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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.