Separating, forming and filling – Genesis One as a theological Framework

Genesis one is best understood as a literary, theological framework for God’s creative activity given to us by the Holy Spirit through Moses in Genesis 1:1-2:3.

Commentators have noted for centuries that the chronology of events is not sequential. We easily notice that light is created before the luminaries.  Critics act as if the Hebrew people, including the writer Moses, were so stupid that they did not notice this in their ignorant, pre-scientific minds. We maintain however that the prophet Moses was not writing a scientific explanation for creation but a theological revelation of God as creator and redeemer of mankind.

A framework interpretation views the creation week as figurative and thematic.  The creation week is presented as a normal week of work as if God were a laborer going about his tasks each day and completing each one each night until all the work of creation is completed in six days and God ceases from His work and enters into His rest on the seventh day. To insist upon taking this as a literal week of 24-hour days is to miss the significant point that the Holy Spirit is imparting: Man is to enter into the ongoing Sabbath rest of God, which is His heavenly kingdom, when they accept the Gospel and by faith enter into His rest.

In contrast to this Scripture tells us that there is no rest for the wicked. To miss the Kingdom of God and His Sabbath rest is to enter into Hell where there is no forgiveness, no peace and no rest.

Isaiah 57:20-21 – But the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud. “There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.”

Work is not an end in itself but is redemptive as it images God’s work in creation of being fruitful, multiplying, filling the earth, subduing and ruling over it and its creatures.

Gen 1:1 sets the stage for what will happen in the rest of the chapter.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was[a] on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

First we note that the entire cosmos, the heavens and the earth, are created by God.   Creation ex nihilo (out of nothing) by a transcendent God is affirmed. God speaks and it comes to past.

John 1:1-5 amplifies this theme when the Holy Spirit says: 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend[a] it.

Essentially the earth was in chaos. Everything on earth was one, dark, watery, formless, empty environment totally unsuited as a proper home for man.   

God then begins the process of separating, forming and filling the earth.   He creates three Kingdoms in the first three days and then he creates three classes of creatures to fill those three kingdoms to be ruled by three classes of Kings in the last three days.

On the first day God creates Light, separating the light from the darkness, and naming them day and night. It is important to note that naming something means that you rule over or have headship over the thing named. This is the most difficult of the days to reconcile with any of the interpretations of Genesis one. What is this light?  Is it a preternatural light, light from some unknown physical source or the light of the sun even though the sun is not revealed until the fourth day?

We believe it is the ordinary light of the sun as the first of God’s creative acts and that this was clearly understood by the Hebrew people. In the Hebrew literary form of recapitulation, that we see distinctly in Genesis two, day four is simply providing the details obviously implied in day one and giving names to the creature Kings and proclaiming their dominions.

On the second day God separates the waters above from the waters below creating the Sky and the Seas. He then calls the sky Heaven. In the scriptures we have three heavens named. The first heaven is the sky, the abode of the birds. The second heaven is outer space, the abode of the sun, the moon and the stars. The third heaven is spiritual and the abode of God and all the Holy Angels.

On the third day God further separates the waters by creating the dry land amidst the seas.   He calls the dry land Earth and the gathered together waters Seas. Then God creates vegetation of every kind on the earth.

God is now done separating and forming the undistinguished chaos into a habitable cosmos (order) for Man. So He commences with filling the three Kingdoms with creatures to rule and inhabit them.

On the fourth day God fills the first Kingdom with appropriate rulers. The Sun to rule the day and the Moon to rule the night, along with the Stars. These rulers serve to separate day and night and mark the seasons. They will also serve as signs to mark great events about to transpire in God’s providential care of his image bearers.

On the fifth day God fills the sky and the seas with appropriate creatures to inhabit these domains. The Holy Spirit does not name any of these creatures as rulers per se, as that belongs to man. 

And then, on the climatic sixth day, God fills the dry land with its appropriate creatures, again not naming any creature to rule. That rule and dominion is kept for Man, created in the image of God who is ruler over all of creation, to rule as God’s representative or regent on earth.   Man is to rule over all of the creatures in the sky, in the waters and on the dry land.

And so ends the work of God in separating, forming and filling the earth. And to Man is given the rule over all of the living creatures and to the Luminaries is given the rule over the heavens. It is significant to note that Adam’s first task was to name all of the creatures of significance to man. This would not include every creature on earth but those whom Adam would be interacting with. Naming fulfills a very important place in ruling over the earth.

Even as God named the things He created, including man, to signify his rule over them, so Adam was to name all of the living creatures to begin his rule over them as God’s Regent (representative) on earth.

