions, it may be, of white-sailed ships, and of visitors from lands across the ocean; but these traditions belong to the far-vanished past. The little sea girt island sits in the sea, alone, and is sundered from all intercourse, other than chance or shipwreck bring from the mainland. Now, as I have said, may I not thus symbolize our earth apart from the Bible? To sense and unaided reason, we too seem to occupy just such an ocean-girt island, divided and sundered from the spirit-realms. But it is not so. This earth of ours is not the lonely place it seems. Far up above its din, and tumult, and dust,—

“Beyond the glittering starry skies,”

is a pure and blessed world—sinless, sorrowless—where “the High and Lofty One” unveils His glory to the blessed dwellers; and with this high and holy, and radiant world we are connected. Do you ask me how? My answer is, by the mediation of Christ, our High-Priest—by the thousand thousand cries of prayer—by the magnanimous abiding of the Holy Spirit—by heaven peopled from earth—by the ministration of angelic visits—by the well-nigh infinite outgoings of grace [Grosart].

Reason and Faith. We would represent Reason and Faith as twin-born; the one in form and features the image of manly beauty—the other, of feminine grace and gentleness; but to each of whom, alas! is allotted a sad privation. While the bright eyes of Reason are full of piercing and restless intelligence, his ear is closed to sound; and while Faith has an ear of exquisite delicacy, on her sightless orbs, as she lifts them towards heaven, the sunbeams play in vain. Hand in hand the brother and sister, in all mutual love, pursue their way through a world on which, like ours, day breaks and night falls alternate; by day the eyes of Reason are the guide of Faith, and by night the ear of faith is the guide of Reason. As is wont with those who labour under these privations respectively, Reason is apt to be eager, impetuous, impatient of that instruction which his infirmity will not permit him readily to apprehend; while Faith, gentle and docile, is ever willing to listen to the voice by which alone truth and wisdom can effectually reach her [Prof. Rogers].

Sciences, Human. Human sciences are like gaslights in the streets. They serve our purpose only while the heavens are dark. The brighter the sky, the more dim and useless they become. When noontide floods the town, they are buried though they burn. No sooner will the sun of absolute truth break on the firmament of our souls, than all the lights of our poor logic shall go out. Knowledge, it shall vanish away [Dr. Thomas].

Science only an Agent. We glory in the conquests of science, but we look upon science as merely an agent. Science may be a botanist, but who started the vital fluid in the veins of the herb and flower? Science may be a geologist, but who wrote the rock-covered page, whose hieroglyphics she would translate? Science may be an astronomer, but who built the worlds, who projected the comets, whose mysterious path she traces? Science may be an agriculturist, she may open the earth’s breast and cast in most precious seed, but if the fountains of dew be stayed, Science herself will die of thirst! Be it observed, then, that science is an agent, not a cause, and that while we rejoice in its agency, we are bound to acknowledge the goodness of the INFINITE INTELLIGENCE [Dr. J. Parker].

Creation. A gentleman, being invited to accompany a distinguished person to see a grand building, erected by Sir Christopher Hatton, desired to be excused and to sit still, looking on a flower he held in his hand, “For,” said he, “I see more of God in this flower than in all the beautiful edifices in the world.”

Not a flower

But shows some touch. in freckled streak or stain
Of His unrivalled pencil. He inspires
Their balmy odours, and imparts their hues,
And bathes their eyes with nectar, and includes,
In grains as countless as the seaside sands,
The forms with which He sprinkles all the earth [Cowper].

Creation was Adam’s library; God bade him read the interesting volumes of His works, which were designed to make known the Divine character [Legh Richmond].

Atheism Modern. The Atheism of this age is chiefly founded upon the absurd fallacy that the idea of law in Nature excludes the idea of God in Nature. As well might they say the code of Napoleon in France excludes the idea of Napoleon from France. To me, no intuition is clearer than this—that intelligent control everywhere manifests the presence of a ruling mind. To me, physical law, in its permanence, expresses the immutable persistence of His will; in its wise adjustments, the infinite science of His intellect, in its kindly adaptations, the benevolence of His heart [Coley].

