Barry Newman's Blog

November 12, 2010

Science and Genesis 1: 1 – 2: 3 (part XII)

Filed under: Genesis,Science — barrynewman @ 10:11 pm

Genesis 2: 1-3 – Day 7

“Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.  And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”

That the seventh day focuses on God alone and his creative work, reminds us that for all of mankind’s importance God always holds centre stage.  God clearly indicates that his creation has mankind as the focus of his attention but mankind is God’s creation and God has brought all of creation into existence for his purposes and not for any designs that mankind might consider or desire.

As with the introduction prior Day 1, the concluding statement made after Day 6 refers to the heavens and the earth.  While “heavens and earth” is probably a short hand way of referring to all of creation, in 2: 1, the phrase, “in all their vast array” or “and all their host” could have been added to draw attention to the many aspects of that creation.  Alternatively the phrase could be a reference to the functionaries of Days 4 to 6 that make use of the basic forms brought into existence on Days 1 to 3.

The word “create” (bara) makes its appearance again in the phrase, “the work of creating” but clearly it is used to apply to all of God’s work accomplished in Days 1 to 6.  At the same time the writer links it to the word, “asah”, translated, “make” or do”, that occurs in vv. 1: 7, 16 (2x), 25, 31 and 2: 2 (2x) as well as 2: 3.  This should caution us not to make too sharp a distinction between “create” and “make” as they occur in Genesis 1: 1 – 2: 3.

What of the idea of God resting? Walton (Genesis, pp. 146, 147) argues that “shabath” (rest) is better understood as: “cease”. That is, the emphasis should be placed in 2: 2, 3 on God finishing his work (as 2: 1 makes clear) rather than the notion of God being somewhat wearied and needing time to recover.  However Walton also points out that in Exodus 20: 11, in which a recital of the Genesis passage occurs, the word, “nuwach” rather than “shabath” occurs (though “shabath” is found in Exodus 20: 10).  “Nuwach” carries with it the idea of “settling down” just as the locusts of Exodus 10: 14 “settled down” (nuwach) in every area of the country.  He also points out that in Exodus 31: 17, where there is again a reference to the Genesis text, the word, “naphash”, understood as “refreshed” is used in close association with “shabath”.  While Genesis 2:  2, 3 only make a reference to God ceasing from his work, later literature understood God as also “settling down” in some sense and additionally as one who was “refreshed” in one way or another.  Walton concludes, “the lexical information suggests that the seventh day is marked by God’s ceasing the work of the previous six days and by his settling into the stability of the cosmos he created, perhaps experiencing refreshment as he did so.” 

Walton also points out that in the ancient Near East, the creative activity of the gods was associated with the major objective of obtaining rest (Genesis, pp. 150, 151).  In Enuma Elish Apsu complains to Tiamat about his lack of rest and after Tiamat’s defeat by Marduk Babylon is to be built as a shrine in order to provide rest for the gods. Walton concludes, “In the ancient Near East … temples are for divine ‘rest’ and divine rest is found in sanctuaries or sacred space”.

(To be continued)

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