Anthropology, the Study of Man

by WordExplain

"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." Genesis 1:1

How Did Our World Get Here?

An Exegesis of Genesis 1:1 - 2:3

By James T. Bartsch




Genesis 1:1-11:32 has served as a battleground between conservative Biblical scholars and skeptics for many decades. There are secular evolutionists who mock what is written here. And then there are theistic evolutionists who do not take these chapters at face value (though some claim they do). They evidently prefer to call themselves evolutionary creationists (an oxymoron, in my judgment). They try to marry the theory of evolution with the record of God’s creation as recorded in Genesis 1:1-2:3. But that is impossible, for, according to Gen. 1, God created light before the sun, and He created the earth before the sun, moon, and stars. God created plant life before the sun could enable photosynthesis. All of these statements fly directly in the face of evolutionary theory. Furthermore, according to the Biblical record, God created everything in the universe in six days, each of which is designated with a sequential number, and each tagged with an evening and a morning, which explains why Jewish people still begin their day at sundown (Gen. 1:1-2:3). To further dispel any notion that the creation account was to be taken only as a non-literal metaphor, Moses implanted the seventh day of rest in the Creation record into the foundation of the Jewish Sabbath day (Ex. 20:8-12), certainly not to be taken as a span of eons of time. There Moses reaffirmed that everything in the cosmos was created in six days as understood from the vantage point of his writing in ca. 1400 B.C. Again, this flies in the face of evolutionary dogma, which must assume billions of years, an assumption which lacks coherent proof. Some evolutionary creationists label these early chapters as non historical. Others say that Gen. 1-11 is historical, but then they reinterpret the Bible in such a way as to allow for evolution. Sadly, many Biblical scholars have allowed an unproven and discredited secular theory of origins to influence their interpretation of God’s sacred Word. WordExplain takes the position that Gen. 1-11 is sober history (that is the way Moses presented it). WordExplain also takes the position that Genesis 1:1-2:3, combined with the genealogies of Gen. 5; 11 accurately record a young earth created by God in six literal days (that is the way Moses presented it). WordExplain also takes the position that authentic science supports a recently created earth that was marred by a universal flood, just as the Bible portrays it. Let us now examine Genesis 1:1-2:3.

Some initial comments on Genesis 1:1-2:3

In the book, Coming to Grips with Genesis: Biblical Authority and the Age of the Earth, Steven W. Boyd wrote chapter six, “The Genre of Genesis 1:1-2:3: What Means This Text?” In concluding remarks at the end of the chapter (p. 191), He stated the following:

Three major implications arise from this study. First, it is not statistically defensible to read Genesis 1:1-2:3 as poetry. Second, since Genesis 1:1-2:3 is narrative, it should be read as other Hebrew narratives are intended to be read – as a concise report of actual events in time-space history, which also conveys an unmistakable theological message. Third, when this text is read as narrative, there is only one tenable view of its plain sense: these were six literal days of creation.

(For a brief online summary of Boyd’s thesis, see The Biblical Hebrew Creation Account: New Numbers Tell the Story.)

Day One of Creation

Genesis 1:1. The Beginning of God’s Creation. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” In this simple (ten words in English, seven in Hebrew), yet incredibly profound opening statement of the Bible, several foundational truths appear. “In the beginning” refers to the origin of time in regard to the cosmos; “God” refers to the Powerful One, whose existence is assumed and needs no proof, and who is the sole agent; “created” means, in this context, that He made out of nothing (ex nihilo); “the heavens” refers to the fact that God created space; and “the earth” denotes that God created the matter comprising planet Earth.

There are some evangelical scholars who believe that “Verse 1 describes what God did on all six days of creation (Gen. 1:2-31). It is a topic sentence that introduces the whole creation account that follows.” (Thomas Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on Genesis, 2010 Edition, p. 9, viewed on July 16, 2010. Constable prefers this view. He also cites, in footnote 22, other scholars who hold this view, namely George Bush, Edward J. Young, Bruce K. Waltke, Allen P. Ross, and Victor P. Hamilton). Another way of stating this view is to assert that Genesis 1:1 is a merism, a figure of speech for totality (Constable, p. 9). This view is not preferable for the following reasons:

First, if Genesis 1:1 is merely a topic sentence, or an introductory merism, then we are left with no specific statement as to how or when the earth came into existence, and this, in the beginning portion of the beginning book of the Bible which purports to do that very thing! That would be a bizarre and unfortunate omission by the author of Genesis, in my view.

Second, there are eleven unambiguous topical statements in the Book of Genesis, and none of them is worded this way. (These are the toledot passages, found in Genesis 2:4; 5:1; 6:9; 10:1; 11:10, 27; 25:12,19; 36:1, 9; 37:2. These toledot passages are typically translated, “these are the records of the generations of _______________.”)

Third, if Genesis 1:1 does not refer to God’s specific creation of the earth, then we are left with a most peculiar literary device. Suddenly in Genesis 1:2, the author begins to discuss the condition of the earth that has no specific record of having been created. That, in my view, is unthinkable.

Fourth, God, in His commandment concerning the Sabbath Day, clearly stated that He had made both the heavens and the earth and everything in them in six days (Ex. 20:8-11). It seems evident from this Divine commentary that Genesis 1:1 records God’s actual creation of two entities, the heavens, and then the earth. So Genesis 1:1 is the opening statement of what occurred on Day One, not merely a topical statement, or merism, the details of which would appear subsequently.

In the beginning” refers to the beginning of the created cosmos. God, of course, is eternal, and had no beginning. Some evangelicals label the beginning of which John spoke (John 1:1-2) as the “absolute beginning,” placing it before the beginning of which Moses wrote. But I see no valid exegetical reason why Moses and John cannot be referring to the same beginning. After all, both Gen. 1 and John 1:1-13 discuss the creation of the world and the entire universe. So the initial beginning the Bible discusses in those terms is here in Genesis 1:1. John’s beginning refers backwards to this event. In any case, it is difficult to use the term absolute beginning for either passage, since God and the Word were already there before the beginning (Gen. 1:1; John 1:1-3). It is best to understand that the third heaven (2 Cor. 12:2-4), the abode of God, existed before the creation of the cosmos, as did angels, who apparently witnessed God’s creation of the earth with great joy (Job 38:4-7). That would imply, of course, that entities, both created and uncreated, existed and continue to exist outside the cosmos. That means that the cosmos is not infinite in regard to time, space, or matter. It also affirms the existence of a spiritual universe existing outside of our present material universe, albeit interacting with it.

God” – Elohim is the generic word for God. “Its basic meaning is ‘strong one, mighty leader, supreme Deity.’ The form of the word is plural, indicating plentitude (sic) of power and majesty and allowing for the NT revelation of the triunity of the Godhead” (Ryrie Study Bible note). In Genesis 1:1-2:3, Elohim, God, appears a startling 35 times in 34 verses! Clearly, God is the featured subject of this overwhelmingly theological historical narrative!

“God created” – The Hebrew word bara here means that God created, out of nothing (Latin ex nihilo), both the earth and the framework in which he situated it. Moses used the word bara eight times in Genesis, and each time it refers to the creative act of God (Gen. 1:1, 21, 27; 2:3, 4; 5:1, 2; 6:7). We can also observe in these passages that Moses used bara, to create, and asah, to make, as synonyms (Gen. 2:3, 4; 5:1; 6:7). “In biblical Hebrew, the verb bara (create) always has God for its subject and never mentions the material from which He created” (Boyd, p. 189).

the heavens and the earth” – Some take this phrase as a merism, a figure of speech for totality (Thomas Constable, Notes on Genesis, p. 11). In this view, Genesis 1:1 is merely an introductory or summary statement of what God did in Genesis 1:3-31, which, it is assumed, are the actual days of creation. But if that were the case, there is no specific statement in this chapter of the actual creation of the earth. That would be bizarre, considering that this chapter purports to be an explanation of how the world and the entire universe originated. To illustrate how counterintuitive this view is, let me quote Constable’s opening statement regarding Genesis 1:2 (p. 10, viewed on July 26, 2010): “Verse 2 probably describes what we now call the earth before God created it.” What does that even mean? Scripture is its own best commentary, and Moses clearly stated that “in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them” (Exod. 20:11). So it makes more sense to understand both Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 as the initial part of day one of creation, the foundational state of that which God would momentarily upgrade. So Genesis 1:1 is a statement of part of what God created on the first day.

God created “the heavens” (hashamayim). The word heavens (shamayim) always appears in the plural in the Hebrew Bible. That is appropriate, not only because of the vastness of the heavens, but because of their plurality. There are three distinct heavens in the Bible, the third being the abode of God (2 Cor. 12:2). The other two heavens are the heavens in which God placed the sun, moon, and stars (Gen. 1:14-19), and the heavens in which birds fly (Gen. 1:6-8, 20) (more about this heaven later.) “The heavens” (hashamayim) of which Moses wrote in Genesis 1:1 are what we today would call “outer space”, for God had as yet apparently created no atmosphere around earth to support life and in which birds could fly. What was the composition of the heavens at the end of Genesis 1:1? Based on what is stated in the rest of Genesis 1, the initial condition of the heavens is that they were the time-space framework in which God placed an aqueous matrix of matter, the earth, and in which He would later (on the fourth day) place the sun, moon and stars (Gen. 1:14-19). By the end of Genesis 1:1, the only matter that existed in the heavens was the earth, as yet in its incomplete state (as Genesis 1:2 further details). Most of what we call “outer space” today has nothing in it, at least nothing visible to the eye. There are enormous voids between stars, galaxies, and galaxy groups. Today, outer space is cold because there is relatively little light (energy) out there. So the fact that one can measure temperature in deep space when little that is tangible exists out there indicates that something is there – a framework of darkness and coldness. That would be the condition of the heavens at the end of Genesis 1:1 – dark and cold – and empty – with the lone exception of the earth, which God had just placed there. Since there were no stars or planets or light (energy) whatever – the initial condition of the heavens was totally empty compared to outer space today, which is actually teeming with light waves both visible and invisible (including cosmic microwave background) from distant stars and galaxies. The only exception to this emptiness would have been the earth, the second item that God created on day one.

