Genesis Chapter One EBJ Version

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I have rewritten Genesis chapter one according to biblical Hebrew grammar and the ancient near east mindset. I believe this understanding will help make more sense of what the original author was trying to convey. The first thing you will notice is that verse one is actually a literary device that explains everything that follows it, in this case, the “creation” of the heavens and the earth. Please read all footnotes as they will help understand what is being said.

Order From Chaos

1When1Michael S. Heiser is a scholar in the fields of biblical studies and the ancient Near East. Dr. Heiser earned his Ph.D. in Hebrew Bible and Semitic Languages at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2004. He also earned an M.A. in the same field at Wisconsin, along with an M.A. in Ancient History from the University of Pennsylvania (major fields: Ancient Israel and Egyptology) suggests by the Hebrew Masoretic vowel point as well as the wording in the Greek Septuagint do not imply the phrase “in the beginning”. The opening of this verse is missing a definite article, the words “In The” do not actually appear in the text, but were added to the text by translators. He suggests that the text should actually read “when”, not “in the beginning”. God Gave Order2The phrase here, god created the heavens and the earth is in contradiction with verse two that says the earth was formless and void, as it suggests the earth was already created. John Walton notes that bara doesn’t necessarily relate to creation, as in material manufacturing. But is better understood as assigning purpose to or assigning divine function. As stated before when looking at ANE beliefs, naming and giving a thing a function brought the thing into existence. Kenneth Mathews in his book “The New American Commentary” wrote; -Bara refers to God bringing about a new action, not necessarily a new thing. To The Heavens And The Earth 2 The Earth was unproductive and without human civilization,3David Toshio Tsumura a linguist, Old Testament scholar, Dean of Faculty, and professor of Old Testament professor of Japan Bible Seminary on doing A full semantic analysis on the term tohu concluded that term most likely means unproductive and said; “this is keeping with my explanation, which takes tohu wabohu as signifying aridness or unproductiveness of the earth”. So it is saying that the earth was unproductive, with no human civilization. so before god started to name things and give things a function, the earth was unproductive like a wilderness. and darkness covered the Abzu and Tiamat,4this is where the writer of the biblical text directly attacks Mesopotamian religious beliefs, Tehom (Hebrew: תְּהוֹם‎), literally the Abyss, We get the word abyss from the Abzu or Apsu (Cuneiform: 𒍪 𒀊, ZU.AB; Sumerian: Abzu; Akkadian: apsû, B015vellst.pngB223ellst.png), also called engur (Cuneiform:𒇉, LAGAB×HAL; Sumerian: engur; Akkadian: engurru—lit., ab=’water’ zu=’deep’, And the word tehom used here thus has a double meaning for not only the Abyss or abzu, but the word Tehom is a cognate of the Akkadian word tamtu and Ugaritic t-h-m which have a similar meaning. As such it was equated with the earlier Sumerian Tiamat, Tiamat (the deep waters i.e the seas) throughout the Hebrew bible is seen as chaos and is also implied when the biblical texts mention waters and such serpents as Leviathan, so these waters of Tiamat should be understood as Chaos. And the spirit of God hovered above their waters.

Order From Chaos By Calling Forth Functions And Giving Them Names

And God said, “Let there be light,5This is the first act of bringing order to the unproductive earth by calling for a function, in this case, light being the first “creation” or purpose which he gives in verse five. This in no way suggests that light did not already exist, but only that the light and thus darkness had a function on earth, being night and day and there was light. And God saw that the light was good6Good here does not mean perfect, it simply means it is functioning correctly. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night7Here God gives names to the function that he has called forth. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

6 And God said, “Let there be an expanse8 or a canopy; also verses 7, 8, 14, 15, 17, 20 in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” 7 And God made the function of the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. 8 And God named the function of the expanse Sky9or heaven; also verses 9, 14, 15, 17, 20, 26, 28, 30; 2:1. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.10Here God just gives function to the sky so that he can name it, the function of the sky, the waters above the sky being the weather.

9 And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry land Earth,11Or Land; also verses 11, 12, 22, 24, 25, 26, 28, 30; 2:1 and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. 12Here again, it does not imply that there was no land, seas, or earth before this because we can see that earth and seas were already present in verse 2, but he is now calling into being the function of earth/land and naming it.

11 And God said, “Let the ground13or Earth 14giving the ground a function now sprout grasses and small plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. 12 The earth brought forth grasses, and small plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.

Giving The Functions Purpose

14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons,15Or appointed times and for days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. 16 And God gave purpose for the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17 And God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day. 16This gives purpose to the functions of the sky verses 6-8

20 And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds17Or flying things; see Leviticus 11:19–20 fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” 21 So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23 And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.18This gives purpose to the function of earth and sea in verses 9-10

26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind19The Hebrew word for man (adam) is the generic term for mankind and becomes the proper name Adam 20Note this is not the “creation of Adam, the man in chapter two, but mankind in a whole in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 21This gives purpose to the functions of earth and sea verses 11-13 22This again does not mean that no man existed before this, only that mankind now had a function, what is supposed to be coming across here is the Paleolithic period (roughly 2.5 million years ago to 10,000 B.C.), early humans lived in caves or simple huts or tepees and were hunters and gatherers. They used basic stone and bone tools, as well as crude stone axes, for hunting birds and wild animals.

