A Bible Lesson on Genesis 3

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.  Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

We come now to Genesis 3 and the fall.  This is a fundamental, key passage of Scripture.  Without it, we don’t know the real condition of man.  We have no explanation of why and how things are the way they are.  We can’t account for them.  Blaise Pascal, the famous Christian mathematician put our state this way: “What sort of freak then is man?  How novel, how monstrous, how chaotic, how paradoxical, how prodigious! Judge of all things, feeble earthworm, repository of truth, sink of doubt and error, glory and refuse of the universe!”  Gut level, we know the world we live in is both wonderful and grand, and at the same time broken and flawed.  Gut level, we know that’s the way all humanity is too.  But how is that???  Francis Schaeffer rightly said that we must either maintain that the world is normal, and pronounce all of the misery, heartache, and evil in it to be normal, or have a real explanation of why it is abnormal/flawed.  Only the truth of the account of Genesis 3 provides a sane explanation of the way the world is.  The space and time reality of the account gives us sanity in understanding the way we and the world are.

Genesis 3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”

The serpent, directed by Satan, approaches Eve.  He begins his work on her with a fairly innocuous sounding question, as if to engage her in a theological discussion.  But the intent is to plant the seeds of doubt in her mind and flatter her.  Kidner: “The incredulous tone—’So God has actually said…?’—is both disturbing and flattering: it smuggles in the assumption that God’s word is subject to our judgment.”

Notice that the serpent misquotes God, but more important than that, deliberately misrepresents the real intent of God’s command.  Genesis 2:16-17 is a statement of freedom, granting real liberty to man, but graciously warning him of the limits of that freedom and the sad but inevitable consequences of violating those limits.  Man, as a creature, can have real liberty only within bounds.  Outside those bounds is not liberty, but disaster, and God lays that out for Adam.

2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden,

3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ”

Eve (and any one of us for that matter) is no match for Satan outside the protection that God had provided.  She has God’s Word on the matter.  That is her protection.  But she is a dead duck already when she begins to dialogue about its appropriateness with her Creator’s sworn enemy.  Who in the world does she think she’s talking to here?   Who is this creature to be questioning God’s Word?  Who is she to be discussing the matter?   For her to do so, to put herself somehow in the seat of a judge or authority, has already sent her sliding down the slope from which there is no recovery.

Compare again Genesis 2:16-17 to 3:2-3 and notice the difference in tone.  In 2:16-17 there is the tone of liberty.  Here, as Eve represents the situation, there is the tone of oppressive restriction.  “We may eat fruit (ho hum) … but God did say …”  Notice too what Eve does here.  She adds to the Word of God.  She says “neither shall you touch it.”  Can’t you hear here the whining of a kid “my parents are so mean, they won’t ever let me do anything”?  We have no record that God said any such thing.  It’s almost as if Eve wants God’s Word to them to be heavy and burdensome, so that she can get some sympathy from the serpent.  Satan knows how to play her like a violin.

4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.

The conversation began with a question intended to plant doubt.  Now there is a plain denial that what God has said is really true.  Think how totally crazy this is!  Here is a creature saying that the very One that made him and that personally defines goodness and truth is not to be believed.  Here is another creature listening to and believing a fellow creature in the place of the Creator.  It is flat insane.  It makes no sense, and that is the nature of our sin and rebellion against God our Maker.  Does the God of universe speak the truth or does He not?  The origin of human sin is denial of the truth of God’s speaking, and the goodness of His will for His creatures.  And the first truth denied is the truth of judgment.

5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

The serpent not only makes God out to be a liar, but gets Eve to replace God’s wonderful, generous, loving, protective motives with a mean-spirited, selfish kind of outlook.  He tells Eve that God is holding onto some good stuff that He doesn’t want to share with her.

Notice the two things that the serpent holds out to Eve here.  First is the lure of knowledge.  You will know the deep stuff that only God knows.  Second, the knowing of this stuff will put you in God’s class.  You, Eve, the creature, will be godlike.  It’s not enough that you were created in the image of God or that God created you for relationship with Himself.  If you will only break that fellowship and disobey, why Eve, you the creature will be a little god yourself!!!  Remember that it is exactly this desire to be god that caused the fall of Satan in the first place.  That temptation and false promise is one that human beings never seem to quit falling for.  Humans are not content to be creatures, but wish instead to be “gods” of one sort or another.

