Genesis is the book of origins and developments. It supplies its own outline or plan of treatment in twelve sections:
In one sublime sentence it gives the origin of the universe. Ge 1:1.
In a few other equally sublime sentences it gives the origin of this earth — that part of the universe which is to become the arena of the Bible story, culminating with a general statement of the origin of man, as a race, appointed to occupy and subdue the earth. Ge 1:2-31; 2:1-3. A certain oft-recurring formula introduces every important stage of subsequent development, serving as a bond of unity between the several parts, and as a title to the ten other sections of the book:
“These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth” (Ge 2:4). “This is the book of the generations of Adam” (Ge 5:1). “These are the generations of Noah” (Ge 6:9). “These are the generations of the sons of Noah” (Ge 10:1). By whom the nations were divided after the flood (Ge 10:32). “These are the generations of Shem” (Ge 11:10). “These are the generations of Terah” (Ge 11:27). “These are the generations of Ishmael” (Ge 25:12). “These are the generations of Isaac” (Ge 25:19). “These are the generations of Esau” (Ge 36:1). “These are the generations of Jacob” (Ge 37:2). This framework of twelve sections is the designed skeleton of the whole book. We commence, therefore, with,
THE ORIGIN OF THE UNIVERSE
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Ge 1:1). “Beginning” here means the commencement of time; and shows that the matter of the universe had a definite origin. Matter is not eternal.
“God” is the explanation of this origin. Matter did not start itself. God alone is eternal.
“Created” means brought into being without the use of preexisting material. This verb, having God for its subject, is generally used in the Bible when something, not before existing, is brought into existence by divine power, and is distinguished in this chapter and elsewhere from other verbs signifying to make, shape, or to form out of pre-existing material.
As there could be no human witness when the original foundations were laid, and as human science deals only with preexisting material, our knowledge of this origin of things cannot come by science, history, or tradition, but by revelation, and must be received by faith. Hence a subsequent scriptural statement: “By faith we understand that the worlds have been framed by the word of God, so that what is seen hath not been made out of things which appear” (Heb 11:3; Ps 103:7). “Heavens and earth” means the whole universe.
ORIGIN OF THE EARTH ( Ge 1:2-31; 2:1-3)
Quickening of inert, matter. “And the earth [i.e., the already created matter out of which the earth was to be formed] was waste and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God brooded upon the face of the waters” (Ge 1:2).
The story passes abruptly from the universe to that part of it which becomes the scene of the Bible history. The description of the earth matter is very vivid: waste, void, dark. The classical student cannot help recalling Ovid’s description of Chaos, here freely rendered into English:
Before the sea and land, and the heavens which cover all, Nature had one appearance in all the world Which men called Chaos a rude and unassimilated mass … because in one body Cold things fought with hot, wet things with dry, Soft things with hard, imponderable things with heavy.
The doctrine is that matter is inert of itself. It had no inherent potentiality. In itself has no capacity to become a world of order and beauty. The quickening of matter by the Holy Spirit was therefore the second creative activity. Given matter alone, and we have chaos alone; but given also an extraneous power, intelligent, beneficent, and omnipotent, to impart capacity to matter and to direct its movements, we will have a well-ordered and beautiful world.
Origin of Light
“And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.” Light is the first product of the Spirit’s breeding power exercised on matter. As a primal subagent in the formation of other things its introduction was essential at this point. Well does it deserve Milton’s apostrophe: “Hail, holy Light, offspring of heaven, first-born.” It is the emblem of the divinity which created it: “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” Jesus Christ is “the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” His people, reflecting his image, are “the light of the world.”
The creation, by the simple fiat of God, serves to illustrate a mightier creation, the conversion of the soul by the same Spirit: “God who commanded the light to shine out ofdarkness hath shined into our hearts, giving the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2Co 4:6).
Atheistic philosophers vainly attempt to solve the mystery of light. Apart from Revelation, the Almighty’s questions propounded to Job remain unanswered: “Where is the way to the dwelling of light? … By what way is the light parted?” (Job 38:19-24). The eye is made for it, and truly light is sweet; but what unaided wisdom can comprehend its mystery? Mysterious in origin, exquisitely beautiful in combination of colors, immaculate and incorruptible. It cannot be defiled by contact with impurity as can earth, air, or water.
This was not solar or stellar light, for there was yet no atmospheric medium through which the light of any previously formed part of the universe could reach and influence the inert mass of the earth. To call it cosmical light is to name it and not explain it. The only ultimate explanation is that it was a creative product resulting from the moving, brooding, quickening Spirit of God.
