Is the firmament of Genesis chapter 1 solid?
There is a view that is gaining currency within Christadelphian circles that Genesis chapter 1, far from being a true historical account of the origins of the heavens and the earth, is a polemic against ancient near eastern mythology. It is seen as an attack on the creation stories of other ancient civilizations. In their stories the universe begins as a watery chaos, ruled over by sea monsters.
These sea monsters are defeated by the gods, who then argue amongst themselves about the creative plan. With great effort on their part the universe is brought into being. In stark contrast, the God of the Hebrews, the God of Genesis 1, is the one who creates the sea monsters in the first place. God is alone and unopposed in all that He says and does. He speaks and the creative work is done.
According to this view, it is a mistake to view Genesis chapter 1 as a true historical
account of the Divine work of creation. This was never its intended function. This allows for the accommodation of evolutionary theory into the creative narrative.
Is the firmament in Genesis 1 a solid dome?
A significant foundation stone for this understanding of Genesis 1 is the assertion that the firmament in Genesis 1 is portrayed as being solid.
The reasoning is that ancient near eastern civilisations believed that the earth was flat, supported by two pillars, and that the firmament was a solid, dome-like structure in which the sun, moon and stars were set. The waters below this firmament represented the seas, and above the solid, dome-like firmament was the ocean of heaven.
It is further reasoned that the writer of the book of Genesis, in his description of God’s creative work, assumes that this understanding of the cosmos is correct. Since we now know that the heavens are not solid, the conclusion is drawn that Genesis 1 does not align itself with modern scientific fact. Therefore we are at liberty to assume that Genesis 1 is not to be understood literally, rather it is a teaching story.
For this reason, a correct understanding of the scripture teaching regarding the firmament has assumed great importance. The approach to Genesis 1 outlined above stands or falls on this issue alone. If it can be demonstrated that this is not the arrangement of the cosmos that is presented by scripture, in particularly the book of Genesis, then this case can be dismissed altogether.
The objective of this study is to demonstrate that the firmament (Hebrew raqia) of Genesis 1 is not presented as a solid dome-like structure. This idea can be read into the text if one approaches the Genesis account with this pre-conceived notion, but the text does not demand that understanding of the cosmos. Neither is Genesis 1 a polemic against ancient near east mythology. This idea has to be read into the account, because it is not there.
After all, why would the Almighty God of truth (Deuteronomy 32:4) attack the religions of heathen nations by producing an account of creation which itself was not representative of actual events? On the contrary, Genesis 1 is an accurate description of the creative work of God in simple terms that anyone, in any age, can understand.
Proponents of the solid dome theory usually make reference to studies by Paul H Seely1 and Pete Enns2. For convenience, we summarise below a number of key assertions that these studies make:
1. The other cosmologies from the ancient world depict some solid structure in the sky.
The most rational explanation of the raqia in Genesis 1 is that it also reflects this
understanding. There is no indication that Genesis is a novel description the sky
2. Virtually every description of the raqia from antiquity to the Renaissance depicts it as solid. The non-solid interpretation of the raqia is a novelty.
3. According to the flood story in Genesis 7:11 and 8:2, the waters above were held back only to be released through the floodgates of the heavens” (literally, “lattice windows”).
4. Other Old Testament passages are consistent with the raqia being solid (Ezek 1:22;
Job 37:18; Psa 148:4).
5. According to Genesis 1:20, the birds fly in front of the raqia (in the air), not in the raqia.
6. The noun raqia is derived from a verb that means to beat out or stamp out, as in
hammering metal into thin plates. This suggests that the noun form is likewise related to something solid.
7. Speaking of the sky being stretched out like a canopy/tent (Isa 40:22), or that it will roll up like a scroll (Isa 34:4) are clearly similes which support the view that the raqia in Genesis 1 is solid.
Underpinning these articles is the belief that the Genesis account was written by men who adopted the language and understanding of the scientifically naive cultures that existed at the time. As one author on this subject puts it, “We cannot impute to authors knowledge or experience which they could not possibly have had”3. It is reasoned that these ideas of ancient civilizations were used and adopted in the Genesis record to attack these other gods, and to show how great the God of the Israelites was.
The beliefs of other civilizations
With regards to the beliefs of other ancient near east civilizations, we do not doubt that some may well have believed that the sky was solid. But it is a total assumption to then conclude that therefore that is what Genesis 1 is describing also. The significant difference between the writings of ancient near eastern civilizations and Genesis 1 is that the latter is the word of God, and therefore there is no need to bring Genesis 1 into line with the beliefs of the ancients.
