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Genesis 1:1

King James Version (KJV)
Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

God in the beginning created the heavens and the earth - הארץ ואת השמים את אלהים ברא בראשית Bereshith bara Elohim eth hashshamayim veeth haarets ; God in the beginning created the heavens and the earth.

Many attempts have been made to define the term God: as to the word itself, it is pure Anglo-Saxon, and among our ancestors signified, not only the Divine Being, now commonly designated by the word, but also good; as in their apprehensions it appeared that God and good were correlative terms; and when they thought or spoke of him, they were doubtless led from the word itself to consider him as The Good Being, a fountain of infinite benevolence and beneficence towards his creatures.

A general definition of this great First Cause, as far as human words dare attempt one, may be thus given: The eternal, independent, and self-existent Being: the Being whose purposes and actions spring from himself, without foreign motive or influence: he who is absolute in dominion; the most pure, the most simple, and most spiritual of all essences; infinitely benevolent, beneficent, true, and holy: the cause of all being, the upholder of all things; infinitely happy, because infinitely perfect; and eternally self-sufficient, needing nothing that he has made: illimitable in his immensity, inconceivable in his mode of existence, and indescribable in his essence; known fully only to himself, because an infinite mind can be fully apprehended only by itself. In a word, a Being who, from his infinite wisdom, cannot err or be deceived; and who, from his infinite goodness, can do nothing but what is eternally just, right, and kind. Reader, such is the God of the Bible; but how widely different from the God of most human creeds and apprehensions!

The original word אלהים Elohim, God, is certainly the plural form of אל El, or אלה Eloah, and has long been supposed, by the most eminently learned and pious men, to imply a plurality of Persons in the Divine nature. As this plurality appears in so many parts of the sacred writings to be confined to three Persons, hence the doctrine of the Trinity, which has formed a part of the creed of all those who have been deemed sound in the faith, from the earliest ages of Christianity. Nor are the Christians singular in receiving this doctrine, and in deriving it from the first words of Divine revelation. An eminent Jewish rabbi, Simeon ben Joachi, in his comment on the sixth section of Leviticus, has these remarkable words: "Come and see the mystery of the word Elohim; there are three degrees, and each degree by itself alone, and yet notwithstanding they are all one, and joined together in one, and are not divided from each other." See Ainsworth. He must be strangely prejudiced indeed who cannot see that the doctrine of a Trinity, and of a Trinity in unity, is expressed in the above words. The verb ברא bara, he created, being joined in the singular number with this plural noun, has been considered as pointing out, and not obscurely, the unity of the Divine Persons in this work of creation. In the ever-blessed Trinity, from the infinite and indivisible unity of the persons, there can be but one will, one purpose, and one infinite and uncontrollable energy.

"Let those who have any doubt whether אלהים Elohim, when meaning the true God, Jehovah, be plural or not, consult the following passages, where they will find it joined with adjectives, verbs, and pronouns plural.

" Genesis 1:26; Genesis 3:22; Genesis 11:7; Genesis 20:13; Genesis 31:7, Genesis 31:53; Genesis 35:7. " Deuteronomy 4:7; Deuteronomy 5:23; Joshua 24:19; 1 Samuel 4:8; 2 Samuel 7:23; " Psalm 58:6; Isaiah 6:8; Jeremiah 10:10, Jeremiah 23:36. "See also Proverbs 9:10, Proverbs 30:3; Psalm 149:2; Ecclesiastes 5:7, Ecclesiastes 12:1; Job 5:1; Isaiah 6:3, Isaiah 54:5, Isaiah 62:5; Hosea 11:12, or Hosea 12:1; Malachi 1:6; Daniel 5:18, Daniel 5:20, and Daniel 7:18, Daniel 7:22." - Parkhurst.

As the word Elohim is the term by which the Divine Being is most generally expressed in the Old Testament, it may be necessary to consider it here more at large. It is a maxim that admits of no controversy, that every noun in the Hebrew language is derived from a verb, which is usually termed the radix or root, from which, not only the noun, but all the different flections of the verb, spring. This radix is the third person singular of the preterite or past tense. The ideal meaning of this root expresses some essential property of the thing which it designates, or of which it is an appellative. The root in Hebrew, and in its sister language, the Arabic, generally consists of three letters, and every word must be traced to its root in order to ascertain its genuine meaning, for there alone is this meaning to be found. In Hebrew and Arabic this is essentially necessary, and no man can safely criticise on any word in either of these languages who does not carefully attend to this point.

I mention the Arabic with the Hebrew for two reasons.

  1. Because the two languages evidently spring from the same source, and have very nearly the same mode of construction.
  2. Because the deficient roots in the Hebrew Bible are to be sought for in the Arabic language. The reason of this must be obvious, when it is considered that the whole of the Hebrew language is lost except what is in the Bible, and even a part of this book is written in Chaldee.

