The Expository Files



Genesis 1:1

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." (Genesis 1:1). I cannot imagine a sentence that has more meaning than this short, concise and simple statement with which the written revelation of God to man begins. We are so familiar with it that we that we may read it rather quickly without giving it the attention which it deserves.

Imagine for a moment that you had never seen nor heard of this verse until right now. The origin of the universe has puzzled you, and you had contemplated why you existed at all, and whether there was a reason you were here. With this short statement begins a whole Book of answers, and certainly you would be eager to hear more. But notice what is already learned with the statement: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."

A Definite Beginning
The universe did not just pop into existence from nothing by accident. Neither is it an eternal place. The science facts we know, and even most scientific theories about origins agree with what the Bible has said all along. There was a beginning.

One popular theory is that the universe began with a "big bang." The Bible says the universe began with God uttering the phrase, "Let there be..." God, the Father, spoke to God, the Son, and said, "Thou, Lord, in the beginning didst lay the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the works of Thy hands." (Hebrews 11:10). Even today, He "upholds all things by the word of His power." (Hebrews 1:3).

The word translated "beginning" means "starting point." There was a time when nothing existed at all in the physical realm. That time will come again because all material things are temporary (Matthew 24:35; 25:46; 1 Corinthians 15:42-44,49; 2 Corinthians 4:18; 2 Peter 3:10-13).

A Supreme Being
The word translated "God" in this first verse of the Bible is the Hebrew word "elohim." The word signifies superiority and might. God is the "Almighty One." It was by His mouth that the whole realm of creation was awesomely and powerfully spoken into existence. Such a powerful event might well be referred to as a Big Bang except for the fact that a "bang" is an impersonal force without mind or purpose.

The Bible reveals that God is not only personal, but omnipotent, omniscient and eternal. He is without beginning or end, and thus refers to Himself as "I Am." After God had spoken to Job from a whirlwind, and called to Job's attention His power, Job responded, "I know that Thou canst do all things, And that no purpose of Thine can be thwarted. 'Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?' Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know." (Job 42:2,3). Job was filled with awe, and someday every human heart will be filled with that same overwhelming sense of reverence.

Something From Nothing
The Hebrew word for "created" is a word used in the Bible exclusively for God. When the Bible talks of the "creations" of men, it uses a different word, and with good reason. This particular word used in the first verse of the Bible is never used of man because it describes something that is impossible for man to do. It means to bring into being or to make something from nothing. Men can rearrange matter to make new things, but he cannot make matter. "Thus says God the Lord, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread out the earth and its offspring, Who gives breath to the people on it, And spirit to those who walk in it..." (Isaiah 42:5).

The Created Heavens
The word "heaven" is used in at least three different ways in the Scripture. Sometimes it refers to the spiritual realm. Other times it refers to the place where the stars are. Finally, it sometimes refers to the atmosphere of the earth. But here, the word is plural; "the heavens." When the Bible uses this term, it is referring to the universe. The Psalmist David said, "The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, And night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; Their voice is not heard. (Psalm 19:1-3). As he pondered God's creation, he spoke of their silent witness as to the majesty of God.

He also considered that man might well be small and insignificant compared to the vastness of the universe, and yet God was mindful of man. What was it about man that God was interested in him? The answer to this question is one of the themes of the Bible. "When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, The moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained; What is man, that Thou dost take thought of him? And the son of man, that Thou dost care for him?" (Psalm 8:3,4).

The Created Earth
The earth of verse one of the Bible refers to this temporary, terrestrial dwelling place for mankind. It is to this planet that God sent His Son to walk its surface and to give His life for our sins. The Creator took upon Himself the form of one of His creatures. He did not cease to be God, but He also became man . "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being... And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John bore witness of Him, and cried out, saying, 'This was He of whom I said, 'He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.'" For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ." (John 1:1-5; 14-17).

Our universe is resplendent with intricate design and wondrous beauty. It is not the product of chance, but of divine purpose.

The earth is the Lord's, and all it contains, The world, and those who dwell in it. (Psalm 24:1).

By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 12.12; December 2005