God created “the earth” (haarets). The Hebrew word erets refers either to the whole planet or to a portion thereof. Consequently it is sometimes translated earth, sometimes land. The context controls the particular meaning. For example, the term erets in Gen. 1:1 refers to the whole planet and is translated earth. In Gen. 1:2 we are given additional details about the earth just after God created it – it was formless, void, dark, and aqueous. Here again, erets refers to the whole planet, and it is translated earth. On the third day, God commanded the dry land (yabbashah) to appear (Gen. 1:9). God named the dry land (yabbashah) earth (erets) (Gen. 1:10). So here only a portion of the planet is designated as earth – the dry land. That narrower terminology is used elsewhere. Reference is made in Gen. 2:11 to the land (erets) of Havilah. The gold of that land (erets) is good (Gen. 2:12). Further reference is made to the land (erets) of Cush (Gen. 2:13). Surprisingly enough to the English reader, Yahweh commanded Abram to depart from his country (lit. “your earth” – erets) “to the land (lit. “earth” – erets) which I will show you” (Gen. 12:1). There are Jewish people today who speak of Eretz Israel – the land or “earth” which belongs to Israel. (See, for example, the reference to the “Eretz Israel lobby” in the summary immediately below the title of the linked article on ynetnews.) It is appropriate to note here that while the creation account (Gen. 1:1-2:3) is very much Theo-centric (God-centered) in relation to the Cause of creation, it is very much Geo-centric (earth-centered) in relation to the products of creation. This can be deduced from the following frequencies of occurrence in Genesis 1:1-2:3: The noun light (‘owr) appears six times (Gen. 1:3, 4, 5, 18). The verb to give light (‘owr) occurs twice (Gen. 1:15, 17). The word light(s) (better, light-bearer(s) (ma’owr) (lit., “from light”) appears five times (Gen. 1:14, 15, 16). The word expanse (raqiya’) (KJV firmament) appears nine times (Gen. 1:6, 7, 8, 14, 15, 17, 20). The word shamayim (usually translated heavens, but three times as sky) appears eleven times (Gen. 1:1, 8, 9, 14, 15, 17, 20, 26, 28, 30; 2:1). But the word earth (erets) is the runaway winner, appearing 21 times (Gen. 1:1, 2, 10, 11, 12, 15, 17, 20, 22, 24, 25, 26, 28, 29, 30; 2:1). As far as God is concerned, Earth is very much the center of the universe!

Genesis 1:2. The Preliminary Condition of the Earth When First God Created It.

On Day One of creation just after God had created the framework of the cosmos and had created the earth in that framework, what was the condition of the earth? Moses described it this way: “The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.”

The initial clause of verse 2 begins in Hebrew with a waw disjunctive, not a waw consecutive (Constable, p. 12). It should be translated, “Now the earth was…” In other words Gen. 1:2 describes in a more detailed way the initial condition of the earth when God created it in Gen. 1:1. Unfortunately, a number of commentators have suggested that an indefinite time gap exists between Gen. 1:1 and 1:2. This is called the Gap Theory (see Constable, pp. 11-13). This theory was held by some early church fathers and some early Jewish writers. Thomas Chalmers promoted the gap theory in 1814 before Darwin wrote his Origin of Species in 1859 (Constable, p. 12). The first edition of the Scofield Reference Bible espoused this theory. Many who support evolution have welcomed the gap theory, but Hebrew grammar does not permit it.

“the earth was formless and void”tohu wa bohu is the Hebrew phrase translated “formless and void” used to describe the earth God had just created. (See Representative Translations of Tohu and Bohu; see the author’s Word Study of Tohu wa Bohu in .html format; see the author’s Word Study of Tohu wa Bohu in .pdf format.) Unfortunately, some conservative commentators have characterized the condition of the earth as described in Gen. 1:2 as if it were chaotic and even evil. I call this the Chaos Theory of Origins. For example, Allen P. Ross (Genesis, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Vol. 1, p. 28) stated the following concerning the entire creation account:

Third, the account reveals that God is a redeeming God. It records how He brought the cosmos out of chaos, turned darkness into light, made divisions between them, transformed cursing into blessing, and moved from what was evil and darkness to what was holy. This parallels the work of God in Exodus, which records His redeeming Israel by destroying the Egyptian forces of chaos. The prophets and the apostles saw here a paradigm of God’s redemptive activities. Ultimately He who caused light to shine out of darkness made His light shine in the hearts of believers (2 Cor. 4:6) so that they become new creations (2 Cor. 5:17) (emphases mine).

Two paragraphs later, Ross states his interpretation of Genesis 1:2:

The clauses in Gen. 1:2 are apparently circumstantial to Gen. 1:3, telling the world’s condition when God began to renovate it. It was a chaos of wasteness, emptiness, and darkness. Such conditions would not result from God’s creative work (bara); rather, in the Bible they are symptomatic of sin and are coordinate with judgment. Moreover, God’s Creation by decree begins in Gen. 1:3, and the elements found in Gen. 1:2 are corrected in Creation, beginning with light to dispel the darkness (emphasis mine).

Moreover, Thomas Constable, in his discussion of the “No-Gap Theory” (Notes on Genesis, pp. 13-15), offers three versions of this theory. But in every one of them he uses the term “chaos,” which implies something defective. To his credit, however, Constable specifically and correctly rejects the notion that  "chaos" (tohu wa bohu) describes an evil condition in Gen. 1:2 (Notes on Genesis, "Arguments and Responses," #3 on p. 12, viewed June 11, 2011).

It appears to me that Ross, and to a lesser extent Constable, who relies on Ross, have imported ideas from elsewhere in Scripture into a context in which they do not exist, namely, this Creation account. There is no need to use the words “redeeming,” “chaos,” “cursing,” “sin,” “evil,” or “judgment” with reference to Genesis 1:1-2:3. They are simply out of context here. Why does Allen employ these terms? The answer can be found several paragraphs later:

It is more likely that verse 1 refers to a relative beginning rather than the absolute beginning (Merrill F. Unger, Unger’s Commentary on the Old Testament. 2 vols. Chicago: Moody Press, 1981, 1:5). The chapter would then be accounting for the Creation of the universe as man knows it, not the beginning of everything, and Gen. 1:1-2 would provide the introduction to it. The fall of Satan and entrance of sin into God’s original Creation would precede this (emphasis mine).

So Ross apparently believes that God created planet earth at some undated, unspecified, and unrevealed time in eternity past. Satan then fell and brought sin into God’s original universe. Genesis 1:2 describes the chaotic, ruined state of the world as it existed because of Satan’s sin. Genesis 1:3-31 describes God’s reclamation of a world ruined by Satan. What this amounts to is a variation on the Gap Theory theme (which see for a brief description and refutation). (At least Ross holds to the days of creation as being literal 24-hour days of Divine activity [p. 28]. But sadly, I suspect his whole exegetical approach is driven by his assumption that Hebrew scholars must bow before the uniformitarian geological bias of an ancient earth, not a recent earth.)

Ross’s theory appears to be driving his exegesis rather than his exegesis driving his theory. There is no need to describe the earth in Genesis 1:2 as being in any way defective. Words like “chaos” and “evil” and “symptomatic of sin” and “coordinate with judgment” are foreign concepts he has imported into Genesis 1:2 from elsewhere in Scripture. The Earth of Genesis 1:1 was not flawed; rather it was merely preliminary and incomplete, and it was the way God intended to create it at that stage during Day One. The Chaos Theory of Origins simply does not fit the evidence of the Hebrew text.

So what is the best translation of tohu wa bohu? Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon lists the following meanings of the noun, tohu: “formlessness, confusion, unreality, emptiness”. Then it adds, (“primary meaning difficult to seize” …). This is certainly true, as is evidenced by the chart, Representative Translations of the Hebrew Word Tohu. Most Bible versions employ a variation of the word “form,” translating tohu either “formless” or “without form.” The translations “formless” and “without form” tend to leave the impression that the earth in Genesis 1:2 was shapeless. I do not believe that is what Moses meant. Instead, I have chosen the word “unformed” and I have added four qualifying statements as to what “unformed” does not mean and what it does mean.

1.      Unformed does not mean that the earth on Day One had no shape (contra NIRV, “The earth didn’t have any shape”). Think it through. Why are the vast majority of entities in our universe, whether they are stars or planets or moons, spherical? It is because they all have gravity. If something were both aqueous (Gen. 1:2, 9) and shapeless, it must also mean that it was not spherical. If it were not spherical, it must mean that it had insufficient gravity to keep it together. So to say that the earth was shapeless is also to say that it had no gravity or insufficient gravity. What then would have prevented the earth from beginning to disperse throughout the universe? Prov. 8, which personifies wisdom (see author’s Analysis of Proverbs, p. 1), provides additional Biblical evidence that the earth on Day One had shape, even spherical shape. Proverbs 8:22-31 describes the antiquity of wisdom, for it pre-dated even God’s creation of the world! In fact, we learn that wisdom was there “when there were no depths (tehom) (Prov. 8:24), that is, before Creation! Wisdom was already there when God “inscribed a circle on the face of the deep (tehom)” (Prov. 8:27), and “when the springs of the deep (tehom) became fixed” (Prov. 8:28b).(See the author’s Uses of the Hebrew word Tehom, “The Deep”.) In the context of Proverbs 8:22-31, this happened at creation. Day One is the most likely candidate for the day in which God formed the earth into a sphere (“…and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters” [Gen. 1:2]). The Third Day is the most likely candidate for the day in which “the springs of the deep became fixed,” (Prov. 8:28b) for it was on the Third Day that God “gathered into one place” “the waters below the heavens” (Gen. 1:9-10). Proverbs 8:28a, “When He made firm the skies above,” evidently describes God’s activity on the Second Day of creation. It was on the Second Day that God “made the expanse, and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse,” calling it “heaven.” (Gen. 1:6-8). The point of this digression into Prov. 8 is that the word tohu (unformed) does not mean that the earth on Day One had no shape. To the contrary, it was spherical.

