Genesis 1:1 Commentary - The Bible of the Expositor and the Evangelist by Riley
THE DAWN OF HISTORY
IN beginning this “Bible of the Expositor and Evangelist”, I am keenly sensible of the seriousness of my task. The book to be treated is the Book of Books, the one and only volume that has both survived and increasingly conquered the centuries, and that now, in a hoary old age, shows no sign of weakness, holds no hint of decay or even decrepitude; in fact, the Book is more robust at this moment than at any time since it came to completion, and it gives promise of dominating the future in a measure far surpassing its influence upon the past.
The method of studying the Bible, to be illustrated in these pages, is, we are convinced, a sane and safe one, if not the most efficient one. Years since, certain statements from the pen of Dr. James M. Gray, superintendent of the Moody Bible Institute, fell under our eyes, and those statements have profoundly influenced our methods of study.
Five simple rules he suggested for mastering the English Bible:
First, Read the Book.
Second: Read it consecutively.
Third: Read it repeatedly.
Fourth: Read it independently.
Fifth: Read it prayerfully.
Applying these suggestions to each volume in turn, if one’s life be long continued, he may not hope to master his English Bible, but he will certainly discover its riches increasingly, and possess himself more and more of its marvelous treasures,
It was on the first Sunday of July, 1922, that I placed before myself and my people the program of study that produced these volumes. To be sure, much of the work had been done back of that date, but the determination to utilize it in this exact manner was fully adopted there and then. It was and is my thought that the greatest single weakness of the present-day pulpit exists in the circumstance that we have departed from the custom of our best fathers in the ministry, namely, Scriptural exposition. If, therefore, these volumes shall lead a large number of my brethren in the ministry, particularly the young men among them, to become expository preachers, and yet to combine exposition with evangelism, my reward will be my eternal riches.
Stimulated by that high hope, I turn your attention to the study itself, and begin where the Book begins and where all true students should begin, with Gen 1:1, but in thought, an eternity beyond the hour of its phrasing, for by the opening sentence we are pushed back to God. “In the beginning
That is the starting point of all true studies. The scientist is compelled to start there, or else he never understands where he is, nor yet with what he deals. God, the One of infinite wisdom, infinite power, infinite justice and of infinite goodness“In the beginning God”.
Having heard that name and having understood the One to whom it is applied, we are prepared for what follows,“created the heavens and the earth” marvelous first verse of the Bible!
All in this first chapter is wrapped up in that first sentence; that is the explanation of all things; what follows is simply the setting forth of details.
I agree with Joseph Parker that the explanation is “simple”. No attempt at learned analysis; that the explanation is “sublime” because it sweeps in all of time, all of material suggestions, all of power and illustrates all of wisdom“the heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth His handiwork; day unto day uttereth speech and night unto night showeth knowledge”, and it is a sufficient explanation, the only one that satisfies the mind of man.
Infidel evolutionists cannot account for the beginnings. The geologist who does not believe, digs down to a point where he says, “Who started all of this?” and waits in sadness while the dumb rocks are silent; but for the Christian student no such mystery makes his work an enigma.
Everywhere he sees the touch of God; in the plants, the animals, the birds and in man,“God”. Where the unbeliever wonders and questions to get no reply, the believer admires, saying, “This is my Father’s hand, the work of my Father’s word”. “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” (Heb 11:3), and he joins with the Psalmist, “Let all nations praise the name of the Lord for He commanded and they were created” (Psa 108:5).
Competent scholars have called attention to the careful use of words in the Bible, a use so painstaking and perfect as to give a scientific demonstration of the verbal inspiration theory. When it is said that “God created the heavens and the earth”, the Hebrew verb “bara” is employed, and it means “to create something from nothing”, so that God gave the death blow to the evolution theory some thousands of years before that unprovable hypothesis was born! The same word “bara” is also used in the 21st verse (Gen 1:21) concerning the creation of mammals, and three times in the 27th verse (Gen 1:27) concerning the creation of man, while a kindred word “asah” (neither of which convey any such thought as growth or evolution) is employed concerning His making man in His own image in Gen 1:26.
God, then, is not a mechanic; He is a Creator. He did not come upon the scenes of the universe to fashion what existed independent and apart from Him, but to create and complete according to His own pleasure.
