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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible

Genesis 1

 

 

Verses 1-31

In our human nature is a thirst to know about origins. God has given us this nature and God supplies the answer to our desire simply and decisively in the first statement of His own revelation to mankind. He goes no further back than to the beginning of the history of the created heavens and earth. Anyone who has faith understands this, "that the worlds were formed by the word of God" (Hebrews 11:3). some may question and reason as to how God could create so tremendous a universe, but faith simply believes what the word of God says, "He spoke, and it was done, He commanded, and it stood fast" (Psalms 33:9).

This was the beginning of God's activity in creation. John 1:1 also uses the expression, "In the beginning," but does not speak of what was done, rather that "In the beginning was the Word." Christ, the Word of God, had no beginning: He was in the beginning; so that verse 2 declares, "all things came into being by Him" (NASB).

Verse 1 stands alone in its solitary grandeur. We have no means of telling how long a time intervened between verses 1 and 2. Verse 2 tell us the earth was "waste and empty" (JND trans.), but Isaiah 45:18 declares, "not as a waste did He create it" (JND). Some have sought to prove that the earth became a waste at the time of Satan's fall, but though it might be true, scripture does not clearly state this. When it became waste, or how long it remained in that state, we do not know. The fact is clear that something took place to cause this desolation. In a similar way, though Adam was created upright, his fall brought ruin into his moral nature. "Darkness was upon the face of the deep" describes man's fallen condition too, just as it describes the condition of a desolate creation, all covered with water, a state of instability and restlessness.Go upto Index

THE FIRST DAY

Then the Spirit of God intervened, moving upon the face of the waters. This Hebrew verb indicates a continued movement. In conjunction with this movement, God's word accomplishes immediate results. He says, "Let there be light." Light is not merely the result of one act of movement, but a movement that is constantly sustained, for we are taught that light travels at the rate of 186,000 miles per second.

Sir Herbert Spencer claimed that there are five observable elements in the universe. He was a unbeliever, yet these same five are plainly seen in the first two verses of God's word:

[1] Time: "in the beginning;"

[2] force: "God created;"

[3] Space: "the heavens;"

[4] Matter: "the earth;" and

[5] Motion: "The Spirit of God moved."

God did not say, "Let darkness be removed," but "Let there be light." The positive radiance of light dispels the darkness. So also the light of God entering one's soul dispels his moral and spiritual darkness. "God saw the light, that it was good." This is surely typical of the spiritual light of which John's Gospel and his first epistle have so much to say. Therefore the movement of the Spirit of God, together with God's spoken word, indicates the first working of God in the awakening of a sinner when in a desolate, restless state. Then God divided the light from the darkness. Thus we know that there was light before the sun was set in its place to rule over the day (vs.14-18). Spiritually this reminds us that though light has entered the soul of every believer, there will still be night experiences because the fleshly nature is still in us, and its very character is darkness.

"And there was evening and there was morning, one day" (NASB). this is said of all six days of God's work in bringing order out of desolation, indicating clearly that these were literal days. The things introduced each day were done immediately when God spoke, though they are typical of His dealings in souls personally, and also typical of succeeding dispensations of God through the ages. This first day typifies the first of the ages, the dispensation of conscience as well as the light of creation and of promise. This began with Adam's fall and ended with the flood in Noah's time. Having the knowledge of good and evil together with a conscience that warned him against doing evil, man has proven that his conscience will not preserve him from evil. He will, and has, defiantly ignored his conscience as well as ignoring God's testimony in creation and in His promise to men (Genesis 3:15).Go upto Index

THE SECOND DAY

Now God speaks to introduce a firmament to divide waters from waters (vs.6-7), those waters under the firmament from those above. He called the firmament heaven. This heaven is plainly the atmospheric heaven, and the waters above are no doubt those contained in the clouds. They are fresh, pure waters: those beneath are salty, unfit for human consumption. If the first day symbolizes God's beginning His work in a soul by new birth, the second day illustrates the fact that one has cause to look up to recognize that true blessing comes from above, and therefore that authority also is from above. "The heavens do rule" (Daniel 4:26). How important for the believer to learn early that he is to be in subjection to the authority of the Lord Jesus. If all below seems to be a watery waste with no order, yet in being refreshed by the pure water of God's word from above in true subjection to the Lord Jesus, the believers life may be greatly changed from disorder into calm, orderly obedience, even when surrounded by the swelling seas of the world's confusion.

