This expanded electronic edition of the J-F-B Commentary is in the public domain.
Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown
Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (1871)

THE FIRST BOOK OF MOSES, CALLED GENESIS

Commentary by ROBERT JAMIESON

CHAPTER 1

      Ge 1:1, 2. THE CREATION OF HEAVEN AND EARTH.

      1. In the beginning--a period of remote and unknown antiquity, hid in the depths of eternal ages; and so the phrase is used in Pr 8:22, 23.
      God--the name of the Supreme Being, signifying in Hebrew, "Strong," "Mighty." It is expressive of omnipotent power; and by its use here in the plural form, is obscurely taught at the opening of the Bible, a doctrine clearly revealed in other parts of it, namely, that though God is one, there is a plurality of persons in the Godhead--Father, Son, and Spirit, who were engaged in the creative work (Pr 8:27; Joh 1:3, 10; Eph 3:9; Heb 1:2; Job 26:13).
      created--not formed from any pre-existing materials, but made out of nothing.
      the heaven and the earth--the universe. This first verse is a general introduction to the inspired volume, declaring the great and important truth that all things had a beginning; that nothing throughout the wide extent of nature existed from eternity, originated by chance, or from the skill of any inferior agent; but that the whole universe was produced by the creative power of God (Ac 17:24; Ro 11:36). After this preface, the narrative is confined to the earth.

      2. the earth was without form and void--or in "confusion and emptiness," as the words are rendered in Isa 34:11. This globe, at some undescribed period, having been convulsed and broken up, was a dark and watery waste for ages perhaps, till out of this chaotic state, the present fabric of the world was made to arise.
      the Spirit of God moved--literally, continued brooding over it, as a fowl does, when hatching eggs. The immediate agency of the Spirit, by working on the dead and discordant elements, combined, arranged, and ripened them into a state adapted for being the scene of a new creation. The account of this new creation properly begins at the end of this second verse; and the details of the process are described in the natural way an onlooker would have done, who beheld the changes that successively took place.

      Ge 1:3-5. THE FIRST DAY.

      3. God said--This phrase, which occurs so repeatedly in the account means: willed, decreed, appointed; and the determining will of God was followed in every instance by an immediate result. Whether the sun was created at the same time with, or long before, the earth, the dense accumulation of fogs and vapors which enveloped the chaos had covered the globe with a settled gloom. But by the command of God, light was rendered visible; the thick murky clouds were dispersed, broken, or rarefied, and light diffused over the expanse of waters. The effect is described in the name "day," which in Hebrew signifies "warmth," "heat"; while the name "night" signifies a "rolling up," as night wraps all things in a shady mantle.

      4. divided the light from darkness--refers to the alternation or succession of the one to the other, produced by the daily revolution of the earth round its axis.

      5. first day--a natural day, as the mention of its two parts clearly determines; and Moses reckons, according to Oriental usage, from sunset to sunset, saying not day and night as we do, but evening and morning.

      Ge 1:6-8. SECOND DAY.

      6. firmament--an expanse--a beating out as a plate of metal: a name given to the atmosphere from its appearing to an observer to be the vault of heaven, supporting the weight of the watery clouds. By the creation of an atmosphere, the lighter parts of the waters which overspread the earth's surface were drawn up and suspended in the visible heavens, while the larger and heavier mass remained below. The air was thus "in the midst of the waters," that is, separated them; and this being the apparent use of it, is the only one mentioned, although the atmosphere serves other uses, as a medium of life and light.

      Ge 1:9-13. THIRD DAY.

      9. let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place--The world was to be rendered a terraqueous globe, and this was effected by a volcanic convulsion on its surface, the upheaving of some parts, the sinking of others, and the formation of vast hollows, into which the waters impetuously rushed, as is graphically described (Ps 104:6-9) [HITCHCOCK]. Thus a large part of the earth was left "dry land," and thus were formed oceans, seas, lakes, and rivers which, though each having its own bed, or channel, are all connected with the sea (Job 38:10; Ec 1:7).

      11. let the earth bring forth--The bare soil was clothed with verdure, and it is noticeable that the trees, plants, and grasses--the three great divisions of the vegetable kingdom here mentioned--were not called into existence in the same way as the light and the air; they were made to grow, and they grew as they do still out of the ground--not, however, by the slow process of vegetation, but through the divine power, without rain, dew, or any process of labor--sprouting up and flourishing in a single day.

      Ge 1:14-19. FOURTH DAY.