6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

IJohn 2:16 speaks of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life as coming not from God, but the world, and as leading men into sin.  The pattern there is the pattern here.  Eve sees that the fruit will satisfy hunger, that it is real nice looking, and thinks about the possibility of being god-like.  It’s too much for her.

It is an important contrast to look at the temptation of Jesus in Matt 4:1-11.  Satan tempted Him to satisfy His hunger (the lust of the flesh), showed Him the kingdoms of the world (the lust of the eye) and tempted Him to do something spectacular by throwing Himself from the pinnacle of the temple (the pride of life).  In all cases, Jesus answered with the Word of God … “it is written.”  Instead of clinging to what God had plainly said to Adam, Eve treated it lightly, misquoted it, twisted its intent.  In the end, she had abandoned her protection and was no match for the devil.

Then she wasn’t content to have broken God’s command herself, but felt compelled to secure Adam’s participation in her evil.  That too is characteristic of the human condition.  We seem to want company in the pigpen of sin.  We tend to delight when someone else falls into what has ensnared us.

Eve was suckered/deceived.  She played around with ideas she had no business considering, and was suckered step by step into eating.  Adam doesn’t have that excuse.  There is no record of the serpent speaking with him.  He seems to decide in cold blood that he’s going to follow Eve against the clearly stated Word of God.  His sin is deliberate.

7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

Their embarrassment at being naked is somehow indicative of their sin and loss of innocence.  Having chosen to step outside the boundaries that God set for them, they need to be covered in each others presence and in the presence of God.  They are separated from each other and from God.  Because they’ve broken fellowship with God, they are embarrassed to be seen for what they are and sew together fig leaves to cover themselves.

8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

How absurd, both for Adam and Eve and for us.  They know that they have done wrong and that in doing so, have assaulted the honor of their Creator.  So what is their response (and that of most humans ever since)?  They try to hide … like God can’t see them???  Really?  He doesn’t know every thought and intent of their hearts and ours?  Do we think that by making ourselves busy or otherwise ignoring God, that He doesn’t notice our rebellion?  Adam and Eve are here playing ostrich.  They are out in plain sight, but somehow think that they can hide.

9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”

Can’t God see?  Of course God can see.  This is the plea of an injured party for the transgressor to come clean, to come out into the open and admit guilt, to be honorable enough to accept the just consequences of real moral wrong.  I don’t think there is a thundering, earthshaking voice full of wrath here.  Instead, it’s the voice of a heartbroken parent whose kid has just made a sham of the family’s most cherished trust and has consequently, in a permanent and serious kind of way, really harmed fellowship within the family.

10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”

The honorable and right thing to do (indeed the only rational thing to do) would be to confess immediately and take the consequences.  That’s not the human way, however.  It is part of our nature that we prefer to stonewall things, to try to pretend that all is OK until we are unmistakably cornered.

Notice what Adam and Eve got in trade for their righteousness and freedom within God’s boundaries.  FEAR!  They had no reason to be afraid of God prior to the fall.  They had freedom to live unconcerned within God’s boundaries.  They chose instead to cower in the trees because of their moral choice to disobey.

11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”

Apparently before the fall, their nakedness meant nothing to Adam and Eve.  The fact that it had come to mean something was evidence that all had changed.  Adam is beating around the bush (no pun intended).  God gets to the point, still giving Adam a chance to admit his guilt.  But (sigh) look what Adam says.  Anybody that doesn’t understand that this story is true hasn’t paid attention to human behavior.

12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.”

What an attempt to weasel out of responsibility.  And do not miss the fundamental attack on the good providence of God here!  Adam tries to put the blame for his willful sin onto God.  After all, it was God that made the woman, wasn’t it!!?? When we try to excuse ourselves for wrong on the basis of our circumstances, it is the same deal.  We’re accusing God of evil.  If He orders our circumstances and it’s not our fault but that of our circumstances when we do wrong, God must be the problem.  Adam may not recognize it, but this is blasphemy.  God neither does wrong nor causes anyone to do wrong.  And if it’s not God’s fault, it’s the woman’s fault, right?  Anybody but me God!  Finally, Adam admits that he did eat.