The second day also compares with the second age of God's dealings with man, the dispensation of human government, beginning with Noah's being given instructions as to how to govern (Genesis 9:1-29), though he failed in properly governing himself. This has proven to be the main great problem with every government in the hands of men. The end of that age is seen in the tower of Babel, when men were determined to wrest all government out of the hand of God and rule independently of Him.Go upto Index

THE THIRD DAY

On the third day (vs.9-13) God speaks twice in accomplishing two distinct results. First He commands the waters under the heaven to be gathered together unto one place, allowing the dry land to appear. It has been observed that all the seas of the world are connected, while all the land is not. In order for the dry land to appear it would have to be raised up above the level of the water. Some land remains covered by great depths of water, for the dry land on this planet occupies less than one-third of its surface.

The land speaks of that which is solid and stable in contrast to unstable mass of the waters of the oceans. The heaving waters speak of the flesh in its unstable vanity, whether the flesh in unbelievers or in believers. Similarly Revelation 17:15 speaks of the waters as "peoples, multitudes, nations and tongues," where the flesh is seen in all its constant turmoil and disorder. These are the waters of the seas in contrast to the waters from above, the rain that signifies the blessing of God by His word (Isaiah 55:10-11). This separation of earth from the waters God saw to be good.

God speaks the second time on the third day to command the earth to "bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself." This clearly settles any objection that the tree could not be there until the seed was planted. If God had wanted to create the seed first, He could easily have done so. But He commanded the fruit of the earth to come forth before seed was sown. This was just as simple for Him as to do the opposite.

The fruitfulness of earth is a picture of the new spiritual nature in the believer that brings forth fruit of God. "The works of the flesh" (Galatians 5:19) are put in direct contrast to "the fruit of the Spirit" (Galatians 5:22). These two natures are in a believer, always in opposition to one another, but the believer is told to "walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh" (Galatians 6:16).

The grass, the herb and the fruit tree illustrate the development of spiritual life in the child of God. The fresh green grass reminds us of the freshness of the faith of "little children," as seen in 1 John 1:13,18. the herb yielding seed is a picture of the energy of the "young men", of whom we read, "you are strong, and the word of God abides in you and you have overcome the wicked one" (1 John 2:14). The fruit tree emphasizes the maturity of "fathers," who, in the settled knowledge of the Lord Jesus, spontaneously bear fruit for Him. Thus, the new life develops.

Connected with the third day, the fruitfulness of the earth is symbolic of the age from Abraham to Christ, where God's earthly people, the nation Israel, are seen to be blessed in separation from the Gentile nations. God planted them in their land, where they brought forth fruit, though we know it was sadly marred by their disobedience to Him.Go upto Index

THE FOURTH DAY

The order of events in God's re-making of the heavens and earth is far different than man naturally would imagine it to be, so that only ignorance suggests that Genesis I is the product of anyone's imagination. Men criticize it because it does not describe things in the way they think would be the most likely. But God's thoughts are far higher than man's, and His wisdom infinitely greater. If we want to be wise, we must allow His word to correct our thoughts. On this fourth day God spoke again to introduce two great lights to separate the day from the night. We are not told that the sun and moon were created at that time, but at least they were then set in their present relation to the earth. If we question how this was done, the only answer God gives us is that He spoke the word and it was done.

