Monthly Archives: May 2014

Genesis 1:2b – Eretz as Planet Earth or Land

Genesis 1:2 (ESV) — 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.


Last week we explored the meaning of “without form and void”.

  • We now need to deal with exactly what was formless and void.
  • We have two choices – planet earth or the land.
  • Not surprisingly there are some differences of opinion.





Planet Earth:

Often, verse 2 is understood as describing planet earth covered with water.

  • Gordon Wenham says “eretz” in verse 2 “describes the state of the earth [as in planet] before the first divine command”.
  • Waltke agrees and says “eretz” in verse 2 is “what we would call the planet”.


In other words, there is no land present at all.

  • The assumption is that all the land on the entire planet is covered with water.


James Boice embraces this view and provides the below graphic:





The text doesn’t actually say earth is covered with water.

  • This is assumed based on the 3rd day of creation description – about which there is disagreement.
  • And if Genesis 1:1 is about the creation of the universe, then land is present.



But given the contextual considerations of Genesis 1 and 2 and the Pentatuech…

  • Some say “eretz” means the land from a person’s perspective, not planet earth.
  • Genesis 1:2, then, is actually distinguishing between land and water.


In fact, Kenneth Mathews says “eretz” in verse 2 is “the ‘land’ of Israel’s habitation.”

  • In other words, what is covered with water is a specific piece of land – Israel’s land.


He goes on to say:

“The recurring motifs of ‘land’ and ‘blessing’ introduced in 1:1–2:3 are thematic fixtures in the patriarchal narratives and the entire Pentateuch. For Israel the land was God’s good gift that he prepared for his people to possess. Creation prepared God’s good ‘land/ earth,’ which was for man to enjoy (1:10, 12, 31) and for Israel to possess” – Kenneth Mathews.


In other words, taking into consideration the focus of the Pentateuch, the “eretz” has to be land, specifically Israel’s land.

  • And God’s preparation of this land for habitation involved the waters that were on, part of, or up against such this land.
  • More on this next week, and when we get to day 3.


John Walton’s Take:

He appears to take the planet earth view, but from a functional perspective not a material one.


John Sailhamer’s Take:

Sailhamer, like Mathews, says the answer is to be found in a contextual consideration of Genesis.

  • “Throughout Genesis 1, the term eretz is used to denote ‘the dry land,’ as opposed to a body of water” – John Sailhamer.
  • He suggests, then, that verse 2 is referring to “the land” as opposed to the waters around it.


In other words, “eretz” is used to distinguish between the water and the land throughout Genesis 1 and 2.

  • It is not used to describe the totality of planet earth – sky, water and land.


Other verses make this distinction as well.

  • 1:11 – “Let the ‘eretz’ sprout vegetation…” – can’t be global earth (sky, water, land), must be specifically land since most of earth is water and sky doesn’t “sprout vegetation”.
  • 1:12 – “The ‘eretz’ brought forth vegetation…” – same.


And looking at Genesis 2 we see the same meaning of “eretz”.

  • “The [eretz] land is the dry ground where the man and the woman were to dwell when they were created” – John Sailhamer.
  • The “eretz” is not the totality of planet earth – sky, water, land.


Exodus and Deuteronomy also demonstrate this distinction.

  • Exodus 20:4 (ESV) — 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth [eretz] beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
  • Deuteronomy 33:13–16 (ESV) — 13 And of Joseph he said, “Blessed by the Lord be his land [eretz], with the choicest gifts of heaven above, and of the deep that crouches beneath
  • As with Genesis, eretz is not the globe because of the distinctions made between heaven and water.


For these reasons Sailhamer asserts:

“The usual meaning of eretz is simply ‘the land’ and not ‘the earth’ as in most English translations. For the most part, it refers to a specific stretch of land in a local, geographical, or political sense. Often it means simply ‘the ground’ upon which one stands” – John Sailhamer.


Sailhamer, like Mathews, also believes he can answer the following question.

  • What “specific stretch of land”?


Eretz as The Promised Land:

Sailhamer argues the referent of “eretz” is the Promised Land.

  • “…Most often in Genesis and throughout the Pentateuch the term eretz refers to the promised land” – John Sailhamer.
  • He says there are at least four reasons to understand “eretz” in Genesis 1 as the Promised Land.


(1) Garden of Eden Implication

  • If Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are about the same creation event, an important implication can be deduced.
  • First, Genesis 2 is clearly about the “eretz” as the Garden of Eden not global earth.
  • Therefore if Genesis 1 is the same creation as Genesis 2, it is also about “eretz” as the Garden of Eden – i.e. the Promised Land.
  • “Since chapter 2 is clearly an account of God’s preparing the garden of Eden as man’s dwelling place, chapter 1 must also be about God’s preparing the garden” – John Sailhamer.


(2) Location of Babylon Implication

  • Genesis 11:1–2 & 9 (NASB95) — 1 Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words. 2 It came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there…Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth.


Shinar is “a plain in the lower Euphrates-Tigris system, from modern Baghdad to the Persian Gulf” – Logos 5.

  • And Babel, says Sailhamer, is Hebrew for Babylon.
  • So here we have a people that speak the same language who journeyed east towards the Euphrates-Tigris rivers system and built a tower in Babylon.
  • Is this describing the global earth and its entire people, or the people dwelling in the “eretz” west of Babylon?
  • Sailhamer says, “It seems clear from this text that the author did not understand ‘the land’ in Genesis 11:1 as ‘the whole earth.’ Rather, it was simply the region west of Babylon” – John Sailhamer.


So what?

  • Question – if one traveled East from Eden where would one end up?
    • Answer – Babylon.
    • Genesis 2:14 (ESV) — 14 And the name of the third river is the Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.
    • Genesis 3:24 (ESV) — 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.
    • Genesis 4:16 (ESV) — 16 Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

“This implicit geography within these early narratives locates the promised land centrally and sees movement away from it as ‘eastward’ and away from God’s presence, to Babylon. It is thus understood within the narratives that ‘the land’ is in fact the promised land” – John Sailhamer.


BTW – When Israel was exiled, where were they sent? East.

