What Does Genesis Say?
1. (a) What is the purpose of this discussion on Genesis, and what should be remembered? (b) How are events covered in the first chapter of Genesis?
AS WITH other things that are misrepresented or misunderstood, the first chapter of the Bible deserves at least a fair hearing. The need is to investigate and determine whether it harmonizes with known facts, not to mold it to fit some theoretical framework. Also to be remembered, the Genesis account was not written to show the “how” of creation. Rather, it covers major events in a progressive way, describing what things were formed, the order in which they were formed and the time interval, or “day,” in which each first appeared.
2. (a) From whose standpoint are the Genesis events described? (b) How does the description of the luminaries indicate this?
2 When examining the Genesis account, it is helpful to keep in mind that it approaches matters from the standpoint of people on earth. So it describes events as they would have been seen by human observers had they been present. This can be noted from its treatment of events on the fourth Genesis “day.” There the sun and moon are described as great luminaries in comparison to the stars. Yet many stars are far greater than our sun, and the moon is insignificant in comparison to them. But not to an earthly observer. So, as seen from the earth, the sun appears to be a ‘greater light that rules the day’ and the moon a ‘lesser light that dominates the night.’—Genesis 1:14-18.
3. How is the earth described before the first “day”?
3 The first part of Genesis indicates that the earth could have existed for billions of years before the first Genesis “day,” though it does not say for how long. However, it does describe what earth’s condition was just before that first “day” began: “Now the earth proved to be formless and waste and there was darkness upon the surface of the watery deep; and God’s active force was moving to and fro over the surface of the waters.”—Genesis 1:2.
How Long Is a Genesis “Day”?
4. What indication is there in the creation account itself that the word “day” does not mean just a 24-hour period?
4 Many consider the word “day” used in Genesis chapter 1 to mean 24 hours. However, in Genesis 1:5 God himself is said to divide day into a smaller period of time, calling just the light portion “day.” In Genesis 2:4 all the creative periods are called one “day”: “This is a history of the heavens and the earth in the time of their being created, in the day [all six creative periods] that Jehovah God made earth and heaven.”
5. What is one meaning of the Hebrew word for “day” that indicates longer periods can be understood?
5 The Hebrew word yohm, translated “day,” can mean different lengths of time. Among the meanings possible, William Wilson’s Old Testament Word Studies includes the following: “A day; it is frequently put for time in general, or for a long time; a whole period under consideration . . . Day is also put for a particular season or time when any extraordinary event happens.”1 This last sentence appears to fit the creative “days,” for certainly they were periods when extraordinary events were described as happening. It also allows for periods much longer than 24 hours.
6. Why does the use of “evening” and “morning” not necessarily limit a “day” to 24 hours?
6 Genesis chapter 1 uses the expressions “evening” and “morning” relative to the creative periods. Does this not indicate that they were 24 hours long? Not necessarily. In some places people often refer to a man’s lifetime as his “day.” They speak of “my father’s day” or “in Shakespeare’s day.” They may divide up that lifetime “day,” saying “in the morning [or dawn] of his life” or “in the evening [or twilight] of his life.” So ‘evening and morning’ in Genesis chapter 1 does not limit the meaning to a literal 24 hours.
7. What other uses show “day” could be more than 24 hours?
7 “Day” as used in the Bible can include summer and winter, the passing of seasons. (Zechariah 14:8) “The day of harvest” involves many days. (Compare Proverbs 25:13 and Genesis 30:14.) A thousand years are likened to a day. (Psalm 90:4; 2 Peter 3:8, 10) “Judgment Day” covers many years. (Matthew 10:15; 11:22-24) It would seem reasonable that the “days” of Genesis could likewise have embraced long periods of time—millenniums. What, then, took place during those creative eras? Is the Bible’s account of them scientific? Following is a review of these “days” as expressed in Genesis.
8, 9. What came to be on the first “day,” and is Genesis saying that the sun and moon were created at that time?
8 “‘Let light come to be.’ Then there came to be light. And God began calling the light Day, but the darkness he called Night. And there came to be evening and there came to be morning, a first day.”—Genesis 1:3, 5.
9 Of course the sun and moon were in outer space long before this first “day,” but their light did not reach the surface of the earth for an earthly observer to see. Now, light evidently came to be visible on earth on this first “day,” and the rotating earth began to have alternating days and nights.