      14. let there be lights in the firmament--The atmosphere being completely purified, the sun, moon, and stars were for the first time unveiled in all their glory in the cloudless sky; and they are described as "in the firmament" which to the eye they appear to be, though we know they are really at vast distances from it.

      16. two great lights--In consequence of the day being reckoned as commencing at sunset--the moon, which would be seen first in the horizon, would appear "a great light," compared with the little twinkling stars; while its pale benign radiance would be eclipsed by the dazzling splendor of the sun; when his resplendent orb rose in the morning and gradually attained its meridian blaze of glory, it would appear "the greater light" that ruled the day. Both these lights may be said to be "made" on the fourth day--not created, indeed, for it is a different word that is here used, but constituted, appointed to the important and necessary office of serving as luminaries to the world, and regulating by their motions and their influence the progress and divisions of time.

      Ge 1:20-23. FIFTH DAY. The signs of animal life appeared in the waters and in the air.

      20. moving creature--all oviparous animals, both among the finny and the feathery tribes--remarkable for their rapid and prodigious increase.
      fowl--means every flying thing: The word rendered "whales," includes also sharks, crocodiles, &c.; so that from the countless shoals of small fish to the great sea monsters, from the tiny insect to the king of birds, the waters and the air were suddenly made to swarm with creatures formed to live and sport in their respective elements.

      Ge 1:24-31. SIXTH DAY. A farther advance was made by the creation of terrestrial animals, all the various species of which are included in three classes: (1) cattle, the herbivorous kind capable of labor or domestication.

      24. beasts of the earth--(2) wild animals, whose ravenous natures were then kept in check, and (3) all the various forms of
      creeping things--from the huge reptiles to the insignificant caterpillars.

      26. The last stage in the progress of creation being now reached--God said, Let us make man--words which show the peculiar importance of the work to be done, the formation of a creature, who was to be God's representative, clothed with authority and rule as visible head and monarch of the world.
      In our image, after our likeness--This was a peculiar distinction, the value attached to which appears in the words being twice mentioned. And in what did this image of God consist? Not in the erect form or features of man, not in his intellect, for the devil and his angels are, in this respect, far superior; not in his immortality, for he has not, like God, a past as well as a future eternity of being; but in the moral dispositions of his soul, commonly called original righteousness (Ec 7:29). As the new creation is only a restoration of this image, the history of the one throws light on the other; and we are informed that it is renewed after the image of God in knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness (Col 3:10; Eph 4:24).

      28. Be fruitful, &c.--The human race in every country and age has been the offspring of the first pair. Amid all the varieties found among men, some black, some copper-colored, others white, the researches of modern science lead to a conclusion, fully accordant with the sacred history, that they are all of one species and of one family (Ac 17:26). What power in the word of God! "He spake and it was done. He commanded and all things stood fast" [Ps 33:9]. "Great and manifold are thy works, Lord God Almighty! in wisdom hast thou made them all" [Ps 104:24]. We admire that wisdom, not only in the regular progress of creation, but in its perfect adaptation to the end. God is represented as pausing at every stage to look at His work. No wonder He contemplated it with complacency. Every object was in its right place, every vegetable process going on in season, every animal in its structure and instincts suited to its mode of life and its use in the economy of the world. He saw everything that He had made answering the plan which His eternal wisdom had conceived; and, "Behold it was very good" [Ge 1:31].

CHAPTER 2

      Ge 2:1. THE NARRATIVE OF THE SIX DAYS' CREATION CONTINUED. The course of the narrative is improperly broken by the division of the chapter.

      1. the heavens--the firmament or atmosphere.
      host--a multitude, a numerous array, usually connected in Scripture with heaven only, but here with the earth also, meaning all that they contain.
      were finished--brought to completion. No permanent change has ever since been made in the course of the world, no new species of animals been formed, no law of nature repealed or added to. They could have been finished in a moment as well as in six days, but the work of creation was gradual for the instruction of man, as well, perhaps, as of higher creatures (Job 38:7).

      Ge 2:2-7. THE FIRST SABBATH.

      2. and he rested on the seventh day--not to repose from exhaustion with labor (see Isa 40:28), but ceased from working, an example equivalent to a command that we also should cease from labor of every kind.