27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.23 Here this is different from the “creation” of Adam and Eve, as Adam was created before Eve, and adam and eve have a different purpose than mankind in this verse

28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.24This mankind god has given a function and purpose to is best described as hunter-gatherers, they should fill the land and for food, they have wild berries, fruits, grasses, plants, birds of the air, fish of the seas, lakes, and rivers. It is describing man before the garden, before Adam (which is called The Adam or The man)

Verse 1-3 of chapter 2 of genesis should actually be part of chapter one so I will include it here and by doing this they become verses 32-34

32 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 33 And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he ceased on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. 34 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy because on it God ceased from all his work that he had done in creation.

Summery

…people of the ancient world believed something existed not by virtue of its material properties, but by virtue of it having a function in an ordered society… In this sort of functional ontology, the sun does not exist because of its material properties, or even by its function as a burning ball of gas. rather it exists by virtue of the role it has in its sphere of existence. Particularly in the way it functions for humankind and human society… Consequently, something could be manufactured physically but still not “exist” if it has not become functional.

John Walton The Lost World of Genesis One Page 24

Even though almost all translations begin genesis with “In the beginning”, the words or dependant article is not present, and biblical scholars like Dr. Michael S Hieser suggest because of other Hebrew passages that it should read ‘when”, and not ‘beginning or in the begging”, And if we look at other cultures we can find evidence of this. ANE creation myths usually begin with the word “When”, Note the following examples:

When on high the heaven was not named, And the earth below did not yet bear a name, And the primal Apsu, who begat them, And chaos, Tiamat, the mother of them both, Their waters were mingled together, And no field was formed, no marsh was to be seen, When of the gods none had been called into being, And none bore a name and no destinies were ordained:

Enuma Elish – Babylonian Creation Myth

When the gods were man, they did forced labor, they bore drudgery, great indeed was the drudgery of the gods, the forced labor was heavy, the misery too much: The seven great Anunna-gods were burdening the Igigi-god with forced labor

Epic of Atrahasis – Babylonian Flood Myth

Another relevant and often used motif in the ANE is they often refer to the gods and the earth coming out of the watery chaos which assumes there is a state of matter that already exists prior to the creation account, such as the Assyrian account below.

After heaven was separated from earth its firm companion, so the mother goddess could live there, after building up the earth to make the ground firm when the designs were made firm in heaven and earth, to establish levee and irrigation ditch in good order,… the great gods, the Anunna, the great gods sat down in a lofty dias… Enlil himself deliberated.

Assyrian Kar 4

In the Enuma Elish, the author is not concerned with how the material matter was created, or even how material matter even come into existence, but how the chaos was turned into order. We see “The heaven was not named“, “Earth beneath it did not bear a name“, “the waters were mingled“, “no field was formed, or marsh to be seen“, and even “when the gods had not yet been called into being“. The text does not say the universe was void of matter, it is stating that the world was in chaos and nothing had been given a purpose. But as westerners and using modern thinking we want to force an interpretation of the text of material creation. This text explains how the gods put things in order so that civilization could happen.

If you know any of the Mesopotamian creation stories you can see how the biblical author is challenging these other creation stories, in Sumerian and Akkadian accounts, the primeval gods Apzu/Absu and Tiamat begat the other gods, Anu heaven, Ki Erath, and other gods, but the author in the biblical account is saying it was El or Elohim that subdued the primeval chaos, the dragon Tiamat and the deep/Abzu and that he, Elohim alone created order from chaos.

The genesis one account is stating in opposition to Sumer and Akkad that the God of Israel is over all other gods, that he has subdued the salt water and fresh waters, Abzu and Tiamat, he rules over the whole heavens and the whole earth the deities Anshar and Kishar, he is the ruler of heaven the deity An, He rules over the Sun the deity Utu, he rules over the moon the deity Nanna, he rules over the earth the deities Ki and Enki, He rules over the weather, storms and the sky, the deity Enlil, he rules eternity the deities Duru and Dari, The Author does this so well he even slaps Egypt in the face at the same time if you know their creation myth. The genesis one account is about the Hebrew author stating that it is Elohim that has put the universe in order, it doesn’t say there are no other gods, but merely all other gods are under and subjects of Elohim.