Some object to regarding earth light as a creative product because it now reaches us from second causes — the sun, moon, and stars. The objection perishes by pushing back the inquiry far enough. Some one of the existing words of the universe must have been fashioned first out of the originally created matter. In the case of this first one the origin of its light must be referred to the first cause, i.e., creative fiat, since there was no other world from which, as a second cause, its light could come. In the case of the earth, the only one whose history is revealed, external light at the beginning had no medium of approach.
Origin of Atmosphere
“And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” Firmament or expanse, i.e., what is outspread, is the visible result of the formation of the earth’s atmosphere. This formation is the effect of supernatural power. The psalmist declares: “The firmament showeth his handiwork.” Milton, in Paradise Lost, expresses the Bible thought:
The firmament, expanse of liquid, pure, Transparent, elemental air, diffused In circuit to the uttermost convex Of this great round.
The atmosphere is the outer sphere of air fluid enveloping the earth as the rind of an orange encloses the pulp. Its depth is supposed to be about forty-five miles. It would be out of place here to discuss in detail its manifold uses. We merely state in a general way that without it there could be no vegetable or animal life, nor transmission of sound, nor the conveyance, refraction, or decomposition of light. Its particular use specified in the text is to separate waters from waters. The power to do this lies in its specific gravity or weight. This weight, greatest at the sea level, gradually diminishes as it ascends, until, by extreme rarity, its upper boundary is lost in the higher enveloping sphere of ether. All waters expanded by heat into vapor or cloud rise above the air; all vapors condensed until heavier than atmosphere fall below it. You see clouds above clouds. The highest ones are the lightest. Whatever condenses them brings them lower until their weight, exceeding that of the atmosphere, precipitates them in the form of snow, sleet, hail, or rain.
The cloud, while seemingly only the natural result of light (or heat) and atmosphere, is really the product of divine power. “Hath the rain a father? Or whom hath begotten the drops of dew? Out of whose womb came the ice? And the hoary frost of heaven, who gendered it?” (Job 38:28-29).
He giveth snow like wool; He scatterest the hoar frost like ashes; He casteth forth his ice like morsels. Who can stand before his cold? He sendeth out his word and melteth them. — Ps 147:16-18
“For he draweth up the drops of water, which distill in rain from his vapour, which the skies pour down and drop upon man abundantly. Yea, can any understand the spreading of the clouds, the thunderings of his pavilion?” (Job 36:27-29). “Dost thou know the balancings of the clouds, the wondrous works of him who is perfect in knowledge?” (Job 37:16).
Origin of the Dry Land
“And God said, Let the waters under the heavens be gathered unto one place, and let the dry land appear; and it was so” (Ge 1:9). Chaos, meaning a commingling of elements, is now eliminated. There was first a separation of light from darkness; then a separation of waters by the intervening atmosphere; finally a separation of land and sea. This may have been brought about either by upheaval of some parts of the land through the action of subterranean fires, or by subsidence of the submerged crest of the land in other places through cooling and shrinking of the interior mass, or by the convulsions of mighty electric storms. It matters little what second causes were employed. The omnipotent energy of the brooding spirit was the first cause. “Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters, who maketh the clouds his chariot; who walketh upon the wings of the wind; who maketh winds his messengers; flames of fire his ministers; who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be moved forever. Thou coveredst it with the deep as with a vesture; the waters stood above the mountains. At thy rebuke they fled; at the voice of thy thunder they hastened away. [The mountains rose, the valleys sank down] unto the place which thou hadst founded for them. Thou hast set a bound that they may not pass over; that they turn not again to cover the earth” (Ps 104:3-9). “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if thou hast understanding. Who determined the measures thereof, if thou knowest? Whereupon were the foundations thereof fastened? Or who laid the cornerstone thereof, when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Or who shut up the sea with doors when it brake forth, as if it had issued out of the womb; when I made clouds the garments thereof, and the thick darkness a swaddling band for it, and marked out for it my bound, and set bars and doors, and said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further; and here shall thy proud waves be stayed” (Job 38:4-11).