In later chapters we shall show how these creative acts are confirmed by science itself, and argue the utter folly of trying to find incompatibility between God’s Work and God’s Word.
So for the present we may pass from God the Creator, as revealed in the first chapter, to
of the second chapter. “An infinite decline”, somebody says. But let us be reminded that it is not so great as appears at this present hour. The only man God ever made outright was not what you and I see now. The man He made was “in His own image, after His own likeness”, only as far below
Him as the finite is below the infinite; as the best creation is below the best Creator.
The man God made “was good”. The man God made was great. The man God made was wise. The man God made was holy. The men we see now are not His children, but the children of the fallen Adam instead, for Eve, fallen, brought forth after her kind; and what a fall was that!
When man disobeyed, he brought on himself and all succeeding ages sin, and its wretched results. There are those who blame God for the fall of man and say, “He had no business to make him so he could fall”. But everything that is upright can fall, and the difference between a man who could not fall and a man who could fall is simply the difference between a machine and a sentient, intelligent, upright, capable being.
There was but a single point at which this man could oppose Providence. Situated and environed as Adam was, the great social sins that have crushed the race could make no appeal to him. It is commonly conceded that the Decalogue sweeps the gamut of social, ethical and even religious conduct. Adam had no occasion to bow down before another God, for Jehovah, his Creator, was his counsellor and friend, and of other gods he knew nothing nor had he need of such. There was no provocation that could tempt him to take the name of that God in vain. There was no Sabbath day, for all days were holy, and the condemnation to labor was not yet passed. There was no father and mother to be honored. To have committed murder was unthinkable; first because there was no provocation, and second, such an act would have left him in the world alone, his heart craving, unsatisfied, and his very kind to perish. The seventh commandment meant nothing to the man whose wife was “in the image of God”, and the only woman known. Theft was impossible, since all things belonged to him. False witness and covetousness against a neighborhe had no neighbor.
But when God selected for Himself a single tree, leaving the rest of the earth to Adam, and he proved himself unwilling to let the least of earthly possessions be wholly the Lord’s, he gave an illustration to the unborn millenniums that man, in his almost infinite greatness, would not abide content that God Himself should be over and above him; and from that moment until this, that very thing has been the crux of every contention between the Divine and the human. If we may believe the Prophets, it was that very temptation that caused Lucifer’s fall and gave us the devil and hell!
All talk of shallow minds “that God condemned the race because one man happened to bite into an apple”, is utterly wide of the mark. Condemnation rests upon the race because every man born of the flesh has revealed the same spirit of rebellion shown by our first parentswe will not have God rule over us even to the extent of keeping anything from us. The wealth of His gifts should shame and restrain against His few prohibitions.
But, alas for man’s guilt and godlessness! Equally wide of the mark is that other superficial reasoning that it is unjust of God to condemn me because some one of my forefathers misbehaved! Why charge God with injustice concerning something He has never done and will never do? Why not let
Him speak for Himself in such matters, and listen when he declares, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him” (Eze 18:20).
If, therefore, Adam with a body, mind and spirit unsullied, never having been weakened by an evil act or habit, did not stand, what hope for any man in his own merit. “Are we better than they? No, in no wise, for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles that we are all under sin”. “As it is written, There is none righteous, no not one. There is none that understandeth. There is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way. They are altogether become unprofitable” (Rom 3:9-12).
You say that the temptation was a subtle one. I answer, Yes, that is Satan’s way to this hour. You say, The desire was for wisdom. I answer, Yes, that is still Satan’s appeal; you need to see and to know more than you do, hence you had better try this sin.
Over one of the most palatial but wicked doorways of all Paris there used to be an inscription, “Come in; nothing to pay”, and so far as mere entrance to that place was concerned, that was true. But those who entered found when they had come out that they had visited the place at the cost of character, not to speak of that meaner thing money.
In passing, we call your attention to the justice of God’s judgment upon this sin. Its heaviest sentence fell upon the serpent, Satan’s direct agent; that wisest of all beasts of the field. He was accursed above all cattle, and brought down from his upright, manly-appearing position to go upon his belly and to eat dust all his days, and to be hated and killed by the seed of the woman with whom he had had such influence.