Now, as the English Bible does not contain the whole of the English language, so the Hebrew Bible does not contain the whole of the Hebrew. If a man meet with an English word which he cannot find in an ample concordance or dictionary to the Bible, he must of course seek for that word in a general English dictionary. In like manner, if a particular form of a Hebrew word occur that cannot be traced to a root in the Hebrew Bible, because the word does not occur in the third person singular of the past tense in the Bible, it is expedient, it is perfectly lawful, and often indispensably necessary, to seek the deficient root in the Arabic. For as the Arabic is still a living language, and perhaps the most copious in the universe, it may well be expected to furnish those terms which are deficient in the Hebrew Bible. And the reasonableness of this is founded on another maxim, viz., that either the Arabic was derived from the Hebrew, or the Hebrew from the Arabic. I shall not enter into this controversy; there are great names on both sides, and the decision of the question in either way will have the same effect on my argument. For if the Arabic were derived from the Hebrew, it must have been when the Hebrew was a living and complete language, because such is the Arabic now; and therefore all its essential roots we may reasonably expect to find there: but if, as Sir William Jones supposed, the Hebrew were derived from the Arabic, the same expectation is justified, the deficient roots in Hebrew may be sought for in the mother tongue. If, for example, we meet with a term in our ancient English language the meaning of which we find difficult to ascertain, common sense teaches us that we should seek for it in the Anglo-Saxon, from which our language springs; and, if necessary, go up to the Teutonic, from which the Anglo-Saxon was derived. No person disputes the legitimacy of this measure, and we find it in constant practice. I make these observations at the very threshold of my work, because the necessity of acting on this principle (seeking deficient Hebrew roots in the Arabic) may often occur, and I wish to speak once for all on the subject.

The first sentence in the Scripture shows the propriety of having recourse to this principle. We have seen that the word אלהים Elohim is plural; we have traced our term God to its source, and have seen its signification; and also a general definition of the thing or being included under this term, has been tremblingly attempted. We should now trace the original to its root, but this root does not appear in the Hebrew Bible. Were the Hebrew a complete language, a pious reason might be given for this omission, viz., "As God is without beginning and without cause, as his being is infinite and underived, the Hebrew language consults strict propriety in giving no root whence his name can be deduced." Mr. Parkhurst, to whose pious and learned labors in Hebrew literature most Biblical students are indebted, thinks he has found the root in אלה alah, he swore, bound himself by oath; and hence he calls the ever-blessed Trinity אלהים Elohim, as being bound by a conditional oath to redeem man, etc., etc. Most pious minds will revolt from such a definition, and will be glad with me to find both the noun and the root preserved in Arabic. Allah is the common name for God in the Arabic tongue, and often the emphatic is used. Now both these words are derived from the root alaha, he worshipped, adored, was struck with astonishment, fear, or terror; and hence, he adored with sacred horror and veneration, cum sacro horrore ac veneratione coluit, adoravit - Wilmet. Hence ilahon, fear, veneration, and also the object of religious fear, the Deity, the supreme God, the tremendous Being. This is not a new idea; God was considered in the same light among the ancient Hebrews; and hence Jacob swears by the fear of his father Isaac, Genesis 31:53. To complete the definition, Golius renders alaha, juvit, liberavit, et tutatus fuit, "he succoured, liberated, kept in safety, or defended." Thus from the ideal meaning of this most expressive root, we acquire the most correct notion of the Divine nature; for we learn that God is the sole object of adoration; that the perfections of his nature are such as must astonish all those who piously contemplate them, and fill with horror all who would dare to give his glory to another, or break his commandments; that consequently he should be worshipped with reverence and religious fear; and that every sincere worshipper may expect from him help in all his weaknesses, trials, difficulties, temptations, etc.,; freedom from the power, guilt, nature, and consequences of sin; and to be supported, defended, and saved to the uttermost, and to the end.

Here then is one proof, among multitudes which shall be adduced in the course of this work, of the importance, utility, and necessity of tracing up these sacred words to their sources; and a proof also, that subjects which are supposed to be out of the reach of the common people may, with a little difficulty, be brought on a level with the most ordinary capacity.

In the beginning - Before the creative acts mentioned in this chapter all was Eternity. Time signifies duration measured by the revolutions of the heavenly bodies: but prior to the creation of these bodies there could be no measurement of duration, and consequently no time; therefore in the beginning must necessarily mean the commencement of time which followed, or rather was produced by, God's creative acts, as an effect follows or is produced by a cause.

Created - Caused existence where previously to this moment there was no being. The rabbins, who are legitimate judges in a case of verbal criticism on their own language, are unanimous in asserting that the word ברא bara expresses the commencement of the existence of a thing, or egression from nonentity to entity. It does not in its primary meaning denote the preserving or new forming things that had previously existed, as some imagine, but creation in the proper sense of the term, though it has some other acceptations in other places. The supposition that God formed all things out of a pre-existing, eternal nature, is certainly absurd, for if there had been an eternal nature besides an eternal God, there must have been two self-existing, independent, and eternal beings, which is a most palpable contradiction.

השמים את eth hashshamayim . The word את eth, which is generally considered as a particle, simply denoting that the word following is in the accusative or oblique case, is often understood by the rabbins in a much more extensive sense. "The particle את ," says Aben Ezra, "signifies the substance of the thing." The like definition is given by Kimchi in his Book of Roots. "This particle," says Mr. Ainsworth, "having the first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet in it, is supposed to comprise the sum and substance of all things." "The particle את eth (says Buxtorf, Talmudic Lexicon, sub voce) with the cabalists is often mystically put for the beginning and the end, as α alpha and ω omega are in the Apocalypse." On this ground these words should be translated, "God in the beginning created the substance of the heavens and the substance of the earth," i.e. the prima materia, or first elements, out of which the heavens and the earth were successively formed. The Syriac translator understood the word in this sense, and to express this meaning has used the word yoth, which has this signification, and is very properly translated in Walton's Polyglot, Esse, caeli et Esse terrae, "the being or substance of the heaven, and the being or substance of the earth." St. Ephraim Syrus, in his comment on this place, uses the same Syriac word, and appears to understand it precisely in the same way. Though the Hebrew words are certainly no more than the notation of a case in most places, yet understood here in the sense above, they argue a wonderful philosophic accuracy in the statement of Moses, which brings before us, not a finished heaven and earth, as every other translation appears to do, though afterwards the process of their formation is given in detail, but merely the materials out of which God built the whole system in the six following days.

