Monthly Archives: July 2014

Genesis 1:20-23 – Fifth Day of Creation


Genesis 1:20–23 (ESV) — 20 And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds 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.


What are the “great sea creatures”?

Unlike the fourth day, day five doesn’t appear to involve functions, so what is going on?

Did God “let” or actually “create” on day five?

What is the significance of the blessing in verse 22?


Day fives seems simple enough.

  • God filled the seas with “great sea creatures” and “every living creature”.
  • He filled the “expanse” with birds.
  • But there is actually much more going on.
  • We will survey our cast of regulars and then explore Walton and Sailhamer.



Great Sea Creatures:

What are the great sea creatures?

  • The Hebrew word is “tannin”.
  • Many versions of the Bible translate this word in verse 21 as “great sea monsters”.
  • Interestingly, it is also translated in other OT appearances as serpent, jackal, crocodile and whale.


It must be noted that the “tannin” are singled out.

  • Moses tells us in verse 21 that the “swarms of living creatures” consist of both “living creatures” and “tannin”.
  • Wenham suggests that “it is probably significant that ‘sea monsters’ are picked out for special mention”.


The word is used elsewhere in the OT as follows:

  • Isaiah 27:1 (ESV) — 1 In that day the Lord with his hard and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting serpent, and he will slay the dragon that is in the sea.
  • Psalm 74:13 (ESV) — 13 You divided the sea by your might; you broke the heads of the sea monsters on the waters.
  • Job 7:12 (ESV) — 12 Am I the sea, or a sea monster, that you set a guard over me?


So are we dealing with real live dragons and sea monsters?


It is time to get all “ancient Near Eastern” again.

  • Some of Israel’s ANE neighbors had a mythological sea monster of the same name.
  • Tannîn in Ugaritic literature has been shown to be a generic term for the mythical chaos monster” – Kenneth Mathews.
  • This god, which was also another name for the sea, “is consistently pictured as an enemy of Baal” – Victor Hamilton.
  • Many scholars believe that a number of OT uses of “tannin”, especially the three we just read, are alluding to this mythical pagan sea monster/god.
  • In other words, not to a literal animal/creature.
  • In fact, Victor Hamilton says that the tannin references we just saw “defy any other explanation”.


In these instances scholars believe:

  • The OT writers “apparently use[d] the language of Canaanite myth to describe God’s victory over his foes” – Wenham.
  • Or, as Mathews puts it, “for allusion to express their affirmation in the sovereignty of God.”
  • In other words, the myths were “thoroughly demythologized” to make a theological point – TWOT.
  • Yahweh, metaphorically, controls and thwarts “chaos” and the “sea” for His purposes and glory.


BTW – AiG views “tannin” as a literal creature – some sort of dragon (aka, a dinosaur).

  • It is certainly possible that the mythology could have arisen from actual sightings of a large sea creature.


But what is the use of “tannin” in Genesis and why is it singled out?

  • Certainly Moses isn’t saying God created a “mythical chaos monster”/sea god?
  • Hamilton affirms this, “Curiously, Genesis does not use the language of myth in its narration of the Creation story” – Victor Hamilton.
  • Its use in Genesis 1 is for a literal animal or kinds of animals.
  • John Sailhamer agrees.


And yet, most agree that the ANE “tannin” is polemically in view.

  • In other words, we have ourselves another polemic against ANE cosmology.


How does the polemic play out?

  • It plays out by Moses’ deliberate, singled out use of the Hebrew “tannin” and its linguistic relationship to his neighbor’s use of the word “tnn”.
  • “The tannîn, so greatly feared, is depicted as no more than a sea creature. Though ‘great’ in size to man’s thinking, our passage shows that these creatures are numbered with the smallest of the sea in God’s eyes” – Kenneth Mathews.

“The primeval monsters, which symbolize rebellion in ancient Near Eastern myths, are here depicted as merely a few of God’s many creatures, depending upon and ultimately serving God” – Bruce Waltke.

  • In other words, a “tannin” is a creature made, controlled and under the authority of Yahweh.
  • It is not an autonomous “chaos monster” living in opposition to Yahweh’s purposes.



Creation or Letting:

The typical view here is that day five consisted of the material creation of sea life and “expanse” life.