2.      Unformed does not mean that the earth on Day One was chaotic (contra Allen P. Ross, Genesis, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, OT Vol., p. 28; contra Thomas Constable, Notes on Genesis, 2010 Edition, pp. 13-14; contra Bruce K. Waltke, Creation and Chaos; contra Waltke, An Old Testament Theology, p. 181, quoted by Constable, p. 10, text denoted by footnote 28; contra Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Vol. 1, p. 15). God does not create chaos because He is not chaotic. The world God created on Day One was preliminary, not chaotic. It was “a waste” (see the NASB marginal reading for formless in Genesis 1:2) in the sense that it was not yet a suitable environment for man or animals to live in, but it was not a chaos.

3.      Unformed does not mean that the earth as God originally created it had been disrupted by some sin, whether by man or by fallen angel (Satan) (contra Allen P. Ross, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, p. 28. Ross apparently believes that the fall of Satan ruined the earth, causing sin to enter the earth, making it a chaos which had to be transformed and redeemed by God in the six days of creation). The Scriptures are clear that sin entered the earth after the creation week, not before it (Gen. 3); and that it was by one man that sin entered the earth, not by one fallen angel (Rom. 5:12).

4.      Unformed does mean that the earth was not yet in its final form. The best Biblical commentary on tohu in Genesis 1:2 is to be found in Isaiah 45:18, which tells us that God did not create the earth to be tohu, but rather He created it to be inhabited. So when Moses wrote in Genesis 1:2 that the earth was tohu, he merely meant that it was not yet a suitable environment in which humans and animals might live. It was unsuitable because it was dark and aqueous (Gen. 1:2, 3-4), because there was no atmosphere (Gen. 1:6-7), because there was no dry land (Gen. 1:9-10), because there was no vegetation (Gen. 1:11-12), and because there were no celestial bodies up in the heavens (Gen. 1:14-18). In fact, there is a sense in which it can be said that the words “unsuitable” or “pre-functional” are appropriate translations of tohu in Genesis 1:2. By way of illustration, it could be said that today’s moon is tohu, although not nearly to the degree that the earth was in Genesis 1:2. Today’s moon is tohu in the sense that it is not formed to be suitable for human or animal habitation or for the growth of vegetation. This is true because it has no atmosphere and no water, and because of the extreme variations in temperature.

What about the word bohu? The term bohu occurs only three times in Scripture, Gen. 1:2; Isa. 34:11; Jer. 4:23. Each time it does so, it is in tandem with tohu. The Jeremiah passage harkens back to the language of creation in Genesis 1:2. Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon lists a one-word definition for bohu – “emptiness,” and gives no etymology. C. F. Keil (Keil and Delitzsch), in his commentary on Genesis 1:2, states that the etymology for both tohu and bohu has been lost. Four representative translations ( translate bohu as “void” six times, and as some variation of “empty” or “emptiness” five times.

In the English language today, “empty” is a synonym for “void.” Since “void” with the meaning of “emptiness” is not a commonly used word, I will use the noun “emptiness” to translate the noun bohu.

Conclusion in regard to the dual use of tohu and bohu

We have already noted that tohu and bohu always appear in the same connection. In two of those instances, Genesis 1:2 and Jeremiah 4:23, are to be paired off. In Genesis 1:2 Moses declared that the earth was “formless and void” (tohu and bohu); Jeremiah stated that, as he looked at the earth, it had primeval conditions – the earth was “formless and void,” and the heavens “had no light” (Jer. 4:23).

Some have viewed tohu and bohu, connected by “and,” as a hendiadys, “the expression of an idea by the use of usually two independent words connected by and (as nice and warm) instead of the usual combination of independent word and its modifier (as nicely warm).” Constable, in his discussion of Genesis 1:2 (Notes on Genesis, 2010 edition, p. 11) states, “Here we learn that the earth was ‘formless and empty’ (a hendiadys meaning unorganized, unproductive, and uninhabited) before God graciously prepared it for human habitation (cf. Jer. 4:23-27).”

Whether or not tohu and bohu form a hendiadys, Constable has accurately captured their combined meaning as it relates especially to Genesis 1:2. The earth at this stage of Day One of the Creation week was unorganized and unproductive (tohu) and it was uninhabited (bohu).

So together, tohu and bohu are saying that the earth, at the time God first placed it in the heavens He had just made consisted, literally, of “unformedness and emptiness.” Or we could say it was “unformed and unfilled.” Or we could say it was “unorganized and empty.”

An artist paints a landscape on a canvas. First he paints a swirly background on the upper half of the canvas using blues and grays. Then he takes his brush and spreads splotchy greens and browns on the lower half of the canvas. To the untrained eye it may appear to be nonsensical, even chaotic. But the artist knows exactly what he is doing. There is nothing chaotic whatever in his actions. He is merely painting the sky background and the land foreground on the canvas. At a later time appropriate to his choice, he will begin to fashion trees and grass, animals, and perhaps birds and humans in his landscape. It would be completely erroneous to describe the early stage of his painting as being chaotic, evil, or symptomatic of sin. Rather his blue-gray upper canvas and his green-brown lower canvas provide the perfect foundation for the details to be added later. But at this stage, it would be appropriate to describe his picture as being “unformed and unfilled.”

So it was with the earth God had created and placed in the heavens on the first part of Day One. The earth was unformed and unfilled. There was nothing chaotic, nothing evil, nothing connected with sin, and nothing connected with judgment. God’s just-created Earth was merely unformed and unfilled at this stage. He would soon begin His artful task of forming the earth, and then of filling it!

“and darkness was over the surface of the deep”

Darkness (choshek) is the absence of light. Those who espouse the Gap Theory or some variation thereof seize upon darkness as proof of something evil and sinful that must have happened after Genesis 1:1 to corrupt the earth (see, for example, Ross, p. 28). 1 John 1:5 states that “God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” But to import a later concept of darkness into the second verse in the Bible constitutes a deficient hermeneutic. An appropriate response to the notion that darkness symbolizes evil is, as Constable (2010 edition, p. 12, Item 5, viewed July 22, 2010) has stated, “This is true in some cases in Scripture, but not always (Psa. 104:19-24). Furthermore, evening was part of the days God declared good.” The truth of the matter is that the word darkness (choshek) is used only four times in Genesis, and only in chapter 1 (Gen. 1:2, 4, 5, 18). There is no trace of moral evil in any one of these uses. The light that God created (in Gen. 1:3-4) and separated from the darkness was good (tob). But the darkness was never called evil. Rather, God named it. He called the light Day and the darkness Night. Together, the evening and the morning comprised “Day One” (Gen. 1:5). Later, God would create two great lights, one to govern the day, and the second to govern the night. These along with the stars, would “give light on the earth,” govern the day and the night,” and “separate the light from the darkness” (Gen. 1:16-18). Far from being evil, this darkness, balanced by light, became part of that which God saw was good (Gen. 1:18)! So much for darkness being evil in Gen. 1! So the earth that God created on Day One existed in a state of darkness. That darkness was not evil. Nor yet could it be labeled good. Rather it was a characteristic that, on Day One, contributed toward the earth’s being tohu, unsuitable for human, animal, or even plant habitation. Darkness would be the first unsuitable characteristic that God would rectify. He would do so, not by eliminating it, but by adding light. Ultimately light-bearers (sun, moon and stars) would balance off that characteristic of darkness which makes it unsuitable for viewing anything, but which makes it a wonderful condition in which animals and man could refresh themselves in rest. The data in the text, not some imported theory, must drive exegesis.

and darkness was over the surface of the deep” – On Day One of creation, it was said that “darkness was over the surface of the deep” (Gen. 1:2). The word surface translates the Hebrew word for faces (panim, plural of paneh). “Surface” is an excellent translation, even though panim occurs in the plural. Nothing in particular should be made of that fact, for paneh always appears in the plural (panim) in the OT, even when one person’s face is in view (Gen. 4:5, 6; here panim is translated as a reference to Cain’s countenance).The word deep (tehom) refers to the waters which evidently covered the entire surface of the earth when first God created it. Unfortunately, some conservative commentators give the word deep (tehom) a sinister connotation in this passage. For example, Constable (2010 Notes, p. 10) states, “In the Old Testament tahom refers to the ocean, which the ancient world regarded as symbolic of chaos and evil that needed overcoming and which Yahweh overcame.” Generally speaking, that is an inaccurate characterization of tehom in the Old Testament, and it is driven, I believe, by the misguided Chaos Theory of Interpretation of Genesis 1:2. There are, for example, four uses of tehom in the book of Genesis: Gen. 1:2; 7:11; 8:2; and 49:25. In Genesis 1:2 there is no inherent evil whatever associated with “the deep.” Quite to the contrary, in fact, “the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.” In Genesis 7:11, “the fountains of the great deep burst open,” not because tehom was evil, but because the people of the world were evil, and God was compelled to destroy all but eight of them. Here tehom is an instrument of God for judgment. The same can be said for Genesis 8:2, where “the fountains of the deep and the floodgates of the sky were closed…” The fact that God had used tehom to judge evil people does not make tehom, in and of itself, evil. In Genesis 49:25, the last occurrence in Genesis, “the deep” is part of a blessing from God bestowed by Jacob upon his son Joseph: “…blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lies beneath.” We conclude that tehom is morally neutral, and God uses tehom for judgment and for blessing. What was the makeup of tehom, the deep? The text does not tell us. We know that tehom consists of water. We are told that in Genesis 1:2. On the third day, God commanded the waters to be gathered together into one place, and for the dry land to appear (Gen. 1:9). Was that which became “dry land” a solid land mass underneath the surface of the water prior to that? Or were water and soil all mixed together? We cannot know for certain, for this text does not say. All we can know from this text is that prior to Genesis 1:9, there was soil underneath that was not dry, and there was water on the surface. I believe it is safe to say that tehom, the deep, as it existed by the end of the third day of creation (Gen. 1:9-13), was significantly different from what it is today. Prior to the Flood of Noah’s day, an enormous portion of tehom existed beneath the surface of the earth, and possibly under great pressure. In Genesis 7:11 “the fountains of the great deep (tehom) burst open”; simultaneously, “the floodgates of the sky were opened.” The greatest contributors to the Flood that engulfed the entire globe were “the fountains of the great deep.” Once the “fountains of the deep and the floodgates of the sky were closed” (Gen. 8:2) after a period of 150 days (Gen. 7:24; 8:3), the water began to recede from the earth (Gen. 8:3). Over the next 221 days God apparently used the same process for uplifting the land masses from the ocean that He had done in one day at Creation (Ps. 104:6-9 cf. Gen. 1:9-10). Though Psalm 104:5-9 speaks of Creation, there is no reason to suppose that God did not use the same process to uplift the land masses to end Noah’s Flood that He had used to form dry land at Creation, only at a much slower rate in order to protect the inhabitants of the ark. God raised the land masses and mountains upward, and He sank the ocean floors and valleys downward. After Noah’s Flood, “the fountains of the deep” no longer held the enormous volume of water that they once had. That volume had been largely emptied into the global sea of today’s Earth. Today we have aquifers underneath the surface of the earth, but they evidently contain only a fraction of the volume of water that they once did prior to Noah’s Flood. Massive caves such as the Carlsbad Caverns and Mammoth Cave give fragmentary, but powerful testimony to possible former reservoirs of tehom. Today, of course, the great bulk of tehom resides in the ocean depths. Today, water covers seventy per cent of the earth’s surface. Tehom continues to provide a massive influence upon life and climate upon earth.