Origin of Vegetable Life
“And God said, Let the earth put forth grass, herbs yielding seed, and fruit-trees bearing fruit after their kind, wherein is the seed thereof, upon the earth: and it was so.” We now come to consider the origin of life in its lowest form. Matter is organized and vitalized into vegetation. Three distinct classes of vegetable life are specified: the grass, the herb, and the fruit tree. The first is a simple organism, all blade, and propagated by division of its part; the second, complex, having a pithy stalk, and propagated by its seed; the third, more complex, having a stem of wood, so being able to rise above the ground, and bearing fruit which encloses the seed for propagation.
At this first appearance of life, human science must acknowledge God. All the research of the ages has never been able to prove even one case of spontaneous generation or a biogenesis; that is, an origination of living organisms from lifeless matter. Every living organism known to science proceeded from a parental living organism. Professor Huxley concedes that science sees no reason for believing that the evolution of living protoplasm from nonliving matter has yet been performed.
Between nothing and matter was an infinite chasm which omnipotent creative energy alone could span. Between the chaos of matter and order there was another infinite chasm which God alone can span. Between matter and life of the lowest order is yet another infinite chasm which God alone can span. We here consider also for the, first time the great law of reproduction and multiplication within the limit of species. Each divided root of grass produces grass only. Each herb, through its own seed, reproduces only its own kind. Each fruit tree, through its own seed, reproduces only its own kind. This law of reproduction of species applies, as will be seen later, to the higher animal life (Ge 1:21,25,28), and is equally applicable to the highest order of animal life, man himself (Ge 1:28— 5:3).
There is indeed a scriptural law of evolution following from a previous involution. That is, there is development in everything according to its nature. All potentiality in the germ may be developed, but wholly along the lines of its own nature. “The earth beareth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear” (Mr 4:28). “By their fruits you shall know them. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?” (Mt 7:16.) “Doth the fountain send forth from the same opening sweet water and bitter? Can a fig-tree, my brethren, yield olives, or a vine figs? Neither can salt water yield sweet” (Jas 3:11-12).
The plan of God’s creation shows an ascending grade of life in all organisms. While one kind never produces another kind, it may produce indefinite varieties of its own kind. The margin between the several kinds is so slight that you may compare it to the morning twilight, in which it is difficult to say when night ceases and day begins. This narrowness of margin continues until we reach man, the highest organism, and in his case, as will be shown, the chasm is infinite.
Origin of Light Holders
“And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of heaven.” The reader will observe that. in the first verse of Genesis we have a statement of the creation of the heavens. The reference, here, therefore, is not to the bringing into being of the heavenly bodies, for the verb to create is not used, but the appointment of them for offices or usefulness to the earth. The whole statement is from an earth viewpoint, and in reference to their relations to the earth. The earth atmosphere having been established, and chaos eliminated by the separation of the elements, to one on earth the heavenly bodies would seem to begin to be. Their service to the earth is threefold: first to divide the day from the night. That is, to continue and render permanent the separation and distinction which was effected on the first day. Second, for signs, seasons, days, and years. Third, as a permanent arrangement for the distribution of light upon the earth.
In many places in the Bible it is made clear that God is the maker of the heavenly bodies. Some of the references are unspeakably sublime and instructive. “That maketh the Bear, Orion, and Pleiades, and the chambers of the south” (Job 9:9). “Canst thou bind the cluster of the Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion? Canst thou lead forth the Mazzaroth in their season? Or canst thou guide the Bear with her train? Knowest thou the ordinances of the heavens? Canst thou establish the dominion thereof in the earth?” (Job 38:31-33). “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; what is man, that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that thou visitest him?” (Ps 8:3-4). “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech nor language; their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a. tabernacle for the sun, which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run his course. His going forth is from the end of the heavens, and his circuit unto the ends of it, and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof” (Ps 19:1-6). “He appointed the moon for the seasons; the sun knoweth his the forest creep forth. The young lions roar after their prey and seek their food from God. The sun ariseth, they get them away, and lay them down in their dens. Man goeth forth unto his work and to labour until the evening. O, Jehovah, how manifold are thy works I In wisdom hast thou made them all; the earth is full of thy riches” (Ps 104:19-24). “That ye may be the sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and unjust” (Mt 5:45). “And yet he left himself not without witness, in that he did good and gave you from heaven rains and fruitful seasons, filling your hearts with food and gladness” (Ac 14:17). “Because that which is known of God is manifest in them; for God manifested it unto them. For the invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made even his everlasting power and divinity; that they may be without excuse” (Ro 1:19-20).