10. In what way could this light have come, and what kind of light is indicated?
10 Apparently, the light came in a gradual process, extending over a long period of time, not instantaneously as when you turn on an electric light bulb. The Genesis rendering by translator J. W. Watts reflects this when it says: “And gradually light came into existence.” (A Distinctive Translation of Genesis) This light was from the sun, but the sun itself could not be seen through the overcast. Hence, the light that reached earth was “light diffused,” as indicated by a comment about Ge 1 verse 3 in Rotherham’s Emphasised Bible.—See footnote b for Ge 1 verse 14.
11, 12. (a) What is described for the second “day”? (b) How has the Hebrew word for this development sometimes been mistranslated, and what does it really mean?
11 “‘Let an expanse come to be in between the waters and let a dividing occur between the waters and the waters.’ Then God proceeded to make the expanse and to make a division between the waters that should be beneath the expanse and the waters that should be above the expanse. And it came to be so. And God began to call the expanse Heaven.”—Genesis 1:6-8.
12 Some translations use the word “firmament” instead of “expanse.” From this the argument is made that the Genesis account borrowed from creation myths that represent this “firmament” as a metal dome. But even the King James Version Bible, which uses “firmament,” says in the margin, “expansion.” This is because the Hebrew word ra·qiʹa‛, translated “expanse,” means to stretch out or spread out or expand.
13. The expanse may have looked as though what had happened?
13 The Genesis account says that God did it, but it does not say how. In whatever way the described separation occurred, it would look as though the ‘waters above’ had been pushed up from the earth. And birds could later be said to fly in “the expanse of the heavens,” as stated at Genesis 1:20.
14. How is the third “day” described?
14 “‘Let the waters under the heavens be brought together into one place and let the dry land appear.’ And it came to be so. And God began calling the dry land Earth, but the bringing together of the waters he called Seas.” (Genesis 1:9, 10) As usual, the account does not describe how this was done. No doubt, tremendous earth movements would have been involved in the formation of land areas. Geologists would explain such major upheavals as catastrophism. But Genesis indicates direction and control by a Creator.
15, 16. (a) What points were raised to Job about the earth? (b) How deep do the roots of continents and mountains go, and what is likened to a “cornerstone” for earth?
15 In the Biblical account where God is described as questioning Job about his knowledge of the earth, a variety of developments concerning earth’s history are described: its measurements, its cloud masses, its seas and how their waves were limited by dry land—many things in general about the creation, spanning long periods of time. Among these things, comparing earth to a building, the Bible says that God asked Job: “Into what have its socket pedestals been sunk down, or who laid its cornerstone?”—Job 38:6.
16 Interestingly, like “socket pedestals,” earth’s crust is much thicker under continents and even more so under mountain ranges, pushing deep into the underlying mantle, like tree roots into soil. “The idea that mountains and continents had roots has been tested over and over again, and shown to be valid,” says Putnam’s Geology.2 Oceanic crust is only about 5 miles thick, but continental roots go down about 20 miles and mountain roots penetrate about twice that far. And all earth’s layers press inward upon earth’s core from all directions, making it like a great “cornerstone” of support.
17. What is important relative to the appearance of dry land?
17 Whatever means were used to accomplish the raising up of dry land, the important point is: Both the Bible and science recognize it as one of the stages in the forming of the earth.
Land Plants on Third “Day”
18, 19. (a) In addition to dry land, what else appeared on the third “day”? (b) What does the Genesis account not do?
18 The Bible account adds: “‘Let the earth cause grass to shoot forth, vegetation bearing seed, fruit trees yielding fruit according to their kinds, the seed of which is in it, upon the earth.’ And it came to be so.”—Genesis 1:11.
19 Thus by the close of this third creative period, three broad categories of land plants had been created. The diffused light would have become quite strong by then, ample for the process of photosynthesis so vital to green plants. Incidentally, the account here does not mention every “kind” of plant that came on the scene. Microscopic organisms, water plants and others are not specifically named, but likely were created on this “day.”
20. What divisions in time became possible by the appearance of the luminaries in the expanse?
20 “‘Let luminaries come to be in the expanse of the heavens to make a division between the day and the night; and they must serve as signs and for seasons and for days and years. And they must serve as luminaries in the expanse of the heavens to shine upon the earth.’ And it came to be so. And God proceeded to make the two great luminaries, the greater luminary for dominating the day and the lesser luminary for dominating the night, and also the stars.”—Genesis 1:14-16; Psalm 136:7-9.