The heaven and the earth - As the word שמים shamayim is plural, we may rest assured that it means more than the atmosphere, to express which some have endeavored to restrict its meaning. Nor does it appear that the atmosphere is particularly intended here, as this is spoken of, Genesis 1:6, under the term firmament. The word heavens must therefore comprehend the whole solar system, as it is very likely the whole of this was created in these six days; for unless the earth had been the center of a system, the reverse of which is sufficiently demonstrated, it would be unphilosophic to suppose it was created independently of the other parts of the system, as on this supposition we must have recourse to the almighty power of God to suspend the influence of the earth's gravitating power till the fourth day, when the sun was placed in the center, round which the earth began then to revolve. But as the design of the inspired penman was to relate what especially belonged to our world and its inhabitants, therefore he passes by the rest of the planetary system, leaving it simply included in the plural word heavens. In the word earth every thing relative to the terraqueaerial globe is included, that is, all that belongs to the solid and fluid parts of our world with its surrounding atmosphere. As therefore I suppose the whole solar system was created at this time, I think it perfectly in place to give here a general view of all the planets, with every thing curious and important hitherto known relative to their revolutions and principal affections.

Observations On The Preceding Tables

(Editor's Note: These tables were omitted due to outdated information)

In Table I. the quantity or the periodic and sidereal revolutions of the planets is expressed in common years, each containing 365 days; as, e.g., the tropical revolution of Jupiter is, by the table, 11 years, 315 days, 14 hours, 39 minutes, 2 seconds; i.e., the exact number of days is equal to 11 years multiplied by 365, and the extra 315 days added to the product, which make In all 4330 days. The sidereal and periodic times are also set down to the nearest second of time, from numbers used in the construction of the tables in the third edition of M. de la Lande's Astronomy. The columns containing the mean distance of the planets from the sun in English miles, and their greatest and least distance from the earth, are such as result from the best observations of the two last transits of Venus, which gave the solar parallax to be equal to 8 three-fifth seconds of a degree; and consequently the earth's diameter, as seen from the sun, must be the double of 8 three-fifth seconds, or 17 one-fifth seconds. From this last quantity, compared with the apparent diameters of the planets, as seen at a distance equal to that of the earth at her main distance from the sun, the diameters of the planets in English miles, as contained in the seventh column, have been carefully computed. In the column entitled "Proportion of bulk, the earth being 1," the whole numbers express the number of times the other planet contains more cubic miles, etc., than the earth; and if the number of cubic miles in the earth be given, the number of cubic miles in any planet may be readily found by multiplying the cubic miles contained in the earth by the number in the column, and the product will be the quantity required.

This is a small but accurate sketch of the vast solar system; to describe it fully, even in all its known revolutions and connections, in all its astonishing energy and influence, in its wonderful plan, structure, operations, and results, would require more volumes than can be devoted to the commentary itself.

As so little can be said here on a subject so vast, it may appear to some improper to introduce it at all; but to any observation of this kind I must be permitted to reply, that I should deem it unpardonable not to give a general view of the solar system in the very place where its creation is first introduced. If these works be stupendous and magnificent, what must He be who formed, guides, and supports them all by the word of his power! Reader, stand in awe of this God, and sin not. Make him thy friend through the Son of his love; and, when these heavens and this earth are no more, thy soul shall exist in consummate and unutterable felicity.

See the remarks on the sun, moon, and stars, after Genesis 1:16. See Clarke's note on Genesis 1:16.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

- Section I - The Creation

- The Absolute Creation

ראשׁית rḕshı̂̂yt the “head-part, beginning” of a thing, in point of time Genesis 10:10, or value Proverbs 1:7. Its opposite is אחרית 'achărı̂̂yth Isaiah 46:10. בראשׁית rê'shı̂̂yth “in the beginning,” is always used in reference to time. Here only is it taken absolutely.

ברא bārā' “create, give being to something new.” It always has God for its subject. Its object may be anything: matter Genesis 1:1; animal life Genesis 1:21; spiritual life Genesis 1:27. Hence, creation is not confined to a single point of time. Whenever anything absolutely new - that is, not involved in anything previously extant - is called into existence, there is creation Numbers 16:30. Any thing or event may also be said to be created by Him, who created the whole system of nature to which it belongs Malachi 2:10. The verb in its simple form occurs forty-eight times (of which eleven are in Genesis, fourteen in the whole Pentateuch, and twenty-one in Isaiah), and always in one sense.

אלהים 'ĕlohı̂̂ym “God.” The noun אלוה 'elôah or אלה 'eloah is found in the Hebrew scriptures fifty-seven times in the singular (of which two are in Deuteronomy, and forty-one in the book of Job), and about three thousand times in the plural, of which seventeen are in Job. The Chaldee form אלה 'elâh occurs about seventy-four times in the singular, and ten in the plural. The Hebrew letter ה (h ) is proved to be radical, not only by bearing mappiq, but also by keeping its ground before a formative ending. The Arabic verb, with the same radicals, seems rather to borrow from it than to lend the meaning coluit, “worshipped,” which it sometimes has. The root probably means to be “lasting, binding, firm, strong.” Hence, the noun means the Everlasting, and in the plural, the Eternal Powers. It is correctly rendered God, the name of the Eternal and Supreme Being in our language, which perhaps originally meant lord or ruler. And, like this, it is a common or appellative noun. This is evinced by its direct use and indirect applications.