The object of these lengthy quotations from the Word of God with reference to the creation and usefulness of the heavenly bodies is to show how clearly God’s revelation establishes the fact of his creation and guards against the tendency in Man to worship the creature more than the Creator. The earliest and most persistent form of idolatry was the worship of the heavenly bodies; or of nature considered apart from God. The history of idolatries upon this point is full of interest, and all through the Bible story we see a conflict between the worship of the one true God and the creatures which he made. Paul, in his letter to the Romans, gives the grounds and process of idolatry. “Because that, knowing God, they glorified him not as God, neither gave thanks; but became vain in their reasonings, and their senseless heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God for the likeness of an image of corruptible man, and of birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things” (Ro 1:21-23). The Hebrew prophets were very earnest in their exhortations against these idolatries. “Hear ye the word which Jehovah speaketh unto you, O house of Israel: thus sayeth Jehovah, Learn not the ways of the nations, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the nations are dismayed at them” (Jer 10:1-2). “Thou art wearied in the multitude of thy counsels: let not the astrologers, the star-gazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up, and save thee from the things that shall come upon thee” (Isa 47:13).
In all literature there is nothing to compare in sublimity of thought and expression with Ge 1; Ps 104, which is a hymn of creation, and the address of the Almighty to Job (Job 38-41). There can be no sound theology, no true conception of the material universe, of vegetable and animal life, of the nature, dignity and relations of man, without a revealed groundwork of creation. On this account so much attention, relatively, is given to the first chapter of Genesis.
Origin of Marine Animals and Fowls
“And God said, Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven” (Ge 1:20). As in the case of vegetable life, animal life commences with the lowest forms: those developed from water. In his apostrophe to the ocean, Byron well says:
Even from out of thy slime the monsters of the deep arc made.
Again let the reader note that life comes from God’s fiat, and not from any inherent power in water and air.. Both sea and sky are thick-peopled at his word:
Yonder is the sea, great and wide, Wherein are creeping things innumerable, Both small and great beasts. There go the ships: There is leviathan, whom thou hast formed to play therein. These wait all for thee, That thou mayest give them their food in due season. Thou givest unto them, they gather;
Thou openest thy hand, they are satisfied with good. Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled; Thou takest away their breath, they die, And return to the dust. Thou sendest forth thy Spirit, they are created. — Ps 104:25-30
ORIGIN OF LAND ANIMALS
“And God said, Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind, cattle and creeping things, and beasts of the earth after their kind: and it was so” (Ge 1:24). This language means: Let there be live beings of the substance of the earth. And now land, air, and sea are populous. The organs of movement are adapted to the element — fins for the sea, wings for the air and feet for the land. Some are amphibious — at home on land or sea, and some in air, or land, or sea. In wisdom God made them all.
Origin of Man
“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Ge 1:26). The creation of man is the last and highest stage in the production of organic life. Every step in creation so far is a prophecy of his coming and a preparation see it. This wonderful world is purposed for a higher being than fish or fowl or beast. Not for them were accumulated the inexhaustible treasures of mineral and vegetable stores. What use have they for lignite, stone, coal, peat, iron, copper, oil, gas, gold, silver, pearls, and diamonds? They have no capacity to enjoy the beauty of the landscape, the glorious colorings of sea and sky. They cannot measure the distances to the stars nor read the signs of the sky. They cannot perceive the wisdom nor adore the goodness of the Creator. The earth as constituted and stored prophesied man, demanded man, and God said, “Let us make man.” When he wanted vegetable life, he said, “Let the earth put forth shoots.” When he wanted sea animals, he said, “Let the sea swarm.” When he wanted land animals, he said, “Let the earth bring forth.” But when the earth was prepared for its true lord and master, he said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” “Thou hast made him but little lower than God” (Ps 8:5). (The Hebrew word here is Elohim, the same as in Ge 1:1.)
When we contrast the language which introduces the being of man with that which introduces the beast, and consider the import of “image and likeness,” and the dominion conferred on man, we are forced to the conviction than between man and the highest order of the beast there is an infinite and impassable chasm. And this view in confirmed by the divine demonstration that no beast could be man’s consort (Ge 2:18-20) ; and the divine law (Ex 22:19).
THE IMAGE OF GOD
“God is a spirit.” (Joh 4:24). “The father of spirits” (Heb 12:9). “The Lord formeth the spirit of man within him” (Zec 12:1). “The spirit of a man is the candle of the Lord” (Pr 20:7). “And Jehovah God breathed into man’s nostrils the breath of life: and man became a living soul” (Ge 22:24). “The spirit returneth to God who gave it” (Ec 12:7). We may say, then, in one word that the spirituality of man’s nature is the image of God. Man is a rational, moral, spiritual being.