“and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters” We are told that the Spirit of God was moving or hovering over the surface of the waters (Gen. 1:2). The word Spirit translates ruach, which can be translated either spirit or wind or breath, depending on the context. In Genesis 1:2, the ruach of God is said to have been active in creating the earth on Day One of creation. In Psalm 33:6 it is “By the word of the LORD” that “the heavens were made, and by the breath (ruach) of His mouth” that “all their host” (were created). In Psalm 104:30, it is said of Yahweh regarding births of animal life, “You send forth Your Spirit (ruach), they are created; and You renew the face of the ground.” In Isaiah 34:16 the Spirit (ruach) of Yahweh will call specific animals to haunt the ruins of Bozrah and Edom. So we can definitely observe the ruach of God active in nature. What role did God’s ruach exercise in creation on Day One? It is lexically possible that Moses here (Gen. 1:2) meant that a wind from God was blowing, but then he would have used a word for blowing, such as nashaph or nashab. Instead, he used the word rachaph, to move (Gen. 1:2), hover (Deut. 32:11), or tremble (Jer. 23:9). Perhaps Moses meant that a wind from God was moving or hovering or trembling; but in any case the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, cannot be excluded from this passage. So what was He doing? “We could never believe that this hovering of the Spirit over the face of the waters was idle and purposeless. From all other activities that are elsewhere ascribed to the Holy Spirit we conclude that His work in this case must have been anticipatory of the creative work that followed, a kind of impregnation with divine potentialities.” (H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Genesis, Vol. I, p. 50). Leupold goes on to say that Eduard Koenig, in his Kommentar on Genesis, “feels impelled to interpret this ‘hovering’ as ‘an intensified and vitalized type of vibration.’ We should not be averse to holding that the foundation for all physical laws operative in the world now was laid by the preparatory activity” (Ibid.). .

Henry M. Morris, in his commentary, The Genesis Record, p. 52, agrees. He believes that the Hebrew word rachaph carries the idea “of a rapid back and forth motion.” He goes on to state the following:

In modern scientific terminology, the best translation would probably be “vibrated.” If the universe is to be energized, there must be an Energizer. If it is to be set in motion, there must be a Prime Mover.

It is significant that the transmission of energy in the operations of the cosmos is in the form of waves – light waves, heat waves, sound waves, and so forth. In fact (except for the nuclear forces which are involved in the structure of matter itself), there are only two fundamental types of forces that operate on matter – the gravitational forces and the forces of the electromagnetic spectrum.  All are associated with “fields of activity and with transmission by wave motion.

Waves are typically rapid back and forth movements and they are normally produced by the vibratory motion of a wave generator of some kind. Energy cannot create itself. It is most appropriate that the first impartation of energy to the universe is described as the “vibrating” movement of the Spirit of God Himself.

We cannot know for certain what God’s Spirit was doing when He was moving over the surface of the waters (Gen. 1:2). But perhaps we are given a clue in Psalm 104:5-9. Perhaps it was then that “He established the earth upon its foundations, so that it will not totter forever and ever” (Ps. 104:5). Perhaps it was then that He was forming mountain peaks, broad plains, and canyons beneath the surface of the waters (Ps. 104:6), so that on the Third Day, God could lift up the land masses and peaks, and sink down the ocean canyons (Gen. 1:9-10). This would have formed the pre-Deluge continent(s) and global sea. Peter accurately recorded “that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water” (2 Pet. 3:5, emphasis mine).

Then God said,” Gen. 1:3.

With the exception of Day One (in my view), these words mark the beginning of each of the six days of creation (Gen. 1:3, 6, 9, 14, 20, 24). For this reason, many evangelical writers have insisted that Genesis 1:3 rather than Genesis 1:1 marks the beginning of Day One of creation (e.g. Allen P. Ross, Genesis, (see his comments on Gen. 1:3-5), Vol. I, The Bible Knowledge Commentary (viewed Aug. 31, 2010); Thomas Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on Genesis, p. 15 (viewed Aug. 22, 2010). (Constable has labeled Gen. 1:3-31 as “The six days of creation,” and he has labeled Gen. 1:3-5 as “The first day.” In fairness, he does state that “Gen. 1:1 may be part of the first day of creation,” but he has not labeled it that way.)

Admittedly, the positioning of the phrases, “Then God said” (vayomer Elohim) is mildly problematic for the exegete defending the view that Genesis 1:1-2, as well as Gen. 1:3-5, describes what happened on Day One of creation. A closer examination of the actual text, however, reveals that the phraseology used is far from formulaic in Genesis 1:1-2:3. In fact, as we shall see, it is easy to defend the notion that there is not a uniform formula. The following table illustrates the variety of uses of the Hebrew words God (Elohim) and said (amar) in Genesis 1:1 – 2:3. In the table below, green represents as formulaic (column 4) the Hebrew phrase “then said God” using the proper words in the proper order (column 2) at the start of a given day (column 3), and as expressing a command of creation (column 5). Similarly, yellow represents as non-formulaic (column 4) words out of order or using a different verb tense or omitting a word (column 2) and as expressing something other than a command of creation (column 5). Finally, magenta represents as non-formulaic the placement (column 4) of phrases after the start of a given day (column 3).




Hebrew Word Order


Location in Day




Gen. 1:3 Then said God After the start of day one

Words, Yes

Placement, No
Command of Creation of Light
Gen. 1:6 Then said God Start of the second day

Words, Yes

Placement, Yes
Command of Creation of “Expanse”
Gen. 1:9 Then said God Start of the third day

Words, Yes

Placement, Yes
Command of Arrangement of Waters and Dry Land
Gen. 1:11 Then said God After the start of the third day

Words, Yes

Placement, No
Command of Creation of Vegetation
Gen. 1:14 Then said God Start of the fourth day

Words, Yes

Placement, Yes
Command of Creation of “Lights”
Gen. 1:20 Then said God Start of the fifth day

Words, Yes

Placement, Yes
Command of Creation of Fish and Fowl
Gen. 1:22 And blessed them – God – saying After the start of the fifth day

Words, No

Placement, No
Verbalization of Blessing issuing in a Divine Command of Productivity to Fish and Fowl
Gen. 1:24 Then said God Start of the sixth day

Words, Yes

Placement, Yes
Command of Creation of Land Animals
Gen. 1:26 Then said God After the start of the sixth day

Words, Yes

Placement, No
Divine Discussion of Creation of Man (followed by Creation)
Gen. 1:28 And blessed them - God – and said to them - God After the start of the sixth day

Words, No

Placement, No
Verbalization of Blessing issuing in a Divine Command of Human Productivity and Rule
Gen. 1:29 Then said God After the start of the sixth day

Words, Yes

Placement, No
Divine Speech of Provision and Instruction
Gen. 2:3 Then blessed - God Indeterminate with reference to the seventh day Words, No Placement, No Description of Divine Blessing of the Seventh Day

In the table above, we give the reference in Genesis (column 1), duplicate the Hebrew word order (column 2), indicate the location in each day when God (Elohim) said (amar) something (column 3), and categorize the nature of that conversation (column 5). In column 4 we have attempted to identify if there is a repeated formula (a) in what God says and (b) in the placement of His communication in regard to the start of the day. What we observe is that the text is not nearly as formulaic as some have made it out to be. Let us note the specifics.

With respect to column 2, we find eleven uses of Elohim and amar in close proximity. Nine of them are identical with regard to vocabulary and word order. The two that break the pattern both have to do with God’s blessing. In Gen. 1:22 God blessed the fish and fowl He had created at the beginning of the Fifth Day, instructing them to be fruitful and multiply; in Gen. 1:28 He blessed the humans whom He had created after the start of the Sixth Day, instructing them to be fruitful and multiply. In Gen. 2:3, on the Seventh Day, the pattern breaks down altogether. Though the word God (Elohim) is used, the word for speaking (amar) is not used at all. However, just as in the two previous instances of disjuncture, God does indeed bless, but what He says is not quoted. This time He does not bless physical entities He has created, but He blesses a unit of measurement of time He has instituted, the Seventh Day.

With respect to column 3, which is really the main point of this table, a startling departure from formula exists with regard to the words Elohim and amar. There are five instances of uniformity as regarding maintaining the formula of God speaking as inaugurating a new day. Thus, God (Elohim) speaks to inaugurate the Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Days. (I believe I am justified in excluding Day One from this category (a) on the basis of a proper understanding in context of the vocabulary used on Day One (Gen. 1:1-2) and (b) on the basis of Yahweh’s having explicitly stated that He had created the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything that exists in them in the space of six days [Ex. 20:11]. That being the case, Gen. 1:1-2 must necessarily describe that which occurred on Day One. There is no other feasible option.) But though there are five instances of uniformity, we find that there are at least six instances of non-uniformity! Let me list them.

(a) God (Elohim) spoke (vayomer), commanding light into existence after the start of Day One (Gen. 1:3).

(b) God (Elohim) spoke (vayomer), commanding vegetation into existence after the start of the Third Day (Gen. 1:11).