These lights were "for signs and for seasons and for days and years." As well as their introducing each succeeding day, they have a significance more important than their being an actual literal blessing. Their changing positions at different times of the year also indicates the changing seasons on earth. Then when all the seasons have passed through their yearly cycle, the position of the sun and moon marks the beginning of another year.

As regards the declared significance of the sun, it speaks of the Lord Jesus, "the Sun of Righteousness" (Malachi 4:2), the One whose brightness is so welcome, yet too dazzling for our eyes; and the warmth of His love so welcome too, though to unbelievers this warmth may become the heat of judgment. We have seen on the third day the fruitfulness of the earth in contrast to the waters, a type of the growth and fruitfulness of believer. Now the fourth day teaches us that we must have a proper Object outside of ourselves and of our fruitfulness. The person of the Lord Jesus is that Object, and when we are blessed with the sight of His own glory, this lifts our hearts above our circumstances and above our own spiritual state and experiences, to see in Him what fully satisfies and delights the heart. This is a precious climax in the history of a believer, when the glory of the person of the Lord Jesus bursts on his vision, to lift him out of himself, to see all beauty and virtue in Him alone.

Dispensationally, the significance of the fourth day is seen in the present age, "the dispensation of the grace of God." All the glory of God is revealed in His beloved Son, who has suffered and died, now is glorified, shining in the heavens as the Object of the of the affections of the church of God. We may liken the church to the moon, which reflects the light of the sun toward the earth, sometimes being full in its reflection, but having phases that vary from full to almost nil. How greatly we also vary in our reflection of the Lord Jesus toward the world! But in just the measure that our faces are turned toward Him, so shall we reflect Him.

"He made the stars also" (v.16). This is only stated as though it were incidental and of much lesser importance. Though many of the stars have been found to be tremendous in size, much larger than the sun, and their number beyond computation, their distances ranging into billions of light years, yet the sun and the moon are more important to us on earth, and God's revelation is for the benefit of human beings. Again God saw that His work on the fourth day was good, and again He declares that there was evening and morning, a fourth day (of 24 hours).Go upto Index

THE FIFTH DAY

Now we return to consider God's work in the waters, which He had named "Seas" (v.10), and His work too in making life to exist in the firmament. On this fifth day is the first mention of animate life. He gives the command, "Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures" (v.20). How true this is! It has been observed that the total weight of all the insect population of earth is many times the weight of all human and animal population -- though it would take many mosquitoes to equal the weight of one elephant! But the combined weight of humans, animals and insects is nothing compared to the population of the seas!

For the second time in this chapter the word "created" is used (v.21). God had created the heavens and the earth before, now He creates animate life, another order of creation entirely. The word is not used therefore when, on the sixth day, animals were introduced, but it is used when we are told, "God created man in His own image" (v.27), for man is a totally different order of creation. There is a link between sea creatures, birds and animals, but none of these have any such link with mankind. On the fifth day, however, both great sea creatures and birds were created.

The creation of great sea creatures and birds involves a personal spiritual lesson for a believer. When we have known the Lord Jesus as the one great Object of faith, as we learn in the setting of the sun in the heavens, then the waters of turmoil, distress and unrest, that is, our experiences of deep trial, will miraculously bring forth abundant blessing. As Paul says, "Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Corinthians 4:17). Indeed, we shall realize this as true in just the measure that we make the Lord Jesus the Object of our lives. The waters of unceasing disturbance and restlessness may seem to us hopelessly unproductive, but the power and grace of God produces some of the greatest blessing for us through the greatest trouble and sorrow. The birds flying in the heavens teach us that by faith our spirit may rise high above the level of our circumstances in a world that is the "valley of the shadow of death." "As birds on the wing we rise and sing, and our troubles seem far away."