But this image of God involves and implies much more:
(a) Intuitive knowledge and reason. Col 3:10; Ge 2:19-20.
(b) Uprightness and holiness. Ec 7:29; Eph 4:24.
(c) Conscience. Ro 2:15.
(d) Will, or determinate choice, free moral agency.
(e) Worship of and communion with God.
(f) Dignity of presence. 1Co 11:7; Ge 9:2.
(g) Immortality of soul, and provision for immortality of body by access to the tree of life. Ge 3:22.
(h) Capacity for marriage, not like the consorting of beasts.
(i) Capacity for labor apart from the necessary struggle for existence.
(j) Speech, itself an infinite chasm between man and beast.
The dual nature of man will be considered in the next chapter on the second chapter of Genesis, which supplies details of man’s creation not given in this general statement.
UNITY OF THE RACE
“Male and female made he them.” Multiply and fill the earth. There is one, and only one human race. The earth’s population came from one pair. There was no pre-Adamite man. There has been no post-Adamite man, unless we except Jesus of Nazareth. The unity of the race is a vital and fundamental Bible doctrine. Its witness on this point is manifold, explicit, and unambiguous. (Ge 9:19; 10:32; Ac 17:26.) The whole scheme of redemption is based on the unity of the race (Ro 5:211). When we speak of the Caucasian, Mongolian, Malay, African, and North American Indian as different races, we employ both unscientific and unbiblical terms if we mean to imply different origins. There was no need for another race. This one pair could fill the earth by multiplication. There was no room for another race, for all authority of rule was vested in this one.
Multiply. Fill the earth. Subdue it. Man was to range over all zones and inhabit all zones. The sea was to be his home as well as the land. The habitat of each beast or bird or fish was of narrow limit.
Man was endowed with wisdom to adapt himself to all climates, protect himself from all dangers and surpass all barriers. There was given to him the spirit of intervention and exploration. He would climb mountains, descend into caves, navigate oceans, bridge rivers, cut canals through isthmuses. To subdue the earth was a vast commission which called out all of his reserve powers. Upon this point we cannot do better than quote the great Baptist scholar, Dr. Conant:
“If we look at the earth, as prepared for the occupancy of man, we find little that is made ready for use but boundless material which his own labour and skill can fit for it. “The spontaneous fruits of the earth furnish a scanty and precarious subsistence, even to a few; but with skilful labour it is made to yield an abundant supply for the wants of every living thing.”
On its surface, many natural obstacles are to be overcome. Forests must be levelled, rivers bridged over, roads and canals constructed, mountains graded and tunnelled and seas and oceans navigated.
Its treasures of mineral wealth lie hidden beneath its surface; when discovered and brought to light they are valueless to man till his own labor subdues and fits them for his service. The various useful metals lie in the crude ore and must be passed through difficult and laborious processes before they can be applied to any valuable purpose. Iron, for example, the most necessary of all, how many protracted and delicate processes are required to separate it from impurities in the ore, to refine its texture, to convert it into steel before it can be wrought into the useful ax or knife, with the well-tempered edge!
What an education for the race has been this labor of subduing the earth! How it has developed reflection, stimulated invention and quickened the powers of combination, which would otherwise have lain dormant!
Nor are the collateral and remote less important than the direct and immediate results. He who takes a piece of timber from the common forest and forms it into a useful implement thereby makes it his own and it cannot rightfully be taken from him, since no one can justly appropriate to himself the product of another’s skill and labor. So he who originally takes possession of an unappropriated field and by his labor prepares it for use thereby makes it his own and it cannot rightfully be taken from him. Hence arises the right of property, the origin and bond of civil society; and thus all the blessings of society, and of civilization and government, are due to the divinely implanted impulse, “fill the earth, and subdue it.” Every institution of learning is but a means to this one great end.
THE DOMINION OF MAN
The dominion of man is as broad as his commission: “Have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth” (Ge 1:28).
For thou hast made him but little lower than God, And crownest him with glory and honour. Thou makest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; Thou hast put all things under his feet; All sheep and oxen, Yea, and the beasts of the field, The birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, Whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas. O, Jehovah, Our Lord, How excellent is thy name in all the earth. — Ps 8:5-9
The exceeding great sweep of our dominion cannot be estimated until in the New Testament we study its exercise by the Second Adam, our Lord Jesus Christ (Heb 2:5-11). The fulness of it is even yet future.