  • What gives this view more weight, as compared to day four, are two things.
  • 1) There don’t appear to be any functions assigned.
  • 2) Verse 21’s “created” is the word “bara”.

“‘So God created’ is the second of only four verses in which bārāʾ (‘created’) occurs in the narrative (1:1, 27; 2:3; also 2:4a). It begins and ends the section, 1:1–2:3, and also is found at the two important junctures in creation: here, the creation of the first animate life, and in 1:27, the creation of human life” – Mathews.


We will shortly see how Walton and Sailhamer deal with this.

  • Victor Hamilton provides us with a clue.
  • It might be significant that “the reappearance in v. 21 of the verb create, not used since v. 1, underlines this point” concerning “tannin” – Hamilton.
  • What point?
  • The polemical point that “tannin” is not a god but a mere creature that Yahweh “bara’d”.




“A distinctive feature of the fifth day is the first recorded ‘blessing’ in the Bible” – Mathews.

  • “This is the first time the additional divine word takes the form of a blessing (v 22, cf. 28) instead of a naming (vv 5, 8, 10)” – Wenham.
  • And who received the first blessing?
  • The sea animals and “expanse” animals.


What was the blessing?

  • The ability to procreate.
  • “This special endowment for living things comes only from God since his word alone brings life” – Kenneth Mathews.


Interestingly this is the same blessing that humanity receives on day six (verse 28).

  • “This blessing indicates that the creatures are in a favored position before the Lord” – Kenneth Mathews.
  • And the later “…startling reversal of God’s attitude toward his world of creatures by the flood exhibits the enormity of the world’s corruption” – Mathews.
  • God preserves some, yes, but He destroys many in His judgment of man.



Create and Blessing:

There is a link, theologically, between the use of “create” and “blessing” in our text.

  • Wenham says the link is made due to the “verbal similarity” – “bara” and “barak”.
  • “God’s blessing is in one sense a perpetuation of God’s creative activity, it also enables man to imitate God by procreating” – Wenham.
  • We will see more made of this connection with Sailhamer.



John Walton’s Take:

Walton says day fives’ functions are to be found in the functionaries.

  • So day five is not the creation of the functionaries (sea animals and expanse animals).
  • It is the assignment of their functions by God.
  • In other words, it is God declaring how the functionaries are to function within creation.


And what are the functions of the functionaries?

  • Walton says, “It is their function to fill their respective realms”.
  • How? – God says they were to swarm/teem, fly and procreate.


How does Walton deal with the use of “bara”?

  • We saw earlier that Hamilton conceded the significance of the use of “bara” in conjunction with “tannin”.
  • Walton agrees.


The use of “bara” with “tannin” is the reason why the polemic against ANE cosmology works.

  • So “bara” on day five is not about the material creation of the creatures.
  • It is a declaration that the “great creatures of the sea” are merely functionaries that God previously created.


Why is this significant?

“In the ancient world the cosmic seas were populated with creatures that operated against the ordered system. Whether antithesis or enemy, they were viewed as threats to order, as they inhabited the region that was itself outside of the ordered system” – John Walton.


This common ANE view is why God/Moses would single them out with “bara”.

  • “Since there is no cosmic warfare or conquest in Genesis as is sometimes part of the ancient Near Eastern picture, the text indicates that these creatures are simply part of the ordered system, not enemies that had to be defeated and kept in check. In Genesis these creatures are fully under God’s control” – John Walton.
  • The “tannin” function “to fill their respective realms” just as any other creature.
  • They don’t function to oppose Yahweh’s order and purpose.



John Sailhamer’s Take:

God has been systematically preparing the Promised Land since day one for image bearers.

  • Creation, remember, is solely about God’s setting apart the Promised Land for image bearers.
  • Day five is one more step God takes to this end.
  • God had previously prepared the expanse and the waters.
  • On day five he commands the previously created animals to inhabit the waters and expanse of the Promised Land.


How does Sailhamer deal with the use of “bara”?

  • Sailhamer deals with “bara” three ways.


(1) “Bara” is used to delineate three different stages of the preparation of the Promised Land.

  • These stages were also alluded to by Mathews in an above section.
  • “Each new stage in creation is thus marked by the special Hebrew verb bara, ‘to create’: the universe (1:1); the living creatures (1:20–21); and humanity (1:26–27)” – John Sailhamer.