Furthermore, it appears that the belief that the sky was solid may not have been as
widespread as is being suggested by some. In a study by Randall W Younker and Richard M Davidson4, we find this statement:
1 The firmament and the waters above – The meaning of raqia in Genesis 1:6-8. Paul H Seely, The Westminster Theological Journal, 53 (1991) 227-40
2 The firmament of Genesis 1 is solid but that’s not the point. Pete Enns, biologos.org, Jan 14, 2010
3 The Three-Story Universe, N F Gier, God, Reason and the Evangelicals (University Press of America 1987), Chapter 13.http://www.webpages.uidaho.edu/ngier/gre13.htm
4 The Myth of the solid heavenly dome: Another look at the Hebrew raqia. Randall W Younker & Richard M Davidson, Andrews University Seminary Studies, No 1, 125-147, 2011.
A representation of the beliefs of ancient near east civilizations regarding the firmament
“There have been some who continue to suggest that the ancient Hebrews borrowed
cosmological concepts, including the idea of a solid domed heaven, from the
Mesopotamians. However, even this idea had to be scuttled when more recent work by Wilfred G. Lambert could find no evidence that the Mesopotamians believed in a harddomed heaven; rather, he traces this idea to Peter Jensen’s mistranslation of the term “heavens” in his translation of the Enuma Elish .
Lambert’s student, 5 Wayne Horowitz, attempted to piece together a Mesopotamian cosmology from a number of ancient documents, but it is quite different from anything found in the Hebrew Bible. Horowitz’s study suggests that the Mesopotamians believed in six flat heavens, suspended one above the other by cables. When it came to interpreting the stars and the heavens, the Mesopotamians were more interested in astrology (i.e., what the gods were doing and what it meant for humanity) than they were in cosmology.
There is no evidence that the Mesopotamians ever believed in a solid heavenly vault”
The reference that this article makes to Wilfred G Lambert is interesting because he was, of course, a Christadelphian who was also a historian and archaeologist, and a specialist in Assyriology and Near Eastern Archaeology. The whole article is worth reading because it casts considerable doubt upon the dome theory, including the writings of Seely. It gives the lie to the statement of Enns that “biblical scholars understand the raqia to be a solid dome-like structure… biblical scholars agree on this understanding of raqia”. Biblical scholars old and new most certainly do not agree. Here are some quotations from other Biblical scholars who clearly do not agree with Enns’ conclusions:
“The most probable meaning of [raqia] therefore is the expanse or the expansion. The LXX rendered it firmament; and hence it has been argued that Moses taught the sky to be a hard, metallic vault, in which the sun and stars were fixed; but the most learned modern commentators, including Gesenius, Kalisch &c., believe the true etymology of 5 “The Cosmology of Sumer and Babylon,” Wilfred G Lambert, Ancient Cosmologies, ed. C.
Blacker and M. Loewe (London: Allen & Unwin, 1975), 42-65.
the word to show that expanse, not firmament, is the right translation. The teaching, however, of the present passage does not depend on the etymology of the word. If a writer in the present day uses the English word heaven, it does not follow, that he supposes the sky to be a vault heaved up from the earth. Neither would it follow that the inspired writer had taught, that the portion of atmosphere, intervening between the sea and the clouds, was a solid mass, even if the word used for it had etymologically signified solidity”6.
“We must be careful neither to let our own view of the structure of the universe nor what we might think to have been the view of ancient men control our understanding of the biblical author’s description of the “expanse”. We must seek what clues there are from the biblical text itself. One such clue is the purpose that the author assigns to the “expanse” in v.6: it is “to separate water from water”. The “expanse” holds water above the land; that much is certain. A second clue is the name given to the raqia. In v.8 it is called the “sky”. Finally, we should look at the uses of “expanse” within chapter 1. Here the terms refers not only to the place where God put the sun, moon and stars (v.14) but also to that place where the birds fly (v.20: “across the expanse of the sky”)…. It would be unlikely that the narrative would have in view here a solid partition or vault that separates the earth from the waters above. It appears more likely that the narrative has in view something within the everyday experience of the natural world, in a general way,
that place where the birds fly and where God placed the lights of heaven (cf. v.14). In English the word “sky” appears to cover the sense well”7.
“Raqia – to stretch, spread out, then beat or tread out, means expansum, the spreading out of the air, which surrounds the earth as an atmosphere. According to optical appearance, it is described as a carpet spread out above the earth (Ps. civ. 2), a curtain (Isa. xl. 22), a transparent work of sapphire (Ex. xxiv. 10), or a molten looking-glass (Job xxxvii. 18); but there is nothing in these poetical similes to warrant the idea that the heavens were regarded as a solid mass, such as Greek poets describe. The raqia …is called heaven in ver. 8, i.e. the vault of heaven, which stretches out above the earth.
