Cosmology, the Study of Origins
Then God said, "Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens." Genesis 1:20
Fifth Day of Creation
God's Creation of Marine and Aviary Creatures
1. God's Decree of Aquatic and Aviary Creatures. Gen. 1:20
a. Of Marine Creatures: Then God said, "Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures, (Gen. 1:20a)
Then God said: Literally, "And said God", where "and said" is the Qal Waw Consecutive Imperfect of the verb 'amar (559), "to say, speak, utter." The NASB editors translate the Waw at the beginning of the verse as "then" rather than "and" for stylistic purposes. "God" is the always plural noun 'elohiym (430), the generic name for God, the Strong One. "Then God said" appears in the first chapter of Genesis in Gen. 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26, 28, 29. God's power is such that he simply speaks things into existence out of nothing (Heb. 11:3)!
Let the waters teem: Literally, "Let teem the waters," where "Let teem" is the Qal Imperfect of the verb shârats (8317), "swarm, teem" (BDB), "be innumerable" (SH-ED)"; "the waters" is the always-plural noun mayim (4325), "waters," preceded by the article he. "The waters" refers to the ocean (or oceans) of the earth in their entirety along with all the lakes and rivers on dry land. It is my belief that there was no chemical or salinity difference between the oceans and the lakes and rivers at that time. The oceans later became salty as a result of the bursting forth of the "great fountains of the deep" at the time of Noah's Flood (Gen. 7:11). The catastrophic erosion that ensued at that time made the oceans saltier with the mixture of elements and chemicals from the earth than they had been originally created. Some fish were better able to adapt to the saltier waters of the new oceans, while others were better able to adapt to the fresh water on the land at that time, always replenished by rain.
with swarms of living creatures: Literally, "with swarms of creatures living" – "swarms" is the noun sherets (8318). BDB defines it as a collective noun "swarmers, swarming things ... aquatic; small reptiles and quadrupeds (weasel, mouse, lizard) ...; insects." It is the noun counterpart to the verb shârats (8317), "swarm, teem;" "of creatures" is the noun nephesh (5315), a very common and fluid noun with a variety of meanings. In Gen. 1-9 it is most frequently translated "creature;" in the latter part of Genesis and in most of Leviticus, "person"; in the book of Psalms, almost always "soul." In this context, "creatures" is a good translation; "living" is the adjective chay (2416), "living, alive."
What God said was, "Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures." One can only briefly list a few of the species God had in mind – everything from fish to sharks to whales to minnows to lobsters to crabs to shrimp to manta rays to octopi to sea anemone.
b. Of Birds: "and let the birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens." (Gen. 1:20b)
birds - ‛ôph (5775), "birds" (Gen. 7:3; 1 Sam. 17:44; Job 12:7), "winged insects" (Lev. 11:20, 21, 23), flying creatures. There is no article "the" in the Hebrew text.
let (birds) fly - the Polel of the verb ‛ûph (5774), meaning "to fly about"
above the earth - "above" is the preposition `al (5921), in this context, "over, upon, above" (cf. BDB); "the earth" - the noun 'erets (776), "earth, land, ground"
in the open expanse - literally, "upon the face of the extended area", where "upon" is the preposition `al (5921), here "in," "upon," or "across"; "the face" is the always-plural, but always-used-as-a-singular noun paniym (6440), here "face" or "surface"; "of the extended area" translates the noun raqiya` (7549), "firmament," "extended area," or "atmosphere." This noun is used in Gen. 1:6, 7, 8, 14, 15, 17, 20. Here it refers to the portion of the "extended area" bordered by the land / oceans on the bottom and the Water Vapor Canopy above (Gen. 1:6-8).
of the heavens - the always-plural shâmayim (8064), the visible heavens or sky, here, in conjunction with raqiya` (7549) indicating that birds would fly within the portion of the heavens beneath the Water Vapor Canopy, not in outer space, inhabited only by stars, galaxies and the like. That is signified by the careful language that birds would fly above the earth across the face of the expanse of the heavens (emphasis mine).