Sailhamer says this marking of the stages is buttressed by the blessing that appears on day five and day six.

  • Like we saw earlier, “bara” is wordplay on “barak”.
  • “It is significant that the word ‘to create’ also occurs on the sixth and seventh days, where again it is linked by means of a wordplay to the Hebrew word ‘blessing’” – John Sailhamer.
  • By using “bara” with “barak” the author is purposely marking out these stages.


(2) A distinction between God’s words and authorial comments show that “bara” is an allusion to Gen. 1:1 indicating that the animals were created “in the beginning”.

  • Sailhamer begins this approach with a question.

“If Genesis 1:1 states that God created the universe ‘in the beginning,’ and if that means God created the plants and animals at the same time, then why does God create more animals on the fifth and sixth days?” – John Sailhamer.

  • He notes that this is the same question about the creation of the sun – Genesis 1:1, day one or day four.


What we have going on during the days of creation is this:

  • There is a significant pattern of God speaking followed by an authorial comment.
  • This is similar to how John would add commentary in his Gospel.
  • John 2:21–22 (ESV) — 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.


So in our text it plays out like this:

  • We have a “God said” coupled with “Let the waters” and “Let birds”.
  • This is then followed by the author’s comment, “So God created”.


So what?

  • The “God said” commands do “not call these creatures into existence, as if they did not exist previously. Rather, they simply assign the creatures to their proper domains, the waters and the sky” – Sailhamer.
  • “God is not so much ‘creating’ the birds as He is filling the skies over ‘the land’ which He has just prepared for them” – John Sailhamer.
  • Therefore, “Here we see God filling the Promised Land with various kinds of animals that were already created in ‘the beginning’” – John Sailhamer.


So what is the purpose of the author’s comment and use of “bara”?

Its purpose is to remind “the reader of an important part of the overall narrative—God ‘created’ all the animals. The author does not say God created all the animals on the fifth day; he merely says it was God who created all the animals and that now He commands some to fill the waters and the skies over the promised land” – John Sailhamer.


(3) In keeping with his text-centered approach, Sailhamer points out a parallel with Exodus 8.

“The picture of the events of this day [day five] are reminiscent of God’s filling the waters and skies of Egypt with swarms of water creatures in Moses’ day. When Moses extended his staff over the Nile River, as he was commanded by God to do, the text says, ‘the Nile was to swarm with frogs’ (Exodus 8:3). These are the same Hebrew terms which are found in Genesis 1:20. When Moses followed God’s command, the text again says, ‘the frogs came up [from the Nile] and covered the land’ – Sailhamer.


God didn’t create these creatures at that moment, but by His word (like Genesis’ “God said…let”) he called them out.

“God spoke, and frogs, fish, and birds came from somewhere and filled the skies and waters of the land. There is no need to suppose that these creatures did not already exist as a result of God’s work of creation ‘in the beginning.’ On the fifth day God simply populated the ‘land’ with those creatures” – John Sailhamer.

Genesis 1:14-19 – Fourth Day of Creation


Genesis 1:14–19 (ESV) — 14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. 16 And God made 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 heavens 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.


Is there anything created on the fourth day?

This is the pressing question on day four.


If light was created on day four, how is it reconciled with day one’s light?

Is it possible to have a literal 24-hour day, as even Walton and Sailhamer agree, without having a literal sun, moon and earth orbit?



Before we get into these its Moses’ Message time.


Moses Message:

There is actually a feature of the fourth day of creation about which there is little disagreement.

  • Moses is, again, offering a polemic against ancient Near Eastern cosmology.


Wenham says, “there is probably a polemic thrust behind Genesis’ treatment” of astral bodies.

  • Victor Hamilton says, “Few commentators deny that this whole chapter has a strong antimythical thrust.”
  • Bruce Waltke says, “This expression serves as a polemic against the principal deities of a pagan pantheon”.
  • Mathew’s says, Moses’ handling of the celestial bodies “differs significantly from the superstitious belief within pagan religion that the earth’s destiny is dictated by the course of the stars”.



Israel’s neighbors viewed the sun and moon as gods.

  • And, importantly, they were some of their most important gods – Wenham.
  • For example, the “Sumerians have their Anu, Enlil, and Enki” – Mathews.
  • The “Babylonians have their trinity of stars, Sin, Shamash, and Ishtar” – Mathews.
  • “Egypt has Nut, Shu, and Geb with the preeminent astral deity, the sun god Re” – Mathews.