TITLE TO THE EARTH
And herein is man’s title to the earth:
(a) He must populate it.
(b) He must develop its resources to support that population.
In God’s law neither man nor nation can hold title to land or sea and let them remain undeveloped. This explains God’s dealings with nations. The ignorant savage cannot hold large territories of fertile land merely for a hunting ground. When the developer comes he must retire. Spain’s title to Cuba perished by 400 years of nondevelopment. Mere priority of occupancy on a given territory cannot be a barrier to the progress of civilization. Wealth has no right to buy a county, or state, or continent and turn it into a deer park. The earth is man’s. Wealth has no right to add house to house and land to land until there is no room for the people. “Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no room, and ye be made to dwell in the midst of the land” (Isa 5:8).
THE PERIODS OF CREATION
The discussion of the days of creation has been designedly reserved until now, on account of their relation to the last creative institution. When the text says: “There was evening and there was morning, one day,” or a second day, the language is that of the natural day as we now have it. But this does not necessarily mean that the earth was only 144 hours older than man. But it does imply:
That God chose to conduct his processes of earth formation by alternatings of activity and rest.
That he intended these periods of alternative activity and rest to constitute a prototype of time division for man not suggested by the revolution of the earth or any heavenly body. And that this division of time into a week should punctuate the institution of the sabbath, which was made for man, not for God, and that through it man’s allegiance to God might be perpetuated.
We thus come to the crowning act of creation:
THE INSTITUTION OF THE SABBATH
“And the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it; because that in it he rested from all his work which God had created and made” (Ge 2:1-3). It has already been observed that the seven periods of creation called days, whatever their duration, were designed to be a prototype of a division of time not suggested by nature. Our natural day results from one revolution of the earth on its own axis; our month from the moon’s revolution around the earth; our year from the earth’s revolution around the sun. But the week is of divine appointment. A New Testament scripture goes to the root of the matter: “And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath; so that the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath” (Mr 2:27-28).
God condescends to represent himself as man’s archetype and exemplar. The sabbath was not made for God: “The Almighty fainteth not, neither is weary.”
Among the reasons for the institution of the sabbath we may safely emphasize these: Man’s Mind Is Finite and His Memory Imperfect. Some means must be provided to stir up the finite mind of man to remember the significance of the mighty acts of creation. And what is the significance of creation? It is a declaration of these great truths: (1) That the material universe and all it contains had an origin. (2) That it was brought into being by the creative act of an intelligent, almighty, beneficent being. (3) That this being is God.
(4) That he is the only rightful proprietor and sovereign of the universe. (5) That his will is the supreme law of its occupants. (6) That the knowledge of his will is by his revelation.
It is a negation of these great untruths: (1) It denies atheism by assuming the being of God. (2) It denies polytheism by the assertion of his unity. (3) It denies deism by making a revelation. (4) It denies materialism in distinguishing between matter and spirit, and in showing that matter is neither self-existent nor eternal. (5) It denies pantheism by placing God before matter and unconditioned by it. (6) It denies chance by showing that the universe in its present order is not, in whole or in part, the result of “a fortuitous concourse of atoms,” or of the action of elementary principles of matter, but of an extraneous intelligent purpose. (7) It denies fatalism by asserting God’s freedom to create when he would and to control how he would. (8) It denies blind force by its revelation of beneficence intelligently directing and adapting all things to good ends. (9) As a revelation it denies that man by searching can find out God, and denies that all the myths of the heathen, or the speculations of philosophy, or the observations of naturalists, can dissipate the profound darkness concerning the origin and nature and end of the world and of man.
Man’s Body Is Mortal. Some means must be provided to guard its health and preserve its powers. His powers of endurance and of persistent application are limited. He cannot work unceasingly. He will need regular periods of rest for his body and mind. He must also have stated periods of enjoyment and worshiping God, that his soul may be fed and nourished. Man has a marvelous commission of labor, progress and development in subduing the earth. But five things must never be forgotten:
(1) Labor that is continuous will destroy both mind and body. Hence the necessity of regular periods of rest.
(2) The higher nature must not be subordinate to the lower. The soul must not wander too far from God. Communion with him is its nourishment and health. Man must not live by bread alone. God must be loved and adored.
(3) God is earth’s proprietor and man’s sovereign. His supreme jurisdiction must ever be acknowledged and accepted with complete submission.
