Study Guide

Book of Genesis Chapters 1:1-2:4

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Chapters 1:1-2:4

The Opening Line Isn't "In the Beginning..." for Nothing

  • This is the first creation story. God creates, establishes, and puts everything into motion, and then rests. And he does it all in seven days. Not bad for a week's work.
  • You lovers of trivia will want to note the not-so-trivial fact that the Hebrew word for God used throughout this story of creation is 'elohim. Typically, the LORD (in all capital letters) is reserved as a translation for YHWH, which is God's proper name.
  • Before creation, God's breath is hovering over a "formless void" (1:2 NRSV) or in Hebrew, tohu wabohu, which are two words that denote pure emptiness, blankness, and in some contexts, even futility and meaninglessness. 
  • On day one, God first separates light from darkness.
  • On day two, God creates the Heavens or the Sky as well as the oceans by fastening a huge wedge between them.
  • How would you draw that?
  • On day three, God herds all of the water into one place so that there can appear dry land as well as everything else that comes with fertile soil, such as trees, plants, seeds, and all kinds of vegetation. 
  • The first three days set the pattern for what turns out to be a highly repetitive and very well-structured story. 
  • Key ingredients for each day of creation include: (1) God's declaration of what is about to be created, (2) its successful completion, and (3) God's own review of the handiwork, which God thinks is fabulous. 
  • God is usually pretty impressed with himself, for several times "he saw that it was good" (1:10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31)—not to brag or anything. 
  • On day four, God orders the lights in the sky, the stars, sun, and moon. These make it possible to keep track of time so that the sacred calendar is built into very fibers of creation itself.
  • On day five, God generates creatures of the sea and air, including "the great sea monsters." Nessie?
  • God commands the creatures to "be fruitful and multiply" (1: 22). Translation: the animals are supposed to have lots of babies.
  • On day six, God creates the land creatures, cattle, crawling things, wild animals, and humankind. 
  • Notice that in the first creation account, God creates "humankind" (1:26-27 NRSV). The KJV's "God created man" (1:26-27) is misleading.
  • The first creation story assumes that women are created at this point as well. How else are they supposed to be fruitful and multiply? 
  • Why is God speaking in the plural in 1:26 ("let us […] our")? Is God the top dog in a court of many otherworldly beings, or what? 
  • God grants humankind "dominion" (1:28) over the sea, air, and land creatures. "Dominion" means not only that they will rule all of this, but also that they are responsible for taking care of it. That's a nod to all of you lovely Tree Huggers out there. 
  • God commands humanity to "be fruitful and multiply" (1:28). Again, more babies.
  • On day seven, God's so pleased with all that he's made that he decides to take a rest. 
  • The seventh day is set apart as unique and holy. Go and check out Exodus 20:8-11, where God's rest after creation is cited as a precedent for the command to keep the Sabbath.

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