The important point is that the sun, moon and stars, as gods, were seen as “autonomous bodies” – Hamilton.

  • These gods had varying degrees of control over humans.


Moses, however, has a much different take.

  • Wenham says Moses’ polemic is a three pronged attack.


1) Moses’ is telling us that astral bodies are created and controlled by Yahweh – “they are creatures, not gods”.

  • The “luminaries are not eternal; they are created, not to be served but to serve. That is the mandate under which they function” – Victor Hamilton.


2) Moses doesn’t refer to the sun and the moon using the normal Hebrew words.

  • They are stripped of any pretense of power by being called simply the “greater light” and the “lesser light”.
  • Apparently, because the Hebrew words for sun and moon are names of ANE gods.
  • The Hebrew word for moon “yareah” is related to the word for an ANE moon god named “Yarih”.
  • Hebrew may have borrowed words from surrounding cultures; it doesn’t mean the words contain the same meaning.


3) The sun and moon serve Yahweh’s purpose alone – they aren’t autonomous bodies like they are in ANE cosmology.

  • Wenham says this was a “lowly function by ancient Near Eastern standards”.



Creation and Fourth Day:

Wenham takes the familiar view.

  • Day four describes the actual creation of the celestial bodies.
  • Mathews agrees, “On this day the luminaries are created and placed in the heavens”.


Remember, for them Genesis 1:1 was not creation, but an introduction to creation.

  • Day one’s light was not sunlight but “Godlight”.
  • “It must therefore be supposed that the first three days were seen as different: then light and darkness alternated at God’s behest” – Gordon Wenham.
  • The text doesn’t say this.


Again, is it possible to have a literal 24-hour day without the sun and a spinning earth?

  • Interestingly, Wenham, Mathews, Waltke and Hamilton all say no.
  • They argue that we aren’t dealing with literal 24-hour days.
  • They recognize the problems the fourth day might pose to a literal 24-hour day.


As we asked when dealing with the first day of creation…

  • If God was the source of light, how was there still darkness?
  • Did He remove His presence?
  • Did God cease shining for a number of hours?
  • Was the earth circling and spinning yet?
  • If it wasn’t, then how was time passing?
  • Why does day one separate darkness and light, but day four separates day from night?
  • If the “day from night” distinction didn’t exist until day four where is the literal day on days 1-3?
  • Were plants really created before the sun?


Interestingly, as we saw on day one, the guys who believe the universe was created in verse 1 (or the preface) have no problem accepting the six days as literal 24-hour days.

  • This is because the celestial bodies, as part of the created universe from verse 1 (or the preface), were already there.


Closer Look:

Let’s look at day four again very closely before we get into Walton and Sailhamer.

  • Does it actually say the celestial bodies were created on this day?
  • We can put it like this – is God creating something that is not there or assigning purpose and function to things that are already there for the benefit of image-bearers?


Take verse 14.

  • It doesn’t just say, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens”.


What verse 14 does say is, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night”.

  • Can’t this just as easily mean that God was assigning purpose, function and meaning to material that was already there?
  • In other words, what is the purpose of the “lights in the expanse” that are in the sky?
  • God answers on day four, “to separate the day from the night”.
  • More on verse 14 when we get to Sailhamer.


The presence of function assigning is never more obvious than on this fourth day.

  • Even Wenham acknowledges this fact.


Wenham illustrates it as follows – functions galore:

  • A. to divide the day from the night (14a)
  • B. for signs, for fixed times, for days and years (14b)
  • C. to give light on the earth (15)
  • D. to rule the day (16a) } God made the
  • D. to rule the night (16b) } two lights
  • C. to give light on the earth (17)
  • B. to rule the day and the night (18a)
  • A. to divide the light from the darkness (18b)


Let’s take a look at Walton and Sailhamer and get into the weeds some more.

  • Both argue that there is no creation here, but the assigning of purpose.



Walton’s View:

We have just seen it.

  • God was assigning purpose, order and function to celestial bodies for the benefit of image-bearers.
  • He does address the use of “asa” in verse 16 – “And God made the two great lights…”.
  • Walton says, “some may insist that this verb…expresses a material perspective”.
  • It can, but not inherently.