Reason! Atheism! Whilst expressing sorrow, the thoughtful and pious student of science can hardly refrain from smiling at the extreme deductions of what is called “the Modern School of Philosophy.” This modern school has its numerous and divergent theories on the Origin of Nature; but all these diversities have their common root “in the evil heart of unbelief.” A system of Metaphysics and Psychology based entirely on the perceptions of the senses, like that of Spencer, Bain, and Mill; a system of Morals recognising no test of duty but public utility in the interest of the race; the natural evolution of Darwin—the Lucretian doctrines of Tyndall—the automatous frogs of Mr. Huxley—the religion of humanity of Congreve and Conte—the lamentations of Gregg over the enigmas of life—and Arnold’s last caricature of the Deity, have all a common source. That source is “antagonism to the Cosmogony of the Bible.” Their views are the natural growth of a false and shallow philosophy, which excludes from its sphere of vision the very conception of a power in Nature, yet ABOVE Nature, and which denies the evidence of the spiritual origin and destiny of our being. To borrow an illustration from a German seer, men see the spinning-wheel but not the spindle, and then declaim against the senseless clatter of the world. We regard them with sorrow, as the disciples of a corrupt and degraded school of thought, who are resolved not to see the bright, unfading star of hope—

To quench the only ray that cheered the earth,
And leave mankind in night which has no star.

Gen. 1:2

Darkness and Deep! Nothing could be more erroneous than the impression that by “deep” is meant the “waters” of Gen. 1:6. By “deep” here is meant the fluid surface of the earth—upon which darkness was. But what does the phrase import? Does it mean

(1.) Nothing more than a mere negation? or
(2) Something more than a mere negation, i.e., obstruction. AGAIN, was it (a) Nothing more than a mere natural obstruction? or (b) Something more than a mere natural obstruction, i.e., a Satanic struggle to suspend the Divine Creative procedure? This brings up the subtle speculation as to whether Satan had fallen previously to the “deep,” when—

… What were seas
Unsounded, were of half their waters drained,
And what were wildernesses ocean beds;
And mountain ranges, from beneath upheaved,
Clave with their granite peaks primeval plains,
And rose sublime into the water floods.
Floods overflow’d themselves with seas of mist,
Which swathed in darkness all terrestrial things,
Once more unfurnished—empty—void, and vast.

Some authors maintain that he had, and that the obstruction was not only “natural,” but “angelic”—i.e., that Satan, as the prince of darkness, endeavoured to hinder the great development of Creative Providence. Others have taken up the view that the temptation in Eden was the first overt act of rebellion on Satan’s part. If this be so, it is clear that the obstruction was only “natural”—darkness was upon the face of the deep. Whichever is correct, in whole or in part, it seems clear to us that the “darkness” has a double reflection, backwards and forwards:

(1.) Light must ever precede ere there can be darkness; and
(2.) Darkness must ever be the shadow of coming light, as holding it back. And two things follow upon this:—

1. It sweeps away entirely the whole notion that the “light” in Gen. 1:3 means “primal origination.” Did light exist previous to the Divine fiat in Gen. 1:3? It did; for as the Prince of Light existed before the prince of darkness, so did the natural light before the natural darkness.

2. It confirms the view that between Gen. 1:1-2 there was a long period (or series) of successive eras of light and darkness, ending in that chaotic gloom of Gen. 1:2, which preceded God’s recreative command:—

Such universal chaos reigned without;
Within, the embryo of a world.

