Exploring the Text – Genesis 1:1-2:3

Observations

  • 1:1 – beraysheeth (in the beginning)No definite article. Literal interpretation “in a beginning”. Theologically, acceptable to say “in the beginning”.
  • 1:1 – This is a prologue, indicating what will happen because heavens and earth are formed in detail in v6-10.
  • 1:2 – thohu vabohuthayhom (formless void…deep)deep indicates abyss, not necessarily oceans. Combined with the phrase “formless void”, this may allude to the pre-creation state of the universe. Did God create a formless void and a dark abyss?
  • 1:3 – Is this the, first act of creation or the second? The formula of God speaking→it happening→God approving begins here.
  • 1:4 – Beginning of the positioning (dividing, separating, gathering) and naming sequences.
  • 1:11 – Beginning of the filling (sprouting, bringing forth, setting) and naming sequences.
  • 1:11 – Vegetation: producing seed, all kinds of fruit trees making fruit with seed in it…
  • 1:11 – mazreea – to produce seed; emphasis is on the process (Footnote 144)
  • 1:11 – Emphasis on seed, not just the plants.
  • 1:11 – Plants to fruit trees with seed indicates all reproducing plants.
  • 1:12-13 – Emphasis on seed and “every kind”
  • 1:14-18 – Lights separating day from night, indicating signs/seasons, days/years, light on earth. All the tasks of these lights are mentioned.
  • 1:19 – Formula for indicating each time period. Evening→ Morning→ Ordinalled Day.
  • 1:20 – Emphasis on swarming, living, flying. Structure (ABCB’A’) – Waters – Swarming life – Alive – Flying birds – Heavens
  • 1:21 – First usage of bara since 1:1. Creates all sea monsters, swarming in the sea and birds.
  • 1:22 – barak – bless them. They were blessed through reproduction and the filling of the earth
  • 1:24-25 – yaza – bring forth. According to its kind. Focus on reproduction.
  • 1:26 – naseh – “Let us make”. Who is us? Angels, heavenly court, Trinity?
  • 1:26 – betslemaynu cidemuthaynu – in our image, after our likeness
  • 1:26 – radah – to have dominion, to put to use (Footnote)
  • 1:27 – God created – third instance of created.
  • 1:27 – Structure – created → God → Man → image/likeness → God created him → male/female → God created them
  • 1:28 – God blessed – reproduce/fill/subdue/dominion
  • 1:28 – cavash – to subdue typically with force (Footnote)
  • 1:29-30Given all seeded vegetation and fruit trees for food for man and beast. Emphasis on food, provision. Repetition
  • 1:31 – Not just good, very good. Closure to the sequence.
  • 2:1 – All is finished.
  • 2:1 – tsevam –
  • 2:2 – Finished, ceased. Repetition of what happened on the seventh day. Only day to be repeated.
  • 2:2 – calah – to finish/complete.
  • 2:3 – Blessed, sanctified the seventh day. Ceased to do the creative work. Text

Literary Analysis

Keywords, Phrases, Wordplay

  • 1:2 – thohu vabohuthayhom
    • This highlights the chaos and fear associated with the original abyss.
  • 1:11-12 – zara
    • Emphasis on seed, reproduction
  • bara (created) – 1:1; 1:21; 1:27; 2:3
  • 1:1 – Intro to all creation
  • 1:21 – Created Life
  • 1:27 – Created Man
  • 2:3 – Finished all creation

Repetition and Pace

  • Repetition – (1:3-1:30) God said “Let there be”…it was so/God [acted]…saw that it was good
  • Repetition – It was good…evening and morning were the Xth day
  • Repetition – calah – to complete
  • Repetition – All kinds
  • Repetition – (1:27) created/image
  • Repetition – (2:2-2:3) “from all his work which he had done” (2x), “from all His work which God had created and made”
  • Pace – (1:22) Fruitful→ Mulitply → Fill
  • Pace – (1:28) Fruitful→ multiply → fill → subdue → have dominion
  • Pace – (2:1-2:3) Finished → completed → rested → rest that was worth blessing/sanctification

Characters

Names

  • God
  • Us (1:26)
  • Man

Position / Distance & Static / Dynamic

  • God
    • Static – unemotional
    • Distance – Center of narrator and audience focus. Affecting change in the situation
  • Us
    • Distance – Detached and irrelevant to narrative
  • Man
    • Distance – Detached and irrelevant to narrative

Stereotype and Gaps

 

Emotional Intensity & Irony

  • God
    • Emotional Intensity – He is unemotional throughout. No excitement, no drastic change intensity.
    • Emotional Intensity – Except at the end of the sixth day (1:31), the satisfaction of “it was good” turns to “it was exceedingly good”
    • Irony – God acts and approves his action. Ironic that God would evaluate and give his own action approval.
    • Irony – (1:29-30) God seems to just convey the fact that he has provided vegetation for all life to eat. However, he concludes with an “it was so” indicating an action was taken as per the previous instances.  This would indicate that this was a separate act of provision, not just a statement of existing fact.