Its direct use is either proper or improper, according to the object to which it is applied. Every instance of its proper use manifestly determines its meaning to be the Eternal, the Almighty, who is Himself without beginning, and has within Himself the power of causing other things, personal and impersonal, to be, and on this event is the sole object of reverence and primary obedience to His intelligent creation.

Its improper use arose from the lapse of man into false notions of the object of worship. Many real or imaginary beings came to be regarded as possessed of the attributes, and therefore entitled to the reverence belonging to Deity, and were in consequence called gods by their mistaken votaries, and by others who had occasion to speak of them. This usage at once proves it to be a common noun, and corroborates its proper meaning. When thus employed, however, it immediately loses most of its inherent grandeur, and sometimes dwindles down to the bare notion of the supernatural or the extramundane. In this manner it seems to be applied by the witch of Endor to the unexpected apparition that presented itself to her 1 Samuel 28:13.

Its indirect applications point with equal steadiness to this primary and fundamental meaning. Thus, it is employed in a relative and well-defined sense to denote one appointed of God to stand in a certain divine relation to another. This relation is that of authoritative revealer or administrator of the will of God. Thus, we are told John 10:34 that “he called them gods, to whom the word of God came.” Thus, Moses became related to Aaron as God to His prophet Exodus 4:16, and to Pharaoh as God to His creature Exodus 7:1. Accordingly, in Psalm 82:6, we find this principle generalized: “I had said, gods are ye, and sons of the Highest all of you.” Here the divine authority vested in Moses is expressly recognized in those who sit in Moses‘ seat as judges for God. They exercised a function of God among the people, and so were in God‘s stead to them. Man, indeed, was originally adapted for ruling, being made in the image of God, and commanded to have dominion over the inferior creatures. The parent also is instead of God in some respect to his children, and the sovereign holds the relation of patriarch to his subjects. Still, however, we are not fully warranted in translating אלהים 'ĕlohı̂ym “judges” in Exodus 21:6; Exodus 22:7-8, Exodus 22:27 (Hebrew versification: 8,9,28), because a more easy, exact, and impressive sense is obtained from the proper rendering.

The word מלאך mel'āk “angel,” as a relative or official term, is sometimes applied to a person of the Godhead; but the process is not reversed. The Septuagint indeed translates אלהים 'ĕlohı̂ym in several instances by ἄγγελοι angeloi Psalm 8:6; Psalm 97:7; Psalm 138:1. The correctness of this is seemingly supported by the quotations in Hebrews 1:6. and Hebrews 2:7. These, however, do not imply that the renderings are absolutely correct, but only suffiently so for the purpose of the writer. And it is evident they are so, because the original is a highly imaginative figure, by which a class is conceived to exist, of which in reality only one of the kind is or can be. Now the Septuagint, either imagining, from the occasional application of the official term “angel” to God, that the angelic office somehow or sometimes involved the divine nature, or viewing some of the false gods of the pagan as really angels, and therefore seemingly wishing to give a literal turn to the figure, substituted the word ἄγγελοι angeloi as an interpretation for אלהים 'ĕlohı̂ym This free translation was sufficient for the purpose of the inspired author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, inasmuch as the worship of all angels Hebrews 1:6 in the Septuagintal sense of the term was that of the highest rank of dignitaries under God; and the argument in the latter passage Hebrews 2:7 turns not on the words, “thou madest him a little lower than the angels,” but upon the sentence, “thou hast put all things under his feet.” Moreover, the Septuagint is by no means consistent in this rendering of the word in Similar passages (see Psalm 82:1; Psalm 97:1; 1 Samuel 28:13).

With regard to the use of the word, it is to be observed that the plural of the Chaldee form is uniformly plural in sense. The English version of בר־אלהין bar -'elâhı̂yn “the Son of God” Daniel 3:25 is the only exception to this. But since it is the phrase of a pagan, the real meaning may be, “a son of the gods.” On the contrary, the plural of the Hebrew form is generally employed to denote the one God. The singular form, when applied to the true God, is naturally suggested by the prominent thought of his being the only one. The plural, when so applied, is generally accompanied with singular conjuncts, and conveys the predominant conception of a plurality in the one God - a plurality which must be perfectly consistent with his being the only possible one of his kind. The explanations of this use of the plural - namely, that it is a relic of polytheism, that it indicates the association of the angels with the one God in a common or collective appellation, and that it expresses the multiplicity of attributes subsisting in him - are not satisfactory. All we can say is, that it indicates such a plurality in the only one God as makes his nature complete and creation possible. Such a plurality in unity must have dawned upon the mind of Adam. It is afterward, we conceive, definitely revealed in the doctrine of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

שׁמים shāmayı̂m “skies, heavens,” being the “high” (shamay “be high,” Arabic) or the “airy” region; the overarching dome of space, with all its revolving orbs.

ארץ 'erets “land, earth, the low or the hard.” The underlying surface of land.

The verb is in the perfect form, denoting a completed act. The adverbial note of time, “in the beginning,” determines it to belong to the past. To suit our idiom it may, therefore, be strictly rendered “had created.” The skies and the land are the universe divided into its two natural parts by an earthly spectator. The absolute beginning of time, and the creation of all things, mutually determine each other.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” Genesis 1:1. This great introductory sentence of the book of God is equal in weight to the whole of its subsequent communications concerning the kingdom of nature.

