Gene 1 notes


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 extent of our knowledge and the growth in our awareness of the world.

But who could have understood such a picture at the time this was first recorded?   Do we today!  And who could have found the right words to express it?  So according to my belief, I have tried to forge an accommodation of these ancient words with what I understand to be today’s “knowledge.”

Then if we’re willing to approach this first verse of the bible, and subsequent verses, from a modern perspective, with a questioning mind, an independent spirit, and a reliance on the divine wisdom written of in Proverbs, we will see that it tells us much more than its simple translation implies.  Much of the story it tells is in the first word,  בְּרֵאשִׁית.  While the word is universally translated as In the beginning, the form of the word, that is, the presence of the ית at the end, usually means it requires an of something following it.  In other words, the verse appears to be missing one or more words following the first word.  It should read In the beginning of, …, what?  In the beginning of creation?  In the beginning of the universe?  In the beginning of God’s work?  In the beginning of an unimaginable cataclysmic event?  In the beginning of something that has no words to describe it?

It seems to me that the story of this word is simple:  The scribe reporting it didn’t know what word or words to place here, and so he left a sign that they were missing.  Otherwise it seems likely to me that he would have chosen another word here meaning In the beginning, such as בַּתְּחִלָּה (at first or in the beginning -- see Gene. 13:3) or בָרִאשֹׁונָה (at the start or in the first place -- see Deut. 13:10) or בְּרֵאש' (at the start, at the head, or in the beginning - see 2Chr. 13:12).  I suspect he inscribed the word בְּרֵאשִׁית to indicate his inability to express the concepts he (or someone else, if he was writing of the experiences of another) divinely received.  We’ll see that similar signs of the scribe’s possible loss of words appear elsewhere as well.

Now scholars may say that the Hebrew word בְּרֵאשִׁית is not strange in form, is properly translated, and/or doesn’t require anything following it.  Or they might say that biblical Hebrew is imprecise, and writers throughout the bible seem to have taken many liberties with its grammar and spelling.  To these potential arguments I respond that the words בְּרֵאשִׁית or רֵאשִׁית, beginning, appear eight more times in the bible, and in every one of those instances (save two), the word is followed by an of something.  And in no instances does either of the words appear to mean simply in the beginning or the beginning.  The two exceptions mentioned above are where the word is translated as first fruits of a harvest.  In those cases the “of a harvest” is understood.  Obviously, that is not the intended meaning in this case.  In the instances when the word is used to mean first fruits, I believe it is a colloquialism of the times or a reference back to Creation, as the first fruits would be attributed to God’s act of creation.  Is this sufficient evidence to indicate that there’s more here than meets the eye?  I believe so.  And again we might rightly question why the scribe didn’t use one of the words mentioned in the previous paragraph instead of the controversial בְּרֵאשִׁית?

                                                                             [Return to Gene. 41:21]           [Return to Jere. 26:1]

My next remark addresses the word אֱלֹהִים, translated as God except where the context clearly indicates that it refers to gods, meaning false gods or judges.  This word is the plural form of אֱל, also a word appearing occasionally to signify God.  The plural form appears almost everywhere in the bible.  Rarely is the singular form encountered.  Now I believe that much of the western world assumes this to be a justification for the belief that God is a plural Entity somehow.  Thus I think it’s necessary to clarify and explain this particular plural term as I understand it.

Almost all biblical Hebrew nouns that appear in plural form do indeed indicate by their form that two or more of the singular are meant by the word.  Yet there are four more nouns besides the word for God that appear in the bible only in the plural form.  These nouns appear not to have singular forms, or at least they are not used by any of the bible scribes.  Aside from the word אֱלֹהִים, there are the words מָּיִם for water, שָּׁמַיִם for heaven (or sky or air), חַיִּים for life, and פָּנִים for face or surface.

Each of these nouns seems to be clearly referring to what exists everywhere, appears to be without bounds, is uniquely important, and/or is unexplainable, enigmatic, or unfathomable.  These attributes, along with others, certainly would apply to God. 