(c) God (Elohim) spoke (lemor), verbalizing blessing upon fish and fowl after the start of the Fifth Day (Gen. 1:22). The precise words are as follows: “And blessed them, God, saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply…’” The verbal form saying is lemor, a Qal infinitive construct of amar. Heretofore, the pattern has been, “Then said God,” Vayomer Elohim. Vayomer is a Qal waw conversive imperfect, third masculine singular. (The initial letter waw is translated “and” or “then.”) Some might object that this instance in Gen. 1:22 does not fit the pattern because amar is an infinitive (with the initial letter lamedh), and should therefore be excluded from evidence. I agree that it does not fit the pattern, but I argue that evidence should not be “cherry-picked.” This evidence should be included in the discussion since it is an occurrence of God (Elohim) and speaking (amar). My point is that a neatly-packaged uniformity does not exist, and that the evidence shows it is not abnormal for God to speak after the start of a given day.

(d) God (Elohim) spoke (vayomer), discussing His imminent creation of man after the start of the Sixth Day (Gen. 1:26).

(e) God (Elohim) spoke (vayomer) to the newly created couple in the format of a blessing after the start of the Sixth Day, commanding their performance (“be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth”), and empowering their limited sovereignty (“and subdue it and rule over” [the animals]) (Gen. 1:28).

(f) God (Elohim) spoke (vayomer) to the newly created couple after the start of the Sixth Day, informing them He had provided both them and the animal kingdom with every kind of vegetarian provision they needed for their sustenance (Gen. 1:29).

(g) As we have already learned, the pattern breaks down altogether on the Seventh Day, for though the text states that God (Elohim) blessed the Seventh Day, it nowhere records that He spoke. Every form of amar is absent. Therefore the data on the Seventh Day is indeterminate. As such, the Seventh Day, along with Day One, represents a departure from the formula introducing days two through six.

Conclusion: The evidence is conclusive that there is not a consistent pattern in the uses of God (Elohim) and said (amar). It is true that God says something to inaugurate the Second to the Sixth Days, but it is equally true that, just as often, He says something after the start of certain days. If Day One appears to be an anomaly, then the Seventh Day is an even greater anomaly, for though the word God (Elohim) is used, the word said (amar) never is! My whole point is that it is a fallacy to argue that, just because the words God (Elohim) and said (amar) inaugurate the Second through Sixth Days, they must necessarily inaugurate Day One. The evidence does not fit that arbitrary conclusion.

With respect to column 4, which is really a summary column, we can see visually that the instances of disjuncture, or non-formulaic uses of Elohim and ’amar actually outnumber the formulaic instances. Instances in which the words, in their proper order, and their placement at the beginning of a day are five in number, and are thus formulaic. These include Genesis 1:6, 9, 14, 20, 24. Instances in which the words are formulaic, but their placement after the start of a given day are non-formulaic, are four in number. These include Genesis 1:3, 11, 26, 29. Instances in which the words are out of order (or words are missing) and, in addition, their placement is after the start of a given day are three in number. These include Genesis 1:22, 28; 2:3. Thus, with respect to word selection and placement in a given day, there are five formulaic occurrences, but there are a total of seven non-formulaic occurrences. The conclusion is that there is no statistical or linguistic evidence that Genesis 1:3 must necessarily mark the start of Day One of creation.

With respect to column 5, we are able to visualize the content of the words associated in the context of God (Elohim) speaking (amar). We can observe that there are some qualitative differences in the content of God’s speech.

First of all, there are six instances in which God’s speaking amounted to a “Command of Creation.” These include Genesis 1:3, 6, 11, 14, 20, 24. By “Command of Creation,” I refer to the instances in which God spoke, commanding some new entity or entities into existence. These new entities include light (Gen. 1:3), an “expanse” (atmosphere) (Gen. 1:6), vegetation (Gen. 1:11), celestial bodies (sun, moon, stars) (Gen. 1:14), fish and fowl (Gen. 1:20), and land animals (Gen. 1:24). These six instances reveal a certain formula used in Genesis 1:1-2:3 describing God’s speech. The formula is that God speaks, commanding something into existence that has not been there before, and that entity is created by God’s speech.

Second, there are another six instances in which God’s speaking amounted to something other than a “Command of Creation.” These represent a departure from formula. (1) At the start of the Third Day, God’s speech amounted to an arrangement or rearrangement of existing entities, not an actual creation. Nothing new was formed, but existing entities were rearranged (Gen. 1:9-10). Water and soil already existed, but all of the soil was submerged, and most likely a significant portion of the soil was in suspension. God’s creative speech rearranged the water and soil so that a certain quantity of soil was elevated above water level. This elevated soil is identified as “dry land” (yabbashah). God called it “earth” (erets). This “Command of Arrangement” is a departure from the formula since nothing new was created, but only rearranged. (2) After the start of the Fifth Day, God’s speech consisted of a blessing upon His newly created fish and fowl (Gen. 1:22-23). In blessing, He commanded them to “be fruitful and multiply” in their respective environments. This Verbalization of Blessing, followed by a Command of Productivity represents a departure from formula, since nothing was created. (3) After the start of the Sixth Day there was a Divine discussion about creating man (Gen. 1:26): “Then God (Elohim) said (amar), “Let us make man in Our image according to Our likeness.” So God discussed creating man, but that discussion is different than a “Command of Creation,” “Let there be man!” In fact, no “Command of Creation” was stated to be used in the creation of man. The text merely states, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Gen. 1:27). Elohim is present in the text, but amar is missing. This Divine Discussion of Creation represents a departure from formula. (4) After God had already created man, the text states that God blessed man, and that this blessing issued in a “Command of Productivity” followed by a “Command to Rule.” Literally, the text reads, “Then blessed them – God – and said (amar) to them – God (Elohim), ‘Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth [Command of Productivity], and subdue it; and exercise dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens, and over every living thing, the one moving about on the earth” [Command to Rule] (Gen. 1:28, author’s literal translation). Again, since there is no “Command of Creation,” there is a departure from formula. (5) After God has completed His work of creation on the Sixth Day, God said something (using the formulaic words), but what He said was non-formulaic (Gen. 1:29-30). God spoke to the couple, instructing them that He had given to them every plant which had seed and every tree bearing fruit with seed as a source of food both for humans and for animals. Since what God said amount to a Divine Speech of Provision and Instruction, and did not create a new entity, it was a departure from the formula.  (6) On the Seventh Day, there was a profound departure from formula. God created nothing, and He rearranged nothing. Of greatest significance to our present discussion is this: though Moses used the word God (Elohim), He did not use the word said (amar) at all in discussing the Seventh Day. God had completed His work of creating the heavens and the earth and everything in them. Consequently, He rested from all the work He had done. Because He had completed His work, God “blessed (barak) the seventh day and sanctified it” (Gen. 2:1-3). Since God rested and did not create, and because the word said (amar) is not even used, the Description of Blessing on the Seventh Day constitutes a remarkable departure from formula. If it be argued, “We cannot count the Seventh Day in our discussion of formula and non-formula because God had finished creating,” I would respond, “Ah, but the Creation Week consisted of seven days, not six.” Further, I would argue, “If the Seventh Day is fundamentally different, why can there not be a less remarkable difference on Day One?” At least God said (amar) something on Day One. The fact that God said something after the start of Day One is not so remarkable when one examines all the other departures from formula in the Creation Week.

The skeptic might demand, “Give me one good reason why, stylistically, I should believe that Day One begins at Genesis 1:1 and not at Gen. 1:3 – because each of the subsequent days, Second through Sixth, all begin with the formula “Then God said.” Let me attempt to answer that objection.

(1) It is impossible to answer that demand with certainty. Some day, perhaps, I will broach that subject with God and Moses. The best answer I can give is this, that apparently the Divine and human authors of Genesis believed it was important to communicate to the readers what God created initially on Day One, and the conditions of the terrestrial part of that creation, and the activity of the Spirit of God upon that creation before they communicated what God said. Genesis 1:1-2 records what God did on Day One, but the earth at that point was completely uninhabitable by design. God’s speaking light into existence on Day One (Gen. 1:3) was the first step in making the fledgling earth habitable. And, to be straightforward, that is what each of God’s speeches and activities on each of the succeeding days accomplished. As it stands, the first verse of the Bible, stylistically, is a supreme perfection of simplicity and profundity: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Stylistically, how can we possibly improve upon that? If Genesis 1:1 had begun, “In the beginning, God said, ‘Let there be the heavens and the earth’”, we would have missed that marvelous word bara, created. And we would feel that there was an opening prologue that was missing. And we still would have been faced with the following: “Now (NIV) the earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the deep” (Gen. 1:2). Those influenced by the dogma of evolution would still be wanting to insert vast eons of time in there somewhere. Gap theorists would still hold onto their Gap Theory. Progressive Creationists would still insist that the days of creation cannot be taken literally, and represent instead, vast reaches of time. Theistic Evolutionists would still insist that Gen. 1 is poetry, not historical narrative, and they would stretch the Biblical days into millions of years in order to accommodate evolution. And those who hold to the Chaos Theory of Origins would still say the original earth had been created in the dateless past. Stylistically, the opening statements of Genesis would suffer. Stylistically, what God said and the way He said it are magnificent. Let it stand as it is!

(2) We have already mentioned that it is imprecise exegesis to exclude the Seventh Day from the discussion. The Seventh Day is just as much a part of the Creation Week as are the preceding six days. God is not reported to have “said” (amar) anything at all on the Seventh Day. The word blessed (barak) is used, but not the word said (amar). Stylistically, there is already a difference in the Seventh Day of Creation. Why not also on Day One?