Genesis 1:1 assumes the existence of God, for it is He who in the beginning creates. It assumes His eternity, for He is before all things: and since nothing comes from nothing, He Himself must have always been. It implies His omnipotence, for He creates the universe of things. It implies His absolute freedom, for He begins a new course of action. It implies His infinite wisdom, for a κόσμος kosmos “an order of matter and mind,” can only come from a being of absolute intelligence. It implies His essential goodness, for the Sole, Eternal, Almighty, All-wise, and All-sufficient Being has no reason, no motive, and no capacity for evil. It presumes Him to be beyond all limit of time and place, since He is before all time and place.

It asserts the creation of the heavens and the earth; that is, of the universe of mind and matter. This creating is the omnipotent act of giving existence to things which before had no existence. This is the first great mystery of things; as the end is the second. Natural science observes things as they are, when they have already laid hold of existence. It ascends into the past as far as observation will reach, and penetrates into the future as far as experience will guide. But it does not touch the beginning or the end. This first sentence of revelation, however, records the beginning. At the same time it involves the progressive development of what is begun, and so contains within its bosom the whole of what is revealed in the Book of God. It is thus historical of the beginning, and prophetical of the whole of time. It is, therefore, equivalent to all the rest of revelation taken together, which merely records the evolutions of one sphere of creation, and nearly and more nearly anticipates the end of present things.

This sentence Genesis 1:1 assumes the being of God, and asserts the beginning of things. Hence, it intimates that the existence of God is more immediately patent to the reason of man than the creation of the universe. And this is agreeable to the philosophy of things, for the existence of God is a necessary and eternal truth, more and more self-evident to the intellect as it rises to maturity. But the beginning of things is, by its very nature, a contingent event, which once was not and then came to be contingent on the free will of the Eternal, and, therefore, not evident to reason itself, but made known to the understanding by testimony and the reality of things. This sentence is the testimony, and the actual world in us and around us is the reality. Faith takes account of the one, observation of the other.

It bears on the very face of it the indication that it was written by man, and for man, for it divides all things into the heavens and the earth. Such a division evidently suits those only who are inhabitants of the earth. Accordingly, this sentence Genesis 1:1 is the foundation-stone of the history, not of the universe at large, of the sun, of any other planet, but of the earth, and of man its rational inhabitant. The primeval event which it records may be far distant, in point of time, from the next event in such a history; as the earth may have existed myriads of ages, and undergone many vicissitudes in its condition, before it became the home of the human race. And, for ought we know, the history of other planets, even of the solar system, may yet be unwritten, because there has been as yet no rational inhabitant to compose or peruse the record. We have no intimation of the interval of time that elapsed between the beginning of things narrated in this prefatory sentence and that state of things which is announced in the following verse, Genesis 1:2.

With no less clearness, however, does it show that it was dictated by superhuman knowledge. For it records the beginning of things of which natural science can take no cognizance. Man observes certain laws of nature, and, guided by these, may trace the current of physical events backward and forward, but without being able to fix any limit to the course of nature in either direction. And not only this sentence, but the main part of this and the following chapter communicates events that occurred before man made his appearance on the stage of things; and therefore before he could either witness or record them. And in harmony with all this, the whole volume is proved by the topics chosen, the revelations made, the views entertained, the ends contemplated, and the means of information possessed, to be derived from a higher source than man.

This simple sentence Genesis 1:1 denies atheism, for it assumes the being of God. It denies polytheism, and, among its various forms, the doctrine of two eternal principles, the one good and the other evil, for it confesses the one Eternal Creator. It denies materialism, for it asserts the creation of matter. It denies pantheism, for it assumes the existence of God before all things, and apart from them. It denies fatalism, for it involves the freedom of the Eternal Being.

It indicates the relative superiority, in point of magnitude, of the heavens to the earth, by giving the former the first place in the order of words. It is thus in accordance with the first elements of astronomical science.

It is therefore pregnant with physical and metaphysical, with ethical and theological instruction for the first man, for the predecessors and contemporaries of Moses, and for all the succeeding generations of mankind.

This verse forms an integral part of the narrative, and not a mere heading as some have imagined. This is abundantly evident from the following reasons: 1. It has the form of a narrative, not of a superscription. 2. The conjunctive particle connects the second verse with it; which could not be if it were a heading. 3. The very next sentence speaks of the earth as already in existence, and therefore its creation must be recorded in the first verse. 4. In the first verse the heavens take precedence of the earth; but in the following verses all things, even the sun, moon, and stars seem to be but appendages to the earth. Thus, if it were a heading, it would not correspond with the narrative. 5. If the first verse belongs to the narrative, order pervades the whole recital; whereas; if it is a heading, the most hopeless confusion enters. Light is called into being before the sun, moon, and stars. The earth takes precedence of the heavenly luminaries. The stars, which are coordinate with the sun, and preordinate to the moon, occupy the third place in the narrative of their manifestation. For any or all of these reasons it is obvious that the first verse forms a part of the narrative.

As soon as it is settled that the narrative begins in the first verse, another question comes up for determination; namely, whether the heavens here mean the heavenly bodies that circle in their courses through the realms of space, or the mere space itself which they occupy with their perambulations. It is manifest that the heavens here denote the heavenly orbs themselves - the celestial mansions with their existing inhabitants - for the following cogent reasons:

1. Creation implies something created, and not mere space, which is nothing, and cannot be said to be created.

2. Since “the earth” here obviously means the substance of the planet we inhabit, so, by parity of reason, the heavens must mean the substance of the celestial luminaries, the heavenly hosts of stars and spirits.

3. “The heavens” are placed before “the earth,” and therefore must mean that reality which is greater than the earth, for if they meant “space,” and nothing real, they ought not to be before the earth.

