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Exposition of Genesis Index



Alexander Maclaren

'And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our
likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of
the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the
cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping
thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man
in His own image: in the image of God created He him;
male and female created He them. And God blessed them:
and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and
replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion
over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air,
and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing
seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every
tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed;
to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the
earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing
that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I
have given every green herb for meat: and it was so. And
God saw every thing that He had made, and, behold, it
was very good. And the evening and the morning were the
sixth day.

'Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all
the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended His
work which He had made; and He rested on the seventh day
from all His work which He had made. And God blessed the
seventh day, and sanctified it; because that in it He
had rested from all His work which God created and made.'
--GENESIS i. 26-ii. 3.

We are not to look to Genesis for a scientific cosmogony, and are
not to be disturbed by physicists' criticisms on it as such. Its
purpose is quite another, and far more important; namely, to imprint
deep and ineffaceable the conviction that the one God created all
things. Nor must it be forgotten that this vision of creation was
given to people ignorant of natural science, and prone to fall back
into surrounding idolatry. The comparison of the creation narratives
in Genesis with the cuneiform tablets, with which they evidently are
most closely connected, has for its most important result the
demonstration of the infinite elevation above their monstrosities
and puerilities, of this solemn, steadfast attribution of the creative act to the one God. Here we can only draw out in brief the main points which the narrative brings into prominence.

1. The revelation which it gives is the truth, obscured to all other
men when it was given, that one God 'in the beginning created the
heaven and the earth.' That solemn utterance is the keynote of the
whole. The rest but expands it. It was a challenge and a denial for
all the beliefs of the nations, the truth of which Israel was the
champion and missionary. It swept the heavens and earth clear of the
crowd of gods, and showed the One enthroned above, and operative in, all things. We can scarcely estimate the grandeur, the emancipating power, the all-uniting force, of that utterance. It is a worn commonplace to us. It was a strange, thrilling novelty when it was written at the head of this narrative. _Then_ it was in sharp
opposition to beliefs that have long been dead to us; but it is
still a protest against some living errors. Physical science has not
spoken the final word when it has shown us how things came to be as they are. There remains the deeper question, What, or who,
originated and guided the processes? And the only answer is the
ancient declaration, 'In the beginning God created the heaven and
the earth.'

2. The record is as emphatic and as unique in its teaching as to the
mode of creation: 'God said ... and it was so.' That lifts us above
all the poor childish myths of the nations, some of them disgusting,
many of them absurd, all of them unworthy. There was no other agency than the putting forth of the divine will. The speech of God is but a symbol of the flashing forth of His will. To us Christians the
antique phrase suggests a fulness of meaning not inherent in it, for we have learned to believe that 'all things were made by Him' whose
name is 'The Word of God'; but, apart from that, the representation
here is sublime. 'He spake, and it was done'; that is the sign-manual of Deity.

3. The completeness of creation is emphasised. We note, not only the recurrent 'and it was so,' which declares the perfect correspondence of the result with the divine intention, but also the recurring 'God saw that it was good.' His ideals are always realised. The divine artist never finds that the embodiment of His thought falls short of His thought. 'What act is all its thought had been? What will but felt the fleshly screen?

But He has no hindrances nor incompletenesses in His creative work, and the very sabbath rest with which the narrative closes
symbolises, not His need of repose, but His perfect accomplishment
of His purpose. God ceases from His works because 'the works were finished,' and He saw that all was very good.

4. The progressiveness of the creative process is brought into
strong relief. The work of the first four days is the preparation of
the dwelling-place for the living creatures who are afterwards
created to inhabit it. How far the details of these days' work
coincide with the order as science has made it out, we are not
careful to ask here. The primeval chaos, the separation of the
waters above from the waters beneath, the emergence of the land, the beginning of vegetation there, the shining out of the sun as the
dense mists cleared, all find confirmation even in modern theories
of evolution. But the intention of the whole is much rather to teach
that, though the simple utterance of the divine will was the agent
of creation, the manner of it was not a sudden calling of the world,
as men know it, into being, but majestic, slow advance by stages,
each of which rested on the preceding. To apply the old distinction
between justification and sanctification, creation was a work, not
an act. The Divine Workman, who is always patient, worked slowly
then as He does now. Not at a leap, but by deliberate steps, the
divine ideal attains realisation.

5. The creation of living creatures on the fourth and fifth days is
so arranged as to lead up to the creation of man as the climax. On
the fifth day sea and air are peopled, and their denizens 'blessed,'
for the equal divine love holds every living thing to its heart. On
the sixth day the earth is replenished with living creatures. Then,
last of all, comes man, the apex of creation. Obviously the purpose
of the whole is to concentrate the light on man; and it is a matter
of no importance whether the narrative is correct according to
zoology, or not. What it says is that God made all the universe,
that He prepared the earth for the delight of living creatures, that
the happy birds that soar and sing, and the dumb creatures that move
through the paths of the seas, and the beasts of the earth, are all
His creating, and that man is linked to them, being made on the same
day as the latter, and by the same word, but that between man and
them all there is a gulf, since he is made in the divine image. That
image implies personality, the consciousness of self, the power to
say 'I,' as well as purity. The transition from the work of the
first four days to that of creating living things must have had a
break. No theory has been able to bridge the chasm without admitting a divine act introducing the new element of life, and none has been able to bridge the gulf between the animal and human consciousness without admitting a divine act introducing 'the image of God' into the nature common to animal and man. Three facts as to humanity are thrown up into prominence: its possession of the image of God, the equality and eternal interdependence of the sexes, and the lordship over all creatures. Mark especially the remarkable wording of verse 27: 'created He _him_ male and female created He _them_.' So 'neither is the woman without the man, nor the man without the woman.' Each is maimed apart from the other. Both stand side by side, on one level before God. The germ of the most 'advanced' doctrines of the relations of the sexes is hidden here.

Exposition of Genesis Index   
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