Yet there is a unique grammatical difference between the term אֱלֹהִים representing God and all the other inherently plural Hebrew examples.  Everywhere in the bible all these other nouns always take plural pronouns, verbs, participles, and adjectives.  They are regular plurals.  In contrast, the term אֱלֹהִים for God is never used as a plural noun; it takes only singular pronouns, verbs, participles, and adjectives.  But when the term is clearly referring to gods, as in Gene. 35:4, it takes plural pronouns, verbs, participles, or adjectives.  Thus the Hebrew scribes made it patently clear that God is One, not more than one.                                          [Return to Exod. 33:14]

Next refer to the words, the heavens and the earth.  Again I believe that the writer could not adequately describe the thought in his or someone else’s head.  Was he really imagining the heavens and the earth as we know them?  Perhaps, but was that all that there was to create initially?  That’s all the scribe’s eyes could see, so that’s all his or someone else’s mind could conceive.  But if God projected the idea into someone’s head, I suspect it must have been much more complex than that.  Of course, we cannot know precisely what God did.  But might He not have communicated that He created energy and matter first?  Or the “raw material” of the spiritual universe and the “raw material” of the mundane universe?  How else might an individual without modern knowledge have described these picture ideas but as the heavens and the earth?

Another possible explanation of the terms heavens and earth can be imagined.  One might argue that the first things God created were really information and energy.  Information?  Why not!  Information in a generalized sense, not merely as a collection of data!  Information is critical to everything in the universe!  Because how else could the primeval energy have become the universe we know of today?  The universe could not exist without the information that permits all atomic and subatomic “particles” to interact.  Is not gravity, which exists everywhere, a subtle form of information, just like radio or television waves emitted by a transmitting antenna?  Are not the other forms of energy also equivalent to information?  Imagine something very loosely equivalent to the DNA in all living things to have been present in the primordial miasma of creation, as it is present today.  All the subatomic particles, their electrical, magnetic, and mechanical properties, and we don’t know what else!  Quantum physicists refer freely and frequently to the information that exists between and among atomic particles.  God included in Creation the necessary ability and mechanics for interaction and dynamics.  Information!  Design!  Wisdom!

                                                                                                          [Return to Prov. 8:22]

So how would you or I describe what God created?  Not much differently than that unknown ancient scribe.  My first verse might have been, “Before there was anything, God created the unknown and the known,“ or “Before there was anything, God created the rules and the necessary materials.”

Next I want to point out two other peculiar “coincidental” aspects of the verse.  Note that there are seven words in the verse.  This seems strangely suggestive of the seven days of the week.  Is it possible that the scribe left out the word he would have followed בְּרֵאשִׁית with in order to keep seven as the number of words in the first verse of the bible?  This is the kind of poetic idea that could have flourished with the scribe(s) of the bible. Then the strange Hebrew letter ו, vav, shows up for the first time in the sixth word (another potential reason to omit the word after בְּרֵאשִׁית?), and the sixth “day” is the “day” that humans were created.  Then interestingly and almost eerily, vav is itself the sixth letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

One final comment is appropriate and it is vitally important for a number of my remarks.  I think this verse is introductory to the creation story as presented in the remainder of Chapter 1.  This verse sets the stage, so to speak, stating in advance what was done.  Then after the next verse describes the situation at the “time,” the rest of the chapter tells how creation was accomplished.  We’ll see that this pattern of story telling, that is, introducing an event or process and then describing the event or process, occurs often in the bible.  I will point this out as we encounter additional occurrences.  What this observation means is that v. 1:1 (along with v. 1:2) does not describe the first act of creation.  Instead, it introduces the whole sequence of creation.  Verse 1:3 describes God’s first act of creation.

This is a reasonable observation.  After all, what was the scribe saying when he composed this verse?  I believe it was that at the start of everything, God was the One Who created it all.  What else could have been in the mind of the scribe other than the heavens and the earth? To him, that must have been the entirety of the universe, all of creation.  So why would he then go on to say, “And God said ‘Let there be light’” (v. 1:3)?  Did he think that God created the heavens and the earth without light?  No, he was simply using what must have been a common story telling technique (as it still is today) as described above:  Introducing a subject and then expanding on it.  Now this is a normal paragraph writng technique that we’ve all been taught in elementary school.  So I believe that the actual events of creation are depicted from v. 1:3 on.                        [Back]