The second sentence in weight fell upon the woman who listened to this deception and led the way in disobedience. The man did not escape. The associate in sin never does. His love for the principal may in some measure mitigate God’s judgment, but the justice of God would be called in question, and even His goodness, if He permitted any sin to be unpunished.
in this third chapter must have been in her unfallen state Adam’s equal, mentally and morally. We have had great women, beautiful women, women worthy the admiration of the world, but I have an idea that the world’s greatest woman was not Cleopatra, the beautiful but selfish; nor Paula, that firmest of all friends; nor Heloise, the very embodiment of affection; nor Joan or Arc, heroism incarnate; nor Elizabeth, the wonderful queen; nor Madam De Stael of letters; nor Hannah Moore of education; but Eve, our first mother.
When I think on her and look at the frail, feeble, sickly, sinful sister of the streets, I feel like weeping over the fact that our first mother fell; and today among her daughters are those so far removed from God’s ideal.
of the fourth chapter had its beginning in sin, and it is a dreadfully dark picture that is here presented. Envy, murder and lust appear at once. Abel is murdered, Cain made a criminal, polygamy introduced and all social vices which curse the sons of God. The picture would incite despair, but for the circumstance that in the third chapter God had made a promise which put Grace instead of Law.
There was need, for unless the woman’s seed should bruise the serpent’s head, that serpent’s venom will not only strike the heel of every son, but send its poison coursing to his heart and head; without God, without hopedead indeed!
Truly, as one writer has said, “We lose our life when we lose our innocence; we are dead when we are guilty; we are in hell when we are in shame”.
Death does not take a long time to come upon us; it comes on the very day of our sin. “In the day when thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die”. Before that sentence there is no hope, except in these words spoken of the seed of woman against that old serpent, Satan; “It shall bruise thy head” the first prophecy of the wonderful gift of God’s Son.
we appreciate the contrast! The self-righteousness on the part of one; self-abasement on the part of the other. Cain’s saying, “The fruit of mine own hands shall suffice for my justification before God”; Abel saying, “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission”, and that spirit of Cain dominates the early society, as we have already seen; for while the population grew rapidly, sin kept pace, and even seemed swifter still. From self-righteousness they rushed to envy, to murder, and to lust.
The Pharisee may thank God that he is not as other men are, but history is likely to demonstrate the want of occasion for his boasting, for “pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall”.
The most dangerous man is the man who recognizes no dependence upon another than himself; and the man most likely to be an extortioner, to be unjust, the man most apt to be an adulterer, yea, even a murderer, is this same Cain who says, “See the fruit of my hands”. The youthful Chicago murderers thought their fine family connections and their university educations would save them from suspicion and condemnation! I tell you, it is the humble man who is justified in God’s sight!
The man who cries, “God be merciful to me a sinner”rather than the man who wipes his lips and says, “I am clean”, and is offended when you talk to him of the necessity of purifying Blood in which to baptize his soulhe is the man who is justified in God’s sight.
covers a period of about 1,500 years, and contains but one great name, not introduced in the other chapters, and this is the name of Enoch. Note that his greatness consisted in the single fact that “he walked with God”.
Dr. Dixon said, “He did not try to induce God to walk with him. He simply fell in with God’s ways and work”.
Some one asked Abraham Lincoln to appoint a day of fasting and prayer that God might be on the side of the Northern Army. To this that noble President replied, “Don’t bother about what side God is on. He is on the right side. You simply get with Him”.
Enoch was an every-day hero! Walking patiently, persistently, continuously is harder than flying. “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint”. Like Enoch of old, they shall not see death, for God shall take them, and before their translation they shall have this testimony that “they please God”.
We have said that this fifth chapter covers 1,500 years. I call you to note the fact that it contains a multitude of names; names that even the best of Bible students do not, and cannot call. Nobody has ever committed them to memory; nobody cares to. They are not worth it. They were given to no noble deeds; they lived and died. The only wonder we have about them is that God let some of them live so long, unless it be that we also wonder how they managed to live so long and accomplish so little. Yet these nonentities have a part in God’s plan. They were bringing forth children; grandchildren came, and great grandchildren, and the children of great-grandchildren until Enoch was born, and by and by Noah; then the whole line was noble from Seth, Adam’s better of the living sons, down to these great names. It is worth while for a family to be continued for a thousand years, if, at the end of that time, one son can be born into the house who shall bring things to pass; one Enoch who shall walk with God; one Noah who shall save the race! There are people who are greatly distressed because their parents were neither lords, dukes nor even millionaires. They seem to think that the child who is to come to much must descend from a father of superior reputation at least. History testifies to the contrary, and shows us that the noblest are often born into unknown houses. The most gifted sons, the most wonderful daughters have been bred by parents of whom the great world never heard until these children, by their fame, called attention to their humble fathers.