13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

Eve’s confession is not much cleaner.  She speaks the truth in that she was suckered by the serpent, but fundamentally, she ate and the guilt is her own.

The consequences of this are cataclysmic.  The next 6 verses describe the curses that followed on the heels of the rebellion of Adam and Eve.  Not only were Adam and Eve estranged from God, but the very nature of the physical universe was changed by the fall.  Decay and death entered the world.  The physical world was broken in parallel with Adam and Eve’s relationship with God.

As we look at those verses, we must think in proper terms about what has happened here.  We by nature look at them from our now-fallen position and think of humanity as the big loser in this whole story.  But that is off the mark.  It is first God who has suffered here, who is the injured party.  HIS world that He repeatedly delighted in and pronounced as good, is now broken/cursed.  The humans He made in His image have broken relationship with Him and defaced that image.

But His marvelous grace is already evident in verse 15.  God, at infinite cost to Himself, will at the proper time provide the means to rectify the mess that Adam and Eve have made, and redeem us their offspring and the whole universe with us.

14 The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.

15  I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

16  To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”

I don’t know exactly all that is implied here.  I do know that family life post-Genesis 3 is not always the wonderful harmonious edifying cooperative joyous situation that Adam and Eve experienced before the fall.

17  And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;

18  thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field.

 19  By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Human beings, both made of dust and breathed into by the Spirit of God, having defaced the latter become fully subject to the former.  We face hardship and return to the dust.  We hear these statements as primarily punitive.  But truly they are redemptive.  Without the need to labor and face hardship and die, we’d be in even worse shape than we are in this time after the fall.  The tough stuff of life works to keep us busy and out of moral trouble, and constantly reminds us of our utter dependence upon our Creator.  If we are paying attention at all, we are brought up short in our foolish assumption that the universe centers around us and that we are self-existent and immortal.  And that drives men and women to regain sanity through salvation in Christ.

20  The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.

There may be here a Messianic reference in Eve’s name.

21  And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

22  Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever–”

23  therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken.

24  He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

Adam and Eve chose to try to make life independent of God, their Creator.  That can’t somehow be overlooked.  Things can’t go on they were before.  Their choice is honored.  Moral choices are taken seriously by the I AM.  And with moral choices for wrong comes human misery.

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.  Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

A Bible Lesson on Genesis 2:4-25

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.  Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

At this point, Moses goes back to fill in some details of the creation that were not included in the grand overview of Chapter 1, particularly details that relate to the condition of man.  This focuses in on the place of man in creation history.

Genesis 2:4 These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.

The “LORD God” made.  This is Yahweh (Jehovah) Elohim, the personal name and title of the God of the Bible.  (The far more common “Lord GOD” of the Old Testament is literally “Lord Yahweh,” something different.)

5 When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground,

6 and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground—

7 then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

There is in this verse a wonderful statement of our condition.  God formed Adam’s body from the earth.  We’re made of dust.  The word “formed” carries the picture of a potter forming clay.  We are in one way “earthlings.”  But beyond that, He breathed into Adam the breath of life. That is we are more than dust, more than just creatures of planet earth.  The LORD God “mouth-to-mouth” breathed life into our first father!

Human beings have life because God gives it, and we die when He chooses to take it away.  It is His.

Psa 104:29  When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.

30 When you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.

Job 27:3  as long as my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils,

We are creatures, but unlike other creatures we specially have life from God’s intimate act of giving it through His Spirit.

8 And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed.

The tense in verse 8 is probably better rendered “had planted.”  Apparently, a careful study on the use of the word here rendered “put” elsewhere in Genesis shows that it is associated with both “rest” or “safety” and “dedication” (to God).  Man is put into the garden for rest and safety and where he is in God’s presence and can have relationship with Him. That was God’s purpose for humanity from the very beginning.

Note, by the way, that the mention of Eden and other details like the names of real rivers clearly put this in time and space.  This is not a fairy story, myth, or legend.

9 And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Atkinson points out that it wasn’t man that was in the center of the garden, but rather the trees of life and the knowledge of good and evil.  They served as reminder to man that he isn’t God, that there are bounds on his activity.