  • And what left the Temple? God’s presence.
  • Curiously, what direction did Abraham come from to enter into the Promised Land? The east.


BTW 2 – Sailhamer makes an interesting observation at this point.

  • Genesis 3:24 tells us that God placed an angelat the east of the garden”.
  • We are later told, two times, that an Israelite traveling west to the Promised Land encountered an angel/theophany.


Jacob encounters an angel and a theophany as he travels west into the Promised Land.

  • Genesis 31:3 (ESV) — 3 Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Return to the land [eretz] of your fathers and to your kindred, and I will be with you.”
  • Genesis 32:1 (ESV) — 1 Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him.
  • Genesis 32:24 (ESV) — 24 And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day.


Joshua encounters the Divine Warrior as he travels west into the Promised Land.

  • Joshua 5:13–14 (ESV) — 13 When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” 14 And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth [eretz] and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?”


(3) Central Theme of Pentateuch is Covenant and Promised Land

  • Genesis 12:1–2 (ESV) — 1 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land [eretz] that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.
  • Deuteronomy 1:8 (ESV) — 8 See, I have set the land [eretz] before you. Go in and take possession of the land [eretz] that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give to them and to their offspring after them.’

“The close ties between the creation narratives in Genesis and the narratives which focus specifically on the covenant suggest they are all concerned with the same general theme: God’s gift of the land” – John Sailhamer.


(4) Other OT Writers Connect Genesis 1 with the Promised Land

  • Jeremiah 27:5–6 (ESV) — 5 “It is I who by my great power and my outstretched arm have made the earth [eretz], with the men and animals that are on the earth [eretz], and I give it to whomever it seems right to me. 6 Now I have given all these lands [eretz] into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, my servant, and I have given him also the beasts of the field to serve him.
  • Verse 5 is clearly echoing Genesis 1 creation language and is talking about the eretz.
  • Verse 6 makes clear that the eretz is the Promised Land that God is taking from the Israelites and giving to Nebuchadnezzar.

“There is no thought in Jeremiah’s words that God was about to give the ‘whole earth’ to Nebuchadnezzar. The very next verse [verse 6] says that God was about to give only Judah’s land and the lands of her neighbors into the hands of the Babylonian king” – John Sailhamer.


And of course our Jeremiah text from last week.

  • Jeremiah 4:23–26 (ESV) — 23 I looked on the earth [eretz], and behold, it was without form and void; and to the heavens, and they had no light. 24 I looked on the mountains, and behold, they were quaking, and all the hills moved to and fro. 25 I looked, and behold, there was no man, and all the birds of the air had fled. 26 I looked, and behold, the fruitful land was a desert, and all its cities were laid in ruins before the Lord, before his fierce anger.


This is also evident in the “return to Eden” texts:

  • Isaiah 51:3 (ESV) — 3 For the Lord comforts Zion; he comforts all her waste places and makes her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song.
  • Ezekiel 36:35–36 (ESV) — 35 And they will say, ‘This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden, and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are now fortified and inhabited.’ 36 Then the nations that are left all around you shall know that I am the Lord; I have rebuilt the ruined places and replanted that which was desolate. I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it.
  • Joel 2:3 (ESV) — 3 Fire devours before them, and behind them a flame burns. The land is like the garden of Eden before them, but behind them a desolate wilderness, and nothing escapes them.


Sailhamer also argues that the “return to Eden” texts demonstrate that land=Eden=Promised Land?

  • His reason is found in Genesis 2:8.
  • Genesis 2:8 (ESV) — 8 And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed.
  • Was Eden the garden or was the garden in Eden?
  • What is Eden, then? Sailhamer would say the Promised Land.


Sailhamer’s graphic describing exactly what the “eretz” in Genesis 1:2 is referring to:



BTW – if the “eretz” is the Promised Land, what are the waters?

  • More on this later.



Genesis 1:2 – Without Form and Void

We will deal with “formless and void” this week and cover the rest later.

  • There is much agreement about this phrase.
  • However, as was the case with “reshit” and “bara”, the implications and conclusions drawn are wildly different.
  • We will cover John Sailhamer and John Walton’s view in detail.


Observation Time:

Genesis 1:2 (ESV) — 2 The earth [eretz] was without form [“waste” on some translations] and void [“empty” on some translations], and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

Interestingly, nothing was created in verse 2.

The “eretz”, darkness, and deep appear to already exist.

Where did they come from?


What is the earth? Eretz can mean “earth” or “land” (horizon to horizon).


What does “without form and void (tohu wabohu)”  mean?

It doesn’t say.


Does it imply that any creation from verse 1 was defective in some way?

Is it a statement about creation itself or the “ordering” of creation for a specific purpose?

Is it describing the moment of creation that is part of verse 3ff?

If part of verse 3, why would God create to then only half to “touch it up”.


Work of God in history – “hovering over the face of the waters”.

What was this “hovering” work of the Spirit? It doesn’t say.

How long did the Spirit’s work go on? It doesn’t say.

Is “hovering” a creation act or something else?





Before we deal with phrase directly…

  • We need to deal with some ANE background.
  • This is because it has been highly influential on how we see Tohu Wabohu.


ANE Creation Background:

The Hebrew’s neighbors had creation myths.

  • Some oft cited examples are the Babylonians and the Egyptians.


The Babylonian creation story is called the “Enuma Elish”.

  • It teaches that, “creation began as a cosmic struggle between order and chaos” – John Currid.
  • The “preexistent primordial waters” represented the chaos – Currid.
  • “Divine spirit and cosmic matter [were] coexistent and coeternal” – Alexander Heidel.
  • Likewise, the Egyptians also believed that, “life originated from preexistent primordial waters (Nun)” – John Currid.


In these examples, the waters were “the eternal matter of all reality” – John Currid.

  • In other words, there was no beginning.
  • Uncreated matter existed eternally.
  • There were “no operational system[s] in place” – that is to say, chaos reigned – John Walton.
  • The creative act was the bringing of order from the chaos – from the eternal matter.


BTW – this is also the Greek view of how the world began.