וְהָאָרֶץ הָיְתָה תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ וְחֹשֶׁךְ 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.  What might the scribe have meant by תֹהוּ וָבֹהו, unformed and void?”  The word תֹהוּ appears to be related to the ideas of emptiness, being without limits, chaos.  The word בֹהוּ appears to be related to emptiness, void, waste.  They might therefore, mean empty and without limits.  Does it seem that these adjectives would be appropriate to describe the earth at its beginning?  I believe not.  So the scribe’s use of the term earth here seems again to be his interpretation of a divine inspiration that exceeded his understanding.  I suggest that the term הָאָרֶץ, the earth, might be loosely translated, or thought of, as the mundane (observable, material) universe.  Then it would say that the universe was unformed and void.  Does this not seem reasonable given our current understanding of cosmology?  But we must reach beyond this explanation to arrive at another understanding, which I will mention in relation to v. 1:4.

Now let’s examine the term תְהוֹם, which is translated as the deepThis word can mean a deep place, the sea, the depths of the sea, abyss; in other words, a “place” that is inaccessible or unknown.  That sounds like a description of the universe too; that is, the primeval universe.  Next we find “… and darkness was over the surface of the deep, ….”  The meaning?  Perhaps it means that there were yet no stars.  Finally, it says, “… the spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the water.”  Was the divine Creator overseeing what He was about to create?  The scribe’s use of the term for water here seems to imply that he believed the basic nature of the universe was of water.  See v. 1:6.                     [Back]




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.  The sources of light, as we know them, were not formed yet.  Would God have said, “Let there be divine wisdom?”  Of course we don’t know, but it seems reasonable to instead understand light as the energy of the mundane universe.   So did God say, “Let there be energy?”  And we are told that the “energy” is good?  Perhaps the word light is appropriate after all, in that it may describe the unbelievably immense flash of energy of the Big Bang.

Another mysterious aspect of these early passages: In this verse the first word וַיֹּאמֶר, Then [God] said, contains the first appearance of the inverting vav.  The verb said is written in the imperfect (future) tense, but it could not mean and [God] will say.  The vav inverts the tense of the verb to which it is prefixed.  Now this first verb with an inverting vav just happens to be the twenty-second word of the bible.  “Coincidentally,” the Hebrew alphabet contains 22 letters.  Are you beginning to think maybe there are too many “coincidences?”

Finally, let me say that there is good justification for assuming this to be the first act of Creation.  Could anyone rightly say that God created darkness?  No, His first act had to be to create light.  That has to be the first act of Creation.  The big bang!  This understanding is one of the bases for my discussion relating to v. 1:5 below.





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?  Didn’t think you’d have to be a physics student to understand the bible, did you?  Thus we might have the distinction between energy and matter.  All this in the first instants of creation!  So far, if you go along with my reasoning, the bible and science are in complete agreement.

The statement “And God saw …, that it was good.” is significant, I believe.  It is essentially repeated five times in the rest of this chapter.  Because it appears here for the first time it indicates to me that the light was really the first important step in Creation.  In other words, creation of the light of the earliest forming universe, including the way it was forming, was one of the key aspects of Creation to God.   This is in line with my belief that vss. 1:1 and 1:2 are not the beginning of Creation.  As I state above, v. 1:1 introduces the story of Creation; v. 1:2 attempts to describe what was “before” Creation.  Now v. 1:3 and this verse address the first acts of God’s work.  This is the beginning of Creation.  Believing that Creation actually starts with v. 1:1 is, in my humble opinion, an overly simplistic interpretation.  We will see where this conclusion leads in the remarks on v. 1:5.

Moreover, when the all-knowing God acknowledges that it was good, it means to me that it was according to His “plan” and “desire,” and it was without error.  This is important in my eyes, because I believe with all my heart that the world is good according to God.  Therefore, it is not broken and doesn’t need to be repaired.  Although we are not broken either, it is we who need “repair” or “correction.”  There is great significance in this realization.  It relates to pain and suffering, to disaster and death, to good and evil.  As profound as it may be, it is also very complicated, so this is a subject I will reserve for another time and place.  It deserves its own forum.              [Back]




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.  So the scribe may have perceived the inspiration or vision as something other than “day” and “night” but had no other words to adequately describe it, except that it might have been convenient to introduce the next part of the verse, that evening and morning denoted the first “day” of Creation, which is the way the word יוֹם appears in the English of almost all other translations.