21. How did the light of the fourth “day” differ from that of the first?
21 Previously, on the first “day,” the expression “Let light come to be” was used. The Hebrew word there used for “light” is ’ohr, meaning light in a general sense. But on the fourth “day,” the Hebrew word changes to ma·’ohrʹ, which means the source of the light. Rotherham, in a footnote on “Luminaries” in the Emphasised Bible, says: “In ver. Ge 1:3, ’ôr [’ohr], light diffused.” Then he goes on to show that the Hebrew word ma·’ohrʹ in Ge 1 verse 14 means something “affording light.” On the first “day” diffused light evidently penetrated the swaddling bands, but the sources of that light could not have been seen by an earthly observer because of the cloud layers still enveloping the earth. Now, on this fourth “day,” things apparently changed.
22. What development on the fourth “day” could have contributed to the coming of animal life?
22 An atmosphere initially rich in carbon dioxide may have caused an earth-wide hot climate. But the lush growth of vegetation during the third and fourth creative periods would absorb some of this heat-retaining blanket of carbon dioxide. The vegetation, in turn, would release oxygen—a requirement for animal life.
23. What major changes are described for this time?
23 Now, had there been an earthly observer, he would be able to discern the sun, moon and stars, which would “serve as signs and for seasons and for days and years.” (Genesis 1:14) The moon would indicate the passing of lunar months, and the sun the passing of solar years. The seasons that now “came to be” on this fourth “day” would no doubt have been much milder than they became later on.—Genesis 1:15; 8:20-22.
24. What kinds of creatures were said to appear on the fifth “day,” and within what limits would they reproduce?
24 “‘Let the waters swarm forth a swarm of living souls and let flying creatures fly over the earth upon the face of the expanse of the heavens.’ And God proceeded to create the great sea monsters and every living soul that moves about, which the waters swarmed forth according to their kinds, and every winged flying creature according to its kind.”—Genesis 1:20, 21.
25. What were the creatures that appeared on the fifth “day” called?
25 It is of interest to note that the nonhuman creatures with which the waters were to swarm are called “living souls.” This term would also apply to the “flying creatures [that] fly over the earth upon the face of the expanse.” And it would also embrace the forms of sea and air life, such as the sea monsters, whose fossil remains scientists have found in recent times.
26-28. What took place on the sixth “day,” and what was remarkable about the last act of creation?
26 “‘Let the earth put forth living souls according to their kinds, domestic animal and moving animal and wild beast of the earth according to its kind.’ And it came to be so.”—Genesis 1:24.
27 Thus on the sixth “day,” land animals characterized as wild and domestic appeared. But this final “day” was not over. One last remarkable “kind” was to come:
28 “And God went on to say: ‘Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness, and let them have in subjection the fish of the sea and the flying creatures of the heavens and the domestic animals and all the earth and every moving animal that is moving upon the earth.’ And God proceeded to create the man in his image, in God’s image he created him; male and female he created them.”—Genesis 1:26, 27.
29, 30. How can the variance between Genesis chapter 2 and chapter 1 be understood?
29 Chapter 2 of Genesis apparently adds some details. However, it is not, as some have concluded, another account of creation in conflict with that of Ge chapter 1. It just takes up at a point in the third “day,” after dry land appeared but before land plants were created, adding details that were pertinent to the arrival of humans—Adam the living soul, his garden home, Eden, and the woman Eve, his wife.—Genesis 2:5-9, 15-18, 21, 22.
30 The foregoing is presented to help us understand what Genesis says. And this quite realistic account indicates that the creative process continued throughout a period of, not just 144 hours (6 × 24), but over many millenniums of time.
How Did Genesis Know?
31. (a) How do some misrepresent the Genesis account? (b) What shows their contentions to be inaccurate?