Definition of “asa”:

  • The DBL says it can mean, “to fashion or create an object, usually implying the use of existing materials” OR “to do” or “bring about a state or event”.
  • And often this fashioning/bringing about is more concerned with function.


Some Scriptural examples:

  • Exodus 38:3 (ESV) — 3 And he made all the utensils of the altar, the pots, the shovels, the basins, the forks, and the fire pans. He made all its utensils of bronze.
  • 1 Chronicles 18:8 (ESV) — 8 And from Tibhath and from Cun, cities of Hadadezer, David took a large amount of bronze. With it Solomon made the bronze sea and the pillars and the vessels of bronze.


In the above, items were made out of preexisting material.

  • And their significance was in their purpose within the tabernacle.
  • In other words, a pot is a pot.
  • But a pot to be used in service of the tabernacle is a functioned pot – it exists in its purpose.


Walton also takes us to Genesis 2:2 to demonstrate this.

  • Genesis 2:2 (ESV) — 2 And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.
  • ANE Creation as “doing” is a work of “establishing functions”, a creation that is “function oriented” – Walton.
  • God is fashioning function for the material he previously made and the He rested.



Sailhamer’s View:

Sailhamer understands, like Walton, that most see day four as creation of celestial bodies.

  • But, like Walton, he believes everything was created beforehand.
  • So how does he handle the fourth day?


He takes a similar approach to Walton.

  • Yet instead of grounding it in function – which he does acknowledge – he grounds it in the Hebrew.
  • Just like he did in Genesis 1:1 with “reshit” and the merism of “heavens and earth”.


Sailhamer says that because of the Hebrew syntax (definite/locative/infinitive) in verse 14 it doesn’t actually translate as:

  • “Let there be lights in the expanse to separate the day and the night”
  • But, “Let the lights in the expanse be for separating the day and night…” – Sailhamer.


The DBL agrees that the word separate means “to set apart for a function”.

  • But what about the “be lights” vs. “lights…be for”?


Hebrew scholar H. Ross Cole says that Sailhamer “may thus be correct” and “has raised some interesting possibilities”.

  • And interestingly, Cole says Sailhamer’s interpretation is certainly correct for two textual/syntax reasons Sailhamer didn’t even consider.
    • Too complicated for me to understand or explain.
  • Cole, then, in agreement with Sailhamer says the text conveys that the lights “became signs” not “came into existence”.


So because of the Hebrew syntax in verse 14:

  • “The narrative suggests that the author did not understand his account of the fourth day to be an account of the creation of the lights but merely a statement of their purpose” – John Sailhamer.
  • Thus, Sailhamer’s “Preparation of the Promised Land” view can overlap nicely with Walton’s “Functional Creation” view.
  • And for Sailhamer, the day four purposing is for the Promised Land and its coming image-bearers of day six/Genesis 2.


BTW – Sailhamer wants us to lay aside the notion that on each day of creation God “made” something.

“What the writer wants most to show in this narrative is not that on each day God ‘made’ something, but that on each day God ‘said’ something. The predominant view of God in this chapter is that He is a God who speaks. His word is powerful. As the psalmist who had read this chapter said, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made” – John Sailhamer.

  • Walton would also acknowledge the priority of God speaking.


Sailhamer’s Summary of Day Four:

“God did not make the sun, moon, and stars on the fourth day. He created them ‘in the beginning.’ On the fourth day God proclaimed His purpose in making those celestial bodies. They were to serve mankind in the land as signs of God’s power and as reminders of the seasons, days, and years, when His creatures were to worship Him” – John Sailhamer.


So for textual reasons (both Gen. 1:1 and 1:14), and for ANE function-giving/purposing reasons, Walton and Sailhamer make the case that there was no physical creation on day four.


Genesis 1:9-13 – Third Day of Creation

Observation Time:

Genesis 1:9–13 (ESV) — 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, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. 11 And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, 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 vegetation, 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.


Were the waters already present?

What does “gathered together into one place” mean?

What are the “Seas” are they different from the “waters”?


Was the dry land already present?

What does “let the dry land appear” mean?


Was the vegetation already present?

What is meant by “Let the earth” and “the earth brought forth”?

Was this every kind of vegetation?



Typically, the third day is seen – globally of course – as the day on which dry land and plants were created.

