I apologize in advance for the length and breadth of my remarks pertaining to these first few chapters of Genesis. I feel they are necessary, although you may consider them cumbersome, in order for you to understand that there are valid alternative interpretations of the bible. I have tried to be informative and challenging in my observations, and I hope you will be able to work through the first three or so chapters and continue on into the succeeding chapters where my remarks become generally less intrusive.
בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ 1:1
Gene. 1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth,
I believe that the vision of creation that God conveyed either to the scribe, or to someone who dictated this to the scribe, was a precise and accurate one. I believe it was meant to be meaningful in different ways at any given future time in accordance with the observations of humankind and the growth in our awareness of the world. More>>
וְהָאָרֶץ הָיְתָה תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ וְחֹשֶׁך עַל־פְּנֵי תְהוֹם וְרוּחַ אֱלֹהִים מְרַחֶפֶת עַל־פְּנֵי הַמָּיִם 1:2
Gene. 1:2 and the earth was unformed and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the water.
This would appear to be a very mysterious verse, implying a great deal that is unknown. More>>
וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים יְהִי אוֹר וַיְהִי־אוֹר 1:3
Gene. 1:3 Then God said, “Let there be light.” And there was light.
The term light seems out of place here, unless it means something like the wisdom of the Divine. More>>
וַיַּרְא אֱלֹהִים אֶת־הָאוֹר כִּי טוֹב וַיַּבְדֵּל אֱלֹהִים בֵּין הָאוֹר וּבֵין הַחֹשֶׁךְ 1:4
Gene. 1:4 And God saw the light, that it was good. Then God made a distinction between the light and the dark.
Could the final word dark signify matter? Then at this point in time, was there a transformation from energy into matter? More>>
וַיִּקְרָא אֱלֹהִים לָאוֹר יוֹם וְלַחֹשֶׁךְ קָרָא לָיְלָה וַיְהִי־עֶרֶב וַיְהִי־בֹקֶר יוֹם אֶחָד 1:5
Gene. 1:5 And God called the light day and He called the dark night, so it was evening and it was morning, period one.
First, there could not have been light and dark in its simplest meaning, as there were still no permanent sources of light. More>>
וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים יְהִי רָקִיעַ בְּתוֹךְ הַמָּיִם וִיהִי מַבְדִּיל בֵּין מַיִם לָמָיִם 1:6
Gene. 1:6 Then God said, “Let a firmament exist in the midst of the water, that it be a distinction between waters and waters.”
I have to conclude that the waters mentioned in this verse are related to the reference of the deep in v. 1:2. So the waters would be inaccessible or unfathomable. The word [;yqir, translated as firmament, can also mean an expanse (probably thought by the biblical Hebrews to be solid) or a vault of heaven, thereby capable of dividing waters. The next two verses tell us what the scribe thought the firmament was. Notice that this verse introduces the next two, which are an expansion of this one. Thus the construction of vss. 1:6 to 1:8 can be seen to echo the construction in vss. 1:1 to 1:3.
This verse also contains a vav prefix to the verb of the word yhiyw,, the root meaning to be, in the second part of the verse and I claim the vav is inverting. However, the phrase following it is universally translated as “… and let it be a distinction…” so that the vav prefix is assumed to be non-inverting. Nothing earth shaking here, but it offers a hint into my methods of translation.
וַיַּעַשׂ אֱלֹהִים אֶת־הָרָקִיעַ וַיַּבְדֵּל בֵּין הַמַּיִם אֲשֶׁר מִתַּחַת לָרָקִיעַ וּבֵין הַמַּיִם אֲשֶׁר מֵעַל לָרָקִיעַ 1:7
Gene. 1:7 Thus God made the firmament and divided the water that was beneath the firmament from the water that was beyond the firmament, and it was so.
The wording of this verse leads me to suspect that the author and others of his time may have believed that the water beyond the firmament accounted for rain. [Return to Gene. 7:11]
וַיִּקְרָא אֱלֹהִים לָרָקִיעַ שָׁמָיִם וַיְהִי־עֶרֶב וַיְהִי־בֹקֶר יוֹם שֵׁנִי 1:8
Gene. 1:8 And God called the firmament heaven. And it was evening and it was morning, period two.