Comparison and Contrast

  • God vs Us
    • God is the only active and known character. All others are suppressed.

Discourse and Dialogue

  • Discourse 1 (God) – Light
  • Discourse 2 (God) – Firmament to divide the water
  • Discourse 3 (God) – Waters gathered, dry land appears
  • Discourse 4 (God) – Lights in the heaven to divide and serve purposes
  • Discourse 5 (God) – Swarm with fish and birds
  • Discourse 6 (God) – Blessing → Fruitful, multiply, fill
  • Discourse 7 (God) – Living creatures
  • Discourse 8 (God) – Man in our image over all life
  • Discourse 9 (God) – Blessing → fruitful, multiply, fill, subdue, have dominion.
  • Discourse 10 (God) – Provision – Vegetation for man and all life

 

  • In each discourse, the narrator has a parallel discourse – indicates immediate and exact action, followed by approval.
  • Narrator discourse bounds both ends
    • Opening Discourse – God created heavens and the earth: formless void, deep, God’s spirit hovering over the waters
    • Closing Discourse – God finished the heavens and the earth: seventh day blessed, sanctified because he rested from all creation.

Plot

Structure and Formula

Overall Structure – Option 1

  • A – 1:1                         Created the heavens and the earth
  • B – 1:2a                        Unsatisfactory conditions – Formless void, darkness, abyss
  • C – 1:2b                       God’s presence initiating change
  • D – 1:3-28                   Creation Cycle – Separation and Naming
    • a – 1:3-9                       Separation/Division and Naming
      • Divide light from darkness → Day and Night
      • Divide waters with firmament → Heaven
      • Gather waters, land appeared → Earth and Seas
    • b – 1:11-13                   Earth Responsibility – Bringing forth seed-bearing vegetation
    • c – 1:14-18                   Make lights in the heavens
      • Delegation of Responsibility – Light, signs, etc…
  • D’ – 1:20-29               Creation Cycle – Creation, Filling and Blessing
    • a’ – 1:20-23                  Creation and Blessing
      • Fish and Birds
    • b’ – 1:24                       Earth Responsibility – Bring forth creatures of the earth
    • c’ – 1:26a                      Make Man in Image of God
      • Blessing – Reproduce and Fill
      • Delegation of Responsibility – Subdue, dominion over life
  • C’ – 1:29-30                 God’s change culminating in provision
  • B’ – 1:31                       Exceedingly satisfactory conditions
  • A’ – 2:1            Finished the heavens and the earth
Observations from this Structure
  1. God’s overall purpose in creation was to transform chaos into orderly conditions that can provide for life.
  2. Naming of objects, indicating authority and ownership, contrasts with blessing of reproduction.
  3. Parallel between Man and the great lights (Sun and Moon) highlighting contrasts
    1. Each delegated responsibility and dominion
    2. Sun and Moon do not receive blessing. Man does.
    3. Man made in image of God not celestial objects
  4. Blessing given to fish, birds and man, but not explicitly stated for creatures of the earth.
    1. Possibly done to preserve the symmetry in the structure.

 

Overall Structure – Option 2

  • A – 1:1-2                      Created the heavens and the earth
  • B – 1:3-13                   Creation Cycle – Separation and Naming
    • a – 1:3-5                       Day 1 – Light from Darkness
    • b – 1:6-8                       Day 2 – Heavens
    • c – 1:9-13                     Day 3 – Seas, Land + Vegetation
  • B’ – 1:14-29                Creation Cycle – Creation, Filling and Blessing
    • a’ – 1:14-19                 Day 4 – Sun, Moon, Stars
    • b’ – 1:20-23                  Day 5 – Fish, Birds
    • c’ – 1:24-31                  Day 6 – Animals, Man
  • A’ – 2:1            Finished the heavens and the earth
Observations from this Structure
  1. BB’ – The Forming of spaces is paired with the filling of spaces.
  2. Bc – Vegetation is considered a part of the forming as it is a provision made for the inhabitants of those spaces.

