Genesis chapter 1

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What does Genesis chapter 1 mean?

The first chapter of Genesis describes the most extraordinary event in the history of the universe: its creation. Given what this moment represents, and what we know of science and nature, this is often referred to as the greatest of all possible miracles. The opening verses of the book of Genesis are nothing less than an account of how God, with full purpose and intention, made everything that exists.

What this account of creation tells us about God, and His role in our origins, is certainly interesting. What's equally fascinating about these opening verses is what details they do not provide. This, of course, is the reason for the controversy often surrounding Genesis 1. While other events in the Bible may be given many thousands of words, and minute details, the entire subject of creation is handled only briefly in Genesis chapters 1 and 2. Even among those who hold the Bible to be authoritative, inspired, and inerrant, this leaves ample room for disagreement about how these verses are to be read in the present day.

Questions inspired by this chapter have become long-running debates. Was the universe created in six literal 24-hour days, or some longer period of time? Is the text meant to explain a literal process, or symbolically represent the work of God? Is this the account of the absolute beginning moments of earth's existence or had God created something earlier, with events occurring between verses 1 and 2?

All of those questions have various answers; those answers have varied levels of support, and their own unique implications. And yet, despite what some well-meaning believers (and non-believers) might think, most of those varied options don't conflict with the key theological truths of Scripture. As a result, we won't spend a large amount of time or space discussing those specifics in this particular commentary. The bottom line, meeting the purpose of this ministry, is that Genesis chapters 1 and 2 explicitly state several key ideas which are—for those who take the Bible to be the word of God—simply beyond debate. While Bible-believing scholars may disagree on how God created and when God created, one thing is undeniable: Genesis chapter 1 chapter insists that God created.

In other words, no person who claims to believe the Bible is truth can also reject a belief in God as the Creator. If the Scriptures are God's Word—and they are—then God intends to be known as the Creator of all things.

More than likely, this text was originally written by Moses under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Moses, thanks to his upbringing (Exodus 2:1–10), was very familiar with pagan religious views. During the time in which Genesis was written, many cultures engaged in the worship of sun, moon, stars, seas, sea creatures, and other natural wonders. Genesis 1 counters that culture, as well as the naturalism of our modern day, by claiming that none of those things are gods. Rather, they are merely things created by the one, true God. He alone is worthy of worship because He alone is the Maker. In the following chapters, we will come to know Him as the God of Israel.

Genesis chapter 1 unfolds a story using repetition and rhythm. This passage was originally composed in the Hebrew language, under an often-rigid structure. These verses describe God's decrees of creation through the context of six individual days.

Many patterns are built into the text of this opening chapter. For example, one recurrence is God preparing the world to sustain something, such as life, before creating that very thing in the same general order. So, on day one, God creates light; on day four, He creates the sun, moon, and stars to distribute that light. On day two, God separates the waters, creating the oceans; on day five, He populates the oceans with sea creatures of every kind. On day three, He creates dry land and fills it with vegetation; on day 6, He creates animal and human life ready to consume the fruit and plants that existed.

Genesis 1 is a rich, detailed chapter. This text is only the beginning of a fascinating, essential book for all who would know and understand God. Readers are strongly encouraged to take their time in reading and understanding these words, and to enjoy the time spent gaining insight into the handiwork of God (Psalm 19:1).
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