And as chapter one is putting in order the cosmos, and mankind’s hunter-gatherer’s origins, chapter two will move a man into the garden of god, also called the mountain of god and the place of the divine council, and a man receives a new purpose, farming and animal husbandry

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  • 1
    Michael S. Heiser is a scholar in the fields of biblical studies and the ancient Near East. Dr. Heiser earned his Ph.D. in Hebrew Bible and Semitic Languages at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2004. He also earned an M.A. in the same field at Wisconsin, along with an M.A. in Ancient History from the University of Pennsylvania (major fields: Ancient Israel and Egyptology) suggests by the Hebrew Masoretic vowel point as well as the wording in the Greek Septuagint do not imply the phrase “in the beginning”. The opening of this verse is missing a definite article, the words “In The” do not actually appear in the text, but were added to the text by translators. He suggests that the text should actually read “when”, not “in the beginning”.
  • 2
    The phrase here, god created the heavens and the earth is in contradiction with verse two that says the earth was formless and void, as it suggests the earth was already created. John Walton notes that bara doesn’t necessarily relate to creation, as in material manufacturing. But is better understood as assigning purpose to or assigning divine function. As stated before when looking at ANE beliefs, naming and giving a thing a function brought the thing into existence. Kenneth Mathews in his book “The New American Commentary” wrote; -Bara refers to God bringing about a new action, not necessarily a new thing.
  • 3
    David Toshio Tsumura a linguist, Old Testament scholar, Dean of Faculty, and professor of Old Testament professor of Japan Bible Seminary on doing A full semantic analysis on the term tohu concluded that term most likely means unproductive and said; “this is keeping with my explanation, which takes tohu wabohu as signifying aridness or unproductiveness of the earth”. So it is saying that the earth was unproductive, with no human civilization. so before god started to name things and give things a function, the earth was unproductive like a wilderness.
  • 4
    this is where the writer of the biblical text directly attacks Mesopotamian religious beliefs, Tehom (Hebrew: תְּהוֹם‎), literally the Abyss, We get the word abyss from the Abzu or Apsu (Cuneiform: 𒍪 𒀊, ZU.AB; Sumerian: Abzu; Akkadian: apsû, B015vellst.pngB223ellst.png), also called engur (Cuneiform:𒇉, LAGAB×HAL; Sumerian: engur; Akkadian: engurru—lit., ab=’water’ zu=’deep’, And the word tehom used here thus has a double meaning for not only the Abyss or abzu, but the word Tehom is a cognate of the Akkadian word tamtu and Ugaritic t-h-m which have a similar meaning. As such it was equated with the earlier Sumerian Tiamat, Tiamat (the deep waters i.e the seas) throughout the Hebrew bible is seen as chaos and is also implied when the biblical texts mention waters and such serpents as Leviathan, so these waters of Tiamat should be understood as Chaos.
  • 5
    This is the first act of bringing order to the unproductive earth by calling for a function, in this case, light being the first “creation” or purpose which he gives in verse five. This in no way suggests that light did not already exist, but only that the light and thus darkness had a function on earth, being night and day
  • 6
    Good here does not mean perfect, it simply means it is functioning correctly
  • 7
    Here God gives names to the function that he has called forth
  • 8
    or a canopy; also verses 7, 8, 14, 15, 17, 20
  • 9
    or heaven; also verses 9, 14, 15, 17, 20, 26, 28, 30; 2:1
  • 10
    Here God just gives function to the sky so that he can name it, the function of the sky, the waters above the sky being the weather.
  • 11
    Or Land; also verses 11, 12, 22, 24, 25, 26, 28, 30; 2:1
  • 12
    Here again, it does not imply that there was no land, seas, or earth before this because we can see that earth and seas were already present in verse 2, but he is now calling into being the function of earth/land and naming it.
  • 13
    or Earth
  • 14
    giving the ground a function now
  • 15
    Or appointed times
  • 16
    This gives purpose to the functions of the sky verses 6-8
  • 17
    Or flying things; see Leviticus 11:19–20
  • 18
    This gives purpose to the function of earth and sea in verses 9-10
  • 19
    The Hebrew word for man (adam) is the generic term for mankind and becomes the proper name Adam
  • 20
    Note this is not the “creation of Adam, the man in chapter two, but mankind in a whole
  • 21
    This gives purpose to the functions of earth and sea verses 11-13
  • 22
    This again does not mean that no man existed before this, only that mankind now had a function, what is supposed to be coming across here is the Paleolithic period (roughly 2.5 million years ago to 10,000 B.C.), early humans lived in caves or simple huts or tepees and were hunters and gatherers. They used basic stone and bone tools, as well as crude stone axes, for hunting birds and wild animals.
  • 23
    Here this is different from the “creation” of Adam and Eve, as Adam was created before Eve, and adam and eve have a different purpose than mankind in this verse
  • 24
    This mankind god has given a function and purpose to is best described as hunter-gatherers, they should fill the land and for food, they have wild berries, fruits, grasses, plants, birds of the air, fish of the seas, lakes, and rivers. It is describing man before the garden, before Adam (which is called The Adam or The man)

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