(3) I believe that the most formidable answer to that objection lies within the larger structure of the book of Genesis as a whole. Every reader of Genesis in Hebrew is familiar with the importance of the word toledoth in the structural, or stylistic format of Genesis. Toledoth appears in Genesis thirteen times: Gen. 2:4; 5:1; 6:9; 10:1, 32; 11:10, 27; 25:12, 13, 19; 36:1, 9; 37:2. Toledoth (a plural noun) most often is translated as generations (KJV, NASB). In Genesis it generally means “the account of” or “what became of”. Thomas Constable uses this word as a basis for outlining Genesis (Notes on Genesis, pp. 5-6, viewed on September 9, 2010). His outline goes as follows: I. Primeval events (Gen. 1:1-11:26); A. The story of creation (Gen. 1:1-2:3); B. What became of the creation (Gen. 2:4-4:26); C. What became of Adam (Gen. 5:1-6:8); D. What became of Noah (Gen. 6:9-9:29); E. What became of Noah’s sons (Gen. 10:1-11:9); F. What became of Shem (Gen. 11:10-26); II. Patriarchal narratives (Gen. 11:27-50:26); A. What became of Terah (Gen. 11:27-25:11); B. What became of Ishmael (Gen. 25:12-18); C. What became of Isaac (Gen. 25:19-35:29); D. What became of Esau (Gen. 36:1-37:1); What became of Jacob (Gen. 37:2-50:26). What is particularly germane to the discussion at hand is this: notice that the outline indicators do not start at the beginning of the book! Toledoth does not occur until Genesis 2:4. But Genesis 1:1-2:3 cannot be excluded from what happened in Genesis any more than Genesis 1:1-2 can be excluded from the Creation Week recorded in Genesis 1:1-2:3! Genesis 1:3-2:3 tells how God sequentially upgraded the heavens and earth that God began creating on Day One in Genesis 1:1-2. Had God left the earth in the condition He first created it (Gen. 1:1-2), it would have been uninhabitable. But He did not create the earth to be “a waste place, but formed it to be inhabited” (Isa. 45:18). Conclusion: The story of the Creation Week begins at Genesis 1:1; Day One begins at Genesis 1:1! Just because God is not recorded as saying something until Genesis 1:3 does not preclude His creative activity from beginning on Day One in Genesis 1:1.

Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light (Genesis 1:3). Here, part way through Day One, God took a significant step in making the as yet uninhabitable earth habitable. He created light. What is light? At its most basic level, light is energy (see The Basics of Light, offsite). Light is a means of transferring energy through space. We can also say that light is electromagnetic radiation. Typically, when we use the word light, we think only of optical light. But optical light is only the portion of the complete spectrum of electromagnetic radiation that is visible to the human eye. In addition to optical light, for example, there exist gamma-rays, X-rays, ultraviolet, infrared, and radio waves. To illustrate the notion that light is energy, it is helpful to understand that light travels in waves of particles. Each particle is called a photon. Different kinds of photons carry different amounts of energy. An X-ray photon, for example, carries much more energy than an optical or radio photon. These photons travel in waves, or measurable speeds of vibration. In the optical realm, “blue light has a higher frequency of vibration (or a shorter wavelength) than … red light.” Light, like most entities in the created order, is a lot more complicated that it appears to be.

It is significant to note that God created light on Day One before He created the sun or moon or any stars. That did not take place until the fourth day. There are some who object to the idea that God would be recorded as creating light before the existence of the sun. But that is a specious objection. Let me illustrate by asking a couple of simple questions: Has man been able to create artificial light independent of the sun? The answer is, “Of course!” We burned wood or anything flammable as an artificial light source for millennia. More recently we burned coal oil or kerosene as a light source in our lamps. Then we created the incandescent light bulb. We have invented fluorescent lights and neon lights. If man can create artificial light sources that operate without the sun (when it is nighttime), why could God not create light on Day One that existed independently of the yet-to-be-created sun or stars? That is a trifling matter for God. What would be the source of the light that God created on Day One? That source would be God Himself. Let me illustrate this way. The ultimate capital city of New Earth will be New Jerusalem, described in significant detail in Revelation 21:1-22:15. We are told, “And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed;” (Rev. 21:23-25). “God is light” (1 John 1:5), both in a physical and a metaphysical sense. The light that God spoke into existence consisted, at least, of a visible (optical) and probably an invisible display of His own glory. And this transference of energy from God to the physical universe would have taken place irrespective of the sun or any stars. There was an independent light source created on Day One in relationship to which the planet earth rotated to complete the first cycle of Day One (Gen. 1:5). That light source, I submit, was a visible manifestation of the glory of God.

God saw that the light was good (Gen. 1:4a). This almost amounts to a Divine pun. When the light appeared, God could see (raah) that it was good (insert smiley face). The light, of course, did not enable God to see. He sees equally well in darkness or light (Psa. 139:11-12, demonstrated by Psa. 139:13-16). But man cannot see at all in total darkness, and God was incrementally molding the earth and the universe into conditions that were optimal for man to thrive and enjoy. (See The Privileged Planet.) Good (tob) means that God perceived the light as being good, pleasant, or agreeable. If there were no (optical) light, think of the incredible joys we would be denied! A blind person can experience a great deal of life. He still possesses intelligence and can communicate. But think of all the incredible vistas he would never experience! We could also add that light, as being good (tob), is beneficial. Light, for example, provides warmth for the planet, absolutely necessary for survival in the frigid realms of space, and it provides a necessary engine for photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is the ability God has given plants to produce complex organic materials, especially carbohydrates, from water, carbon dioxide, and inorganic salts, using light as a source of energy along with the aid of chlorophyll and associated pigments. So light is beneficial to plants, and since plants would be the food source for both animals and man (Gen. 1:29-30), light would also be good, in the sense of beneficial, to man and animals on that account.

Henry M. Morris (The Genesis Record, pp.56-57) speculates in a remarkable way on the action of the Godhead in creation to this point:

All the types of force and energy which interact in the universe involve only electromagnetic, gravitational, and nuclear forces; and all of these had now been activated. Though no doubt oversimplified, this tremendous creative act of the godhead might be summarized by saying that the nuclear forces maintaining the integrity of matter were activated by the Father when He created the elements of the space-mass-time continuum, the gravitational forces were activated by the Spirit when He brought form and motion to the initially static and formless matter, and the electromagnetic forces were activated by the Word when He called light into existence out of the darkness. Of course, God is One, and all three persons of the Godhead actually participated in all parts of the creation and continue to function in the maintenance of the universe so created.

and God separated the light from the darkness (Gen. 1:4b). When Moses wrote these words, he could not possibly have known about the portions of electromagnetic radiation that are invisible to the human eye. His concern (and God’s concern also) was differentiating between optical light and darkness. Some observations about light are in order here.

Light as initially pervasive. First, when God initially created light, it appears that light may have been pervasive. What do I mean by pervasive? Let me illustrate. In the distant future, God will create New Heaven(s) (ouranos – plural in Isa. 65:17; 66:22; 2 Pet. 3:13, singular in Rev. 21:1) and New Earth (Isa. 65:17; 66:22; 2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1) because the existing heaven (universe) and earth have been irremediably contaminated by sin. From an exceedingly high mountain, John was privileged to see the Holy City, New Jerusalem in the process of descending (Rev. 21:2, 10) from the Heaven where God presently dwells. This New Jerusalem John saw was continually manifesting the glory of God in terms of an optical brilliance (Rev. 21:11). The glory of God and the Lamb (Jesus) illuminating the city was so intense that there was no need of either sun or moon to shine on it (Rev. 21:23). This brilliant glory John saw was not confined only to the city. He predicted that when these conditions manifest themselves in the future, the nations of New Earth will be able to function by means of the city’s great light, and the kings of New Earth will be able to transport their glory (presumably produce and manufactured goods) into the city twenty four hours a day. This will be true because there will never be any night there and the gates of the city will never be closed (Rev. 21:24-26). So the optically unveiled glory of God and the Lamb will be so great that there will be a visible brilliance both within the city and an external brilliance from the city casting light on huge portions of New Earth. (It is likely, in view of the present participle descending (katabaino) used in both Rev. 21:2 and 10, that the enormous city never actually rests upon New Earth, but rather is suspended as a satellite city, perhaps in geosynchronous orbit above the land of Israel on New Earth.) Not only will there be an external brilliance from the glory of God and of the Lamb emanating from New Jerusalem, but there will be an internal brilliance. Apparently there will be no need of artificial lighting within the buildings and homes of the city. John affirms that there will be no need, not only of illumination from the sun, but for any illumination from any lamp (Rev. 22:5). So the glory of God and of Jesus will not only illumine the city and radiate outward from the city, but it will illuminate the interiors of buildings and rooms in the city! This light from the glory of God will be pervasive indeed. I say all that to say this: Evidently when God said, “Let there be light!” on Day One (Gen. 1:3), that light was pervasive. At the same time, God knew that the finite creatures He would create would need periodic, regular rest. For that, there must be a regular period of darkness. So part of God’s creative act with reference to light on Day One was not to obliterate darkness entirely, but to allow for alternating periods of light and darkness as the Earth rotated on its axis in reference to that light. So God centralized or focused the light reflecting his own innate glory to allow for nocturnal rest and rejuvenation. It is in that sense, I believe, that God separated the light from the darkness.

Light as functionally good. Second, some, unfortunately, have portrayed light upon the newly created earth as being good (tob) not only in an esthetic and functional sense, but in a moral, ethical sense. And the darkness, they opine, signifies an unethical, unholy, evil aura (Ross, TBKC, I, pp. 28-29, viewed 9/20/10). In that sense, they hypothesize, the initial earth must have become contaminated. And by whom? By Satan, of course. Now it is true, of course, that later on in time and in Scripture, light and darkness are portrayed as polar opposites in the moral, ethical spectrum (see e.g. Isa. 5:20; 9:2; Matt. 6:23; John 3:19-21; 8:12; 12:46; Rom. 13:12; 2 Cor. 6:14; Eph. 5:8; 1 Thess. 5:5; 1 Pet. 2:9; 1 John 1:5; 2:9). And that is the point. The negative ethical and moral connotation of darkness was a later development. The difficulty with the “darkness is evil” hypothesis in Genesis 1:2-5 is that there is NO RECORD in the text of Gen. 1-2 that Satan was present on Earth any time before his mention in Gen. 3. In fact, there WAS NO SIN in connection with the Earth God created. So the darkness that needed to be rectified by light was not an ethical or moral darkness, but a functional and esthetic deficiency. If it is dark, neither man, nor animal can see, and plants, the source of food for both, cannot grow. So created life could not survive without light. To insist that the darkness of Genesis 1:2-5 signified an ethical or moral deficiency is to import later ideas from later passages of Scripture into a beginning text in which they do not exist. Quite to the contrary, periodic darkness was necessary to provide nightly rest for the creatures God would soon create. And the darkness would never be total, for God would create a lesser light, the moon, to govern the nighttime (Gen. 1:16). Furthermore, God would later pronounce the developments upon earth, which included alternating periods of light and darkness as being good (tob) (Gen. 1:16-18).

