1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
The book of God makes no attempt to prove that God exists. The opening verse of Genesis simply takes this fact for granted, as though it were so obvious that only a fool could say, “there is no God” (Psalm 14:1). — Morris, page 38.
There is no elaborate argument in proof of the existence of God…. God reveals Himself. He makes Himself known by His works. The heavens The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament shows His handiwork (Psalm 19:1)…. Lift up your eyes on high, and see who has created these things…by the greatness of His might and the strength of His power (Isaiah 40:26) In the book of Job (38:41) we have an appeal of the very grandest description, on the part of Jehovah Himself, to the work of creation, as an unanswerable argument in proof of His infinite superiority. — Mackintosh, pages 2-3.
beginning = the beginning of time. The universe is actually a continuum of space, matter, and time, no one of which can have a meaningful existence without the other two.— Morris, page 41.
God = This first occurrence of the divine name is the Hebrew Elohim, the name of God which stresses His majesty and omnipotence. This is the name used throughout the first chapter of Genesis. The im ending is the Hebrew plural ending, so that Elohim can actually mean “gods,” and is so translated in various passages referring to the gods of the heathen (e.g., Psalm 96:5).
However, it is clearly used here in the singular, as the mighty name of God the Creator, the first of over two thousand times where it is used in this way. Thus Elohim is a plural name with a singular meaning, a “uni-plural” noun, thereby suggesting the uni-plurality of the Godhead. God is one, yet more than one. — Morris, page 39.
The word selected by the Holy Spirit (bara) to express creation may have previously signified the forming out of material. But its use is sufficiently defined in this and other similar passages. For we are told that in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth; but the Scripture never affirm that He did this in the six days. The work of those days was quite a different thing from original creation: they were times of restoration, and the word asah is generally used in connection with them.
Now asah signifies to make, fashion, or prepare out of existing materials; as for instance, to build a ship, erect a house, or prepare a meal.
There are, however two acts of creation mentioned in the history of the six days. First; God is said to have created the inhabitants of the waters and the fowls of heaven: because these do not consist merely of the material mould of their bodies, but have a life principle within which could be conferred only by a direct act of creation. Hence the change of word in this place is quite intelligible. Just in the same way man is said to have been created, though in the second chapter we are expressly told that his body was formed from the dust. For the real man is the soul and spirit: the body, which is naturally changed every seven years, and must ultimately moulder in the grave, is regarded merely as the outward casing which gives him the power of dealing with his present surroundings, and the materials of which were appropriately taken from that earth in contact with which he was destined to live.
In the detailed account of man’s origin, a third word is used to signify the forming of his body. This is yatzar, which means to shape, or mould, as a potter does the clay. — Pember, pages 22-23.
The heaven mentioned in the first verse is the starry heaven, not the firmament immediately surrounding our earth: and since its history is not further unfolded, it may, for aught we know, have remained, developing, perhaps, but without violent change from the time of its creation until now. Not so, however, the earth, as the next verse goes on to show. — Pember, page 25.
heaven = The word is the Hebrew shamayim which, like Elohim, is a plural noun, and can be translated either “heaven” or “heavens,” depending on the context and on whether it is associated with a singular or plural verb. It does not mean the stars of heaven, which were make only on the fourth day of creation week (Genesis 1:16), and which constitute the “host” of heaven, not heaven itself (Genesis 2:1)…. In Genesis 1:1, the term refers to the component of space in the basic space-mass-time universe.—Morris, pages 40-41.
earth = the component of matter in the universe….this verse must speak essentially of the creation of the basic elements of matter, which thereafter were to be organized into the structured earth and later into other material bodies.
This one verse refutes all of mans’ false philosophies concerning the origin and meaning of the world:
- It refutes atheism, because the universe was created by God.
- It refutes pantheism, for God is transcendent to that which He created.
- It refutes polytheism, for one God created all things.
- It refutes materialism, for matter had a beginning.
- It refutes dualism, because God was alone when He created.
- It refutes humanism, because God, not man, is the ultimate reality.
- It refutes evolutionism, because God created all things. — Morris, page 38.
The use of the word “create” here in Genesis 1:1 informs us that, at this point, the physical universe was spoken into existence by God. It had no existence prior to this primeval creative act of God. God alone is infinite and eternal. He also is omnipotent, so that it was possible for Him to call the universe into being. Although it is impossible for us to comprehend fully this concept of an eternal, transcendent God, the only alternative is the concept of an eternal, self-existing universe; and this concept is also incomprehensible. Eternal God or eternal matter—that is the choice. The latter is an impossibility if the present scientific law of cause and effect is valid, since random particles of matter could not, by themselves, generate a complex, orderly, intelligible universe, not to mention living persons capable of applying intelligence to the understanding of the complex order of the universe. A person God is the only adequate Cause to produce such effects.—Morris, page 40.
What follows is simply speculation on my part. It is a theory that cannot be proven (or disproven). It’s my attempt to make sense of some things that don’t otherwise make sense to me.
It is normal to think of God as existing through eternity past as if He was sitting around for untold billions of years until, one day, He decided to start creating stuff. But if God is outside of time—if He created time—then before “the beginning” in Genesis 1:1, there wasn’t any time. There was just God. To speak of God in terms of “time” is to limit the Creator by His creation. So, in Genesis 1:1, we read of the moment when God began the progression of events. Any attempt to define what existed before that moment—other than just God—is impossible. God didn’t see fit to tell us, and we probably couldn’t comprehend it if He did, bound as we are by the concept of time.
As to what God created in verse 1, I have my own theories there too. Commentaries written before about 1970 all speak of an earlier heaven and earth that were created and then destroyed, probably as a result of Satan’s fall. This creates a gap between verse 1 and verse 2. Then, so this theory goes, God began in verse 3 to create the heavens and earth as we now know them.
This theory has fallen out of favor, and most commentaries written recently attempt to debunk it. Their opposition is due to the fact that many people attempt to cram geologic ages of the earth, and even evolution into the gap.
I think there probably was a gap (although if I get to heaven and find out I’m wrong, it won’t shake my faith). But you need to understand that I DO NOT BELIEVE THAT THE GEOLOGIC AGES OR EVOLUTION OCCURRED IN THE GAP.
Some of my commentaries, written by learned Hebrew scholars reason, based on the grammar of these verses, that there was a gap. Others, also written by learned Hebrew scholars, reason that there isn’t. I’m not a learned Hebrew scholar. I think most of these scholars are capable of finding what they’re looking for.
My reason for believing in a gap is this: Adam and Eve were certainly created by God to be fertile. But if they had had a child before the fall, that child would be sinless, and we know that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). So, the fall must have taken place very soon after the creation. Maybe just a day or two. But before that happened, Satan had to have had his fall. To cram all that into a very short period of time doesn’t make sense to me. I also don’t think it’s necessary.
Rather, I think God created the heavens and the earth in Genesis 1:1 as an angelic creation. I think that earth was destroyed when Satan sinned. I have no idea how much “time” elapsed between its creation and its destruction. But again, I DO NOT BELIEVE THAT THE GEOLOGIC AGES OR EVOLUTION OCCURRED HERE. The destruction may have been down to the molecular level. That’s the “without form and void” in verse 2. No physical evidence of this earlier period exists on earth. Then, in the six literal days of creation, God took that matter and created our world.