  • “A kind of watery mass which opposes creation” – Kenneth Mathews.


These concepts have greatly influenced the English “formless and void” translation.

  • It is interesting, that no one I read believes Tohu Wabohu means “formless and void” (at least in the material sense).


BTW – Remember as with Genesis 1, these ANE myths can be seen functionally (John Walton) or materially.


So the question is does “tohu wabohu” Genesis 1:3 convey a similar idea of primeval chaos?

  • Or is referring to something altogether different?


Tohu Wabohu Defined:

Gordon Wenham suggests the phrase means “chaos and disorder”.

  • But not in the way suggested by ANE and Greek concepts.
  • Especially since “bara” suggests creation out of nothing in opposition to eternal matter.


He says the chaos and disorder are to be understood as, “the untracked desert where a man can lose his way and die”.

  • In other words, the antithesis of the state of material creation before Genesis 1:3 and following.


Similarly, Kenneth Mathews says Tohu Wabohu is describing “a ‘wasteland’ and ‘empty’ land.”

  • In other words, “It refers to an unproductive, uninhabited land…”


Specifically for Genesis 1, he says it functions to characterize the eretz “as uninhabitable and inhospitable to human life.”

  • It did not contain the things necessary to sustain human life.
  • It was the land before God prepared it for his people to possess.


In fact, he even suggests the phrase contains a theological dimension (like we saw with bara).

  • The eretz in verse 2 is “a land lifeless without the blessing of God”.
  • Deuteronomy 33:13–16 (ESV) — 13 And of Joseph he said, “Blessed by the Lord be his land, with the choicest gifts of heaven above, and of the deep that crouches beneath, 14 with the choicest fruits of the sun and the rich yield of the months, 15 with the finest produce of the ancient mountains and the abundance of the everlasting hills, 16a with the best gifts of the earth [eretz] and its fullness and the favor of him who dwells in the bush.
  • Rabbit Trail Question – What does “eretz” mean in Deut. 33:13?


BTW – Hugh Ross tries to make the case that this phrase is best understood scientifically.

  • He says it describes the state of the earth about 4 billion years ago.
  • In other words, it describes the violent atmospheric conditions and that were said to exist on earth at its inception, including massive erupting volcanoes.


Importantly, note that all of the above views are referring to the condition of the material form of creation.

  • In other words, they are all variations of the traditional material creation view of Genesis 1.
  • That is to say, they are all descriptions of some form of physical creation.
  • And none of them see the phrase as expressing the ANE or Greek idea of eternal chaos.
    • Assuming, of course, you think the ANE stories are material and not functional.
  • The reason for this goes back to the meaning of “bara”.



Tohu Wabohu describes an eretz that was not yet ready to sustain life, and specifically, the life of image bearers.

  • Or to put it theologically, God had not yet prepared and blessed the eretz.
  • Not surprisingly, the implications of this meaning are different depending how one views “reshit” – creation or introduction.


Walton’s Take:

Walton would disagree with all of the above.

  • Whereas each of the above views are referring to the act of and the material state of creation, Walton holds fast to the implications of his functional creational view.
  • Remember, this is the view that Genesis 1 is referring to God assigning order, purpose and function to creation not about the physical “making” of creation.


BTW – Remember, Walton sees the ANE creation stories as not about material creation either.

  • They also are about assigning order purpose and function.
  • So for him, there is a more direct parallel between the ANE stories and Genesis 1.


His definition of Tohu Wabohu “describes that which is nonfunctional, having no purpose and generally unproductive in human terms” – John Walton.

  • He says it does not refer to the “absence of material form” – it has nothing to do with material.
  • In other words, Genesis 2 makes clear that creation – the material – was already in existence.
  • “The creation account in Genesis 1 can then be seen to begin with no functions rather than with no material” – John Walton.


So what was lacking was not creation – the stuff.

  • What were lacking were function, order and purpose – (like the ANE stories).
  • Creation was already present – even before Gen.1 (in the preface I suppose).


Yet, in a huge contrast with the ANE/Greek lack of function, Walton says this:

“In the Old Testament God has no needs [unlike ANE gods] and focuses functionality around people [unlike ANE stories]…functionality cannot exist without people in the picture. In Genesis people are not put in place until day six, but functionality is established with their needs and situation in mind” – John Walton.

  • These people are, of course, His image bearers.


BTW – He says his proposed meaning of “it was good” supports his view.

  • He says it means, that creation now is “functioning properly.”
  • It is not to be understood in moral/ethical/quality terms.
  • More on that in the coming weeks.


Sailhamer’s Take:

He defines the phrase as follows:

It “refers simply to a ‘wilderness’ that has not yet become inhabitable for human beings. It is the ‘wilderness,’ for example, where the Israelites wandered for forty years, waiting to enter the land” – John Sailhamer.

  • The same as the others prior to Walton.


He despises the English translation “formless and void”.

  • He worries that this translation conjures up images of the primordial chaos of the ANE/Greek stories.
  • On a material view, obviously.


He then shows that early non-Greek or other Jewish-Greek translations translated the phrase differently:

  • “Translations by Aquila and Symmachus were ‘empty and nothing’ and ‘fallow and indistinct’” – John Sailhamer.
  1. “An early Aramaic Targum of Genesis 1 known as Neophyti I paraphrased the expression in Genesis 1:2 by rendering it ‘desolate without human beings or beasts and void of all cultivation of plants and of trees’” – John Sailhamer.


BTW – We need to remember that Sailhamer and the others, in spite of their differences, all take a material view of creation and the ANE creation stories.

  • This means that they deal differently with the similarity between Genesis 1:2 and the ANE stories.
  • This explains why Walton is freer to embrace the similarities.


Sailhamer’s summary:

“According to the most natural reading of the Hebrew text, the land was simply an ‘uninhabitable’ or ‘inhospitable’ stretch of ‘wasteland.’ The land was not a ‘formless and empty chaos.’ When God made the world, the land was not yet a place where human beings could dwell (Genesis 1:2). It had not yet been prepared for their habitation. That, of course, is a quite different sense than the phrases ‘formless and empty’ (NIV) or ‘without form and void’ (RSV) might imply!” – John Sailhamer.