 

Overall Structure – Option 3

  • A – 1:1-2                      Created the heavens and the earth
  • B – 1:3-13                   Creation Cycle – Separation and Naming
    • a – 1:3-5                       Light from Darkness
    • b – 1:6-8                       Heavens
    • c – 1:9-10                     Seas, Land
  • X – 1:11-19                 Creation Cycle – Provision (unnamed)
    • a – 1:11-13                  Day 3 – Vegetation
    • b – 1:14-19                  Day 4 – Great Lights
  • B’ – 1:20-29                Creation Cycle – Creation, Filling and Blessing
    • a – 1:20-23                   Day 5 – Fish, Birds
  • b – 1:24-31                   Day 6 – Animals, Man
  • A’ – 2:1-3                     Finished the heavens and the earth
Observations from this Structure
  1. Creation divided into three segments.
    1. The middle segment, vegetation and the celestial bodies, are designed to provide functions for the anticipated created life.

Creation Cycle Structure

  • A         God’s command – “God said, ‘Let there be…’”
  • B         God’s design and purpose
  • X         Obedience to God’s sovereignty – “and it was so”
  • C         God or object acts exactly as per God’s command
  • D         God saw and gives approval
Observations from this Structure
  1. The commands are precisely followed indicating that creation was completely according to design. God’s review and approval indicate the step by step preciseness in the plan.
  2. God’s voice is followed by explicit action by God and/or objects. This indicates complete obedience to and single-mindedness of the plan.
  3. In some cases, God’s voice alone is enough, in others God acts, in still others objects act in obedience to God. In all cases, God’s sovereignty is highlighted by the “it was so” statement.

Performative Statements and Tense/Gender/Number Change

  • Performative – Every statement of God is a performative statement leading directly to action.
  • Number – (1:26) There is the single tense change to the plural indicating some third party group.  Much debate exists on this group.
  • Number – (1:29) Second person plural pronoun is the object.  God directly addresses his creation only in the case of man.
  • Number – (1:27) Man (him → singular) is clarified to be Male and Female (them → plural)

Perspective, Coherence, Gaps, Foretelling and Double Causality

  • Perspective – Remains always as God’s perspective.  Even in address to man, there is no change in perspective.
  • Coherence – The creation of the great lights after the vegetation seems unusual.  Movement of creation is occurring from larger to smaller, from broader to specific, from remote to local. However, vegetation seems much more local than the sun and moon.
  • Explanation could be the parallel to man and the delegation of roles.
  • This ambiguity is later revealed in the 1:29-30 closing statements of provision. God has created vegetation as part of the objects of provision for life.
  • Gaps – Deviations from the creation cycles
  • Initial break in the first day. Creation of light has no review and approval.  Also, no declaration of sovereignty (“it was so”); however, abrupt and immediate appearance of light infers the same conclusion.
  • Gaps – Blessing of reproduction not given to living creatures.  Must be implied.
  • Gaps – Sun, Moon, and stars are only unnamed heavenly bodies.  Stars are an afterthought.
  • Foretelling – Intentional specification of the formless void and darkness of the abyss indicates these are the characteristics to be changed.
  • Double Causality – There is none.  God is the only active agent in this narrative.

Temporal Continuity & Revealed Truth

  • Temporal Continuity – Intentional temporal continuity is maintained from movement from day to day.  Indicates a defined process.
  • Temporal Continuity – Seventh day has no evening and morning closure as the previous six days.
  • Revealed Truth – The placement of vegetation before the sun and moon as opposed to the seemingly more logical placement in the cycles pertaining to the creation of life is explained in the provision statements in 1:29-30.

Scenes and Transitions

  • Scenes
    • Scene 1 – Original state and God’s movement over creation
    • Scene 2 – The creation cycles
    • Scene 3 – Creation of Man including the unknown “Us” (1:26) and the provision of food
    • Scene 4 – The seventh day’s completion leading to rest resulting in sanctification and blessing.
  • Transitions
    • Scene 1-2 – God is silent → God is speaking in monologue
    • Scene 2-3 – God is speaking in monologue → God is speaking in dialogue
    • Scene 3-4 – God is speaking in dialogue → God is silent

Movement, Epithets and Expectations

  • Movement – Creation cycles are moving from more universal, abstract and celestial to more local and tangible.
    • Exception to this rule is the creation of vegetation before the great lights (sun and moon)
  • Movement – Creation is moving from chaos to gradually more and more order.
    • First, locations and spaces are defined.
    • Then these locations and spaces are filled.
    • Roles are delegated.
    • Finally, providence is revealed.
  • Movement – God is moving from “hovering,” speaking and acting towards completion and rest.

Lexical, Story, and Concept Level Comparisons

Themes Summary

Major Themes

Minor Themes

  • Man and Woman in the Image of God
  • Seed-Bearing Vegetation
  • Blessing and Sanctification of Completion and Rest

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