Kidner (regarding the forbidden tree) says “As it stood, prohibited, it presented the alternative to discipleship: to be self-made, wresting one’s knowledge, satisfactions and values from the created world in defiance of the Creator.”

10 A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers.

11 The name of the first is the Pishon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold.

12 And the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there.

13 The name of the second river is the Gihon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Cush.

14 And the name of the third river is the Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.

This rendering makes the “it” refer to the garden.  Linguists will us that there is a problem with that, in that the gender of the “it” doesn’t match the gender of “garden.”  If the rendering is correct, this is a picture of man as God’s gardener/caretaker.  But it’s quite possible that the rendering really ought to be more like “to worship and obey” instead of “work it and keep it.”  Man was in the garden originally as God’s priest, not simply as His gardener.

16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden,

17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

This is the fundamental fact of our existence.  God is God and we are not.  He is Creator and Lord.  We are created, and His rightful subjects.  We can’t turn that upside down without insanity.  Limited freedom is the only true freedom for human beings.  That’s the way things are.  For the first man Adam, and for us, freedom without boundaries and without restraint quickly produces bondage and death.  There is real freedom only within the bounds of God’s divine Word and revealed will for our lives.  Outside of that is not enhanced life, but a diminished one, in fact death.

There is nothing in these verses that makes the tree to be physically unusual or somehow magical.  But it had fundamental meaning in putting a definitive statement of God’s will before Adam and Eve.  Kidner said “The fruit, not in its own right, but as appointed to a function and carrying a word from God, confronts man with God’s will, particular and explicit, and gives man a decisive Yes or No to say with his whole being.”  The tree set before our first father the choice whether to love and obey and have fellowship with His benevolent Creator or to be a rebel.

18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

As God has looked at His creation in Chapter 1, all has been “good,” even “very good.”  Here is a first “not good.”  It is not good for man to be alone.  From eternity past, there was in the Godhead, relationship.  There was plurality.  There was the Father in harmony with the Son and the Holy Spirit.  That pattern is part of the way things are and how we were made.  We kid ourselves when we think that we’ll do fine as lone rangers, or that “just us and God” is all we need.  The fact is that we need other human beings in our lives.  Adam did, and we do too.

God made a helper “fit” or suitable for him.  A helper provides support for what is lacking in one.  The word translated “fit” (or in older versions, “meet”) is one that primarily indicates correspondence or likeness.  God provided a companion who stood/was fit to stand before Adam, opposite him, his counterpart and complement in his honored place as God’s appointed overseer of the earth.

19 So out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.

20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.

The naming here indicates man’s God-given authority over the earth.

21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.

Matthew Henry is often quoted regarding the rib being the part God uses.  It was not a skull bone, not a foot bone but a rib, near Adam’s heart.  God made Eve neither above Adam, nor below him, but on a plane with him, near to his heart.

22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.

This is hardly popular reading in our time.  The evolutionist and liberal theologian mock this passage. Feminists react with rage.  But truly Christian people must embrace it as God’s revelation of the space and time creation of our first parents.  The plain statement is that far from evolving, mankind began with the creation of Adam and the making of Eve from Adam.  The hope of the Gospel rests on this literal description of the first two people, without sin, living in the garden in space and time.  If Scripture is not to be trusted on this point, it is not to be trusted at all.

23 Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”

It is worth reflecting on what is really to be heard in verse 23.  I hear Adam whooping for joy!!!  Contrary to feminist attack on the name “woman,” there is nothing degrading in Adam’s use of the term.  It is a term of complementation.  God has provided a companion that is his equal.  He is overjoyed that there is really someone on the scene who is flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone!  He says “this at last.

The word rendered “called” is in the passive and doesn’t include the notion of naming.  Adam isn’t naming, he’s enjoying their simultaneous likeness and their differences.  (The relationship between these two people is much different from that between humans and the animals … that Adam did name.)

24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

Here’s the Bible’s first instruction on marriage.  It is intensely practical.  There are all kinds of examples of much trouble caused by parents that wouldn’t let go, and children that wouldn’t understand that marriage means that one’s first human allegiance must be to one’s spouse.

They shall become one flesh.  That’s much more than a statement about the physical.  They will share all of life: goals, pain, joy, work, blessing … They will be of one heart and mind.