This means that for him…

  • Genesis 1:3 and following describe God “preparing the land for man’s habitation. Through the hand of God, the ‘wasteland’ is about to become the ‘promised land’” – Sailhamer.
  • Remember, Sailhamer believes that the six days are not about creating – that happened in verse 1.
  • The six days are about preparing.
    • In this way, he and Walton have some subtle similarities in their view of the six days.
    • Both say creation occurred before Genesis 1:3.


A Key Passage:

Sailhamer’s view on Tohu Wabohu is obviously very similar with Wenham, and especially Matthews.

  • Walton’s view, as we saw, is decidedly different – functional and not material.
  • Sailhamer, however, suggests that Jeremiah 4 makes his case – both against “formless and void” meaning formless and void and, it seems, against Walton’s view.


The context of Jeremiah 4 is Israel’s pending judgment and exile.


Jeremiah begins…

  • Jeremiah 4:3–4 (ESV) — 3 For thus says the Lord to the men of Judah and Jerusalem: “Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns. 4 Circumcise yourselves to the Lord; remove the foreskin of your hearts, O men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem; lest my wrath go forth like fire, and burn with none to quench it, because of the evil of your deeds.”


If they don’t…

  • Jeremiah 4:7 (ESV) — 7 A lion has gone up from his thicket, a destroyer of nations has set out; he has gone out from his place to make your land a waste; your cities will be ruins without inhabitant.


Jeremiah mourns over this coming judgment…

  • Jeremiah 4:20 (ESV) — 20 Crash follows hard on crash; the whole land is laid waste. Suddenly my tents are laid waste, my curtains in a moment.


And Importantly for our discussion…

  • Jeremiah 4:23–26 (ESV) — 23 I looked on the earth, and behold, it was without form and void; and to the heavens, and they had no light. 24 I looked on the mountains, and behold, they were quaking, and all the hills moved to and fro. 25 I looked, and behold, there was no man, and all the birds of the air had fled. 26 I looked, and behold, the fruitful land was a desert, and all its cities were laid in ruins before the Lord, before his fierce anger.


Question – is function gone or has a livable place become physically uninhabitable?

  • And, specifically, who is the victim of the Tohu Wabohu?
  • The people of the world, or the people of the Promised Land?


The descriptions of “tohu wabohu” appear to be physical reversals not functional reversals.

  • the heavens, and they had no light
  • the mountains, and behold, they were quaking
  • the hills moved to and fro
  • there was no man
  • the birds of the air had fled
  • the fruitful land was a desert
  • cities were laid in ruins


In essence, God is saying that his judgment will be to undo “creation” – Kenneth Mathews.

  • This undoing is to make the Promised Land uninhabitable.
  • It is to expel the Israelites to the east – to the wilderness.
  • Kenneth Mathews says in order to make it, “a land lifeless without the blessing of God”


Moses’ Message:

Whatever view is correct, we once again need to maintain our focus on Moses’ Message.

  • I think Isaiah captures it as well as anybody.
  • Isaiah 45:18 (ESV) — 18 For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): “I am the Lord, and there is no other.


God created for a purpose.

  • He formed, made, and established “to be inhabited”.
  • And specifically, as we will see, to be inhabited by His called out image bearers in His set apart “eretz”.



We asked earlier, what Tohu Wabohu means.

  • We now have a number of options to choose from.
  • We will answer the rest of the questions next week – especially the subject of the Tohu Wabohu.
  • We are told that the “eretz” was Tohu Wabohu.
  • But which “eretz” – the planet earth or the land?


Matthew 7:15–20 – False Prophets and Fruit Inspectors

Matthew 7:15–20 (ESV) — 15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.





Jesus begins our text with a stern warning – “beware…”.

  • The sense of “beware” here is to be “on guard” or “to be in a state of alert”.
  • In other words, this is a deliberate posture that the Christian is to take.
  • It is not an after thought.
  • It is an intentional action.


We will see how this can be done shortly.


Jesus issues this warning numerous times in Matthew – Some Examples:

  • Matthew 6:1 (ESV) — 1Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
  • Matthew 10:17 (ESV) — 17 Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues,
  • Matthew 16:6 (ESV) — 6 Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”


In each case the warning is issued, it involves the threat persons, even our own pride, can be to the walk of a believer.

  • The deliberate sense behind the word and the frequency with which Jesus issues this warning in Matthew indicates how important it is for us to protect our walk.





Jesus tells us that we are to “beware of false prophets”.

  • The obvious question is, “what is a false prophet?”
  • We will look at both an OT and a NT answer.


OT Answer:

In the OT, God answers this question when speaking with Jeremiah.

  • Jeremiah 23:16–18 & 22 (ESV) — 16 Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. 17 They say continually to those who despise the word of the Lord, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’ ” 18 For who among them has stood in the council of the Lord to see and to hear his word, or who has paid attention to his word and listened?… 22 But if they had stood in my council, then they would have proclaimed my words to my people, and they would have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their deeds.


God tells Jeremiah that a false prophet:

  • Speaks “words” that fill “you with vain hopes
  • Speak visions” containing their visions – “not from the mouth of the Lord
  • Say continually” words that reassure those that “despise the word of the Lord
  • They say” no problems will come for one that “stubbornly follows his own heart


God then gives a reason why they are false prophets – why they speak untruths.

  • They are not in the presence of God “to see and to hear his word”.


God then contrasts the false prophet with the true prophet.

  • The true prophet is in God’s presence.
  • The true prophet proclaims God’s word.
  • They turn people “from their evil way” and from the “evil of their deeds”.


BTW – A NT way of saying these same things is found in John 15.

  • John 15:5 (ESV) — 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
  • To be in God’s presence, speak His word and bring people to God is only possible for those abiding in Christ.


NT Answer:

Not surprisingly, both Paul and Peter express a similar description of a false prophet.

  • Romans 16:17–18 (ESV) — 17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.
  • 2 Peter 2:1 (ESV) — 1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.


In each example above, the false prophet/teacher, like those described in Jeremiah, is loose with the word of God.