2. The Account of God's Creation. Gen. 1:21. This brief segment describes what God did as a consequence of what He said. Retaining the same order of fish before fowl, God first identified the great extreme of the marine creatures He created.
a. Of Large Sea Monsters: "God created the great sea monsters" (Gen. 1:21a)
"God created" - literally, "And created - God." "And created" is the Qal Waw Consecutive Imperfect of the verb bârâ' (1254), to "shape, fashion, create" (BDB). In the creation narrative Moses used this verb in Gen. 1:1, 21, 27; 2:3, 4. He used it 3 times in Gen. 1:27. As in Gen. 1:1, wherein God created the heavens and the earth out of nothing, so in Gen. 1:21 God created the great sea monsters out of nothing (creation ex nihilo). "God" is the always-plural 'ělôhîym (430), "Strong One."
"the great sea monsters" - literally, "the sea monsters, the great."
"the sea monsters" translates the plural of the noun tannîyn (8577), "serpent, dragon, sea-monster" (BDB), appearing with the the article ha. This noun is seldom used. It appears only here in Genesis (Gen. 1:21). In Exodus 7:9, 10, 12; Deut. 32:33; Psa. 91:13 it clearly refers to what we ordinarily think of as land-based serpents or snakes. Yet, in Gen. 1:21; Job 7:12; Psa. 74:13; 148:7 it appears in connection with water, and is translated (NASB) "sea-monster." It is translated (NASB) as "dragon" in Isa. 27:1; 51:9. It is translated merely as "monster" (NASB) in Jer. 51:34 and in Ezek. 29:3; 32:2. If the NASB were more consistent, Ezek. 29:3 might be translated "river-monster," and Ezek. 32:2 might be translated "sea-monster."
"the great" is the plural of the adjective gâdôl (1419) plus the article ha, meaning "the great" "sea monsters" – "great" in regard to magnitude of size and power.
What sort of creatures are these? Whales, dolphins and sharks readily come to mind. So also do alligators and crocodiles. Perhaps there were also species of dragons. It is conjectured that the "Spinosaurus" was a powerful swimming dinosaur. See also the article "The real sea monsters." Giant squid would fit into this category; perhaps also octopi such as the Giant Pacific Octopus.
b. Of Other Sea Creatures: "and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed after their kind," (Gen. 1:21b)
"and every living creature" - literally, "and every creature living, the one moving;" "creature" translates the noun nephesh (5315), "creature" (see further in the discussion at Gen. 1:20, above); "living" translates the adjective chay (2416), "living" or "alive;" "the one moving" translates the Qal Participle of the verb râmaś (7430) plus the article, when used of water creatures, "move lightly, glide about" (BDB).
"with which the waters swarmed" - "with which" translates the relative pronoun 'ăsher (834); "the waters" is the always-plural noun mayim (4325), "waters," referring to all ocean waters and lakes and rivers; "swarmed" is the Qal Perfect of the verb shârats (8317), "swarm, teem."
"after their kind" - literally, "after their kinds" the plural noun mı̂yn (4327), "classifications." In the true world, God's world, there are fixed kinds or classifications. Animals can vary within genetically imposed limitations within a kind, but one kind cannot morph into another kind. Evolution is a myth devised by people who will distort the truth to avoid any accountability to God (Rom. 1:18-23). That is wishful thinking. Every person will one day stand before Jesus Christ, the judge of all the earth and give an account of his beliefs and his deeds (Matt. 25:31-46; John 5:21-29).
The wide variety of fish and crustaceans and eels and so forth are intended here.
c. Of Winged Creatures: "and every winged bird after its kind;" (Gen. 1:21c)
"winged" translates kânâph (3671), wing, extremity; "bird" is ‛ôph (5775), bird or flying creature, including insects and such animals as bats.
"after its kind" - the singular noun mı̂yn (4327), classification. Once again, there can be no change from one Biblical classification to another. That is genetically impossible. There is change within a classification, but that means a loss of genetic information, not the addition of new genetic information.
3. God's Assessment of His Creatures: "and God saw that it was good." (Gen. 1:21d) Literally, "And saw God that it was good."
"And saw" is the 3rd Masculine Singular Waw Consecutive Imperfect of the verb râ'âh (7200). This has the idea of seeing with perception.
"God" is the always-plural common noun 'ĕlôhı̂ym (430), God, the creator of the universe.