25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

There is here a moral innocence and perfect harmony between the humans and between them and their Creator.  That will soon be shattered by the fall.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.  Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

A Bible Lesson on Genesis 1:1-2:3

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.  Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

The ISSL lessons this quarter are a study of parts of Genesis and Exodus.  When we think about how much there is in these books, we must conclude that these lessons can only scratch the surface.

Genesis is the book of beginnings, the beginnings of all things:  beginning of the world, beginning of man, beginning of sin, beginning of God’s work of redemption.  It is the beginning of everything.  Francis Schaeffer, in his evangelism of modern men, always began in Genesis.  If a person doesn’t know the whole story of God’s work, man’s rebellion and God’s redemption, then just jumping in with the story of Jesus and God’s offer of salvation makes no sense.  We must begin with the beginning, and that’s what Scripture does.  So we begin with Genesis 1 and the first part of Genesis 2.

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

This magnificent statement is a kind of chapter heading or summary statement for what is to follow in the rest of the chapter.  It is an absolutely perfect opening statement, any other would have been inadequate.  The subject of the first sentence of the Bible is “God.”  This is the book (Genesis and the Bible) that is first and fundamentally about God.  Derek Kidner rightly said “… to read it with any other primary interest (which is all too possible) is to misread it.”

It is vital that we have clearly in mind what the assertion is here.  What are we told is the starting point of all things?  Before all was God: not matter, not God plus matter, not several gods … but God alone.  Secularists will sometimes point to ancient creation stories from the mid-east and try to argue that Genesis somehow derives from them.  In doing so, they ignore the very starting point.  Those other, pagan, mid-eastern stories presuppose matter and several gods.  The Bible starts with God alone.  This is a God who is more than the pantheist’s sum of all material things.  This is a God who is transcendent, who stands apart from, and has existence separate from His world.  This is, if anything, a repudiation of the mid-eastern pagan myths, not a borrowing from them!

God “created.”  This is a special Hebrew word used only in reference to God.  Humans are never, never, never spoken of as creating in this same way.  That’s a vital point in our time where it is so fashionable to talk about creativity and to talk about man as a “creator.”  That kind of talk can easily become rebellion against our Creator, the only One who has independent existence and can genuinely create anything.  The Hebrews understood that.  We in our 21st century arrogance don’t.  You can even hear people who think that they are Christian talking about us being “co-creators” with God.  That is plain blasphemy.

The Hebrew word for God used here is “Elohim” and is a plural form.  But the verb “create” is a singular form, as it always is when referring to the one true God.  The use of the plural expresses intensity rather than number.  It is sometimes referred to as the plural of majesty.

God created “the heavens and the earth,” that is, everything that is not Himself.  He created totality, the part that we inhabit (earth) and all else as well.

2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

A good rendering here would be “Now the earth …”  There is an air of mystery and disorder about the picture here.  We are told that God did the creating of the world in a progressive fashion, beginning with an unordered and chaotic situation and bringing greater and greater order and structure to His creation.  That is the nature of the work of God, both in creation and in our lives in redemption.  The saints of old understood this and expressed it clearly by saying that “order is the first law of the universe.” Genesis tells us that order is God’s doing, and is therefore a reflection of His divine nature and character.  God alone brings form out of chaos.  Again, anarchists, be they outside or inside the church, are in clear rebellion against this truth that has its first expression in the first few verses of Scripture.

Notice the picture of the Holy Spirit hovering over creation like a mother bird over its offspring.  This is not a picture of God being some kind of grand clock-maker, constructing a universe and setting it to ticking, then going on vacation.  It is, rather, a picture of God brooding over creation, actively involved in it.  Notice also the linking, from the very beginning, of the work of God’s Spirit and the Word of God.  In this verse we see the Holy Spirit hovering over the unformed world and in the next, God speaks and things happen.  The work of the Spirit of God is from this first glimpse in harmony with God’s speaking, with the Word of God.

3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

God speaks and there is light.  What is the physical source?  None is named.  We’re not told and that boggles our minds.  The fact is that previous to this there has been no light, and perhaps there is no physical source intended.  Ultimately, the invisible God is the source.