4. “The heavens” are actually mentioned in the verse, and therefore must mean a real thing, for if they meant nothing at all, they ought not to be mentioned.

5. The heavens must denote the heavenly realities, because this imparts a rational order to the whole chapter; whereas an unaccountable derangement appears if the sun, moon, and stars do not come into existence till the fourth day, though the sun is the center of light and the measurer of the daily period.

For any or all of these reasons, it is undeniable that the heavens in the first verse mean the fixed and planetary orbs of space; and, consequently, that these uncounted tenants of the skies, along with our own planet, are all declared to be in existence before the commencement of the six days‘ creation.

Hence, it appears that the first verse records an event antecedent to those described in the subsequent verses. This is the absolute and aboriginal creation of the heavens and all that in them is, and of the earth in its primeval state. The former includes all those resplendent spheres which are spread before the wondering eye of man, as well as those hosts of planets and of spiritual and angelic beings which are beyond the range of his natural vision. This brings a simple, unforced meaning out of the whole chapter, and discloses a beauty and a harmony in the narrative which no other interpretation can afford. In this way the subsequent verses reveal a new effort of creative power, by which the pre-Adamic earth, in the condition in which it appears in the second verse, is prepared for the residence of a fresh animal creation, including the human race. The process is represented as it would appear to primeval man in his infantile simplicity, with whom his own position would naturally be the fixed point to which everything else was to be referred.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
The first verse of the Bible gives us a satisfying and useful account of the origin of the earth and the heavens. The faith of humble Christians understands this better than the fancy of the most learned men. From what we see of heaven and earth, we learn the power of the great Creator. And let our make and place as men, remind us of our duty as Christians, always to keep heaven in our eye, and the earth under our feet. The Son of God, one with the Father, was with him when he made the world; nay, we are often told that the world was made by him, and nothing was made without him. Oh, what high thoughts should there be in our minds, of that great God whom we worship, and of that great Mediator in whose name we pray! And here, at the beginning of the sacred volume, we read of that Divine Spirit, whose work upon the heart of man is so often mentioned in other parts of the Bible. Observe, that at first there was nothing desirable to be seen, for the world was without form, and void; it was confusion, and emptiness. In like manner the work of grace in the soul is a new creation: and in a graceless soul, one that is not born again, there is disorder, confusion, and every evil work: it is empty of all good, for it is without God; it is dark, it is darkness itself: this is our condition by nature, till Almighty grace works a change in us.
Ellen G. White
Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, 185

While the Bible should hold the first place in the education of children and youth, the book of nature is next in importance. God's created works testify to His love and power. He has called the world into being, with all that it contains. God is a lover of the beautiful; and in the world which He has fitted up for us He has not only given us everything necessary for our comfort, but He has filled the heavens and the earth with beauty. We see His love and care in the rich fields of autumn, and His smile in the glad sunshine. His hand has made the castle-like rocks and the towering mountains. The lofty trees grow at His command; He has spread earth's green velvet carpet and dotted it with shrubs and flowers. CT 185.1

Why has He clothed the earth and trees with living green, instead of with dark, somber brown? Is it not that they may be more pleasing to the eye? And shall not our hearts be filled with gratitude as we read the evidences of His wisdom and love in the wonders of His creation? CT 185.2

The same creative energy that brought the world into existence is still exerted in upholding the universe and continuing the operations of nature. The hand of God guides the planets in their orderly march through the heavens. It is not because of inherent power that year by year the earth continues her motion round the sun and produces her bounties. The word of God controls the elements. He covers the heavens with clouds and prepares rain for the earth. He makes the valleys fruitful and “grass to grow upon the mountains;” Psalm 147:8. It is through His power that vegetation flourishes, that the leaves appear and the flowers bloom. CT 185.3

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Ellen G. White
Education, 134

The deepest students of science are constrained to recognize in nature the working of infinite power. But to man's unaided reason, nature's teaching cannot but be contradictory and disappointing. Only in the light of revelation can it be read aright. “Through faith we understand.” Hebrews 11:3. Ed 134.1

“In the beginning God.” Genesis 1:1. Here alone can the mind in its eager questioning, fleeing as the dove to the ark, find rest. Above, beneath, beyond, abides Infinite Love, working out all things to accomplish “the good pleasure of His goodness.” 2 Thessalonians 1:11. Ed 134.2

“The invisible things of Him since the creation of the world are ... perceived through the things that are made, even His everlasting power and divinity.” Romans 1:20, R.V. But their testimony can be understood only through the aid of the divine Teacher. “What man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:11. Ed 134.3

“When He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth.” John 16:13. Only by the aid of that Spirit who in the beginning “was brooding upon the face of the waters;” of that Word by whom “all things were made;” of that “true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world,” can the testimony of science be rightly interpreted. Only by their guidance can its deepest truths be discerned. Ed 134.4

Only under the direction of the Omniscient One shall we, in the study of His works, be enabled to think His thoughts after Him. Ed 134.5

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Ellen G. White
Education, 173

The Bible is the most ancient and the most comprehensive history that men possess. It came fresh from the fountain of eternal truth, and throughout the ages a divine hand has preserved its purity. It lights up the far-distant past, where human research in vain seeks to penetrate. In God's word only do we behold the power that laid the foundations of the earth and that stretched out the heavens. Here only do we find an authentic account of the origin of nations. Here only is given a history of our race unsullied by human pride or prejudice. Ed 173.1