"that it was good." "Good" is the adjective ṭôb (2896), pleasing to the eyes, and functionally good, appropriate. In this brand new world with its newly created marine and aviary creatures there was no entropy, no decay. There were no fossils, no missing links. Each classification of fish and fowl was perfect with well-defined class distinctives. There was enormous genetic potential for development and diversity within each classification, but there was no ability whatever to mutate from one classification to another. Decay and entropy and death entered the universe and the world only after Adam had sinned. (Gen. 2:16-17; 3:1-19; Rom. 5:12).
4. God's Blessing of Aquatic and Aviary Creatures: God blessed them, saying, Gen. 1:22
God blessed them
"God" is the always-plural common noun 'ĕlôhı̂ym (430), God, the creator of the universe.
“blessed” is the Piel Imperfect of the verb bârák (1288), to kneel down, or bless. This is the first time it appears in the book of Genesis. It will appear again in this chapter only in Gen. 1:28, where God blessed man. It can indicate a verbal beneficence. Or the blessing can result in favorable circumstances for the individual blessed. This can include measurable wealth, as in the cases of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. To me the concept of blessing is the theme of Genesis. This verb occurs 72X in Genesis alone. It appears 74X in Psalms, the highest number of occurrences. I realize that the toledoth (8435) passages mark a structural outline of Genesis. However, the concept of blessing is a thematic method of dividing up the book. The book of Genesis begins with God blessing His creatures and especially blessing man (Gen. 1:28), whom He had created in His likeness and image (Gen. 1:26). It ends with one of God’s chosen and blessed patriarchs, Jacob, blessing his grandsons and sons with prophetic blessings appropriate to their individual characters (Gen. 48-49).
"Be fruitful and multiply," "Be fruitful" is the plural Qal Imperative of the verb pârâh (6509), "bear fruit, be fruitful" (BDB); "and multiply" is the plural Qal Imperative of the verb râbâh (7235), "become numerous, proliferate." God commanded fish and fowl to breed and become numerous throughout the earth.
"and fill the waters in the seas" - "and fill" is the plural Qal Imperative of the verb mâlâ' (4390), "be full, fill" (BDB); "the waters" is the always-plural noun mayim (4325), "waters;" "in the seas" - the plural noun yâm (3220), "seas," large aggregations of water. God commanded the fish to multiply and fill all the waters of the seas throughout the world. A daunting task, but the fish have obeyed!
"and let birds multiply on the earth." Literally, "and the bird, let it multiply in the earth."
"and the bird" - the singular of the noun ‛ôph (5775) plus the article, bird or flying creature, including insects and such animals as bats.
"let it multiply" - the Qal Imperfect of the verb râbâh (7235), "become numerous, proliferate."
"in the earth" - the common noun 'erets (776), plus the prefixed bet - "in the" "earth, land, ground," here meaning "throughout the planet earth."
5. The Conclusion of the Fifth Day Gen. 1:23
"And there was evening"
"And there was" translates the Qal Waw Consecutive Imperfect of the verb hâyâh (1961), the verb of being.
"evening" is the noun ‛ereb (6153), sunset, the closing of the day.
"and there was morning,"
"and there was" translates the Qal Waw Consecutive Imperfect of the verb hâyâh (1961), the verb of being.
"morning" is the noun bôqer (1242), the coming of dawn, daybreak.
"a fifth day."
"day" is the noun yôm (3117), here referring to a 24-hour day.
"fifth" is the adjective chămı̂yshı̂y (2549), the ordinal number "fifth."
Summary: By the end of the fifth 24-hour day, God had created the heavens and the earth, light, an atmosphere to separate waters upon the earth from the water vapor canopy surrounding the earth, dry land, seas, vegetation of all sorts, the sun, moon and stars, and now all manner of fish and marine creatures to fill the waters and all manner of birds to fly in the atmosphere. And God saw that what He had created was good. There was no death, no decay, no fossils, no sedimentary strata, no long geological ages. It was good, because everything God creates is good because He is good. On the next day, God will create all manner of land animals, and He will create man, the crown of His creation, fashioned in His likeness and image, and granted authority, like God, to exercise limited sovereignty over the rest of creation.
James T. Bartsch
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