The multiplied concessions that advocates of the evolution theory are obliged to make by facts they face at every turn, excite almost tender pity for them. Professor Conklin, in his volume “The Direction of Human Evolution” puts forth an endeavor in splendid defense of this hypothesis worthy of a better cause, and yet again and again he is compelled to say the things that disprove his main proposition. Consider these words. “Think of the great men of unknown lineage, and the unknown men of great lineage; think of the close relationship of all persons of the same race; of the wide distribution of good and bad traits in the whole population; of incompetence and even feeble-mindedness in great families, and of genius and greatness in unknown families, and say whether natural inheritance supports the claims of aristocracy or of democracy.
When we remember that most of the great leaders of mankind came of humble parents; that many of the greatest geniuses had the most lowly origin; that Shakespeare was the son of a bankrupt butcher and an ignorant woman who could not write her name, that as a youth he is said to have been known more for poaching than for scholarship, and that his acquaintance with the London theatres began by his holding horses for their patrons; that Beethoven’s mother was a consumptive, the daughter of a cook, and his father a confirmed drunkard; that Schuberts father was a peasant by birth and his mother a domestic servant; that Faraday, perhaps the greatest scientific discoverer of any age, was born over a stable, his father a poor sick black-smither, his mother an ignorant drudge, and his only education obtained in selling newspapers on the streets of London and later in working as apprentice to a book-binder; that the great Pasteur was the son of a tanner; that Lincoln’s parents were accounted “poor white trash” and his early surroundings and education most unpromising; and so on through the long list of names in which democracy glories when we remember these we may well ask whether aristocracy can show a better record. The law of entail is aristocratic, but the law of Mendel is democratic”.
Quaint old Thomas Fuller wrote many years ago in his “Scripture Observations”,
‘I find, Lord, the genealogy of my Saviour strangely checkered with four remarkable changes in four immediate generations:
1. Roboam begat Abia, that is a bad father and a bad son.
2. Abia begat Asa, that is a bad father a good son.
3. Asa begat Josaphat, that is a good father a good son.
4. Josaphat begat Joram, that is a good father a bad son.
I can see, Lord, from hence that my father’s piety cannot be entailed; that is bad news for me. But I see also that actual impiety is not always hereditary; that is good news for my son’”.
It is not so much a question as to your birth, or to the line in which you are, as to the nobleness of the family tree, as it is what sort of a branch you are; what sort of a branch you may become.
The Duke of Modena flung a taunt at a Cardinal in a controversy, reminding him that his father was only a swineherd of the Duke’s father. The Cardinal calmly replied, “If your father had been my father’s swineherd, you would have been a swineherd still”.
In the race of life it does not make so much difference where we start as how we end.
I do not mean to despise the laws of heredity. They are somewhat fixed, wise and wonderful. The child of a good father has the better chance in this world, beyond doubt. But our plea is that no matter who the fathers are, we may so live that our offspring shall be named by all succeeding generations. I call attention to Enoch in illustration.
four chapters or more enwrap themselves. God’s man has a large place in history. It is hard enough for Him to find one who is faithful, but when found He always has an important commission for him.
The most important commission ever given to any man was given to this man; namely, that of saving the race. Noah did his best, but when he saw that he was not succeeding with the outside world, he turned his hope to himself as the last resort; to his family as his possible associates. That is always the last resort. Man must save himself, or he can save no one else. The man who saves himself by letting God save him, stands a good chance of being accepted by his own family, and his faith will doubtless find its answer in their salvation as well. Even if it fail with the outside world, that world will be compelled to remember, when God’s judgment comes, that this commissioned one did what he could for them.
In Hebrews we read, “By faith Noah moved with fear prepared an ark to the saving of his house”. “The fear of man bringeth a snare”. The fear of God effects salvation. The fear of man makes a coward; the fear of God incites courage. The fear of man means defeat; the fear of God accomplishes success. Be careful whom you fear! I like the man who can tremble before the Father of all. I pity the man who trembles before the face of every earthly foe.