In the annals of human history the growth of nations, the rise and fall of empires, appear as dependent on the will and prowess of man. The shaping of events seems, to a great degree, to be determined by his power, ambition, or caprice. But in the word of God the curtain is drawn aside, and we behold, behind, above, and through all the play and counterplay of human interests and power and passions, the agencies of the all-merciful One, silently, patiently working out the counsels of His own will. Ed 173.2

The Bible reveals the true philosophy of history. In those words of matchless beauty and tenderness spoken by the apostle Paul to the sages of Athens is set forth God's purpose in the creation and distribution of races and nations: He “hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him.” Acts 17:26, 27. God declares that whosoever will may come “into the bond of the covenant.” Ezekiel 20:37. In the creation it was His purpose that the earth be inhabited by beings whose existence should be a blessing to themselves and to one another, and an honor to their Creator. All who will may identify themselves with this purpose. Of them it is spoken, “This people have I formed for Myself; they shall show forth My praise.” Isaiah 43:21. Ed 173.3

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Ellen G. White
Fundamentals of Christian Education, 409

The use which men have made of their capabilities, by misusing and abusing their God-given talents, has brought confusion into the world. They have left the guardianship of Christ for the guardianship of the great rebel, the prince of darkness. Man alone is accountable for the strange fire which has been mingled with the sacred. The accumulation of many things which minister to lust and ambition has brought upon the world the judgment of God. When in difficulty, philosophers and the great men of earth desire to satisfy their minds without appealing to God. They ventilate their philosophy in regard to the heavens and the earth, accounting for plagues, pestilences, epidemics, earthquakes, and famines, by their supposed science. Hundreds of questions relating to creation and providence, they will attempt to solve by saying. This is a law of nature. FE 409.1

There are laws of nature, but they are harmonious, and conform with all God's working; but when the lords many and gods many set themselves to explain God's own principles and providences, presenting to the world strange fire in the place of divine, there is confusion. The machinery of earth and heaven needs many faces to every wheel in order to see the Hand beneath the wheels, bringing perfect order from confusion. The living and true God is a necessity everywhere. FE 409.2

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Ellen G. White
Lift Him Up, 47.1

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. Genesis 1:1. LHU 47.1

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Ellen G. White
Mind, Character, and Personality, vol. 1, 351.4

Mind to Be Carried Higher—I am instructed that we are to carry the minds of our students higher than it is now thought by many to be possible. Heart and mind are to be trained to preserve their purity by receiving daily supplies from the fountain of eternal truth. The Divine Mind and Hand has preserved through the ages the record of creation in its purity. It is the Word of God alone that gives to us an authentic account of the creation of our world. This Word is to be the chief study in our schools. Here we may hold converse with patriarchs and prophets; here we may learn what our redemption has cost the One who was equal with the Father from the beginning, and who sacrificed His life that a people might stand before Him redeemed from every common, earthly thing and renewed in the image of God.—Letter 64, 1909. 1MCP 351.4

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Ellen G. White
Patriarchs and Prophets, 36

To dispute the supremacy of the Son of God, thus impeaching the wisdom and love of the Creator, had become the purpose of this prince of angels. To this object he was about to bend the energies of that master mind, which, next to Christ's, was first among the hosts of God. But He who would have the will of all His creatures free, left none unguarded to the bewildering sophistry by which rebellion would seek to justify itself. Before the great contest should open, all were to have a clear presentation of His will, whose wisdom and goodness were the spring of all their joy. PP 36.1

The King of the universe summoned the heavenly hosts before Him, that in their presence He might set forth the true position of His Son and show the relation He sustained to all created beings. The Son of God shared the Father's throne, and the glory of the eternal, self-existent One encircled both. About the throne gathered the holy angels, a vast, unnumbered throng—“ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands” (Revelation 5:11.), the most exalted angels, as ministers and subjects, rejoicing in the light that fell upon them from the presence of the Deity. Before the assembled inhabitants of heaven the King declared that none but Christ, the Only Begotten of God, could fully enter into His purposes, and to Him it was committed to execute the mighty counsels of His will. The Son of God had wrought the Father's will in the creation of all the hosts of heaven; and to Him, as well as to God, their homage and allegiance were due. Christ was still to exercise divine power, in the creation of the earth and its inhabitants. But in all this He would not seek power or exaltation for Himself contrary to God's plan, but would exalt the Father's glory and execute His purposes of beneficence and love. PP 36.2

The angels joyfully acknowledged the supremacy of Christ, and prostrating themselves before Him, poured out their love and adoration. Lucifer bowed with them, but in his heart there was a strange, fierce conflict. Truth, justice, and loyalty were struggling against envy and jealousy. The influence of the holy angels seemed for a time to carry him with them. As songs of praise ascended in melodious strains, swelled by thousands of glad voices, the spirit of evil seemed vanquished; unutterable love thrilled his entire being; his soul went out, in harmony with the sinless worshippers, in love to the Father and the Son. But again he was filled with pride in his own glory. His desire for supremacy returned, and envy of Christ was once more indulged. The high honors conferred upon Lucifer were not appreciated as God's special gift, and therefore, called forth no gratitude to his Creator. He gloried in his brightness and exaltation and aspired to be equal with God. He was beloved and reverenced by the heavenly host, angels delighted to execute his commands, and he was clothed with wisdom and glory above them all. Yet the Son of God was exalted above him, as one in power and authority with the Father. He shared the Father's counsels, while Lucifer did not thus enter into the purposes of God. “Why,” questioned this mighty angel, “should Christ have the supremacy? Why is He honored above Lucifer?” PP 36.3

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Ellen G. White
Patriarchs and Prophets, 112