  • Global earth was completely covered with water.
  • God called the dry land out of the waters.
  • God created vegetation to grow upon the newly created dry land.
  • But, as with everything we have covered thus far, there is much disagreement.


For example, Gordon Wenham seems to say there was nothing new created on the third day.

  • “The work of the third involved no new creation, but more an organization of existing material”.


Victor Hamilton suggests the complete opposite.

  • “Unlike the first and second days, which feature one act of creation, this day has two acts of creation: earth and vegetation.”


We need to deal with the seas, land and vegetation one at a time before we get into Sailhamer and Walton.



The Seas:

Moses tells us that the waters under the heavens/sky were gathered together into one place.

  • When this was done, God called the gathered together waters the “Seas”.


What are the “Seas” and how are they different than the waters?

  • DBL says the Hebrew word for “seas” means simply “a body of water”.
  • VINES says, “This word refers to the body of water as distinct from the land bodies (continents and islands) and the sky (heavens)”
  • In other words, “seas” can be oceans, seas, lakes, or even rivers.


Sailhamer points out that “In Hebrew, any ‘pool’ of water—regardless of the size—is called a ‘sea.’” – Sailhamer.

  • The HALOT seems to agree with this noting that the OT calls the “receptacle of [a] winepress” which catches liquid the “sea”.
  • And in 1 Kings (7:23) a basin in the Temple is called the “sea” – a very large container for holding water.
  • 1 Kings 7:23 (ESV) — 23 Then he made the sea of cast metal. It was round, ten cubits from brim to brim, and five cubits high, and a line of thirty cubits measured its circumference.


So it appears that the “Seas” are no different from the waters except for one important fact.

  • They are the waters that God acted upon to contain and distribute as He saw fit.
  • He gathered them – the lakes into their place, rivers into their place, oceans into their place, etc.
  • The question then, was this a global gathering or a “local” gathering?


If true, that the waters/seas distinction is made due to God’s action, this can fit with both John Sailhamer’s preparation of Promise Land view, and an ordering and assigning purpose per John Walton’s view.


BTW – Wenham points out something very important.

  • “Whereas we view the continents as islands surrounded by oceans, the phraseology here suggests they saw the world as dry land with seas in it” – Gordon Wenham.


If true, this could imply that the land was already there – God had already created it (Walton/Sailhamer).

  • This means that the gathering together or withdrawal (Thomas Aquinas) of the waters exposed the land.
  • In other words, God put the waters into their place – the “Seas” – around and in the “eretz”.
  • By His power he restrained them for the benefit of the dry land – plants – people, etc.


So we have varying answers concerning our questions about the “Seas”.

  • But, importantly, agreement about the purposeful action of God with respect to the “Seas”.



Dry Land:

Moses tells us that when God gathered together the waters into the “Seas” the dry land appeared.

  • Those who say that dry land was created on this day read “appeared” as created.
  • Victor Hamilton specifically says that on the third day we have “creation of the bare earth” – Hamilton.


However, Hugh Ross says of the land…

  • “Solid ground already existed, of course, as the ocean floor, but the time had finally arrived when the forces that raise portions of Earth’s crust and lower others brought land, a large body of it, above the waters to stay and to dry out”.
  • In other words, for him, Moses is describing plate tectonics.


Bruce Waltke, seemingly in agreement with the folks that argue that the “eretz” was already there, makes a statement that is compatible with Sailhamer or Walton.

  • “The word land connotes that which is benevolently ordered by God’s sovereignty in the interests of human life and security”
  • He then points us to Psalms and Proverbs.
  • Psalm 24:1–2 (ESV) — 1 The earth [eretz] is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, 2 for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers [ANE cosmology?].
  • Proverbs 2:21–22 (ESV) — 21 For the upright will inhabit the land [eretz], and those with integrity will remain in it, 22 but the wicked will be cut off from the land, and the treacherous will be rooted out of it.


Either of these texts, with Waltke’s take, can be used to support Sailhamer or Walton.

  • God established the “eretz” for dwellers – assigned purpose and order (Walton).
  • God prepared the “eretz” for obedient image-bearers – preparation of Promised Land (Sailhamer).


We have managed to supply a variety of answers to our questions about the land – eretz.

  • I leave it to you to decide if it was already there or created on day three.
  • As we will see, Walton and Sailhamer believe it was already there.