  • They teach “contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught”.
  • Because they serve “their own appetites”.
  • They “secretly bring in destructive heresies”.


In Galatians 1:6, Paul calls the content of this false teaching “a different gospel”.


False Prophets Infiltrate the Church:

In verse 15, Jesus warns us that false prophets, a.k.a. “ravenous wolves”, are disguised as sheep.

  • In other words, they try to look and act like us and our teachers.
  • This is a deliberate and deceptive action on their part.


And once they have access to us…

  • Jeremiah says they have sway by filling us with “vain hopes”.
  • Paul says they gain a hearing through “smooth talk and flattery”.
  • In 2 Timothy 4:3, Paul says some in the church who have “itching ears” will seek out false prophets to “suit their own passions”.





How are we “to be on a state of alert” for false prophets that seek to smooth talk us into accepting a different gospel?

  • Jesus asks us to be fruit inspectors.
  • You will recognize them by their fruits” – vs. 16 and 20.


So what are “their fruits”?

  • The BDAG tells us when used metaphorically it is meant to convey “the product or outcome of something”.
  • Interestingly, in the Jeremiah 23 text, God contrasts the “the product or outcome” of a prophet who is in God’s presence with the false prophet who is not.


The difference between the two…

  • The “product” of a real prophet – proclamation of the word of God.
  • The “product” of a false prophet – “visions of their own minds”.
  • The “output” of a real prophet – turning people “from their evil way” and deeds.
  • The “output” of a false prophet – “filling you with vain hopes” and false reassurances.


A.W. Pink put it as follows:

“There is nothing in [a false prophet’s] preaching which searches the conscience and renders the [hearer] uneasy, nothing which humbles and causes their hearers to mourn before God; but rather that which puffs up, makes them pleased with themselves and to rest content in a false assurance.”


BTW – It certainly also includes their character and actions.

  • In an effort to be a wolf among the sheep, they (at least in the beginning) will look and act like sheep.
  • However, their character and deeds will certainly betray them over time.


What are intentional things we can do to “be on alert” and discern the “bad fruit” of a false prophet?


(1) We must know what the word of God says.

  • This requires effort, study and time – it is a costly pursuit.
  • The FBI can spot a counterfeit bill because they are intimately aware what the real thing looks like.
  • Knowing right doctrine is a hedge of protection from false prophets and our own sinful inclinations.


(2) We must know what our “vain hopes” are.

  • We all have fleshy concerns or worries that make us vulnerable to false teaching.
  • We all entertain “feelings” that can unduly influence the way we think.
  • The prosperity Gospel thrives on peoples earthly concern for comfort.


(3) We must be aware of what scratches our “itching ears”.

  • We might have a love of the “end times” or of the nature of “heaven” or any other doctrine.
  • In our eagerness to take in all we can on such a doctrine, we might embrace teachings that are questionable.
  • Or, be captured by a teacher who speaks truthfully on that subject yet leads us astray elsewhere.


(4) We must remember what Jesus said in Matthew 7:14.

  • Matthew 7:14 (ESV) — 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
  • “False prophets do not have disturbing doctrines in their messages, even though the true state of man demands it” – James Boice.
  • “There has always been a large market for false prophets, because most people do not want to hear the truth.” – John MacArthur.


May we all become healthy trees bearing healthy fruit!



Genesis 1:1b – God Created the Heavens and the Earth

Today we dig into the importance of “bara” and “the heavens and the earth”.

  • The weight of creation has far reaching implications.
    • Scientifically
    • Philosophically
    • Theologically


For example, science has demonstrated that all the following “had a beginning in finite time” – Hugh Ross.

  • All matter and energy
  • All space-time dimensions “within which matter and energy are distributed” – Ross.
  • Genesis 1 seems to make the same claim.


And philosophically, the Kalam cosmological argument for the existence of God stems from creation.

  • Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
  • The universe began to exist.
  • Therefore the universe has a cause.


Moreover, philosophically, Genesis 1 provides the answer to the following question…

  • Why is there something rather than nothing?


Yet, regardless of whatever scientific and philosophical implications Genesis 1:1 may or may not have, I am most concerned with

  • Its theological significance,
  • Moses’ Message,
  • And, John Sailhamer and John Walton’s take.





A huge implication of “bara”:

“It should be noted that God, the God of Israel, is always the subject of ברא” – Gordon Wenham.

  • “Creation is never predicated [on] pagan deities” – Gordon Wenham.
  • In other words, the use of “bara” in the OT is reserved only for God.
  • “Bara” is something only the God of Israel can do.
    • Not man
    • Not pagan gods


Because of this, the HALOT actually refers to “bara” as a theological term.

  • One reason is an implication of the exclusivity of “bara”.


The fact that only God can “bara” highlights the difference between Creator and creation.

  • God puts it as follows:
  • Job 38:4–7 (ESV) — 4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. 5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? 6 On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, 7 when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?


The God that called out Moses and led the Israelites out of Egypt is wholly other from creation.

  • He is not contingent upon creation.


A.W. Pink puts it like this:

“God was under no constraint, no obligation, no necessity to create. That he chose to do so was purely a sovereign act on his part, caused by nothing outside himself, determined by nothing but his own mere good pleasure; for he ‘worketh all things after the counsel of his own good will’” – A.W. Pink.


Meaning of “bara”:

  • It has two important meanings in our text.


(1) In context of Genesis 1, “Hebrew linguists define it as ‘bringing into existence something new, something that did not exist before’” – Hugh Ross.

  • The TWOT puts it this way, bara “seems to carry the implication that the physical phenomena came into existence at that time and had no previous existence in the form in which they were created by divine fiat” – TWOT.
  • The DBL simply says it means, “to make something that has not been in existence before”.


BTW – It is readily admitted that Genesis 1 does not tell us what God used to create the universe – out of nothing, or out of material that He had previously created.

  • We will see that John Walton makes this a piece of his particular view.
  • Although Genesis does not state God created “ex nihilo”, most understand, as we just saw, the theological concept of “bara” as making such a claim.
  • This is also buttressed by other OT Scriptures – Wenham references Proverbs 8:22-27, e.g.