(4) Man is social by the very constitution of his being. The unit of the family must not be broken. But there can be no permanent circle unless God is its center. And no tie will permanently bind unless it is sacred.
In subduing the earth, man has authority not only to lay under tribute the forces of nature which are without feeling, but to use the strength of the lower animals. These get weary. They cannot labor continuously. For their faithful service they need not only good food and shelter, but regular periods of rest.
(5) Not only animals need certain regular off-days, when they are to do no work, but all mechanical and scientific implements need it in order to reach maximum usefulness. It has been demonstrated that a steam engine, an ax, a hand-saw, will do more and better work in the long run with regular days of absolute rest.
Man’s Spirit Finds Its Health in Communion with God. Some means must be provided that will keep up this communion regularly and thereby prevent alienation from God. All man’s springs of joy are in God. Moreover, the creative week is a type of the earth’s history and presupposes the fall and redemption of man. Therefore as one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, we may say:
The Sabbath Foreshadows the Millennium; of the thousand years of gospel triumph on the earth before the final judgment, and the final rest and glory of a completed redemption of both earth and man, greater than the original creation. The question then becomes momentous: What provision can a Heavenly Father make that will effectually secure these great ends? That will secure adequate rest for mind and body and soul? That will nourish and heal the spirit? That will tend to recognition of and submission to the divine sovereignty and proprietorship? That will make communities and nations cohere? That will provide mercy and rest for overtaxed machinery and beasts and children and women and slaves? That will prevent total departure from God? That will be a barrier against greed and avarice and tyranny?
O Lord God, our Redeemer, Maker, our Preserver, Thou hast answered in the text: “The sabbath was made for man.” In the beginning thou didst ordain it, thou didst bless it and hallow it. It is one of the three holy things that man, though fallen and accursed, was permitted in mercy to bring with him from the lost bowers of Eden; majestic labor, the holy institution of marriage and the blessed and hallowed sabbath. Inestimable jewels! Time has never dimmed your luster, nor change nor circumstance depreciated your value. The experience of six thousand years bears witness to your divine origin. As types you have illumined time; as antitypes you will glorify eternity.
And throughout the world, wherever the sabbath in its purity has been disregarded, there marriage, in its true and holy sense) has been disregarded, and there idleness and cheating and fraud and gambling have taken the place of honest toil. There avarice and greed and tyranny have oppressed the poor, and there immorality and vice and polytheism and pantheism and deism and chance and fatalism and materialism and atheism have erected their standards. Yes, it is true in its ultimate and logical outcome: no sabbath, no God.
The sabbath or atheism, which? Why try to narrow this question to Jewish boundaries? The sabbath was made for man; for man, as man; for all men. Was Adam a Jew? Was he a son of Judah, or of Heber, or of Abraham, or of Shem? The sabbath was made for the first man, the progenitor of all the nations, and for him even in paradise as a primal law of man’s primal, normal nature.
Why talk of Mount Sinai and the tables of stone? The sabbath marked the fall of the manna, that type of Jesus, the bread from heaven, before Sinai ever smoked or trembled or thundered. Why talk of Moses? The sabbath was twenty-five centuries old when Moses was born. It is older than any record or monument of man. Before the flood it was more than an institution. It was a promise of redemption from the curse pronounced in Eden. Pious hearts looked daily for the coming of the rest that remaineth for the people of God. Hence Lamech named his son “Noah,” which means rest, saying: “This same shall comfort us concerning our work and the toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord hath cursed.”
The sabbath was here before sin ever mantled man’s face with the flush of shame. The sabbath antedates all arts and sciences. It was here before Enoch built a city, or Jabal stretched a tent, or Jubal invented instruments of music, or Tubal-Cain became an artificer in brass and iron. It is older than murder. Cain walked away from its altars of worship to murder his brother Abel. Its sunlight flashed into the face of the first baby that ever cooed in its mother’s arms. It was a companion in Eden of that tree of life whose fruit gave immortality to the body. And its glory enswathes the antitypical tree of life in the Paradise of God, as seen in the apocalyptic visions of John the revelator. Yes, it will survive the deluge of fire as it survived the deluge of water. When the heavens are rolled together as a scroll, and the material world shall be dissolved, the sabbath will remain. The thunders of the final judgment shall not shake its everlasting pillars. It came before death, and when death is dead it will be alive. The devil found it on his first visit to earth, and its sweet and everlasting rest will be shoreless and bottomless after he is cast, with other sabbath-breakers, into the lake of fire. Yea, as it commenced before man needed a mediator between himself and God, so it will be an eternal heritage of God’s people when the mediatorial kingdom of Jesus Christ is surrendered to the Father, and God shall be all in all. Thou venerable and luminous institution of God!