31 Many find it hard to accept this creation account. They contend that it is drawn from the creation myths of ancient peoples, primarily those from ancient Babylon. However, as one recent Bible dictionary noted: “No myth has yet been found which explicitly refers to the creation of the universe” and the myths “are marked by polytheism and the struggles of deities for supremacy in marked contrast to the Heb[rew] monotheism of [Genesis] 1-2.”3 Regarding Babylonian creation legends, the trustees of the British Museum stated: “The fundamental conceptions of the Babylonian and Hebrew accounts are essentially different.”4
32. How has the creation account in Genesis been shown to be scientifically sound?
32 From what we have considered, the Genesis creation account emerges as a scientifically sound document. It reveals the larger categories of plants and animals, with their many varieties, reproducing only “according to their kinds.” The fossil record provides confirmation of this. In fact, it indicates that each “kind” appeared suddenly, with no true transitional forms linking it with any previous “kind,” as required by the evolution theory.
33. Where only could the information in the Genesis creation account have come from?
33 All the knowledge of the wise men of Egypt could not have furnished Moses, the writer of Genesis, any clue to the process of creation. The creation myths of ancient peoples bore no resemblance to what Moses wrote in Genesis. Where, then, did Moses learn all these things? Apparently from someone who was there.
34. What other line of evidence underlines the soundness of the Genesis outline of events?
34 The science of mathematical probability offers striking proof that the Genesis creation account must have come from a source with knowledge of the events. The account lists 10 major stages in this order: (1) a beginning; (2) a primitive earth in darkness and enshrouded in heavy gases and water; (3) light; (4) an expanse or atmosphere; (5) large areas of dry land; (6) land plants; (7) sun, moon and stars discernible in the expanse, and seasons beginning; (8) sea monsters and flying creatures; (9) wild and tame beasts, mammals; (10) man. Science agrees that these stages occurred in this general order. What are the chances that the writer of Genesis just guessed this order? The same as if you picked at random the numbers 1 to 10 from a box, and drew them in consecutive order. The chances of doing this on your first try are 1 in 3,628,800! So, to say the writer just happened to list the foregoing events in the right order without getting the facts from somewhere is not realistic.
35. What questions are raised, and where are the answers to be discussed?
35 However, evolutionary theory does not allow for a Creator who was there, knew the facts and could reveal them to humans. Instead, it attributes the appearance of life on earth to the spontaneous generation of living organisms from inanimate chemicals. But could undirected chemical reactions relying on mere chance create life? Are scientists themselves convinced that this could happen? Please see the next chapter.
[Blurb on page 25]
The Genesis account is given from the standpoint of an observer on earth
[Blurb on page 36]
The fossil record confirms reproduction only “according to their kinds”
[Box on page 35]
The Babylonian creation myth that is claimed by some to be a basis for the Genesis creation account:
The god Apsu and the goddess Tiamat made other gods.
Later Apsu became distressed with these gods and tried to kill them, but instead he was killed by the god Ea.
Tiamat sought revenge and tried to kill Ea, but instead she was killed by Ea’s son Marduk.
Marduk split her body in half, and from one half he made the sky and from the other half he made the earth.
Then Marduk, with Ea’s aid, made mankind from the blood of another god, Kingu.a
Does it seem to you that this type of tale bears any similarity to the Genesis creation narrative?
[Box on page 36]
A well-known geologist said this about the Genesis creation account:
“If I as a geologist were called upon to explain briefly our modern ideas of the origin of the earth and the development of life on it to a simple, pastoral people, such as the tribes to whom the Book of Genesis was addressed, I could hardly do better than follow rather closely much of the language of the first chapter of Genesis.”b This geologist, Wallace Pratt, also noted that the order of events—from the origin of the oceans, to the emergence of land, to the appearance of marine life, and then to birds and mammals—is essentially the sequence of the principal divisions of geologic time.
[Picture on page 27]
Day 1: “Let light come to be”
[Picture on page 28]
Day 2: “Let an expanse come to be”
[Picture on page 29]
Day 3: “Let the dry land appear”
[Picture on page 30]
Day 3: “Let the earth cause grass to shoot forth”
[Pictures on page 31]
Day 4: ‘Let luminaries come to be in the expanse, the greater for dominating the day and the lesser for dominating the night’
[Picture on page 32]
Day 5: ‘Let the waters swarm forth living souls and let flying creatures fly over the earth’
[Picture on page 33]
Day 6: ‘Domestic animal and wild beast according to its kind’
[Picture on page 34]
Day 6: “Male and female he created them”
[Picture on page 37]
The chances of doing this on the first try are 1 in 3,628,800