(2) “Bara” also carries the following sense:

“The idea of ordering or determining function, suggesting God’s creative activity consisted of bringing proper order and function to the cosmos” – Michael Heiser.

  • Again, this is a theological claim.
  • God didn’t just create He also created with purpose and function.


Moses’ Message Reprise:

God’s ordering and assigning function to His creation is an important consideration in our ongoing Moses’ Message theme.

  • Moses already knew that God created, covenanted and called out when he wrote Genesis.
  • He himself was called out to be part of God’s covenant faithfulness to Israel.
  • He knew that history was heading somewhere – the Promised Land, for example.
  • Creation that calls out image bearers to glorify God and participate in the fellowship and love of God is creation with a purpose.


John Sailhamer’s Take:

John Sailhamer would embrace all of the above meanings of “bara”.

  • Genesis 1 is a material account of creation and God assigns purpose.


John Walton’s Take:

John Walton has other ideas.

  • It is called a functional view of creation and it is foundational to his view of Genesis 1.


This view makes a distinction between “function-giving activity” and “material activity”.

  • He says Israel, as an ANE culture, would have framed her creation story as a “function-giving activity” and not a “material activity”.

This is because, “the ancient world defined existence in terms of having a function in an ordered system. This functional ontology indicated that the line between existence and nonexistence was functional, not material” – John Walton.


Why does Walton make this claim?

  • “People in the ancient Near East did not think of creation in terms of making material things— instead, everything is function oriented…Creation thus constituted bringing order to the cosmos from an originally nonfunctional condition” – John Walton.
    • For him, the nonfunctional condition was Genesis 1:2 (chaos).
    • What this means is that “to create something (i.e., bring it into existence) would mean to give it a function or a role within an ordered cosmos” – John Walton.


He further explains:

  • “There is no concept of a ‘natural’ world in ancient Near Eastern thinking. The dichotomy between natural and supernatural is a relatively recent one” – John Walton.

“The Israelites, along with everyone else in the ancient world, believed instead that every event was the act of deity— that every plant that grew, every baby born, every drop of rain and every climatic disaster was an act of God. No ‘natural’ laws governed the cosmos; deity ran the cosmos or was inherent in it” – John Walton.


In other words, Israel, as an ANE culture, would write an ANE creation story not a modern one.

  • And things in their world were meaningful because of their function and purpose.
  • So what they wanted to know is not how an object physically came to be – like moderns.
  • They wanted to know how God or the gods assigned it function and purpose.


How does Walton’s view specifically relate to Genesis 1?

  • He argues that Genesis 1 does not describe a “material activity” but creation through “functional activity”.
    • Implying that God’s creation was an earlier event.
    • So Genesis, as an ANE creation story, is not concerned with material creation.
    • Its concern is with God assigning order, function and purpose to His creation.


He says that in Genesis, “God created by assigning functions throughout the heavens and the earth…”

  • God’s assigning function “was accomplished in the seven-day period that the text calls ‘the beginning’” – John Walton.
  • And he argues that the fact that Genesis does not deal with the “stuff” used in creation, as we saw earlier, buttresses his view.


BTW – He wants to be clear, “If we conclude that Genesis 1 is not an account of material origins, we are not thereby suggesting that God is not responsible for material origins” – John Walton.


Some OT Examples of Functional use of Bara:

Of these examples, Walton says they “cannot be used to prove a functional ontology, but they offer support that existence is viewed in functional rather than material terms, as is true throughout the rest of the ancient world” – John Walton.

  • Psalm 102:18 (ESV) — 18 Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord:
  • Psalm 148:5 (ESV) — 5 Let them praise the name of the Lord! For he commanded and they were created.
  • Isaiah 41:19–20 (ESV) — 19 I will put in the wilderness the cedar, the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive. I will set in the desert the cypress, the plane and the pine together, 20 that they may see and know, may consider and understand together, that the hand of the Lord has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it.
  • Isaiah 43:7 (ESV) — 7 everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”


Time to move on.

  • We will come back to the implications of this view in the coming weeks.





It seems all are in agreement about the meaning of the phrase “the heavens and the earth”.

  • The phrase is a merism.
  • This means that as a phrase it obtains a different meaning than each word would convey individually.
  • One author suggests dragonfly as an example.
  • Obviously a dragon and a fly are not a dragonfly.


John Sailhamer explains it as follows:

“In the case of the merism ‘sky and land,’ the terms shamayim (‘sky’) and eretz (‘land’) represent two extremes in the world. By linking these two extremes into a single expression—‘sky and land’ or ‘heavens and earth’— the Hebrew language expresses the totality of all that exists. Unlike English, Hebrew doesn’t have a single word to express the concept of ‘the universe’; it must do so by means of a merism” – John Sailhamer.


Others agree with this meaning.

  • “This merism represents the cosmos, meaning the organized universe in which humankind lives” – Bruce Waltke.
    • And it does so in all its OT uses.
  • “The expression ‘the heavens and the earth’ indicates the totality of the universe” – Kenneth Mathews.
  • Gordon Wenham simply says that the merism refers to “the universe” in its “totality”.


Astrophysicist Hugh Ross gives it a scientific spin.

“All of the stars, galaxies, planets, dust, gas, fundamental particles, background radiation, black holes, physical space-time dimensions, and voids of the universe—however mysterious to the ancient writer—would be included in this term” – Hugh Ross.


John Walton’s Take:

Walton apparently agrees with this take.

  • He doesn’t address it in The Lost World of Genesis One.


John Sailhamer’s Take:

As we saw, Sailhamer is in line with the rest of our commentators.

  • However, he points out that the meaning of the merism is too often read into verse 2 and the six days of creation.
  • “We have filled the word with a meaning it clearly did not suggest to its original readers” – John Sailhamer.
  • “Eretz” in verse 1 does not mean the same as “eretz” in verse 2, for example.
  • In verse 2 it means land – horizon to horizon from a humans perspective.


He is not the only one that sees the need for a distinction.