That chaotic gloom was night, figurative of the morning struggle between light and darkness now. There is an endless strife between moral light and darkness. The armies of light and darkness are contending in fierce fight. Darkness is upon the face of the deep; but the night—the moral night—of evil is far spent (Romans 13). The triumph of the prince of darkness and his phalanxes of sin is near its close. The dawn is near. The Divine fiat will soon be heard: “Let there be light;” for at eventide (i.e., our dark hour before the dawn) it shall be light (Zec. 14:7). Darkness overtakes not that day, for there shall be no more night (Revelation 21); but the Lord shall be the Everlasting Light (Isa. 60:19). Between the “original creation” of light and the terrestrial era in Gen. 1:2 there may have been cycles of millennial days completed.

Verses of Genesis 1


Consult other comments:

Genesis 1:1 - Albert Barnes' Notes on the Bible

Genesis 1:1 - Joseph Benson’s Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Genesis 1:1 - Calvin's Complete Commentary

Genesis 1:1 - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

Genesis 1:1 - B.H. Carroll's An Interpretation of the English Bible

Genesis 1:1 - Through the Bible Commentary

Genesis 1:1 - Adam Clarke's Commentary and Critical Notes on the Bible

Genesis 1:1 - Commentary on the Holy Bible by Thomas Coke

Genesis 1:1 - College Press Bible Study Textbook Series

Genesis 1:1 - Companion Bible Notes, Appendices and Graphics

Genesis 1:1 - James Gray's Concise Bible Commentary

Genesis 1:1 - Expository Notes of Dr. Constable (Old and New Testaments)

Genesis 1:1 - Expositors Bible Commentary

Genesis 1:1 - Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers (Old and New Testaments)

Genesis 1:1 - Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures

Genesis 1:1 - Expositor's Dictionary of Text by Robertson

Genesis 1:1 - F. B. Hole's Old and New Testaments Commentary

Genesis 1:1 - F.B. Meyer's Through the Bible Commentary

Genesis 1:1 - Discovering Christ In Selected Books of the Bible

Genesis 1:1 - Gaebelein's Annotated Bible (Commentary)

Genesis 1:1 - Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary

Genesis 1:1 - Gary Hampton Commentary on Selected Books

Genesis 1:1 - Geneva Bible Notes

Genesis 1:1 - John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

Genesis 1:1 - Grant's Commentary on the Bible

Genesis 1:1 - The Great Texts of the Bible

Genesis 1:1 - Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary (Old and New Testaments)

Genesis 1:1 - Matthew Henry's Whole Bible Commentary

Genesis 1:1 - Biblical Illustrator Edited by Joseph S. Exell

Genesis 1:1 - Jamieson, Fausset and Brown's Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Genesis 1:1 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament

Genesis 1:1 - The Popular Commentary on the Bible by Kretzmann

Genesis 1:1 - A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical by Lange

Genesis 1:1 - Neighbour's Wells of Living Water

Genesis 1:1 - Mackintosh's Notes on the Pentateuch

Genesis 1:1 - An Exposition on the Whole Bible

Genesis 1:1 - Church Pulpit Commentary

Genesis 1:1 - Grant's Numerical Bible Notes and Commentary

Genesis 1:1 - The People's Bible by Joseph Parker

Genesis 1:1 - Peake's Commentary on the Bible

Genesis 1:1 - Commentary Series on the Bible by Peter Pett

Genesis 1:1 - English Annotations on the Holy Bible by Matthew Poole

Genesis 1:1 - The Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary Edited by Joseph S. Exell

Genesis 1:1 - The Complete Pulpit Commentary

Genesis 1:1 - The Bible of the Expositor and the Evangelist by Riley

Genesis 1:1 - The Sermon Bible

Genesis 1:1 - Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible

Genesis 1:1 - Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Genesis 1:1 - John Trapp's Complete Commentary (Old and New Testaments)

Genesis 1:1 - The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Genesis 1:1 - You Can Understand the Bible: Study Guide Commentary Series by Bob Utley

Genesis 1:1 - Whedon's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

The Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary Edited by Joseph S. Exell