The waters under the firmament are the waters upon the globe itself; those above are not ethereal waters beyond the limits of the terrestrial atmosphere, but the waters which float in the atmosphere, and are separated by it from those upon the earth, the waters which accumulate in clouds, and then bursting these their bottles, pour down as rain upon the earth. For, according to the Old Testament representation, whenever it rains heavily, the doors or windows of heaven are opened (ch. vii. 11,12; Ps. lxxviii. 23, cf. 2 Kings vii. 2,19; Isa. xxiv. 18). If, therefore, according to this conception, looking from an earthly point of view, the mass of water which flows upon the earth in showers of rain is shut up in heaven (cf. viii. 2), it is evident that it must be regarded as above the vault which spans the earth, or, according to the words of Ps. cxlviii. 4, “above the heavens”8.
“Raqia – Identifies God’s heavenly expanse. The Mosaic account of creation uses raqia interchangeably for the “open expanse of the heavens” in which birds fly (Gen 1:20
NASB), i.e. the atmosphere… and that farther expanse of sky in which God placed “the lights… for signs and for seasons” … In pre-Christian Egypt confusion was introduced 6 Speakers Commentary. F C Cook, Commentary on Genesis 1:6. Vol 1 p33
7 The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Frank E Gaebelein. Commentary on Genesis 1:6. Vol 2 p 298 Commentary on the Old Testament. C F Keil & F Delitzsch. Commentary on Genesis 1:6. Vol 1 p52-54_5 into biblical cosmology when the LXX, perhaps under the influence of Alexandrian theories of a “stone vault” of heaven, rendered raqia by stereoma, suggesting some firm, solid structure. This Greek concept was then reflected by the Latin firmamentum, hence KJV “firmament”9.
“While this English word is derived from the Latin firmamentum which signifies firmness or strengthening,…the Hebrew word, raqia, has no such meaning, but denoted the “expanse,” that which was stretched out. Certainly the sky was not regarded as a hard vault in which the heavenly orbs were fixed…. There is therefore nothing in the language of the original to suggest that the writers were influenced by the imaginative ideas of heathen nations”10.
Sufficient has been said, and much more could be said, to illustrate the points (1) that the debate as to the precise meaning of raqia is nothing new, and (2) contrary to what Enns says, the scholars do not agree on the etymology of the Hebrew word raqia. This, then, leaves us with a dilemma. Which scholars do we choose to believe, and which to reject? If we are not careful, we are likely to choose those scholars whose opinions coincide with our own pre-conceived ideas.
A Biblical approach
Let’s approach the problem another way. All of these so-called scholars are astray from Bible truth on a number of key first principles. None of them understand the Truth of the Gospel in its entirety, as defined by “the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 8:12). So we may legitimately ask why we should put our trust in any of them. Why, indeed, when there is a much better way, outlined by the prophet Isaiah: “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20). The Bible is its own interpreter, and surely the best way of seeking to understand the meaning of Genesis 1:6-8 is to compare scripture with scripture. As Gaebelein has observed above, “we must seek what clues there are from the biblical text itself”.
The second part of this study will seek to do just that, and to arrive at an understanding of the firmament in Genesis 1 from the testimony of scripture itself.
9 Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. R Laird Harris, Gleason L Archer, Bruce K Waltke.
Vol 2 p 862
10 Expository Dictionary of Old Testament Words, W E Vine, Page 67_6
Part 1: Are Genesis 1 and 2 two different creation stories?
Some who hold to the ideas of theistic evolution allege that the two creation accounts recorded in Genesis 1 and 2 are different. The claim is that they reflect different authors, different time periods, themes and accounts of creation, as though two completely different texts had simply been compiled together and placed side by side. It is further alleged that the narratives contradict each other in several key areas. This reasoning is taken as the basis for the suggestion that neither account should be taken as literal or historical, rather that they should be viewed as stories with a teaching purpose – more like a parable – as opposed to a historical narrative that gives details of real events of the past.
This study, prepared by Brethren Matt Davies and Mark Allfree shows that this idea is flawed, and has to be read into the text. Simply on the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ’s usage of Genesis 1 and 2 in Matthew 19, and on the apostle Paul’s usage in 1 Corinthians 11, we must see Genesis 1 and 2 as the same account, speaking of the same events at the same time period. They are historical and literal accounts, and we can and must believe and trust them.
