Let the waters bring forth abundantly - There is a meaning in these words which is seldom noticed. Innumerable millions of animalcula are found in water. Eminent naturalists have discovered not less than 30,000 in a single drop! How inconceivably small must each be, and yet each a perfect animal, furnished with the whole apparatus of bones, muscles, nerves, heart, arteries, veins, lungs, viscera in general, animal spirits, etc., etc. What a proof is this of the manifold wisdom of God! But the fecundity of fishes is another point intended in the text; no creature's are so prolific as these. A Tench lay 1,000 eggs, a Carp 20,000, and Leuwenhoek counted in a middling sized Cod 9,384,000! Thus, according to the purpose of God, the waters bring forth abundantly. And what a merciful provision is this for the necessities of man! Many hundreds of thousands of the earth's inhabitants live for a great part of the year on fish only. Fish afford, not only a wholesome, but a very nutritive diet; they are liable to few diseases, and generally come in vast quantities to our shores when in their greatest perfection. In this also we may see that the kind providence of God goes hand in hand with his creating energy. While he manifests his wisdom and his power, he is making a permanent provision for the sustenance of man through all his generations.
- VII. The Fifth Day
20. שׁרץ shārats “crawl, teem, swarm, abound.” An intransitive verb, admitting, however, an objective noun of its own or a like signification.
נפשׁ nephesh “breath, soul, self.” This noun is derived from a root signifying to breathe. Its concrete meaning is, therefore, “that which breathes,” and consequently has a body, without which there can be no breathing; hence, “a breathing body,” and even a body that once had breath Numbers 6:6. As breath is the accompaniment and sign of life, it comes to denote “life,” and hence, a living body, “an animal.” And as life properly signifies animal life, and is therefore essentially connected with feeling, appetite, thought, נפשׁ nephesh denotes also these qualities, and what possesses them. It is obvious that it denotes the vital principle not only in man but in the brute. It is therefore a more comprehensive word than our soul, as commonly understood.
21. תנין tannı̂yn “long creature,” a comprehensive genus, including vast fishes, serpents, dragons, crocodiles; “stretch.”
22. ברך bārak “break, kneel; bless.”
The solitude בהוּ bohû the last and greatest defect in the state of the earth, is now to be removed by the creation of the various animals that are to inhabit it and partake of its vegetable productions.
On the second day the Creator was occupied with the task of reducing the air and water to a habitable state. And now on the corresponding day of the second three he calls into existence the inhabitants of these two elements. Accordingly, the animal kingdom is divided into three parts in reference to the regions to be inhabited - fishes, birds, and land animals. The fishes and birds are created on this day. The fishes seem to be regarded as the lowest type of living creatures.
They are here subdivided only into the monsters of the deep and the smaller species that swarm in the waters.
The crawler - שׁרץ sherets apparently includes all animals that have short legs or no legs, and are therefore unable to raise themselves above the soil. The aquatic and most amphibious animals come under this class. “The crawler of living breath,” having breath, motion, and sensation, the ordinary indications of animal life. “Abound with.” As in Genesis 1:11 we have, “Let the earth grow grass,” (דשׁא תדשׁע tadshē‛ deshe' so here we have, “Let the waters crawl with the crawler,” שׁרץ ישׁרצוּ yı̂shretsû sherets the verb and noun having the same root. The waters are here not the cause but the element of the fish, as the air of the fowl. Fowl, everything that has wings. “The face of the expanse.” The expanse is here proved to be aerial or spatial; not solid, as the fowl can fly on it.
Created. - Here the author uses this word for the second time. In the selection of different words to express the divine operation, two considerations seem to have guided the author‘s pen - variety and propriety of diction. The diversity of words appears to indicate a diversity in the mode of exercising the divine power. On the first day Genesis 1:3 a new admission of light into a darkened region, by the partial rarefaction of the intervening medium, is expressed by the word “be.” This may denote what already existed, but not in that place. On the second day Genesis 1:6-7 a new disposition of the air and the water is described by the verbs “be” and “make.” These indicate a modification of what already existed. On the third day Genesis 1:9, Genesis 1:11 no verb is directly applied to the act of divine power. This agency is thus understood, while the natural changes following are expressly noticed. In the fourth Genesis 1:14, Genesis 1:16-17 the words “be,” “make,” and “give” occur, where the matter in hand is the manifestation of the heavenly bodies and their adaptation to the use of man. In these cases it is evident that the word “create” would have been only improperly or indirectly applicable to the action of the Eternal Being. Here it is employed with propriety; as the animal world is something new and distinct summoned into existence. It is manifest from this review that variety of expression has resulted from attention to propriety.
Great fishes. - Monstrous crawlers that wriggle through the water or scud along the banks.
Every living, breathing thing that creeps. - The smaller animals of the water and its banks.
Bird of wing. - Here the wing is made characteristic of the class, which extends beyond what we call birds. The Maker inspects and approves His work.
Blessed them. - We are brought into a new sphere of creation on this day, and we meet with a new act of the Almighty. To bless is to wish, and, in the case of God, to will some good to the object of the blessing. The blessing here pronounced upon the fish and the fowl is that of abundant increase.
Bear. - This refers to the propagation of the species.
Multiply. - This notifies the abundance of the offspring.
Fill the waters. - Let them be fully stocked.
In the seas. - The “sea” of Scripture includes the lake, and, by parity of reason, the rivers, which are the feeders of both. This blessing seems to indicate that, whereas in the case of some plants many individuals of the same species were simultaneously created, so as to produce a universal covering of verdure for the land and an abundant supply of aliment for the animals about to be created - in regard to these animals a single pair only, at all events of the larger kinds, was at first called into being, from which, by the potent blessing of the Creator, was propagated the multitude by which the waters and the air were peopled.