So the firmament is heaven. Then the water beyond heaven, as well as heaven itself, must be the unknown, and the water below heaven would be the mundane universe. And we have the second “day” or period. Again, obviously, the word ~Ay wouldn’t refer to an ordinary day. Please also notice that God does not see that “it was good” on the second day. Presumably, lesser events occurred on this day.
וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים יִקָּווּ הַמַּיִם מִתַּחַת הַשָּׁמַיִם אֶל־מָקוֹם אֶחָד וְתֵרָאֶה הַיַּבָּשָׁה וַיְהִי־כֵן 1:9
Gene. 1:9 And God said, “Let the water beneath the heaven be gathered in one place and let the dry land appear.” And it was so.
Notice that in this verse the vav in the word ha,rtew> is noninverting. This is because the dry land appearing is a consequence of the water being gathered. See my discussion about the cases when vavs do not invert the tense of verbs they precede in About Hebrew.
וַיִּקְרָא אֱלֹהִים לַיַּבָּשָׁה אֶרֶץ וּלְמִקְוֵה הַמַּיִם קָרָא יַמִּים וַיַּרְא אֱלֹהִים כִּי־טוֹב 1:10
Gene. 1:10 And God called the dry land Earth and the gathering together of the water He called Seas. And God saw that it was good.
The scribe called the dry land Earth. I would call it the matter of the mundane (observable) universe, and the seas might be the empty space delineating its extent. But in accordance with v. 1:14, the suns were still dark. The stars were not formed until after that verse. So the stars were still part of dark matter. But if God saw that it was good, it probably is as significant a milestone as the first step of Creation. That probably indicates that in this verse the scribe was indeed thinking of the earth as made up of dry land and seas, as that would have been the significant step of Creation to him. But I imagine that the Lord might be “thinking” of the forming universe.
וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים תַּדְשֵׁא הָאָרֶץ דֶּשֶׁא עֵשֶׂב מַזְרִיעַ זֶרַע עֵץ פְּרִי עֹשֶׂה פְּרִי לְמִינוֹ אֲשֶׁר 1:11
זַרְעוֹ־בוֹ עַל־הָאָרֶץ וַיְהִי־־כֵן
Gene. 1:11 And God said, “Let the earth sprout grass, herbs yielding seed, trees of fruit, bearing fruit after its kind by which the seed is upon the earth.” And it was so.
As the sun was not yet formed (see v. 1:14), this must be premature. But the writer would tell it as he saw it. After all, it is the next logical step after forming the Earth in the previous verse. It’s also possible that the scribe assumed that the water mentioned in the previous verse made this step of Creation appropriate at this point in the process. We shall see that in chapter 2, the scribe corrects the apparent out-of-sequence nature of this verse. Incidentally, in a literal interpretation of the bible, this would be considered as just one more miracle among the rest of the miracles of Creation. As I think I’ve made clear to this point, a literal reading of these verses is virtually impossible.
וַתּוֹצֵא הָאָרֶץ דֶּשֶׁא עֵשֶׂב מַזְרִיעַ זֶרַע לְמִינֵהוּ וְעֵץ עֹשֶׂה־פְּרִי אֲשֶׁר זַרְעוֹ־בוֹ לְמִינֵהוּ וַיַּרְא 1:12
Gene. 1:12 Thus the earth sprouted grass, herbs yielding seed after its kind, and trees bearing fruit by which is the seed after its kind. And God saw that it was good.
In this verse we see another pattern that repeats itself often throughout the bible. Verse 1:11 says, “And it was so.” This verse effectively says the same thing again, elaborating on that earlier statement, but essentially repeating what was said in the first portion of the verse. In effect, the ending of v.1:11 introduces v. 1:12. It’s necessary, though, to point out that this pattern is not entirely consistent. For example, in v. 1:9, the scribe says and it was so, but no repetition or elaboration follows in v. 1:10. [Return to Gene. 2:5] [Return to Exod. 8:13]
Please notice also that God saw that “it was good” twice on the third day (verses 1:10 and 1:12). So the gathering of the seas and the sprouting of vegetation were both of significance (although the vegetation was premature).
וַיְהִי־עֶרֶב וַיְהִי־בֹקֶר יוֹם שְׁלִישִׁי 1:13
Gene. 1:13 And it was evening and it was morning, period three.
וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים יְהִי מְאֹרֹת בִּרְקִיעַ הַשָּׁמַיִם לְהַבְדִּיל בֵּין הַיּוֹם וּבֵין הַלָּיְלָה וְהָיוּ לְאֹתֹת 1:14
וּלְמוֹעֲדִים וּלְיָמִים וְשָׁנִים
Gene. 1:14 Then God said, “Let there be a source of light in the expanse of the heavens to divide between the day and the night, and they shall be for signs and for seasons and for days and years.”
On the fourth “day” God created the sun and -- the moon? Or is it the sun and the stars? More>>
וְהָיוּ לִמְאוֹרֹת בִּרְקִיעַ הַשָּׁמַיִם לְהָאִיר עַל־הָאָרֶץ וַיְהִי־כֵן 1:15
Gene. 1:15 “And they shall be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. [Return to v. 1:14 notes]
וַיַּעַשׂ אֱלֹהִים אֶת־שְׁנֵי הַמְּאֹרֹת הַגְּדֹלִים אֶת־הַמָּאוֹר הַגָּדֹל לְמֶמְשֶׁלֶת הַיּוֹם וְאֶת־־הַמָּאוֹר 1:16
הַקָּטֹן לְמֶמְשֶׁלֶת הַלַּיְלָה וְאֵת הַכּוֹכָבִים
Gene. 1:16 Thus God made the two great lights, the brighter light to rule the day, and the dimmer light to rule the night, and the stars.
The same repetition and elucidation pattern encountered in vss. 1:11 and 1:12 occurs here in vss. 1:15 and 1:16. And in this verse the moon is explicitly identified as having been created. [Return to Exod. 8:13]
וַיִּתֵּן אֹתָם אֱלֹהִים בִּרְקִיעַ הַשָּׁמָיִם לְהָאִיר עַל־־הָאָרֶץ 1:17
Gene. 1:17 And God set them throughout the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth,
The word [;yqir>, which was translated as firmament in vss. 1:6, 1:7, and 1:8, here in v. 1:17 must be translated differently, because in v. 1:8, God called the firmament “heaven,” and it doesn’t seem reasonable to say the heaven of heaven. However, another of the definitions of the word is expanse.
וְלִמְשֹׁל בַּיּוֹם וּבַלַּיְלָה וּלְהַבְדִּיל בֵּין הָאוֹר וּבֵין הַחֹשֶׁךְ וַיַּרְא אֱלֹהִים כִּי־טוֹב 1:18
Gene. 1:18 and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide between the light and the darkness. And God saw that it was good.
Because God saw that it was good, the next significant step in Creation was the formation of the sun and stars and other heavenly bodies.
וַיְהִי־עֶרֶב וַיְהִי־בֹקֶר יוֹם רְבִיעִי 1:19
Gene. 1:19 And it was evening and it was morning, period four.
We now had the sun, so this is the first actual “day!” The fourth phase or step in time of Creation!
וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים יִשְׁרְצוּ הַמַּיִם שֶׁרֶץ נֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה וְעוֹף יְעוֹפֵף עַל־הָאָרֶץ עַל־פְּנֵי רְקִיעַ הַשָּׁמָיִם 1:20
Gene. 1:20 Then God said, “Let the water multiply a living creature swarm, and let fowl fly above the earth upon the open expanse of sky.”
In this verse the scribe got the sequence of the fifth phase of Creation on the earth accurately according to our present understanding. The sea creatures and fowl appeared before the land creatures.
Regarding the noun [;yqir>, here translated as open expanse, see v. 1:17.
וַיִּבְרָא אֱלֹהִים אֶת־הַתַּנִּינִם הַגְּדֹלִים וְאֵת כָּל־נֶפֶשׁ הַחַיָּה הָרֹמֶשֶׂת אֲשֶׁר שָׁרְצוּ הַמַּיִם: 1:21
לְמִינֵהֶם וְאֵת כָּל־עוֹף כָּנָף לְמִינֵהוּ וַיַּרְא אֱלֹהִים כִּי־טוֹב
Gene. 1:21 Thus God created the great sea monsters, and every living creeping creature that swarmed the water, after their kind, and every winged fowl after its kind. And God saw that it was good.