The dispensational application of this should be clearly evident to us also. Following the dispensation of the grace of God (in our present age) is the time of great tribulation such as the world has never seen nor will ever see again (Matthew 24:21). "Out of these waters of deep trouble God will bring blessing for a multitude which no man can number" (Revelation 7:9-14). Thus the power and grace of God will triumph over all man's ruin and sorrow, at a time when everything appears to be most hopeless.Go upto Index

THE SIXTH DAY

Again, by the power of the word of God, living creatures are brought forth from the earth, -- cattle (representing domestic animals); creeping things (the lowest form of animal); and beast of the earth (the wider range of wild animals). Acts 10:1-15 and verse 28 clearly indicate that all these animals are typical of mankind. Domesticated animals would speak of the classes of men who are cultured and refined, creeping things, of the more despised classes in places of lowly humiliation. The beasts of the earth remind us of men in their wild, rebellious state, a third class even more prevalent than the others. But this work of God on the sixth day was only a preparation for a more important work the same day.

"Then God said, Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness: and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth" (v.26). In this case the climax of God's creational power is seen. It is the only time He says, "Let us," for of all the creation of earth, man is the only creature who can enter into the fact that God is a triune Being, and can understand something of the wonderful counsels of God. Nothing is said of the creation of angels: they were created before this time (Job 38:4-7).

Man is of a totally different order than angels. He is made in God's image, that is, he is created to represent God. He is made "after God's likeness," which involves similarity. God is a triune Being, Father, Son and Holy Spirit: man is a triune character, spirit, soul and body (1 Thessalonians 5:23). Animals are amoral: they do not have a moral nature. God has a nature of truth and of goodness. Man was created with the same faculties, though sin has now badly corrupted his nature and he has become immoral. Man is directly responsible to God, as animals are not. This responsibility involves man's authority over the lower creation. The fact is stated, "Male and female He created them." Chapter 2:18-23 explains how the woman was created.

God then blessed them and told them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth." This was said before sin entered the scene. Some have claimed that sexual union is sinful, but this is true only outside the marriage bond. At this time Adam and Eve were to rule over other animate creatures. By sin they spoiled this, so that man does not now have the same authority over animals, though Noah was told, "the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast" etc. (Genesis 9:2). This is a mercy of God, for otherwise animals could take terrible advantage of their superior strength to terrorize men.

At the first men were vegetarians (v.29), and beasts also were not carnivorous. God gave them sufficient food in herbs, fruits, etc., and no doubt they did not desire anything else.

This sixth day has its personal application to a believer also. After he has seen all fullness in the person of Christ (as the fourth day teaches) and finds blessing in tribulation also (the fifth day), he experiences what true victory is in virtually having the world under his feet. This is by his association with Christ, as Eve was associated with Adam in the place of rule. How good to learn that "all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death or things present or things to come, all are yours, and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's" (1 Corinthians 3:21-22). All these things are serving the believer's best interests.

The dispensational application of the sixth day is as clear as we could desire it to be. Following the fifth day tribulation, it points to the millennial kingdom of the Lord Jesus, when He with His wife, the church, will reign over all creation. God will subdue all things under the feet of the Son of Man, who is the perfect representation of the eternal God because He is Himself God manifest in flesh. He has patiently waited while ambitious kings, rulers and governors have come and gone, all proving themselves unfit for the place of properly representing God. The eruption of the great tribulation will mark the conclusion of the aspirations of men of the world in this regard, and over them all the blessed King of kings will triumph in great power and glory. Thus He, together with His wife, the church, will reign over all. That reign will never be marred, as was that of Adam and Eve, by human failure, for He will represent God in beautiful perfection. Marvelous too will be the grace that delights to have His wife identified with Him!

Verse 31 gives God's pronouncement, not only as to the sixth day, but as regards all the work He had done in all six days: "it was very good." Thus, God's work literally in the first creation was very good. His work in individual souls too, pictured by creation, is very good. His work in all the dispensations also just as clearly typified in these days, is very good.

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Genesis 1:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/genesis-1.html. 1897-1910.

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