God called the light day, and the darkness He called night (Gen. 1:5a). This is the first of five times that God “called” in this Creation passage (Gen. 1:1-2:3). Each time (in this context) the verb called (qara) means that God named or labeled an entity. (1) God called the light day (Gen. 1:5). (2) God called the darkness night (Gen. 1:5). (3) God called the expanse heaven (Gen. 1:8). (4) God called the dry land earth (Gen. 1:10). (5) God called the gathered waters seas (Gen. 1:10).

In Hebrew thought, the idea of naming something is not merely attaching a random label to it. It carries the idea of identifying the essence of that thing (see H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Genesis, I, p. 55, viewed Sept. 21, 2010). The idea of naming something or labeling it also shows a certain mastery of that entity. (See Constable, Notes on Genesis, p. 15, viewed Sept. 21, 2010. See Genesis 41:45; 2 Kings 24:17; Daniel 1:7.) To name or identify or classify something is part of the very nature of God. Since God later created man in His own image and likeness (Gen. 1:26-27), He would bring animals to man and see what man would call (qara) them. And whatever man called (qara) a living creature, that was its name (shem) (Gen. 2:19). Genesis 2:20 records, literally, that the man “called (qara) names (shem)” to all the cattle, birds and beasts. That naming/labeling/classifying process revealed to man experientially that he had no suitable helper, as did the animals. After God created a female counterpart to man and brought her to him, the man called (qara) her woman (Gen. 2:23). The point is this: to call something is to name it, or accurately classify it and, to a certain degree, to exercise mastery over it. By way of illustration, we have all gone to the doctor with certain symptoms that we cannot identify. When he diagnoses our illness, we are somehow comforted. We don’t feel any better physically, but we feel better emotionally and psychologically, because both the doctor and we ourselves now have a degree of mastery over the inexplicable symptoms. We have the flu, or the ankle is badly sprained but not broken. Even if we are diagnosed with some kind of cancer, there is a certain amount of relief in knowing what kind of cancer we have and what the alternative methods of treatment are and what our prognosis might be. Similarly, those who favor abortion seek to control others’ perception of them by naming themselves as “pro-life” rather than “those who seek to kill unborn babies.” God exercised mastery over the conditions of light and darkness by classifying the light as day and the darkness as night.

These two labels are very geocentric and anthropocentric. By geocentric I mean that day and night have significance with respect to our earth. The existence of day and night demonstrates that the light that was initially pervasive was now localized, and that the earth was now regularly rotating in respect to the light source God had just created. Out in the middle of deep space, the terms day and night have no significance. Their significance is related to the earth. By anthropocentric, I mean that the terms day and night have primary significance for man, as opposed to animals. Obviously animals can differentiate between light and darkness, but they don’t call the darkness night nor do they call the light day. Those are human terms, understood by man. God labeled the darkness and the light for man’s benefit, not for the benefit of animals.

What is the meaning of the word day (yom)? Here it clearly means the illuminated portion of a 24-hour period of time. So also night (layelah) refers to the non-illuminated portion of a 24-hour day. So in the very first occurrence of the word day in the Bible, it is self limiting. It is unequivocally linked to a 24-hour period of time, not a vast span of time (as theistic evolutionists would have us believe).

And there was evening and there was morning, one day (Gen. 1:5b). There are some who have attempted to infer that this repeated phrase marks the genesis of the Semitic day beginning at evening. That is unlikely, for the reason that the phrase marks the completion, not the commencement of the activities on day one of creation. 

H. C. Leupold  (commentary, p. 27) translates this phrase, “Then came evening, then came morning – the first day.” What is clearly indicated here is a sequence of events following the illuminated portion of that first 24-hour day. God had created light, and then localized it. The earth was rotating on its axis in relation to that light. As the day wore on, sunset finally arrived. So evening came, and, after a period of time, morning came. That completed the cycle of Divine activity on Day One of creation.

Leupold points out that some have attempted to make Gen. 1 the origin of the Semitic notion that a new day begins in the evening. But he does not believe that can be deduced from this passage. Here, he notes, the arrival of evening followed by morning came at the end of the first day’s activities, not its beginning. For the Jewish people, the concept of a day beginning at sunset is more likely related to the Divinely-specified protocol for the observance of the Jewish Sabbath (see Lev. 23:32).

In his comments on Gen. 1:5, C. F. Keil (Keil and Delitzsch) wrote, "It follows from this, that the days of creation are not reckoned from evening to evening, but from morning to morning. The first day does not fully terminate till the light returns after the darkness of night; it is not till the break of the new morning that the first interchange of light and darkness is completed ...."

Here then, is the sequence on the first day of creation: (1) God created the heavens. (2) God created the earth. (3) God created by command light. (4) As the earth rotated in relation to the fixed light source, evening came, and with it darkness. (5) The first 24-hour day was terminated by the arrival ot the dawn, or morning.

one day Two questions are at stake here: (1) What is the nature of the word day (yom)? (2) What is the significance of the word one (echad) appearing in the cardinal, rather than the ordinal form?

(1) What is the nature of the word day 
(yom)? The word day is used in two different senses in Genesis 1:5. It is first used by God to denote the illuminated portion of existence upon earth as opposed to the darkened portion of existence. As the earth rotates on its axis, a given spot on the globe is alternately exposed to light and then to darkness. In English, it is appropriate to call the illuminated portion "day" or "daytime." In Hebrew it is yom.

In the second part of Gen. 1:5, day is used to denote a complete cycle
of daytime followed by nighttime. We now speak of a solar day, or a 24-hour day, but on Day One there was no sun in respect to which the earth rotated on its axis, but rather some other light source. We are not told what that light source was, but presumably, as suggested above, it was a visible display of the glory of God. In any event, the amount of time for a day-night cycle was essentially the same then as it is today, granting the entropy (decay) associated with six thousand years plus of the earth's existence.

According to Francis Humphrey, a third meaning of day (yom) is to be found in Genesis 2:4:
"Finally in Genesis 2:4, ym is part of an anarthrous 1 prepositional compound beym meaning not ‘in the day’ but simply ’when’."

There can be no doubt that, in the latter part of Genesis 1:5, by writing, "And there was evening and there was morning, one day," Moses was delineating a 24-hour day or what in three days could accurately be termed a solar day. The terms evening and morning must doubtless refer to a 24-hour day. This limiting context is stated first in Genesis 1:5, then repeated in
Gen. 1:8, 13, 19, 23, and 31. As Humphrey concludes, "…it is clearly preferable to read Gen. 1:5b as defining a ym for the following sequence of ordinals-namely one cycle of evening and morning, signifying a complete 24-hour day embracing both the period of darkness and the period of light.”

It should be noted that the day-night cycle of the first day was, by necessity, different than the succeeding days. Whereas each succeeding day began with daybreak or dawn, the first day began in utter darkness. In other words, when God created the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1), it was pitch black (Gen. 1:2). How long it was dark we are not told. How long the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters before God created light (Gen. 1:3), we are not told. What we are told by God as recorded by Moses is that God created everything that came into existence in six days (Ex. 20:11). And God nowhere in Scripture indicated a chronological disparity between the first day and the succeeding days. We humans would be unwise unilaterally to impose a difference where none is stated to exist.

For millennia, few questioned Moses' account of the origin of the universe, the earth, and life. Indeed, through the first roughly 1800 years of the church's existence, it was assumed that God created the cosmos and that he did it in six days. There were some allegorists, such as "Clement, Origen, and Augustine, [who] did not consider the days of creation as 24-hour days, but, even as old-earth advocate Davis Young states, neither did they see non-literal days conflicting with their young-earth view" (Davis A. Young, Christianity and the Age of the Earth (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1982), p. 19 and 22, as quoted by James R. Mook, "The Church Fathers on Genesis, the Flood, and the Age of the Earth", p. 26 in Coming to Grips with Genesis). It was understood that a day meant a day. But with the advent of the theory of evolution, with its emphasis on geological uniformitarianism, a number of theologians and Hebrew scholars attempted to find new ways to interpret the account. Many tried to reconcile the Biblical account with the vast amounts of time demanded by the doctrine of evolution. Instead of allowing the clear teaching of Scripture to stand in judgment on on the atheistic, uniformitarian, anti-supernatural biases and presuppositions of the scientific community, the Christian community, led by Christian scholars, capitulated to the dogmas foisted upon them. But those who took the Bible seriously had to deal with the text of Gen. 1. So they resorted to non-literal methods of exegesis or ingenious manipulations of the Hebrew syntax to accommodate the scientific views. One way to do that was to assign vast periods of time to the account of the "days" of creation. Here is a brief list of the theories regarding the days of creation that have been concocted to satisfy the time parameters mandated by evolution:

Day-Age Theory. The days of creation are not literal days, as a straight-forward reading of Gen. 1 would lead one to believe. Instead they represent vast periods of time. This theory, unsupported by an exegesis of Gen. 1, was concocted to create the amount of time required by the uniformitarian presuppositions of the dogma of evolution. Specifically, for example, uniformitarian geology holds that the geologic strata found around the earth were laid down by natural processes over millions upon millions of years. But this is untrue. The geologic strata were not laid down gradually over millions of years by natural processes, but over a short period of time during the global, catastrophic geological devastation caused by the Flood of Noah (Gen. 6-8). Another term for this non-literal approach to the days of creation is Progressive Creationism. Astrophysicist Hugh Ross, Reasons to Believe, holds to Progressive Creationism. He also believes the Genesis Flood was local.

Framework Hypothesis. A non-literal hermeneutical stratagem to avoid the clear meaning of "day" (yom) in Genesis 1:1-2:3 in a failed attempt to harmonize the Biblical teaching of Creation with the Old-Earth implications of the theory of Evolution. In the Framework Hypothesis, God was not meaning to convey literal or scientific truth. Rather He sought to convey a theology of creation through a literary or symbolic framework of six days. Proponents of the Framework Hypothesis include Arie Noordtzij, Meredith Kline, Mark D. Futato, Lee Irons, Henri Blocher, Bruce Waltke, Gordon Wenham, Mark Throntveit, Ronald F. Youngblood, and W. Robert Godfrey (all referenced with their publications by Todd S. Beall, "Contemporary Hermeneutical Approaches to Gen. 1-11", footnote 11, pp. 151-152, Coming to Grips with Genesis: Biblical Authority and the Age of the Earth and Beall, op. cit., ).