Apparently, most see the appearance of vegetation on the third day as a creative act of God.

  • Even though, as Kenneth Mathew’s points out, “God’s creative decree is indirect (also 1:20, 24). The land is commanded to produce vegetation”.
  • God commanded the earth [eretz] to “let” and then the earth “brought forth”.
  • By His word, God coupled the appearance of the vegetation to the earth’s capacity to bring it forth.
  • But, again, “This emergence of life is no less ‘creation’ than the first act [of creation]” – Derek Kidner.


Interestingly, Augustine and Aquinas suggest the following about this “indirect” act of creation.

  • Augustine says the earth received its power to produce vegetation on the third day.
  • Aquinas says the plants were part of the earth – when earth was formed plants were formed.
    • Stored up perhaps?
  • This implies in some way that the vegetation was already present in the ground (via God, of course).
  • And when the dry land was exposed, it could begin to grow.


What vegetation are we talking about?

  • Most seem to hold the view, as reflected in the NIV translation, that not all types of vegetation were created on the third day, but just two types.
  • Genesis 1:11 (NIV) — 11 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants [zera eseb] and trees [peri es] on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so.


Michael Heiser agrees, “This passage refers to the creation of plant life, but it does not cover all botanical variety.”

  • We are directed to Genesis 1:30 to see that other types of vegetation was created.
  • Although, interestingly, we are never told when.
  • Genesis 1:30 (ESV) — 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 [yereq eseb] for food.” And it was so.


So the two kinds of vegetation “brought forth” on this third day are the seed-bearing plants and the fruit trees.

  • Not the “green plant” (which some translate “grasses”) of Genesis 1:30.


Before digging into Sailhamer and Walton, we need another dose of Moses’ Message.



Moses’ Message:

Kenneth Mathews points out a polemic that is present on the third day.

  • “Whereas the ancients believed that vegetation and all reproducing processes were dependent upon the procreation of the gods, the Genesis account attributes vegetation to the inanimate soil” – Mathews.
  • Only Yahweh, the one true God, can bring life out of dust.
  • Or, Christ out of the grave!


Additionally, as we have discussed before, the waters in creation are not gods to be defeated.

“God’s gathering and appointment of the waters show that they too are under his dominion. The seas are not independent forces to be feared and worshiped but creations that respond to the direct commands of God” – Mathews.


Now on to Walton and Sailhamer.



Walton’s Take:

It will be helpful to quickly summarize Walton’s functional view of creation.

  • “If we desire to see the greatest work of the Creator, it is not to be found in the materials that he brought together— it is that he brought them together in such a way that they work” – John Walton.
  • In other words, his view says Genesis is not about the physical creation of the universe.
  • It is about how God took what he created and purposed it – “brought them together” – for the benefit of image-bearers and their God – “that they work”.


Walton gives a helpful illustration for us in his third day discussion.

  • He speaks of the physical complexity of the eye.
  • How many cells and nerves it contains; how it is placed in the socket; how it is attached to muscles and nerves; how it communicates to the brain; etc.


By way of analogy, to speak of the eye this way is to speak of creation in the traditional, material way.

  • But, as we said, for Walton, creation is not about how the eye is made, connected and communicates.
  • Creation is about how God takes what he made and purposes it for seeing.


In other words, the purpose of the eye is to see – vision.

  • The eye is about seeing not a collection of cellular relationships of a certain kind.
  • The material components of the eye were “created” in an ANE sense when they were assigned the function of seeing.
  • So Genesis 1-3 is not about how God made the eye.
  • For Walton, it is about what the eye was purposed for – seeing.


Moving on:

Walton says, from an ANE functional perspective, “…the emergence of dry land is associated with the growing of food” – John Walton.

  • He offers up a number of ANE examples from Egypt and the Enuma Elish.


In other words, the purpose of the dry land was to bring forth food for image-bearers.

So, “Day three reflects the wonder of the ancient world at the whole idea that plants grew, dropped seed, and that more of the same plant came from that tiny seed. The cycle of vegetation, the principles of fertilization, the blessing of fecundity— all of these were seen as part of the amazing provision of food so necessary for people to survive” – John Walton.


Remember, the eye as vision not as a ball of nerves connected to the brain.