Time writes no wrinkle on thy sunlit brow, Such as creation’s dawn beheld, thou shinest now.
It was made for man; man on earth, and man in heaven. And mark you: The sabbath was made for man, so that the Son of man is lord even of the sabbath. Mark the force of that “so.” It is equivalent to therefore or wherefore. That is, since it was made for man, the Son of man, not of Abraham, the Son of man is its Lord. Because Jesus was more than a Jew, because of his touch with all humanity, Luke, writing not for Jews but for Greeks, never stops, like Matthew, at Abraham, but traces his descent from Adam, the first man.
And as, in his humanity, he was the ideal man who should be the ensign of rallying for all nations, Paul applies to him the glorious, prophetic p~alm:: “But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man that thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownest him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands: Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” As the God-man he is the Lord of the sabbath. To his cross may be nailed a seventh day. But from his resurrection may come a first day. One in seven is essential — which one. is as the Lord of the sabbath may direct.
The reader will observe the formula expressing the divine fiat which introduces each successive step in the progress of the earth’s formation:
“And God said” — Ge 1:3. “And God said” — Ge 1:6. “And God said” — Ge 1:9. “And God said’ — Ge 1:11. “And God said” — Ge 1:14. “And God said” — Ge 1:20. “And God said” — Ge 1:24. “And God said” — Ge 1:26. “And God said” — Ge 1:28. “And God said” — Ge 1:29.
In simple and sublime language his will or decree is expressed and the result follows like an echo. He created the world by the word of his power. He spake and it stood fast. To the first word, light responds; to the second, atmosphere; to the third, dry land; to the fourth, vegetable life; to the fifth, light holders; to the sixth, animal life in sea and air; to the seventh, animal life on earth; to the eighth, human life; to the ninth, provision for life. Though the formula does not recur, the sabbath decree (Ge 2:1-3) completes the ten words.
Primal institutions, (a) Marriage. “And he answered and said, Have ye no? read, that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? So that they are no more two but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder. They say unto him, why then did Moses command to give a bill of divorcement, and to put her away? He saith unto them, Moses for your hardness of heart suffered you to put away your wives; but from the beginning it hath not been so. And I say unto you, whosoever shall put away his wife, except for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery; and be that marrieth her when she is put away, committeth adultery” (Mt 19:4-9).
(b) Labor. “Subdue the earth.”
(c) Sabbath for rest and worship.
(e) Man’s title to the earth on condition that he populate and subdue it.
There is no evidence that matter has received addition or loss since its original creation. Nor that any additions have been made to the species of life organisms, vegetable or animal.
There is no necessary discord between the Mosaic order of creation and the best settled teachings of natural science. In his Manual of Geology, Dana thus summarizes his understanding of the Mosaic account:
I. Inorganic era: First Day — Light cosmical. Second Day — The earth divided from the fluid around, or individualized. Third Day — (1) Outlining of the land and water. (2) Creation of vegetation.
II. Organic era: Fourth Day — Light from the sun. Fifth Day — Creation of the lower order of animals. Sixth Day — (1) Creation of mammals. (2) Creation of man.
Yet the Bible was given to teach religion, and not science.
Trinity in creation, (a) The Father. Ge 1:1; Ac 17:24. (b) Holy Spirit. Quickening matter with the several results of light, order, life. Job 26:13; Ps 10-30; Ge 2:7; Zec 12:1; Heb 12:9; Pr 20:27; Ec 12:7. (c) The Son. Pr 8:22-31; Joh 1:1-3; 1Co 8:6; Eph 3:9; Col 1:16; Heb 1:8.
Theological definition of creation: “By creation we mean that free act of the Triune God by which in the beginning for his own glory he made, without the use of pre-existing materials, the whole visible and invisible universe.” — A. H. Strong.
For whom was creation? Col 1:16.
For what? The divine glory.
Creation reveals what? Order, correlation, benevolent design: Ge 1:14; 8:22; Job 38:1-33; Ps 19; Mt 5:45; Ac 14:17; Ro 1:19-20.
Addison’s paraphrase of Ps 19.
By: B.H. Carol