Intermittent Day Theory. This theory holds that there were vast quantities of time between the days of creation. No straightforward reading of the account in Gen. 1 would lead one to support this theory. It was concocted by Biblical scholars who have been cowed into believing that science demands an Old Earth. The evolutionary theory demands vast quantities of time. Old-Earth creationists, attempting to accommodate the Biblical account with Evolution, keep searching for ways to insert more time into Genesis. Inevitably, they violate a normal reading of the passage.

Other Theories that Insert Time into the Genesis Record

In addition to theories regarding the days of creation, other theories have been created to insert more time into the Creation Account of Genesis:

Gap Theory. There is an enormous gap of time between Gen. 1:1 and Gen. 1:2. According to some who hold this theory, God created an initial pristine universe as described in Genesis 1:1. But something ruined it. What or who ruined it? Why it was Satan and his angels, who fell. So God had to judge the world with a global cataclysm. This accounts for the trillions of fossils scattered throughout the geological ages. Genesis 1:2 then, according to these theorists, describes the condition of the earth after God judged it. It was utterly dark, without form, void, and covered with water. Genesis 1:3-31 accounts for God's recreation of the cosmos. The Gap Theory is also known as the "Ruin and Reconstruction" Theory. By whatever name, this theory is untenable theologically, because it makes God say that everything He had created was "good" (Gen. 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25) and "very good" (Gen. 1:31) even though the re-created world was littered with the fossils of animals that had died and lay buried in the geologic strata that everywhere around the globe testify of a cataclysmic judgment. Furthermore, it diametrically opposes the clear statement that it was by one man, Adam, that sin entered the world, and death through sin (Romans 5:12-14). Though it never used the words "gap theory", the Scofield Reference Bible popularized this unbiblical concept and helped spread it through scores of otherwise conservative Bible colleges and seminaries. Here are the words of the 1917 edition commenting on the phrase "without form and void" in Genesis 1:2:

Jeremiah 4:23-27 ; Isaiah 24:1; 45:18 clearly indicate that the earth had undergone a cataclysmic change as the result of divine judgment. The face of the earth bears everywhere the marks of such a catastrophe. There are not wanting imitations which connect it with a previous testing and fall of angels.
See Ezekiel 28:12-15 ; Isaiah 14:9-14 which certainly go beyond the kings of Tyre and Babylon.

The 1917 edition stated the concept of the Gap Theory in its note on the phrase "without form and void" as found in Jeremiah 4:23:

Cf. Genesis 1:2 . "Without form and void" describes the condition of the earth as the result of judgment ; Jeremiah 4:24-26 ; Isaiah 24:1 which overthrew the primal order of Genesis 1:1 .

The 1917 edition gave three options for defining the word "day" in Genesis 1:5:

The word "day" is used in Scripture in three ways:

(1) that part of the solar day of twenty-four hours which is light Genesis 1:5; Genesis 1:14 ; John 9:4; 11:9.

(2) such a day, set apart for some distinctive purpose, as, "day of atonement" ( Leviticus 23:27 ); "day of judgment" Matthew 10:15 .

(3) a period of time, long or short, during which certain revealed purposes of God are to be accomplished, as "day of the Lord."

The 1917 edition also revealed its bias toward the Day-Age Theory in its notes on the word "evening"  in Genesis 1:6:

The use of "evening" and "morning" may be held to limit "day" to the solar day; but the frequent parabolic use of natural phenomena may warrant the conclusion that each creative "day" was a period of time marked off by a beginning and ending.

Some who hold to the Gap Theory even posit a race of pre-Adamic men, of which the Bible never speaks. To the contrary it affirms that God made every nation of men from one (my translation, emphasis mine. See Acts 17:26). All truly human (and other) fossils found are descendants of Adam. If they are buried in strata, they probably died during Noah's flood. There is no fossil record of pre-Adamic men, for there are none.

Chaos Theory of Origins.
This is the interpretation that the earth as described in Genesis 1:2 was chaotic, cursed, under God's judgment, and even evil. As such it needed to be redeemed. It is my view that otherwise conservative scholars who hold to this view have felt compelled to adjust their exegesis of Scripture to accommodate the prounouncements of evolutionists and their view of an ancient earth. Young Earth Creationists have withstood this pressure. Allen P. Ross and Bruce Waltke hold to some version of this view. 

Allen Ross, (The Bible Knowledge Commentary on Genesis, p. 28) for example, holds that Satan ruined the original heavens and earth, which God had created at some point in the dateless past. What this amounts to is a more sophisticated version of the Gap Theory. People who hold to this view import from elsewhere in Scripture elements of sin and cursing and judgment into Genesis 1:2 that are not found in the text of Gen. 1. The earth as described in Genesis 1:2 was neither chaotic, nor sinful, nor evil, nor under judgment. It was simply unorganized and unproductive, uninhabited, aqueous, and dark. It was all that God intended it to be at this stage of God's creation on Day 1. (See my word study on tohu wabohu, particularly the conclusion at the end of tohu and the conclusion at the end of bohu.)

I end this discussion of the nature of the word day (yom) with the following statement by Francis Humphrey:

The fact that for the bulk of the passage [Genesis 1:1-2:4], the word ym is accompanied by sequential numerical denotation and the language of ‘evening and morning’ gives a prima facie case that regular 24-hour days are in view.

(2) What is the significance of the word one (echad) appearing in the cardinal, rather than the ordinal form? The careful Hebrew scholar notes that Moses used the cardinal one (echad) in reference to the initial day of creation (Gen. 1:5), but thereafter used the ordinals second, third, fourth, fifthsixth, and seventh in the succeeding days (Gen. 1:8, 13, 19, 23, 31; 2:2-3). Why?

Andrew Steinmann has written a definitive article on the use of echad in Genesis 1:5. Here is a list of the topics Steinmann discusses:

1. "Echad as an ordinal number in numbering units of time" (p. 577). His conclusion (p. 580): "Echad may be used in place of the ordinal rishon when enumerating time periods, but only in two special idioms. One of these designates the day of a month, the other the year of a reign of a king. In all other cases of periods of time (days, months or years) the ordinal number is used."

2. "Countables" (p. 581). The cardinal number echad can serve as an ordinal number to count the first of a small number of things. Examples include:

Gen 2:11: “the first [river]” (of four rivers)
Gen 4:19: “the name of the first [wife] was Adah” (of two wives)
Exod 26:4, 5; 36:11: “the first curtain” (of two curtains)
Exod 28:17; 39:10: “the first row” (of four rows)
Exod 29:40; Num 28:7: “for the first lamb” (of two lambs)
1 Kgs 6:24: “the first cherub” (of two cherubs)
Job 42:14: “the name of the first [he called] Jemimah (of three daughters)
Ezek 10:14: “the face of the first [creature] was the face of a cherub (of four creatures)

3. "Echad in Genesis 1:5" (p. 582). In this regard Steinmann states,

If this means, as most translators and commentators understand it, “There was an evening and a morning, the first day,” we can find no precedent for the use of echad here. It cannot be the use of a cardinal number as an ordinal to enumerate a time period, since this only applies to days of a month or the years of a king’s reign. Neither of these is the case here, despite the references to the use of echad as an ordinal to denote a first day by some commentators.
    Moreover, this cannot be the typical use of echad to begin a list of countables. First, the lack of an article on both echad and yom is unattested elsewhere in the OT for a list of countables. Secondly, none of the following ordinal numbers for the second through fifth days has an article, nor is there an article with yom (Gen 1:8, 13, 19, 23). This, again, is unattested elsewhere in the OT.

What is Steinmann's conclusion?

It would appear as if the text is very carefully crafted so that an alert reader cannot read it as “the first day.” Instead, by omission of the article it must be read as “one day,” thereby defining a day as something akin to a twenty-four hour solar period with light and darkness and transitions between day and night, even though there is no sun until the fourth day. This would then explain the lack of articles on the second through fifth days (p. 583).

Yom, like the English word “day,” can take on a variety of meanings. It does not in and of itself mean a twenty-four hour day. This alone has made the length of the days in Gen. 1 a perennially controversial subject. However, the use of echad in Gen 1:5 and the following unique uses of the ordinal numbers on the other days demonstrates that the text itself indicates that these are regular solar days (p. 584).

Humphrey concludes,

In light of the preceding, it is clearly preferable to read Gen. 1:5b as defining a ym for the following sequence of ordinals - namely one cycle of evening and morning, signifying a complete 24-hour day embracing both the period of darkness and the period of light. Having used the cardinal echad to establish that definition of ym, the chapter then goes on in the expected ordinal sequence.

It is clear that both Humphrey and Steinmann concur that echad, in Genesis 1:5, is not being used as an ordinal, but as a cardinal number in order to define what a day is in the context of Genesis 1:1-2:3: A day is a 24-hour period equivalent to a solar day. Day (yom) cannot be stretched into a lengthy period of time.

I agree with their conclusions.

Humphrey ends his entire article with the following observation, with which I concur:

It has been my experience that those who question the normal historical narrative reading of Genesis 1:1–2:4 tend to be my fellow evangelicals. Theological liberals recognize the text as saying that God created the universe in six 24-hour days. They see evangelicals who adopt alternative readings of the text as engaged in a form of suspect apologetics. I believe the liberal critique to be accurate. Where I differ from them, however, is that I believe the text is correct in what it is teaching. A more effective apologetic therefore lies in simply admitting what the text proclaims and showing that it has far more explanatory power than many people think. In that light, I am excited by the kind of research being conducted by CMI and likeminded creation science organizations. God means what He says and He did it just as Genesis says he did!

I.e. lacking the definite article. If the definite article were present (represented by the vowel marking pathach under the beth) then it would signify ‘in the day’. Its lack signifies an idiomatic use meaning ‘when’ as in the NIV translation. Return to text.

Editor. This completes Day One of Creation.

Second Day of Creation and subsequent days of creation articles are in process.
(Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.)

Completed April 8, 2012

Updated May 24, 2016

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