  • It is “quite feasible for a mention of an initial act of creation of the whole universe (v 1) to be followed by an account of the ordering of different parts of the universe” – Wenham.
  • Specifically, “eretz” as the “area in which man thinks of himself as living” – Wenham.


Bruce Waltke also agrees with these distinctions and says “eretz” actually has three meanings in Genesis 1.

  • The merism meaning
  • Dry land
  • The planet earth


Sailhamer draws out some very important implications in verse 2 and the six days based on what he sees as a right handling of “eretz” – land.

  • We will tease these out in the coming weeks.
  • It has to do with “eretz” equaling the Promised Land not verse 1’s earth.


Observation Answers:

Pertaining to “the heavens and the earth” we asked last week –

  • What are “the heavens and the earth”?
  • Is this all of creation – the universe?
  • Is this literally heaven and earth or is this a figure of speech for something?


We now have our answers.

  • There is really no disagreement about them.
  • It is the implications of this fact that lead to discord.


Pertaining to “bara” we also asked last week –

  • What does “bara” mean?
  • Was “bara” in the beginning?


The first we answered today.

  • There is really no disagreement about what “bara” means.
  • Again, the discord arises when the implications of its meaning are applied to Genesis 1.
    • As when Walton focuses on it’s functional against its material meanings.
  • The second we answered last week.



Sailhamer and Walton’s views are beginning to take shape.

  • As we get into Genesis 1:2, their views will really begin to fill out.


Thus far, Sailhamer sees “in the beginning” as a creation event, not an introduction.

  • Its length of time is unknown, but it is a separate event from the six days – “time before time”.
  • The “heavens and the earth” tell us what God created “in the beginning” – the totality of the universe.
    • For Sailhamer, this includes the earth, light, water the sun and the moon, etc.
  • Finally, we saw that Sailhamer sees the six days as not about the earth meaning of “eretz”, but the land meaning of “eretz”.
    • The earth meaning is mistakenly carried over from verse 1.
  • And the “eretz” is the Promised Land.


Thus far, Walton sees “in the beginning” as only an introduction – not a creation event.

  • He suggests it is “a beginning”…
    • Not to a material creation event but,
    • To a functional creation event.
  • The “heavens and the earth” is the totality of the universe.
    • A universe God presumably created prior to Genesis 1.
  • The six days of creation are about God assigning purpose, order and function to His creation not material creation.
  • Something that all ANE cosmologies concerned themselves with.



Genesis 1:1a – In the Beginning

Last week we laid the foundation for our study of Genesis 1-3.

  • We looked at what we called Moses’ Message – the big picture of Moses’ intent or voice.
  • From here on out, we will dig into the details of the text.
  • As we do so, we will occasionally reflect on our Moses’ message theme.


Today we consider two opposing views on how to understand Genesis 1:1.

  • One that sees verse 1 as an introduction to everything that follows (John Walton).
  • One that sees verse 1 as a creation event separate from everything that follows (John Sailhamer).


It is necessary to spend some time covering these views.

  • Each leads to a drastically different handling of the rest of Genesis 1.


Observation Time:

Genesis 1:1 (ESV) — 1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.


What happened in this verse?

What was created? 

God created (“bara”)…


1) “the heavens and the earth” (“shamayim” and “eretz”)

What are “the heavens and the earth”?

Is this all of creation – the universe?

Is this literally heaven and earth or is this a figure of speech for something?


Apparently this “bara” of God was “in the beginning” (“reshit”).

What does this mean? It doesn’t say.

How long was the beginning? It doesn’t say.

Is this describing a creation event, or is it an introduction to the telling of creation?

In other words, “When God began to create the heavens and the earth”?

Or, “God created ‘in the beginning’” (whatever “the beginning” might be)?


The meaning of Genesis 1:1 and the answers to our above questions are elusive.

  • Sound believers are all over the map, and each have their reasons.


What we need to know:

  • We need to know what “in the beginning” (reshit) means.
  • We need to know what “created” (bara) means.
  • We need to know what “heavens and the earth” (shamayim and eretz) mean.
  • We will cover “in the beginning” today.





Big Picture Agreement:

Before we begin, I want to reprise our Moses’ Message lesson with some commonly accepted big picture implications of Genesis 1:1 – in other words, with some agreement.

  • “…with the use of the word ‘beginning,’ the author establishes that God has a plan and a purpose…a beginning to God’s action…a continuation…and ultimately a conclusion” – John Sailhamer.

“The world is thus a part of a divine plan. History is a part of the plan and is moving towards its conclusion” – Sailhamer.


Michael Bird frames this as follows, “creation is the presupposition of the gospel”.

  • Bruce Waltke frames the big picture as the Kingdom of God.
  • Kenneth Mathews says, “The author has at the outset shown that creation’s ‘beginnings’ were initiated with a future goal intended, an eschatological purpose”.


Gordon Wenham makes a very interesting observation based on the relationship between the author’s choice and placement of the Hebrew words.

  • All of which suggests, he says, that “‘Creation’ and ‘blessing’ are linked in the divine purpose, a purpose eventually to be realized through Abra[ha]m.”


All of these are covenant actions of Moses’ purposeful, relational God.

  • Isaiah 46:11b (ESV) — 11b I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.


And finally, Kenneth Mathews makes a point on which all our scholars agree.

  • Genesis 1:1 makes clear that, “God exists outside time and space; all that exists is dependent on his independent will.”
  • This harkens back to the polemical point from last week.



What does “reshit” mean?

“In the Bible the term always refers to an extended, yet indeterminate duration of time—not a specific moment. It is a block of time which precedes an extended series of time periods” – John  Sailhamer.

  • The word “usually introduces a period of time rather than a point in time” – John Walton.
    • “early part”, “beginning period”, “first occasion”, “first part” and “first installment”.


It appears that Walton and Sailhamer share similar views of “reshit”.

  • Both even use the following same verses to establish this meaning.