Kidner’s commentary on Genesis does a wonderful job of saying how profound this simple “Let there be … ” is.  We think about giving orders and having things happen.  But we are always thinking about the moving around of things and beings that already exist. But here, in this speaking, is every smallest detail of the existence of the things spoken into being!  In the creation of a toad is not just the design of an external appearance of a toad, but every piece of DNA that makes it up, every function of every one of its organs, everything that a toad will naturally want to do, everything that makes a toad a toad.  That’s true of a toad, and it’s true of the details of light in this verse.  Humans don’t really know how to even adequately describe light, let alone invent it from scratch.

4 And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.

The light was “good.” It couldn’t be otherwise, but the Scripture is making a point here.  It is telling us in no uncertain terms, that as created, the universe was right, it was in order.  The lack of order, the chaos, the evil that we see around us has some other source than God’s work in creation.

Notice also that not only is light biologically absolutely necessary for life, but it is a primary Christian symbol of how God redeems us.  He brings us light, causes us to see.  It is thus appropriate that early in creation God speaks light into existence.  Note, by the way, that light precedes the sun in creation.  And in Revelation, we see that it will outlast the sun!  Rev. 22:5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

God separates and names.  Again there is progressively more order being brought here.  It is “evening and morning,” the first day.  The sense of it is “evening came and morning came,” not that (like the Jews) we are to count a day as beginning at sundown.

6 And God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.”

7 And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so.

God made “an expanse.”  Presumably this is means the band of atmosphere that surrounds the earth and gives us a place to breathe.  What mechanism did God use to do this?  Again, we’re not told, and it’s not clear that Moses really cares.  That’s a 21st century type question, that even if we did have an answer for, wouldn’t really profit us much of anything.  The fact is that God did so, separating the clouds above from the water below with an atmosphere.

For what it is worth, the word translated “made” here in verse 7 is a different word than the “created” of verse 1.  This is a making out of stuff that God had already created.

8 And God called the expanse Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.

There was a second day.

9 And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so.

The picture is one of God creating topography for the earth and the water, instead of covering everything, running to the low areas.  Imagine (what are by our finite standards) the cataclysmic forces that had to be operating to produce this!  This whole chapter ought to take our breath away.

10 God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.

The statement that God called the land “land” and the seas “seas” can appear almost as a truism.  But the significance of God naming things should not be overlooked.  To name something both in ancient times and in our own connotes/indicates ownership.  I don’t name your kids.  You do.  The message here is that the earth and all that is in it are God’s!

It is also significant that ancients thought of the seas as almost god-like in themselves, if nothing else, at least very mysterious and dangerous.  In some of the middle-eastern creation stories the “god” had to do battle with the dark powers of the seas.  The statements here give man comfort and sanity.  The seas are simply part of the creation of the one true God.

God’s work of creation and bringing order and form from chaos is partly a work of differentiation or separation, setting things into their appropriate places.  It is also a work of fullness.

11 And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so.

12 The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

There is no hint here of any gradual evolution of plant life from a single organism.  The plain meaning is that at the same time there came into being a variety of types of plants and that those plants reproduced not something different from themselves, but plants of their own kind, plants appropriate to the earth on which God has placed them.  Note that fertility, often worshiped by pagans, is here plainly identified as a created capacity.

As we daily partake of food that ultimately traces back to plant life, we ought to stop in wonder and awe, giving thanks for God’s creative Word that set this all in motion and now sustains it.  Calvin put it this way: “If therefore we inquire, how it happens that the earth is fruitful, that the germ is produced from the seed, that fruits come to maturity, and their various kinds are annually reproduced; no other cause will be found, but that God has once spoken, that is, has issued His eternal decree; and that earth, and all things proceeding from it, yield obedience to the command of God, which they always hear.”

13 And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.

On the third day, the dry land and plant life were brought into being.

14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years,

15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so.

16 And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars.

This is a fascinating set of verses.  Ancients worshiped the sun, moon, and stars.  If we have any sensitivity to vastness of the universe, looking up into the sky ought to inspire us with awe.  These verses say that all these heavenly bodies are simply part of the creation that God called into being.  Verse 16 doesn’t even mention the sun and moon by name, possibly to avoid calling up pagan notions of worshiping these heavenly bodies.  The mention of the stars (which again were a major concern of ancient people and are truly awe-inspiring if we take the time to look up and see) is a short sentence in the grand litany of what God did in creation.