Most theistic evolutionists allege that the two creation accounts recorded in Genesis 1 and 2 are different. The claim is that they reflect different authors, different time periods, themes and accounts of creation, as though two completely different texts had simply been compiled together and placed side by side. It is further alleged that the narratives contradict each other in several key areas. This reasoning is taken as the basis for the suggestion that neither account should be taken as literal or historical, rather that they should be viewed as stories with a teaching purpose – more like a parable – as opposed to a historical narrative that gives details of real events of the past.
The following ideas have been presented in regards to this concept:1
|Difference||Genesis 1||Genesis 2|
|The time it took||Six day creation||Single day creation|
|Order of creation||Plants were created on the day 3 and man was made on day 6, Male and female created together||Plants and herbs seem not to appear until after the creation of man. Man created then woman in two distinctive acts|
|Depiction of God||Transcendent, creating from a distance||A participant in the affairs of man|
|Method of creating||Speech||Forms, breathes and plants|
|Name of God||Elohim, translated “God”||Yahweh Elohim, translated “LORD God”|
|Man’s creation||In the image of God||From the dust of the ground|
For those who hold such views, the idea that Genesis holds two independent, and supposedly contradictory, accounts of creation is not a problem, because the purpose of the Genesis account is not history. But for those who hold to the traditionally-held view that Genesis is indeed a historical account of creation, then these supposed contradictions are serious, because they affect how the word of God as a whole is viewed, and they strike at the very heart of the doctrine of the inspiration of scripture.
The purpose of this study is to examine these ideas in relation to the text of Genesis 1 and 2, and to establish that Genesis 1 and 2 are notcompletely different creation stories. They are not contradictory, buttwo complementary parts of the same historical account of the creative work of God. There is no need to dismiss the belief in the teaching of scripture that “in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day” (Exodus 20:11).
Part 2: Are they really different accounts?
We would suggest that to regard Genesis 1 as a separate, completely different account to Genesis 2 is simply an assumption. There may be differences in specific detail and structure, but it is a mistake to conclude that therefore these are different, contradictory, non-historical events.
Consider the synoptic gospel accounts of the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. On many occasions the gospel writers describe events in the Lord Jesus Christ’s ministry in different ways using different language. For example, the accounts of the healing of the centurion’s servant in Luke
7:1-10 and Matthew 8:5-8 reveal differences in the details of the same incident recorded. In the Luke record the centurion sends friends to speak with the Lord before he comes to the house (Luke 7:6), but in Matthew it reads as though the centurion himself is there, and speaks to the Lord personally (Matthew 8:8-9). The two texts may be viewed as contradictory, but in fact they are easily reconciled, when we recall that servants often spoke in the name of their masters. The contradiction is only apparent, not real. The point we wish to make is that it would be an unjustified assumption to conclude, on the basis of such supposed textual differences, that the healing of the centurion’s servant did not occur at all, and this was simply a story with a teaching purpose. To suggest such would be to misunderstand the text.
The same is true with Genesis 1 and 2. Just as the separate accounts of the same events in the gospels can be harmonised, so can Genesis 1 and 2. Genesis 1 is all about the “big picture”, focusing on the creation of everything we see around us, in the heavens and in the earth. Genesis 2 says nothing about the creation of the earth, heavens or cosmos. It only mentions things directly relating to the creation of man in the garden of Eden. Chapter 1 is the holistic view whilst chapter 2 concentrates on the first circumstances of man. When read in this way the accounts are not contradictory as we shall seek to demonstrate.
Part 3: “For this cause…”
Before looking in detail at Genesis 1 and 2, it should be noted that the Lord Jesus Christ himself clearly accepted these two chapters as being complementary, historical accounts of the same creative work of God. When challenged by the Pharisees on the subject of divorce, the Lord responded by saying: “Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?” (Matt 19:4-5). The Master here constructs a three-part compound quotation, in which he pieces together aspects of Genesis 1 and 2, as the table below demonstrates:
|Matthew 19||Genesis 1 and 2|
|Matthew 19:4 “at the beginning”||Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning…”|
|Matthew 19:4 “male and female”||Genesis 1:27 “in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”|
|Matthew 19:5 “And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?”||Genesis 2:24 “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”|
The Lord quotes Genesis 1:1,27 and 2:24 as a composite quotation, and by doing so he establishes the fact that “at the beginning” God made both male and female, and intended that through marriage they should become “one flesh”. The Master did not regard Genesis 1 and 2 as separate, contradictory “stories”. He clearly believed that the events recorded were real, and this is a vital point. The Lord is teaching us that the very principles of marriage stem from a real historical event. “Forthis cause” – because of this real historical event of the creation of man and woman – marriage exists. It is impossible to separate the moral teaching of Jesus on the sanctity of marriage from the history on which it is based. The two either stand or fall together.