Here’s another instance of the pattern of mentioning in one verse (v. 1:20) and elucidating in the next (v. 1:21). However, the phrase “… and it was so” is not present here. [Return to Exod. 8:13]
וַיְבָרֶךְ אֹתָם אֱלֹהִים לֵאמֹר פְּרוּ וּרְבוּ וּמִלְאוּ אֶת־הַמַּיִם בַּיַּמִּים וְהָעוֹף יִרֶב בָּאָרֶץ 1:22
Gene. 1:22 And God blessed them saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters throughout the seas, and let fowl multiply throughout the earth.”
וַיְהִי־־עֶרֶב וַיְהִי־בֹקֶר יוֹם חֲמִישִׁי 1:23
Gene. 1:23 And it was evening and it was morning, period five.
וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים תּוֹצֵא הָאָרֶץ נֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה לְמִינָהּ בְּהֵמָה וָרֶמֶשׂ וְחַיְתוֹ־אֶרֶץ לְמִינָהּ וַיְהִי־כֵן 1:24
Gene. 1:24 Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth the living creature after its kind, cattle and creeping thing and the beast of the earth after its kind.” And it was so.
וַיַּעַשׂ אֱלֹהִים אֶת־חַיַּת הָאָרֶץ לְמִינָהּ וְאֶת־הַבְּהֵמָה לְמִינָהּ וְאֵת כָּל־־רֶמֶשׂ הָאֲדָמָה לְמִינֵהוּ 1:25
וַיַּרְא אֱלֹהִים כִּי־טוֹב
Gene. 1:25 Thus God made the beast of the earth after its kind, and the cattle after its kind, and every thing creeping upon the earth after its kind. And God saw that it was good.
Once again we see the same pattern of repetition and elucidation encountered in vss. 1:11, 1:12, vss. 1:15, 1:16, and vss.1: 20, 1:21. [Return to Exod. 8:13]
וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים נַעֲשֶׂה אָדָם בְּצַלְמֵנוּ כִּדְמוּתֵנוּ וְיִרְדּוּ בִדְגַת הַיָּם וּבְעוֹף הַשָּׁמַיִם 1:26
וּבַבְּהֵמָה וּבְכָל־הָאָרֶץ וּבְכָל־הָרֶמֶשׂ הָרֹמֵשׂ עַל־הָאָרֶץ
Gene. 1:26 Then God said. “Let Us make humankind in Our image after Our likeness, so that they have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the fowl of the air and over the cattle and over all the earth and over every creeping thing creeping upon the earth.” [Return to Gene. 11:7]
The first thing that should strike you in this verse is the use of the plural first person pronouns in the first part of the verse. In this verse God appears to be talking to someone. More>>
וַיִּבְרָא אֱלֹהִים אֶת־הָאָדָם בְּצַלְמוֹ בְּצֶלֶם אֱלֹהִים בָּרָא אֹתוֹ זָכָר וּנְקֵבָה בָּרָא אֹתָם 1:27
Gene. 1:27 Thus God created the human in His image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
This appears on the surface to be a simple verse. But notice that God first created the human. The word ~da should not be translated here as humankind as it was in the last verse, because of the definite article heh prefixing the word (which would make it mean the human) and because the word takes a singular pronoun, Ata, in this verse in contrast to its taking a plural pronoun in the previous verse. Then it repeats that he was created in the image of God. Finally it states that God made more than one human. Thus this verse, as regarding the first male and female humans, appears to actually follow the chronology of chapter 2, the so-called second story of Creation. Also, vss. 1:26 and 1:27 follow the same pattern identified before in vss. 1:11, 1:12, vss. 1:15, 1:16, and vss. 1:20, 1:21.
[Return to Gene. 2:8]
וַיְבָרֶךְ אֹתָם אֱלֹהִים וַיֹּאמֶר לָהֶם אֱלֹהִים פְּרוּ וּרְבוּ וּמִלְאוּ אֶת־הָאָרֶץ וְכִבְשֻׁהָ וּרְדוּ 1:28
בִּדְגַת הַיָּם וּבְעוֹף הַשָּׁמַיִם וּבְכָל־חַיָּה הָרֹמֶשֶׂת עַל־הָאָרֶץ
Gene. 1:28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the fowl of the air and over every living thing creeping on the earth.”
Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it. This is the first commandment in the bible (to humans, that is). While it is repeated later after the flood in a somewhat different form, this still is valid, and it applies to all of humanity, not just Jews. For the most part, the commandment is explicit and simple, but what does subdue it mean? The word hvub.k means to subdue it, to bring it into bondage, to force it. English synonyms for subdue are subjugate, control, tame, conquer, pacify, and more. It doesn’t mean destroy, however. So what are we doing to the earth? We are controlling, taming, and conquering it. But in so doing, we are damaging it. Could it be said that this is a violation of the commandment? Can we follow the commandment without destroying the earth? Some people now think we can. The rest of us have to think so too, and I believe we must act on that understanding.
One more important point about this verse: It seems from the wording here that God “knew” that Adam and Eve would be leaving the garden soon. After all, he tells them to fill the earth and have dominion over the fish of the sea. But there doesn’t seem to be a sea in the garden. [Return to Gene. 9:1]
וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים הִנֵּה נָתַתִּי לָכֶם אֶת־כָּל־עֵשֶׂב זֹרֵעַ זֶרַע אֲשֶׁר עַל־פְּנֵי כָל־הָאָרֶץ וְאֶת־כָּל־הָעֵץ 1:29
אֲשֶׁר־בּוֹ פְרִי־־עֵץ זֹרֵעַ זָרַע לָכֶם יִהְיֶה לְאָכְלָה
Gene. 1:29 Then God said, “Behold, I give you every herb yielding seed which is upon all the surface of the earth, and every tree on which the fruit of the tree yields seed; it shall be for your food;
Well, we can make a big deal out of this verse as well. We are intended to be vegans! As you will soon discover, I interpret many verses, especially here in Genesis, as being at least partially prophetic. Is this verse a partly prophetic one? Are we all going to be vegetarians eventually?
Notice also that the Lord opens the whole of the earth to His human creations. So He obviously expects them to leave Edren soon. No surprise! Only a deep mystery.
וּלְכָל־חַיַּת הָאָרֶץ וּלְכָל־עוֹף הַשָּׁמַיִם וּלְכֹל רוֹמֵשׂ עַל־הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר־בּוֹ נֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה אֶת־כָּל־יֶרֶק 1:30
עֵשֶׂב לְאָכְלָה וַיְהִי־כֵן
Gene. 1:30 and to every beast of the earth and to every fowl of the air and to every thing creeping upon the earth wherein there is a living soul, every green herb for food.” And it was so.
Well, we can make an even bigger deal of this verse! All the animals – except the fish of the sea perhaps – are intended to be vegans as well. More>>
וַיַּרְא אֱלֹהִים אֶת־כָּל־אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה וְהִנֵּה־־טוֹב מְאֹד וַיְהִי־עֶרֶב וַיְהִי־בֹקֶר יוֹם הַשִּׁשִּׁי 1:31
Gene. 1:31 And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And it was evening and it was morning, period six.
In all the previous expressions of God’s approval, it says it was good. Here it says it was very good. Thus God places His final stamp of approval on His work. As I expressed before in relation to v. 1:3, this approval is for all time, not just for the event of the apparent completion of the creation process. [Return to Hose. 2:25]
Creation, the universe, is very good – for all time. But we may ask, is creation complete at this point in time? Astronomers today tell us that stars, galaxies, and other objects in space are being formed and are dying constantly. Along the way animal species here on earth have died out and other new species have appeared. According to experts, many species seem to survive for an average of about two and a half million years, and then are succeeded by new species. That can mean only that creation is not complete. It is an ongoing process. We will encounter some of the possible implications (and complications) of this soon. [Return to Gene. 2:2]
In conclusion, there is one more point that can be derived from this chapter. The modern interpretation of this chapter leaves us with a dilemma. The Jewish calendar is allegedly calculated by adding up all the days, months, and years mentioned in the Torah since Creation. In arriving at a particular date, the “six” days of this chapter have been counted as actual days. But if they are not actual days, the calendar is wrong, a fiction, useful only for traditional matters. In reality, there is no meaningful way to accurately and truthfully determine the number of years since the beginning of Creation. But is there any reasonable alternative than to use the traditional calendar? I don’t believe so. We’re stuck with it -- at least for the time being.
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