17 And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth,

Why are they there?  To be worshiped?  Hardly!  They are there for the benefit of the earth.  That’s pretty amazing and humbling if we have sense enough to take it correctly.

18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.

19 And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.

The heavenly bodies “rule” only as light-bearers, not as powers.

Again, it was good.  God is bringing more and more order to His creation, creating a place more and more ideal for our existence, and it is good … in harmony with His character and purposes.

20 And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.”

21 So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

22 And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.”

Again, the ancients lived in fear of sea monsters and went so far as to think of them as supernatural.  Here the statement is one of God’s dominion over and ownership of all creatures in the oceans.  This repudiates the wrong views of the other creation stories that were common in the mid-east.  Again, this is not borrowing from them, but speaking against them!

23 And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.

24 And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so.

25 And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

Everything is in place, except man, and it is good/right, made in accord with who God is and with His wishes.  Next we see man’s place in this creation.

26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

God said “Let us …”  As earlier in the chapter, this is possibly the plural of majesty and likely a foreshadowing of the revelation of the Trinity.

Humans are made “in our image, after our likeness.”  This is an absolutely key/pivotal phrase for our understanding of who we are.  We are creatures (we are made by God), but at the same time we were made “in His image.”  In one sense, this phrase refers to what capacities we have, and what we can do.  It means that we have personality, rational intelligence, moral will, the ability to communicate in a sophisticated manner, self-awareness, etc. But the phrase has meaning beyond those things that man can do that are unique among the created beings.  It has meaning in terms of our unique relationship with God among all His creatures.  We are made in his image in the sense that we are invited to know and have relationship with Him.  We are made in His image in that we can have a history with Him.  We are made in His image in that we are in some ways His representatives on earth.  Colossians 1:15, speaking of Christ, says He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  The fundamental characteristic of Jesus is His relationship with the Father, His perfect harmony with the purposes of the Father.  This was such that He could say to the disciples that if they had seen Him, they had seen the Father.  To be made in the image of God means that we can know, have relationship with, and in some limited way represent Him on earth.

Humans “have dominion.”  In the light of what has just preceded it, this is a solemn phrase indeed.  Contrary to the claims of the evolutionists, we human beings are more than just another animal species.  The life of a human has infinitely more significance than that of a dog.  On the other hand, we are not here as exploiters and spoilers.  We are here as God’s representatives and caretakers in His world.  He made the earth and the life on it and declared it good.  It is not our business to abuse it or spoil it simply for our convenience.  We are here as stewards.

27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

From the beginning, Scripture gives men and women dignity and a place from which to reason.  We are all, male and female, created with wonderful capacities to think, will, do, and most importantly to know, represent, and be related to God.  It is from here that our worth derives (and not from some silly psychobabble about “self esteem”).  We ought take most seriously all people as ones made in the image of God.  We are all made by Him and owned by Him, whether we acknowledge that or not.

Kidner said: “Vis-à-vis the animals, man is set apart by his office and still more by his nature; but his crowning glory is his relation to God.”

28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Good blessed them.  Kidner: “To bless is to bestow not only a gift, but a function, and to do so with warm concern.”  God blesses man’s procreation and stewardship of the earth.  The rule that man is told to exercise is again the rule of a caretaker, watching over a master’s estate.  Throughout this first chapter of Genesis, we’ve seen God progressively bringing order and organization to the world.  Here man is given responsibility to continue in that vein.

29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.

30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.

31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Notice that several times before this point, Scripture has declared God’s creation to be “good.”  It is now complete (with the creation of man) and the pronouncement is that it is very good.  This has spanned 6 days, and now comes the 7th.

Genesis 2:1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.

2 And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.

3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.

God rested.  Was this because he was tired and needed a break?  Hardly.  The job was done.  Everything was in perfect order; there was nothing left to do.  This surely doesn’t mean that having finished, He left His world to take care of itself.  He presently and always sustains that which He created.  But there is here a feeling of what we would call satisfaction, of joy in the perfection of what He has made.

This cycle of 6 and then 1 is something that we are told that God has built into the way things are.  6 days of being about what He’s given us to do and then 1 to reflect on our relationship to Him and the quality of what we’ve done in light of that relationship.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.  Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.