On the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, then, we have a very good, biblical reason to view Genesis 1 and 2 as two complementary accounts of the same historical event. The Lord believed these chapters should sit side by side as one narrative and so should we.
Part 4: “For the man is not of the woman…”
A further Biblical proof that Genesis 1 and 2 should be considered to relate to the same creative event is found in 1 Corinthians 11:7-9: “For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man”. In this scripture the apostle Paul, guided by the Spirit, utilises references from both Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 to substantiate his argument that men are made in the image and glory of God, and therefore ought not to cover their heads. This is demonstrated in the table below:
|1 Corinthians 11||Genesis 1 and 2|
|1 Corinthians 11:7 “man… he is the image and glory of God”||Genesis 1:26 “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…”Genesis 1:27 “in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”|
|1 Corinthians 11:8 “For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man”||Genesis 2:20 “…for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.”Genesis 2:22-23 “And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”|
These quotations illustrate the apostolic understanding of Genesis 1 and 2, that they are part of the same account and should be read together. The apostle Paul elsewhere declares, “I think also that I have the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 7:40). His writings were the product of Divine inspiration, and are authoritative as scripture, as is also the book of Genesis (see 2 Peter 1:21; 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 3:16; Galatians 3:8; James 2:23). It is right that we should expect consistency in the teaching of scripture from Genesis all the way through to the end of the New Testament, since the true Author, the God of the Bible, is a “God of truth” (Deuteronomy 32:4), a Being that “cannot
lie” (Titus 1:2).
Part 5: The so-called irreconcilable differences
Theistic evolutionists claim that Genesis 1 and 2 cannot represent factual, historical accounts of creation, because they contain obvious differences, which are irreconcilable. From this it is argued that they are not intended to be read as historical documents. This is a very serious claim to make against the word of God, and it does not stand up to careful scrutiny.
1) Literacy Style
It is suggested that there are differences in literary style between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 and that this indicates that the two accounts are different. We do not dispute the fact that there are indeed differences in style. Genesis 1 clearly reads as a sequential series of events, each creative day being clearly defined by the reference to “the evening and the morning” (Genesis 1:5,8,13,19,23,31). There is clearly more structure to the text than in Genesis 2.
2 For more information on this see “Jesus’ reading of Genesis 1-2”, Peter Heavyside, Testimony, September 2015, 353-355.
Some scholars have gone as far as to suggest that Genesis 1 is poetically structured3, although others dispute this4, on the basis that the Hebrew lacks the requisite poetic markers. It is certainly true that the creation is spoken of in poetic terms in other parts of scripture:
- “Bless the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment: who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain” (Psa 104:1,2)
- “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof?” (Job 38:4-6)
- “Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?” (Isaiah 40:12)
All of these scriptures are clearly poetic in form, and use poetic structure, symbol and simile. But none such literacy devices are used in Genesis 1, and this suggests that Genesis 1 is not in fact poetry but history. The poetic style in the above later references is used to celebrate what was done historically according to Genesis 1. The truth is that, even if we do accept that Genesis 1 is structured in poetic form, this in no way proves that the text of Genesis 1 is depicting completely different events to those of Genesis 2, or that neither are accounts of real historical events. It does not give us liberty to dismiss Genesis 1 and 2 as historical narrative. There are plenty of examples of Biblical poetry which nevertheless relate to real historical events. For example:
- The book of Lamentations is a set of poetic laments over the destruction of Jerusalem – but it would be an unjustified leap in logic to conclude from this that the details contained in them had no historic
- Exodus 15 records the song of Moses and is clearly poetic – but this does not warrant the dismissal of its content as a depiction of the historic and miraculous escape of the Israelites from the armies of the Egyptians.
- Psalm 78 is an outline of Israel’s history from the Exodus to the anointing of David. It is clearly poetic but it is nevertheless a record of historical
2) How long did it take God?
“These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens…” (Genesis 2:4). This verse is used to support the notion that the second creation story is about a single day of creation as opposed to the six day creation in Genesis chapter 1. But this idea has to be read into the text, and is dependent upon a hyper-literal reading of Genesis 2:4. In fact this is not the idea being conveyed
by the text at all. The phrase in the Hebrew is Mwyb “byom”, and it means literally “in (the) day”, in
the sense of “when”, as translated for example in the New International Version: “This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created. When the LORD God made the earth and the heavens…”. The phrase does not refer to a specific 24 hour period but to a more general period of time. We use the same device in English, when we say things like “back in the day when we didn’t have computers…”.