Analogy Verses:

  • Job 8:7 (ESV) — 7 And though your beginning [reshit] was small, your latter days will be very great.
  • Job 42:12a (ESV) — 12 And the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning [reshit].
  • Jeremiah 28:1 (ESV) — 1 In that same year, at the beginning [reshit] of the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the fifth month of the fourth year, Hananiah the son of Azzur, the prophet from Gibeon, spoke to me in the house of the Lord, in the presence of the priests and all the people, saying,
    • See also 26:1, 27:1, 49:34


Reshit in Job:

  • Reshit “refers to the early part of Job’s life, before his misfortunes overtook him” – Sailhamer.
  • “It was an unspecified, but lengthy, period in Job’s life” – Sailhamer.
  • It refers to the “early part of Job’s life” – Walton.


Reshit in Jeremiah:

“When the Bible speaks of the reigns of Israel’s kings, the word reshit is used in a unique reckoning system. The first period of a king’s reign usually was not counted as part of the official length of his reign. An unspecified period was allowed during which the king actually reigned, but it was not officially counted as part of his reign. After that period—whatever its duration—the years of the king’s reign were counted in consecutive order” – John Sailhamer.

  • It refers to “the beginning period of Zedekiah’s reign” – Walton.
  • This “reshit” was at least four years and five months long.


However, when it comes to applying all of this to Genesis 1:1, they come to completely different conclusions.


Sailhamer’s Take:

  • He suggests that “we may have imported into this little word a meaning which Moses never meant to convey”.
  • The author of Genesis 1:1, “apparently had in mind a ‘beginning’ that was longer than a mere moment.”


In Genesis 1:1, “reshit” is “time before time” – Sailhamer.

  • This means “that God created the universe during an indeterminate period of time before the actual reckoning of a sequence of time began” – John Sailhamer.
  • So, Gen. 1:1 is an undetermined period of time that comes before the six days.


In fact, if the author wanted to see it was merely an introduction…

  • He could have used other words that left no doubt.
  • Specifically, “rishonah” and “techillah” – Sailhamer.


Gordon Wenham (as well as Hamilton and Mathews) agrees with Sailhamer.

“V 1 is a main clause describing the first act of creation. Vv 2 and 3 describe subsequent phases in God’s creative activity.”


BTW – The agreement with Sailhamer about the meaning of “reshit” does not mean agreement with his particular conclusions.


Walton’s Take:

“All of this information [Job, Jeremiah, grammar and toledot considerations] leads us to conclude that the ‘beginning’ is a way of talking about the seven-day period rather than a point in time prior to the seven days” – John Walton.

  • So for Walton, Genesis 1:1 refers to an introduction to the seven days and not a “separate act of creation”.
  • In other words, the creation for verse 1 is actually the six days starting in verse 3.


Bruce Waltke agrees with Walton,

  • He says that “reshit” refers to “the six days of creation, not something before the six days”.


Visual Summary of each View (Genesis Unbound – John Sailhamer):


For Sailhamer, the implications of “reshit” for Gen. 1:1 are seen visually in the above pic.

  • Creation of the “heavens and the earth” happened “in the beginning”.
  • The beginning was not an introduction but an undetermined amount of time in which God created.
  • The seven days of creation are a separate “creation” time event (of which our current history is a part) from the “reshit” time event.
  • This view raises all sorts of questions about how to handle Genesis 3 and following.
    • Like, “what is created in the later verses?”
  • We will deal with those in due time.




For Walton, the implications of “reshit” for Genesis 1:1 are seen visually in the above pic.

  • This graphic makes clear that “the beginning” was not a separate event.
  • It was the intro/beginning to the creation described in detail in the rest of Genesis.
  • This view raises questions about how verse 2 fits with the rest of creation.
    • Like, “how is formless and void compatible with the first day of creation?”
    • And, “it appears stuff already existed before the first day – what is that all about?”
    • We will deal with those in due time.


 So where do we go from here?

  • The typical line against Sailhamer’s view is a grammatical one (definite articles and such).
  • Something I am woefully unequipped to dive into.
  • However, Gordon Wenham dives into it and sees it as not convincing.


Problem with Walton’s view:

(1) The first problem is the most straightforward.

  • We saw earlier with the Job and Jeremiah texts that Walton said, “reshit” “introduces a period of time”.
  • The problem is that in both examples “reshit” is not just an introduction to a later period of time.
  • It was “time before time”.
  • Job’s “reshit” and Zedekiah’s “reshit” (4 years and 5 months) were actual lengths of time.
  • If you want to call 4+ years an introduction, then so be it.


(2) The second problem stems from John 1:1.

  • John 1:1 (ESV) — 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
  • The parallel to Genesis is obvious.
  • But what is the parallel?


In John 1:1 was Jesus “existing” or “in operation” in the beginning, or is the text an introduction to His “existing” or being “in operation”?

  • Obviously John was pointing to Jesus’ prior “existing”, His eternality.


Likewise, did creation exist or was it “in operation” in Gen 1:1, or is the text just an introduction to its coming existence?

  • It seems the parallel with John 1:1 would suggest that there was already some creation “going on”.



In our observations we had three questions about “reshit”.

  • (1) What does it mean?
  • (2) How long was it?
  • (3) Is it describing a creation event, or is it an introduction to the telling of creation?


(1) We have dealt the first.

  • See above discussion.


(2) We don’t know the answer to the second.

  • How does this uncertainty relate to the age of the earth debate?
  • Is it friendlier to one or the other?
  • It would appear we should at least be less dogmatic about our belief on this issue.
  • BTW – Sailhamer says that when his kids would ask about the dinosaurs, he would tell them they lived “in the beginning”.


(3) We have given two possibilities for the third question.

  • Admittedly, I tend to side with John Sailhamer and the others of his ilk.
  • But that certainly doesn’t put it to rest, as we will see in later verses.


Reshit – Moses’ Message (the big picture):

Sailhamer speculates as to why “reshit” and why it was allotted only one small verse.

“It was no accident or mere happenstance that he picked the Hebrew word reshit to begin his narrative of God’s dealings with the world and with humankind. He did not want us to focus on the method or process God used to create the stars and sun and moon and earth, but rather intended to draw our attention to God’s special preparation of the land as a place for humankind to dwell in safety” – John Sailhamer.