So we need to examine the idea of a day.  It’s hard for me to believe that the scribe would have meant this to be an ordinary day.  Surely he would have understood that the sun made, or at least accompanied, or delineated the ordinary day.  But the scribe doesn’t describe the creation of the sun until v. 1:14 (see below).  Imagining that God had called the light day and the dark night, the scribe could have easily concluded that this meant a day.  But, as I mentioned above relating to v. 1:4, maybe God called the light “energy” and the dark “matter.”  The scribe might have substituted day and night for energy and matter, then concluded that it meant a day had passed.

Now the word יוֹם primarily means day, but it has multiple, often seemingly diverse, translations (as do most biblical Hebrew words).  It could mean a year, a lifetime, a period or division of time, even a day’s journey.  My understanding would move me to prefer a meaning related to a division of time, that is, “phase” or “era.”  Thus I see us looking at the first period of Creation, not the first day of Creation.

Next look at the phrase וַיְהִי־עֶרֶב וַיְהִי־בֹקֶר יוֹם אֶחָד:, so it was evening and it was morning, period one.  Scholars use this phrase to partially explain why the Jewish day begins after sundown.  Because the phrase begins with evening, the day begins with evening.  Moreover, because it was dark before God’s first act to create light, this also indicates that the day must begin in darkness.

Whether this was the understanding of the ancients, I don’t believe we know.  At what point in history the timing of the day was instituted is probably also unknown to us.  But I humbly believe that our traditional interpretation of this biblical phrase is incorrect.  I believe that, because it was “dark” before creation, creation started with light, like the daybreak, not with darkness.  As I state above, the first two verses in the bible introduce Creation; they do not include Creation.  As I mentioned in relation to v. 1:4, vss. 1:1 and 1:2 describe whatever was before Creation. Creation begins with “Let there be light,” in v. 1:3.  It was the start of the first “day.”  With this “understanding,” I believe the phrase so it was evening and it was morning, period [day] one signifies the completion of the first “day,” but then acknowledges the start of the next “day” in anticipation, as if to say the story is continued, implicitly indicating that nothing happens during the “night.”  As we will see, this interpretation is consistent with that of other phrases found elsewhere in the bible.  There are at least five verses in the Torah that describe events in reversed order.  I’ll point them out as they are encountered.

      [Return to Gene. 31:21]      [Return to Gene. 43:31]      [Return to Exod. 1:10]      [Return to Job 14:10]

An additional point in this argument is that if the expression was intended to denote a complete day, it would have more reasonably said, וַהִי־עֶרֶב וַהִי־עֶרֶב יוֹם אֶחָד, so it was evening, and it was evening, period one, thus signifying a complete 24-hour period.  In such case, there would be no confusion about the start and end of a day.  On the other hand, if the scribe had meant to convey the idea that the day started with the light, he might have said

וַיְהִי־בֹקֶר וַיְהִי־בֹקֶר יוֹם אֶחָד, so it was morning and it was morning, day one. But this would have been awkward, because it implies that something happened at night, which it didn’t.  It also would have been inaccurate, as the day did not end the next morning; the new day started the next morning.  As a result, I am inclined to interpret the phrase that appears in v. 1:5 as meaning so it was evening, day [period] one, then it was morning.

As a final point, I have to ask a simple question or two of those who believe Creation started with darkness.  What is darkness without light?  What does darkness mean?  Let me explain what I’m getting at.  Darkness is not a thing.  It is the contrasting aspect of a thing, that thing being light.  We cannot see darkness without light -- it doesn’t exist.  Before there was light, there was no darkness, there was only “nothing.”  Not darkness, not evening -- only God.  When God said “Let there be light,” He created not only light but darkness as well -- at the same time!

                                                                                                 [Return to Isai. 45:7]

So by my interpretation, the first “day” of Creation started with morning – “Let there be light!” – and ended with evening, as no work was normally done at night.  Even God doesn’t appear to have created anything during the night, judging by the fact that the acts of Creation all happened in lighted conditions, as far as we can tell from the text.  So a 24-hour day would go from daybreak to just before the next daybreak, i.e., from first light to predawn.  A Jewish day would start with first light (or -- for an individual -- when one awakes, if it is after daybreak) and end with the time at which one retires to bed.  Let me add that we will find some incontrovertibly strong corroboration of my viewpoint later on in Exodus 12, Leviticus 6, Leviticus 23, Numbers 9, and Numbers 33.