3 “The first thing to notice is that Genesis 1 is a poem. As evangelicals, we affirm that the Bible is the authoritative word of God. Therefore, we believe that the Bible is totally accurate. But that doesn’t mean that we take it all literally” David Swaim,https://biologos.org/blogs/archive/maker-of-heaven-and-earth-part-3
4 “We may at this point take issue with the claim commonly raised in our day that Genesis, as to its contents, as well as other older Biblical books falls in the category of poetry rather than history… We are utterly out of sympathy with such an attitude; for it does not conform to the facts of the case. Nothing in the book warrants such an approach. It is rather a straightforward, strictly historical account, rising, indeed, to heights of poetic beauty of expression in the Creation account, in the Flood story, in the record of Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac, in Judah’s plea before Joseph, and the like. But the writer uses no more of figurative language than any gifted historian might, who merely adorns a strictly literal account with the ordinary run of current figures of speech, grammatical and rhetorical” Exposition of Genesis, H C Leupold, Introduction, pp 12,13.
Evidence of the use of the phrase in this way can be seen in other parts of the scriptures. In Numbers 7, for example, we read about the Levitical princes who made offerings on the day that
the tabernacle was sanctified: “And the princes offered for dedicating of the altar in the day (Mwyb)
that it was anointed, even the princes offered their offering before the altar.” (Numbers 7:10). The general phrase “in the day” here is not to be taken as a 24 hour period because the chapter continues to explain how the twelve princes made offerings over twelve consecutive days. The days are numbered for emphasis, just as they are in Genesis 1:
- “And he that offered his offering the first day was Nahshon the son of Amminadab, of the tribe of Judah…” (Numbers 7:12)
- “On the second day Nethaneel the son of Zuar, prince of Issachar, did offer” (Numbers 7:18)
- “On the third day Eliab the son of Helon, prince of the children of Zebulun, did offer” (Numbers 7:24)
- See also verses 30,36,42,48,54,60,66,72,78.
Each of these twelve days constituted “the day when (the tabernacle) was anointed”, as verse 84 indicates: “This was the dedication of the altar, in the day (Mwyb) when it was anointed, by the
princes of Israel: twelve chargers of silver, twelve silver bowls, twelve spoons of gold” (Numbers 7:84).
The same is true of Genesis 1 and 2. The individual days of creation in Genesis 1 are clearly to be understood as 24 hour periods, since they are qualified by reference to “the evening and the morning”. These six days are then all incorporated into the general summary statement of Genesis 2:4: “These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the
day (Mwyb) that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens”.5
There are plenty of other examples of similar usage in the scriptures. For example, speaking of the restoration of the fortunes of Zion in the future Age, Micah speaks of “the day (Mwyb) that thy walls
are to be built, in that day shall the decree be far removed” (Micah 7:11).This clearly does not mean that Jerusalem’s walls will be rebuilt in one day, but rather “at the time when…”.
The creative record of Genesis 2 begins with the phrase, “These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created”(Genesis 2:4). Other translations convey the idea of a “record”, or an “account”: “This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created” (NIV). What follows in Genesis 2 is a further account of the creation as described in Genesis 1, when “God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). It is complimentary to Genesis 1, and it supplies further details which are presented in a thematic, rather than a chronological way.
3) Order of Creation
One of the cornerstone arguments for suggesting that Genesis 1 is contradictory to Genesis 2 is the assertion that the order of creation in each chapter is different. Genesis 2 seems to present the creation of man before the creation of vegetation, and the formation of the beasts and the fowls appears to take place last. Genesis 1 presents the following order of things clearly labelled and set out for us:
5 For more information on this see “Genesis 1-2 – The Duration of Creation”, Peter Heavyside, Testimony,
October 2015, 397-400.
|Day||Creation of||Genesis 1|
|1||Light and Dark||v2-5|
|2||Firmament called heaven||v6-8|
|3||Dry land called earth and plant life||v9-12|
|4||Sun moon stars||v14-19|
|5||Fish and birds||v20-23|
|6||Animal life and man||v24-31|
In Genesis 2 three key subjects are covered:
|Subject||Subject covered||Genesis 2|
|1||Watering of the earth and creation of man||v4-7|
|2||The garden of Eden and the placing of man within it||v8-17|
|3||The naming of the animals and the creation of Eve||v18-25|
Genesis 1 is an account of the grand scheme of creation, whilst in Genesis 2 the account focuses in and around the key details of the creation of man himself. A few key points might be worth noting on Genesis 2 at this stage.