When Adam realized that there was no suitable helpmate for him, he was put into a deep sleep by God and out of his side God created a woman and brought her to the man. Adam responds with the words, ‘At last’, meaning that he recognizes in the woman a counterpart to himself that he could not find among any of the animals. And by naming her woman he also declares his headship over her.

Finally on the seventh day God rests (ceases) ** from all of his work of creation. This day is not marked by evening and morning as were the other six days. This is the sabbath rest of God and it is ongoing even to this day. The Holy Spirit tells us in Hebrews chapter four that this seventh day is holy and we are all commanded to enter into it, that is the rest of God.

We enter into this rest by faith in the Gospel. The Gospel is essentially belief in the goodness of God. This is obtained by grace and through faith.  This is the same Gospel presented to the Israelites and to us. God’s rest can only be obtained through faith in God’s promises. To believe the promises of God is to exercise faith in the goodness of God. This was also the Gospel given to Adam.

There never was nor has been a covenant of works.  God’s kingdom is always and has always been entered into by faith. Adam was not given any great work to perform to obtain eternal life. He had only to eat of the Tree of Life and he would live forever. The Tree of Life represents Christ and to eat of Christ is to have eternal life. However Adam spurned the Tree of Life and chose instead to of eat of the Tree of Death even when he was commanded of God to do exactly the opposite.   

Why did Adam not eat of the Tree of Life but instead chose to eat of the Tree of Death?  Because he lacked (was not given from above) faith in the promises of God. He doubted the goodness of God and chose instead to seek out forbidden knowledge even though he knew it would lead to death. Therefore he was not allowed to enter into the rest of God and instead his days would be filled with painful toil until he returned again to the dust of the earth.

  • A helpful look at the Genesis One controversy is the book:

The G3n3s1s Debate: Three Views on the Days of Creation Paperback – November 24, 2000 

by  J. Ligon Duncan III  (Author), David W. Hall  (Author), Hugh Ross  (Author), Gleason L. Archer  (Author), Lee Irons  (Author), Meredith G. Kline (Author), David G. Hagopian  (Editor)

** Ellicott’s commentary on John 5:17- My Father works even now (up to this moment).—They charge Jesus with breaking the law of God. His answer to this charge is that His action was the result of His Sonship and unity with that God. The very idea of God implies action. This was familiar to the thought of the day. Comp., e.g., in the contemporary Philo, “God never ceases working; but as to burn is the property of fire, and to be cold is the property of snow, thus also to work is the property of God, and much the more, inasmuch as He is the origin of action for all others” (Legis Allegor. i. 3. See the whole section. The English reader will find it in Bohn’s Ed., vol i., p. 53). The rest on the seventh day was the completion of the works of creation (see this stated emphatically in Genesis 2:2-3). It was not, it could not be, a cessation in divine work, or in the flow of divine energy. That knew nor day nor night, nor summer nor winter, nor Sabbath nor Jubilee. For man, and animal, and tree, and field, this alternation of a time of production and a time of reception was needed, but God was the ever-constant source of energy and life for all in heaven and earth and sea. The power going forth to heal that sufferer was the same power which sustained them in well-being. The strength which passed through his half-dead frame, and bade it live, was the same which every Sabbath morning awoke them from death’s image, sleep, and would awake from death itself (John 5:21). The sun shone, and fruitful showers fell, and flower burst its bud, and harvest ripened, and they themselves, in energy of life, had grown on every day alike. God ever worketh up to this present moment. That God is also Father. The Son, therefore, worketh in the same way. This poor sufferer, lying helpless, is of the same human nature with the Son of God. He has in faith and hope made himself receptive of the divine energy, and that energy which can know no Sabbath, but is ever going forth to every heart that can receive it, hath made him whole. (from biblehub.com)

2 thoughts on “Separating, forming and filling – Genesis One as a theological Framework

  1. I tend to be somewhat reluctant to exclude the possibility of multiple basic interpretations being simultaneously correct. In this example, I don’t quite agree that the literary framework really excludes sequence. Take the subject of luminaries, for example. Current field theory does not answer whether particles or fields came first. It remains possible that particles are made from fields. Is the stationary constructed from the moving or the other way around? The electron has already successfully been described as a hyperrotating metric singularity, providing the possibility that electrons are merely knots in the electromagnetic field. It may well be that all matter is composed of the structurally stable forms of the various causal fields.

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    1. David Berlinski in “The Devil’s Delusion” writes that there are currently some 25 different subatomic entities and that there may be as many entities as there is funding to try to find them. It seems that building a large enough collider (such as from here to the moon) is practically impossible and so we may have reached the theoretical limits to our enquiries. The point being that as we drill down into the foundations of our world there may be no “there” down there. As the Apostle Paul tells us in Acts 17:24-28 The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ (From the Cretan philosopher Epimenides)

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