Now my idea is a major departure from Jewish tradition and observance, to say the least.  It leads to some startling implications for observance of the Sabbath and holy days.  As with my conception of the world being good in God’s “eyes,” (see v. 1:4 above), I also reserve the elucidation and discussion of those implications for another forum.

                       [Back]                [Return to Exod. 12:6]      [Return to Exod. 12:18]     [Return to Levi. 6:13]

                                                  [Return to Levi. 23:32]      [Return to Numb. 9:15]      [Return to Numb. 33:3]    




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?  After all, they denote the days and years.  The moon denotes the months.  Yet it is evident from vss. 1:15 and 1:16 that the scribe was referring to the moon, not the stars. As we continue to understand this story of Creation as a simplified explanation of cosmology, we would acknowledge that many stars were formed before the sun.  Our star is a relatively young member of our galaxy and the universe.  All the stars and the sun weren’t formed at the same time.  In fact, the formation of stars has continued throughout time.  We see evidence of stars forming almost everywhere we point our infrared telescope (the Spitzer Space Telescope).

In this verse we encounter the first example of Hebrew grammar being ignored by most, if not all, translators.  All bible versions with which I am familiar have here “Let there be lights …”  But the word for Let there be is singular, not plural.  But it has been assumed that the word for light was plural because later in the verse, it says “… and they shall be …,” referring also to the light, and that pronoun is plural.  The problem with this assumption is that the bible is replete with verses in which the number of pronouns is altered from singular to plural or vice versa while still apparently referring to the same noun.  This trait of changing number in pronouns seems to be evident throughout the entire bible, and is not considered peculiar.  I, for one, believe that each of the unexpected changes is telling us something that we haven’t yet taken the trouble to understand.  In this case, I imagine the scribe thinking first of a source of lights (singular) – the sun, reminiscent of v. 1:3, then later separating out the lights (plural); i.e., the sun,  the moon, and perhaps the stars.  The change in the number of the pronouns from singular to plural I believe was intended to express this thought.  It also may imply a precognition on the part of the scribe.  He may have understood that the moon’s light is a reflection of the sun’s light (the source at the beginning of the verse).

For those who believe in a strictly literal reading of the bible, I point out that what I have done is a strict literal translation of the biblical Hebrew accompanied by a modern understanding of what it appears to represent.  Someone who insists on a strict reading must be prepared to stick to that with consistency.  You can't be strict in one case and interpretive or explanatory in another.  If you believe in a strict reading of this verse, you must say that the three days that occurred before this verse were miraculous or mysterious and can't be explained by mortals.  Does that not constitute a “convenient” explanation or understanding of the three verses in which a day is denoted?  In all other miraculous events in the bible, the miracle is self-evident.  It is not surmised because it would otherwise be inconsistent with another verse.  So either you read the three days as three real days or you read this verse as the formation or creation of the sun, by which the days are delineated.  You can't have it both ways.  Yet these two strict “readings” are mutually contradictory.          [Back]




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.”

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.  As this is one of only a few verses in the bible that use the plural pronoun relating to God, there appears to be no other reasonable conclusion.  Should we assume He is speaking to the angels?  When were they created?  And what are they?  In the next verse (and in Gene. 5:1) we are told that God made man in His image.  Then an alternative explanation of the plural pronouns is that the scribe described God using the royal “we” in this verse.  This is considered by some to be an appropriate explanation.  But I’m not sure about it.  Although this idea is at least partially supported by Gene. 5:1, there are only two other places in the bible that God uses plural first-person pronouns.  The next time is in Gene. 11:7.  The other is in the introductory verses of Job.  In Gene. 11:7, He appears to be talking to an angel, and in Job, He is definitely talking to angels.

As to what the angels are, we can hazard a supposition, one that seems to be substantiated later in Genesis – God’s heavenly servants, messengers – which is one of the meanings for the Hebrew word.  As to when they were created, since the bible makes no mention of it, might they have been there before Creation?  Witnesses to Creation?  What does this say about Creation itself in theological terms, about something out of nothing, about creation arising out of God (because the theological conception is that there was nothing before Creation except God)?  Interesting questions for which there are no certain answers, only conjectures.  