i) Watering of the earth and creation of man – v4-7
The Hebrew in this section is difficult to render into English, but it appears that the record is explaining the conditions that prevailed before God’s creative work on earth began. The table below summarises this.
|v4||These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens,||This is the “account” (NIV) of what happened at “the time” when the heavens of Gen 1:6-8 and the earth of Gen 1:9-13 were created.Note: the RV adds a full stop here indicating that what follows is a new thought.|
|v5||And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground.||After days 2 and 3 the heavens had been created and so had the “dry land” of earth, but there was no life in them. This was before the plants had been created.Also – rain had not been instituted by God and man had not been created to help till the ground.|
|v6||But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.||This describes what happened after the heavens and the earth and the plant life had been created.Moisture was provided via evaporation from the earth. This provided the sustenance for the plant life mentioned in v5.|
|v7||And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.||This addresses the second requirement described in v5. Man was created to assist in “tilling the ground”. This occurred on Day 6 according to Gen 1:26-27|
At this point we are introduced to man. He has been introduced in the context of the role he was created for – to “till the ground”, and to help to propagate the earth with plant life. Further detail on this is outlined in the next section.
ii) The garden of Eden and the placing of man within it – v8-17
This section defines the specific conditions of man’s first surroundings and his environment. There is a description of the garden God creates in Eden. The account simply tells us that man is placed in Eden for the specific reason already outlined in verse 5 – to “till the ground”, or to “dress it” – note that in the Hebrew the word “till” in verse 5 is the same as the word “dress” in verse 15. Verses 16-17 contain the command of God to not eat of the tree of life. All of this is further detail of the situation of man from the sixth day of creation, described in Genesis 1. The details provided in Genesis 1 and 2 in this regard are easily harmonised.
The proponents of the idea that there are contradictions sometimes point out that Genesis 2:9 describes the creation of plant-life, which appears to take place after the creation of man in Genesis 2:7. This is the reverse of Genesis 1, where vegetation is created on day 3, and man is not created until day 6. The solution to this is to read Genesis 2:9 in its context, and to appreciate that this is clearly a description of the specific plant-life in the garden of Eden, not plant life as a whole: “And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden… and out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for
food” (Genesis 2:8,9). That this is the case becomes beyond doubt from the second part of verse 9, which gives us the key information regarding the two special trees that were located specifically in the garden of Eden: “The tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil”.
iii) The naming of the animals and the creation of Eve – v18-25
This next section provides us with further information regarding man’s responsibilities and situation. The Lord God declares in v18 that “it is not good that the man should be alone”. The beasts and the fowls are brought before Adam to see what he would call them (v19), but there was no help found for him. Because of this Eve was created from Adam’s rib, and this is described in verses 21-22.
In this section the critics cite two main reasons for doubting the literality of the record:
- It seems the animals are created after Adam contrary to Genesis 1:24-25 where they are created before him: “And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call
them” (Genesis 2:19). The solution to this is to note that it is just as valid linguistically to render Genesis 2:19 with the pluperfect “had formed”, referring to what God had already done, prior to the formation of Adamfrom the dust of the ground. Rotherham renders this verse thus: “Now Yahweh God had formed from the ground every living thing of the field, and every bird of the heavens, which he brought in unto the man, that he might see what he should call it”. The NIV is similar: “Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them”.
- Adam is asked to name the animals before the creation of Eve who is created after all the beasts have come before Adam, and no “help meet” was discovered. The sceptic points out that naming all the animals in one day would have been an impossible task for Adam, and therefore the record should not be taken as literal historical fact. But this is to fail to perceive the main point that is being established in Genesis 2:19,20, namely that of all the cattle, the beasts of the field, and the fowl of the air, Adam was unable to find a help meet for himself. This is where the emphasis lies, not on the supposition that Adam was called upon to give names to every single creature that God had made. In fact the Hebrew does not actually
demand the meaning that all the animals were brought to Adam6. It would have been sufficient for Adam to encounter all the creaturesdwelling in the garden or some select representative animals that God determined to bring to him to demonstrate to him that there was no companion with whom he could enjoy fellowship78. It is also noteworthy that in any case the record only mentions the “cattle”, the “fowl of the air” and the “beasts of the field”. There is no mention of “creeping things” or “fish of the sea” (Genesis 1:24,26).
The chapter concludes with a description of the creation of Eve as a help meet for Adam. As we have pointed out, this can be read in perfect harmony with the events of Day six in Genesis 1.
Part 6: 1) Different depictions of God & method of creation
The theistic evolutionists suggest that Genesis 1 gives a transcendent description of God but in Genesis 2 we have a more anthropomorphic depiction (human characteristics applied to God), and that this is good evidence for Genesis 1 and 2 representing two differing stories.