The story is told that two men were commissioned by Wellington to go on a dangerous errand. As they galloped along, one looked at the other, saying, “You are scared”. “Yes”, replied his comrade, “I am, but I am still more afraid not to do what the commander said”. The first turned his horse and galloped back to the General’s tent and said, “Sir, you have sent me with a coward. When I looked at him last his face was livid with fear and his form trembled like a leaf”. “Well”, said Wellington, “you had better hurry back to him, or he will have the mission performed before you get there to aid”. As the man started back he met his comrade, who said, “You need not go. I have performed the mission already”.
It was through Noah that the Lord gave to humanity a fresh start. God is always doing that. It is the meaning of every revolutionGod overrules it for a fresh start. That is the meaning of wars they may be Satanic in origin, but God steps in often and uses for a fresh start. That is the meaning of the wiping out of nationsa fresh start, and man is always doing what he did at the firstfalling again.
Noah was a righteous man; with his family he made up the whole company of those who had been loyal to God, and one might vainly imagine that from such a family only deeds of honor, of valor, acts of righteousness would be known to earth. Alas for our hope in the best of men!
He has scarcely set foot upon dry ground when we read, (Gen 9:20-21), “Noah began to be a husbandman and he planted a vineyard, and he drank of the wine, and was drunken, and he was uncovered in his tent”, and down the race went again! Man has fallen, and his nakedness is uncovered before God, and the shame of it is seen by his own blood and bone. Truly, by the deeds of the law no flesh shall be justified in His sight, because our deeds are not worthy of it. Faith becomes the only foundation of righteousness. That is what the eleventh chapter of Hebrews was written to teach us. “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he”, and when once a man has fixed his faith in the living God, and keeps it there, the God in whom he trusts keeps him, and that is his only hope. “For by grace are ye saved through faith and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph 2:8-9).
the principal personage in the tenth chapter has his offices given. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord, and he was a king. The beginning of his kingdom by Babel and Erich, and Accad and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.
Our attention has been called to the fact that before this chapter, nations are unknown, but now established government appears. Chapter 9:6 is the basis of it, and in Rom 13:2-4 we see that God set the seal of His approval upon it. Nimrod comes forth as the first autocrat and conqueror. One can almost hear the marches to and fro of the people in this chapter; cities are going up and civilization doubtless thought it was making advance, but how far it advances we shall speedily see.
The things in its favor were dexterously employed. Some wise men suddenly remembered that they all had one speech and said, “We ought to make the most of it”. True, as Joseph Parker says, “Wise men are always getting up schemes that God has to bring to naught. Worldly wise men have been responsible for the most of the confusion our civilization has seen”. Men who get together in the places of Shinar and embark in real estate, and lay out great projects and pull in unsuspecting associates, and start up tremendous enterprises, and say, under their breath, in their secret meetings, “We will get unto ourselves a great name. We will exalt ourselves to heaven”, and after the world has done obeisance to us, we will walk among the angels and witness them bow down”; but God still lives and reigns. The men who count themselves greatest are, in His judgment, the least; and those that reckon themselves most farseeing, He reckons the most foolish; and those who propose to get into Heaven by ways of their own appointment, He shuts out altogether and drives them from His presence, and they become wandering stars, reserved for the blackness of darkness; for we must learn that self-exaltation brings God’s abasement. “He that exalteth himself shall be humbled, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted”. God is willing that man shall come to Heaven but, as some one has said, “If we ever get to Heaven at all, it will not be by the dark and rickety staircases of our own invention, but on the ladder of God’s love in Christ Jesus”.
God is willing that we should have a mansion, but the mansion of His desire is not the wooden or brick structure that would totter and fall, but the building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. God is willing that we should dwell in towers, but not the towers of pride and pomp, but those of righteousness wrought out for us in Christ Jesus.
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The Bible of the Expositor and the Evangelist by Riley
William Bell Riley (1861-1947) was called the "The Grand Old Man of Fundamentalism." Riley is credited with coining the term "fundamentalist," and believed in the literal interpretation of the Bible wherever possible.
In 1923 Riley began preaching through the entire Bible. It took him over 10 years. The 39 volume series was published as "The Bible of the Expositor and the Evangelist."