                                                                                                             [Return to Eccl. 5:5]

The next thing that might strike the reader is the word אָדָם, which I translate as humankind, not as the name Adam or as man.  In many bibles, the word is translated as man.  The reason I translate it as humankind (or humanity) is because of the verb וְיִרְדּוּ, so they can have dominion, which is in the plural.  Here also in the same word is the second example of the traditional interpretation ignoring the grammar.  The letter vav prefixing the word has been interpreted as non-inverting.  Because the verb is in the imperfect (future) form, the vav would have to be non-inverting, for the translation to be and let them have dominion.  This is the typical translation in most, if not all, bibles.

As I stated in the introduction, I believe that biblical Hebrew is precise and unambiguous, and, except for two types of phrase, all vavs prefixing verbs are inverting.  Therefore, I also see this vav as inverting, and translate the vav-prefixed verb as meaning so that they have dominion.  This translation conveys a meaning that is absent in the traditional translation.  As I translate the words, they imply that God created humans in His image as the way to give them dominion over the animal kingdom.  To say this differently, God has dominion over the universe, and, because He makes them in His image, endows humans with dominion over the earth.  Thus we are the mundane and weak reflection of the dominion of the divine God.  The intent of the verse may have been to imply the whole of what it means to be created in God’s image.  Possessing a soul, as we shall soon see, has nothing to do with the divine image in which we were created.  See v. 1:30 below for more implications of this interpretation.

Next, the translation contained here implies purpose on God’s part.  He made humankind in His image in order that we have dominion over the earth and all its creatures.  It would seem to me that that was why God created us in His image -- so that we have dominion over the earth.

Finally, note that God says the man will have dominion over the fish of the sea, etc.  Now we know that in Genesis 2, the man is placed into the Garden of Eden.  And as far as we know, there are no fish or seas in the garden.  So we have here either another error in judgment by the scribe or a strong implication that God already knows that the man will be expelled from the garden in Genesis 3.          [Back]      [Return to Gene. 5:1]      [Return to Gene. 12:3]




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 are intended to be vegans as well.  This idea is in keeping with the prophecy of Isaiah.  Now this is significant enough, and supports the idea of prophecy inherent to Genesis.  But of even greater significance is that God told the scribe that all these animals, including creeping things, have a living soul.  The words are נֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה.  This is a remarkable disclosure.  What does this mean for us?  And what have we made of this truth?  We have ignored it – or, as in many bibles, the translation is changed (erroneously – see Gene. 2:7-Alt) to the breath of life.  Yet I can make three guesses as to the reason God tells us that animals have a soul like we do.  One, it’s possible that God revealed this to us so that we would stay vegetarians and not become meat eaters, or, later, to return to vegetarianism.  Two, to show us that all animals deserve our respect and compassion.  Three, to show us that it is not the soul that makes us in the image of God.

                              [Return to Gene. 2:7-Alt]            [Return to Gene. 6:17]            [Return to Ezek. 47:9]

Now God (reluctantly?) allows us to become meat eaters after the flood, and He tells us often enough throughout the rest of the Torah that we must be respectful of animals.  So I don’t believe the first two guesses are correct, except for its possible prophetic nature.  It may indeed be the third, therefore.  Then how were we created in the image of God?  Refer back to v. 1:26. above                                                        [Return to Gene. 2:7-Alt]

Whatever the answer is, we are left with a profound truth:  That is, that animals have a living soul.  We must each decide how to respond to that disclosure.                                              [Return to Gene. 2:7-Alt]

The term נֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה appears in seven other places and in all of those occurrences it is translated as living creature.  I will point them out as we encounter them.  Obviously, the translation living creature wouldn’t be appropriate here.

Lastly, what does the final statement וַיְהִי־כֵן mean here?  And it was so was appropriate everywhere else it appeared till this verse.  But here it makes little sense.  Might it mean that at one time all living creatures were vegetarians?  We are told through Isaiah that the lion shall lie down with the lamb after the Messiah comes.  Does history ultimately turn back to the beginning, or is this verse another veiled prophecy?

                                                                                 [Back]                      [Return to Gene. 2:7-Alt]


[To TOP]