Proponents of this view assert the description of God’s method of creating as evidence for this. In Genesis 1 God speaks, and it is done. In Genesis 2 God forms, breathes and plants, which, it is suggested, are all human based concepts. But this is a very poor argument, and careful reading reveals that God’s activity is also described in anthropomorphic terms in chapter 1, where He “called,” “saw,” and “rested” (1:8,12; 2:1).
2) Different names of God used
In Genesis 1 God is described as “Elohim”, whereas in chapter 2 He is “Yahweh Elohim”. This is claimed to be yet another indication that the two accounts should be viewed as being different, perhaps with different authors. But this is mere assumption and the argument is unconvincing. In scripture differences in the Divine name and titles are placed in the text for a purpose:
- Elohim, meaning “mighty ones”9conveys the idea of strength. The concept of the angels completing the work of God is certainly incorporated within Genesis 1:26: “And God said, Let us make man inour image, after our likeness”.
- Yahweh, meaning “He who will be”10is often connected in scripture to God’s glory and purpose revealed in others.
6 “The pronoun ‘them’ is printed in italics as the translators’ indication that there is no comparable word at this place in the Hebrew text….It would have been a tremendous task within such a short compass of time, for Adam to inspect and name every one of the various forms of animal life that had been brought into being; and the Hebrew does not require it. If the pronoun “them” is eliminated (as the Hebrew text would permit), the reading would suggest that only certain species were brought before Adam… This does not mean that the animals were paraded before Adam to ascertain from among their number as to whether there was a “help fit for him”, but rather, at the conclusion of the inspection, there was a sense of loneliness as far as Adam was concerned” Christadelphian Expositor, Genesis 2:19-20, H P Mansfield, Page 67.
7 “The time when this took place must have been the sixth day, on which, according to chap. i. 27, the man and woman were created: and there is no difficulty in this, since it would not have required much time to bring the animals to Adam to see what he would call them, as the animals of paradise are all we have to think of”. Genesis, Commentary on the Old Testament, C F Keil & F Delitzsch, Vol. 1, Page 87.
8 “Is it necessary to assume that the angels led to Adam all the enormous variety of creatures already made? A wide and diverse selection, those living in the garden, would surely suffice to demonstrate to Adam’s high intelligence (no Neanderthal low-brow!) that amidst them all he was really alone (apart from his occasional fellowship with the angels). The animals learned that Adam was their master, made to have dominion (Ps 8:6), and in turn he was impressed with their essential inferiority. Thus, one of Adam’s first school subjects (though not the first) was zoology”. Genesis 1-4, Harry Whittaker, Page 71.
9 “The Memorial Name”, Phanerosis, John Thomas, Page 65 (Logos edition)
10 “Ehyeh And Yahweh”, Phanerosis, John Thomas, Page 137 (Logos edition)
It is quite a leap in logic to assume that the use of “Elohim” in Genesis 1, and “Yahweh Elohim” in Genesis 2, indicates that the chapters have different authors, or tell different stories. If we are indeed dealing with the word of God then we must conclude that God may have chosen a different style deliberately, for a purpose. Genesis 1 is a more holistic description of the complete creation, and so it is reasonable that the might of God’s creative power should be emphasised. Genesis 2 introduces man, the pinnacle of God’s creation, and the only creature capable of displaying and manifesting God’s glory. It is therefore appropriate that in Genesis 2 the memorial name of Yahweh should be used.
3) The creation of man
It is by the proponents of theistic evolution that Genesis 1 and 2 give two different stories and contradictory statements regarding the creation of man. Genesis 1:27 says that “God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them”, whereas Genesis 2:7 states that “the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul”. Whilst it is true that there is a difference in the description of the way man is created, we submit that the two descriptions are not at all contradictory. Genesis 1 describes how that man was made like the Elohim, whereas Genesis 2 gives us some of the details of how man was created.
Having examined the key arguments we believe that the idea that Genesis 1 and 2 are two different accounts is flawed, and has to be read into the text. Simply on the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ’s usage of Genesis 1 and 2 in Matthew 19, and on the apostle Paul’s usage in 1 Corinthians 11, we must see Genesis 1 and 2 as the same account,speaking of the same events at the same time period. They are historical and literal accounts, and we can and must believe and trust them. We have a choice – to believe in God’s inspired word, or to seek to undermine this by trusting in the ideas and opinions of man: “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5)
Matthew Davies / Mark Allfree
Nottingham Forest Road Ecclesia November 2015