  • The “vision” is the purpose/function of the eye.
  • And for day three, the vision is the providing food for image-bearers.


Walton wraps up his discussion of day three as follows:

“So on day one God created the basis for time; day two the basis for weather; and day three the basis for food. These three great functions— time, weather and food— are the foundation of life” – John Walton.


Finally, with respect to our observation questions, Walton would argue as follows:

  • All of physical creation – water, seas, land, and vegetation – was there already.
  • How or in what capacity we have no idea – the text isn’t about that.
  • The text is about function.



Sailhamer’s Take:

Sailhamer’s text-centered approach leads him to view the third day in light of what Moses wrote elsewhere about Israel and water.

“The narrative of the separation of the waters and the preparation of the land is to be read in light of the subsequent accounts of the flood (Genesis 6–9) and the parting of the Red Sea (Exodus 14–15)” – John Sailhamer.


He says this is necessary because in all three of these Mosaic accounts (creation, Red Sea, the flood), “the waters are cast as an obstacle to man’s inhabiting and enjoying ‘the good land’” – Sailhamer.

  • They must be removed “before God’s people can enjoy His gift of the land” – Sailhamer.
  • The land ultimately to be enjoyed, in each case, is the Promised Land/Eden.


Remember, as Wenham pointed out, the Hebrews apparently saw the earth as “dry land with seas in it”.

  • The Promised Land was there in Genesis 1, but to “enter it” required God’s power over the waters – the obstacle.
  • The third day is a description of the removal/ordering of the “obstacle” to prepare the Promised Land.


Scripture itself seems to make this connection between God’s powers over the waters in creation with His powers over the waters elsewhere in the Pentateuch.

  • Psalm 66:5–6 (ESV) — 5 Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man. 6 He turned the sea into dry land [yabbasa – same as Gen. 1]; they passed through the river on foot. There did we rejoice in him,
  • Many see this text about the Red Sea as also alluding to Genesis 1.


Moses’ Message Segue:

Sailhamer suggests that Moses wants us to see that it is God’s prerogative to use the waters for blessing or curse.

“In his account of creation, the author begins with a simple picture of God’s mighty power at work, harnessing the great sea on behalf of man’s ‘good.’ The later flood account is a bitter reminder of the other side of God’s power as the waters become an instrument of judgment” – John Sailhamer.

  • Because of this fact, Moses is highlighting the necessity of obedience.


BTW – Both Walton and Sailhamer see the flood as important to understanding Genesis 1.

  • Sailhamer sees it as making the Promised Land uninhabitable – a physical reversal of creation (like Jeremiah 4.
  • 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.


Walton sees the flood as a reversal of functional creation – stripping creation of order and purpose.

  • The stuff is there but it can serve no purpose for image-bearers.


Back to Sailhamer:

With respect to the vegetation created on the third day, Sailhamer tells us it is important to take note that only kinds of trees created were fruit trees.

  • trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it” (verse 11)


And importantly, Moses tells us exactly whom the fruit trees are for.

  • Genesis 1:29 (ESV) — 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.


And as we noted earlier, we know that not all trees and plants were created on the third day.

  • Again, this is because verse 30 speaks of a different kind of plant – every green plant.


Sailhamer says the six days never tell us when these green plants (and the rest of the trees) were created.

  • “This is yet another clue that the remainder of Genesis 1 doesn’t describe the creation of the universe and the world, but rather concerns itself with the preparation of the promised land” – John Sailhamer.
  • Why…because we know from Genesis 2 for whom the fruit trees were made – Adam and Eve.
  • And Adam and Eve were placed in Eden – the Promised Land.
  • In fact, the fruit trees created on the third day play a pivotal role in the Adam and Ever story.


Finally, with respect to our observation questions, Sailhamer would argue as follows:

  • The waters were on and alongside of the Promised Land.
  • On Day three, God physically secured them in their boundaries.
  • The resulting “Seas” were literally the Med., the Sea of Galilee, the Dead Sea, and the Jordan River.


Both the land (eretz) and “green plants” had already been created in Genesis 1:1.

  • As for the vegetation, on day three after the waters were put in their place, the Promised Land was filled with seed bearing plants and fruit trees – for the image bearers (Adam and Eve).
  • Therefore, day three God is continuing his work to prepare the Promised Land/Eden for Adam and Eve.