      3. blessed and sanctified the seventh day--a peculiar distinction put upon it above the other six days, and showing it was devoted to sacred purposes. The institution of the Sabbath is as old as creation, giving rise to that weekly division of time which prevailed in the earliest ages. It is a wise and beneficent law, affording that regular interval of rest which the physical nature of man and the animals employed in his service requires, and the neglect of which brings both to premature decay. Moreover, it secures an appointed season for religious worship, and if it was necessary in a state of primeval innocence, how much more so now, when mankind has a strong tendency to forget God and His claims?

      4. These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth--the history or account of their production. Whence did Moses obtain this account so different from the puerile and absurd fictions of the heathen? Not from any human source, for man was not in existence to witness it; not from the light of nature or reason, for though they proclaim the eternal power and Godhead by the things which are made, they cannot tell how they were made. None but the Creator Himself could give this information, and therefore it is through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God (Heb 11:3).

      5, 6. rain, mist--(See on Ge 1:11).

      7. Here the sacred writer supplies a few more particulars about the first pair.
      formed--had FORMED MAN OUT OF THE DUST OF THE GROUND. Science has proved that the substance of his flesh, sinews, and bones, consists of the very same elements as the soil which forms the crust of the earth and the limestone that lies embedded in its bowels. But from that mean material what an admirable structure has been reared in the human body (Ps 139:14).
      the breath of life--literally, of lives, not only animal but spiritual life. If the body is so admirable, how much more the soul with all its varied faculties.
      breathed into his nostrils the breath of life--not that the Creator literally performed this act, but respiration being the medium and sign of life, this phrase is used to show that man's life originated in a different way from his body--being implanted directly by God (Ec 12:7), and hence in the new creation of the soul Christ breathed on His disciples (Joh 20:22).

      Ge 8-17. THE GARDEN OF EDEN.

      8. Eden--was probably a very extensive region in Mesopotamia, distinguished for its natural beauty and the richness and variety of its produce. Hence its name, signifying "pleasantness." God planted a garden eastward, an extensive park, a paradise, in which the man was put to be trained under the paternal care of his Maker to piety and usefulness.

      9. tree of life--so called from its symbolic character as a sign and seal of immortal life. Its prominent position where it must have been an object of daily observation and interest, was admirably fitted to keep man habitually in mind of God and futurity.
      tree of the knowledge of good and evil--so called because it was a test of obedience by which our first parents were to be tried, whether they would be good or bad, obey God or break His commands.

      15. put the man into the garden of Eden to dress it--not only to give him a pleasant employment, but to place him on his probation, and as the title of this garden, the garden of the Lord (Ge 13:10; Eze 28:13), indicates, it was in fact a temple in which he worshipped God, and was daily employed in offering the sacrifices of thanksgiving and praise.

      17. thou shalt not eat of it . . . thou shalt surely die--no reason assigned for the prohibition, but death was to be the punishment of disobedience. A positive command like this was not only the simplest and easiest, but the only trial to which their fidelity could be exposed.

      Ge 2:18-25. THE MAKING OF WOMAN, AND INSTITUTION OF MARRIAGE.

      18. it is not good for the man to be alone--In the midst of plenty and delights, he was conscious of feelings he could not gratify. To make him sensible of his wants,

      19. God brought unto Adam--not all the animals in existence, but those chiefly in his immediate neighborhood to be subservient to his use.
      whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof--His powers of perception and intelligence were supernaturally enlarged to know the characters, habits, and uses of each species that was brought to him.

      20. but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him--The design of this singular scene was to show him that none of the living creatures he saw were on an equal footing with himself, and that while each class came with its mate of the same nature, form, and habits, he alone had no companion. Besides, in giving names to them he was led to exercise his powers of speech and to prepare for social intercourse with his partner, a creature yet to be formed.

      21. deep sleep--probably an ecstasy or trance like that of the prophets, when they had visions and revelations of the Lord, for the whole scene was probably visible to the mental eye of Adam, and hence his rapturous exclamation.
      took one of his ribs--"She was not made out of his head to surpass him, nor from his feet to be trampled on, but from his side to be equal to him, and near his heart to be dear to him."

      23. Woman--in Hebrew, "man-ess."

      24. one flesh--The human pair differed from all other pairs, that by peculiar formation of Eve, they were one. And this passage is appealed to by our Lord as the divine institution of marriage (Mt 19:4, 5; Eph 5:28). Thus Adam appears as a creature formed after the image of God--showing his knowledge by giving names to the animals, his righteousness by his approval of the marriage relation, and his holiness by his principles and feelings, and finding gratification in the service and enjoyment of God.




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