“By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.” “For He spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.” Psalm 33:6, 9. The Bible recognizes no long ages in which the earth was slowly evolved from chaos. Of each successive day of creation, the sacred record declares that it consisted of the evening and the morning, like all other days that have followed. At the close of each day is given the result of the Creator's work. The statement is made at the close of the first week's record, “These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created.” Genesis 2:4. But this does not convey the idea that the days of creation were other than literal days. Each day was called a generation, because that in it God generated, or produced, some new portion of His work. PP 112.1

Geologists claim to find evidence from the earth itself that it is very much older than the Mosaic record teaches. Bones of men and animals, as well as instruments of warfare, petrified trees, et cetera, much larger than any that now exist, or that have existed for thousands of years, have been discovered, and from this it is inferred that the earth was populated long before the time brought to view in the record of creation, and by a race of beings vastly superior in size to any men now living. Such reasoning has led many professed Bible believers to adopt the position that the days of creation were vast, indefinite periods. PP 112.2

But apart from Bible history, geology can prove nothing. Those who reason so confidently upon its discoveries have no adequate conception of the size of men, animals, and trees before the Flood, or of the great changes which then took place. Relics found in the earth do give evidence of conditions differing in many respects from the present, but the time when these conditions existed can be learned only from the Inspired Record. In the history of the Flood, inspiration has explained that which geology alone could never fathom. In the days of Noah, men, animals, and trees, many times larger than now exist, were buried, and thus preserved as an evidence to later generations that the antediluvians perished by a flood. God designed that the discovery of these things should establish faith in inspired history; but men, with their vain reasoning, fall into the same error as did the people before the Flood—the things which God gave them as a benefit, they turn into a curse by making a wrong use of them. PP 112.3

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, 258

Those who question the reliability of the Scripture records have let go their anchor and are left to beat about upon the rocks of infidelity. When they find themselves incapable of measuring the Creator and His works by their own imperfect knowledge of science, they question the existence of God and attribute infinite power to nature. 8T 258.1

In true science there can be nothing contrary to the teaching of the word of God, for both have the same Author. A correct understanding of both will always prove them to be in harmony. Truth, whether in nature or in revelation, is harmonious with itself in all its manifestations. But the mind not enlightened by God's Spirit will ever be in darkness in regard to His power. This is why human ideas in regard to science so often contradict the teaching of God's word. 8T 258.2

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, 310-1

Christ imparted only that knowledge which could be utilized. His instruction of the people was confined to the needs of their own condition in practical life. The curiosity that led them to come to Him with prying questions, He did not gratify. All such questionings He made the occasion for solemn, earnest, vital appeals. To those who were so eager to pluck from the tree of knowledge, He offered the fruit of the tree of life. They found every avenue closed, except the narrow way that leads to God. Every fountain was sealed, save the fountain of eternal life. 8T 310.1

Our Saviour did not encourage any to attend the rabbinical schools of His day for the reason that their minds would be corrupted with the continually repeated, “They say,” or, “It has been said.” Why, then, should we accept the unstable words of men as exalted wisdom, when a greater, a certain wisdom is at our command? 8T 310.2

That which I have seen of eternal things, and that which I have seen of the weakness of men, as God has presented it before me, has deeply impressed my mind and influenced my life and character. I see nothing wherein man should be exalted or praised or glorified. I see no reason why the opinions of worldly-wise men should be trusted in and exalted. How can those who are destitute of divine enlightenment have correct ideas of God's plans and ways? 8T 310.3

I am willing to be taught by Him who created the heavens and the earth, by Him who set the stars in their order in the firmament and appointed the sun and the moon to do their work. I need not go to infidel authors. I choose to be taught of God. 8T 310.4

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Ellen G. White
The Great Controversy, 658

Now the event takes place foreshadowed in the last solemn service of the Day of Atonement. When the ministration in the holy of holies had been completed, and the sins of Israel had been removed from the sanctuary by virtue of the blood of the sin offering, then the scapegoat was presented alive before the Lord; and in the presence of the congregation the high priest confessed over him “all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat.” Leviticus 16:21. In like manner, when the work of atonement in the heavenly sanctuary has been completed, then in the presence of God and heavenly angels and the hosts of the redeemed the sins of God's people will be placed upon Satan; he will be declared guilty of all the evil which he has caused them to commit. And as the scapegoat was sent away into a land not inhabited, so Satan will be banished to the desolate earth, an uninhabited and dreary wilderness. GC 658.1

The revelator foretells the banishment of Satan and the condition of chaos and desolation to which the earth is to be reduced, and he declares that this condition will exist for a thousand years. After presenting the scenes of the Lord's second coming and the destruction of the wicked, the prophecy continues: “I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, and cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.” Revelation 20:1-3. GC 658.2

That the expression “bottomless pit” represents the earth in a state of confusion and darkness is evident from other scriptures. Concerning the condition of the earth “in the beginning,” the Bible record says that it “was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” [The Hebrew word here translated “deep” is rendered in the Septuagint (Greek) translation of the Hebrew Old Testament by the same word rendered “bottomless pit” In Revelation 20:1-3.] Genesis 1:2. Prophecy teaches that it will be brought back, partially at least, to this condition. Looking forward to the great day of God, the prophet Jeremiah declares: “I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was without form, and void; and the heavens, and they had no light. I beheld the mountains, and, lo, they trembled, and all the hills moved lightly. I beheld, and, lo, there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens were fled. I beheld, and, lo, the fruitful place was a wilderness, and all the cities thereof were broken down.” Jeremiah 4:23-26. GC 658.3

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