It is easy to read the first chapters of Genesis with the questions of our time: ‘How long ago did this happen?’ ‘Is this history or myth?’ ‘How does this square with modern views of science and evolution?’ etc. These are important questions, and we can probably learn some things from Genesis that are relevant to them. But we don’t learn much from a text if we ask questions that it was not written to answer.
Genesis is about deeper issues than biological origins. It is answering questions like: ‘What are human beings?’ ‘What are we here for?’ ‘What is our relationship to nature and to the world?’ Essentially, Genesis 1 is not about the ‘how’ of creation but rather about the ‘why.’
The word ‘God’ appears 30 times in the first chapter of Genesis. God overwhelms the text; he dominates and overshadows everything. Nothing happens unless he makes it happen. Nothing is created except by him. There is nothing in existence that does not owe its existence to him. We see immediately that the extreme repetition is a way of saying, ‘Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made’ (John 1:3).
And, we see that everything God makes is ‘good.’ Everything he touches is pleasing, joy producing, wholesome. There is a wonder and awe about the richness of the world. It ‘teems’ with life.
Notice that the overall effect of the highly patterned, repetitive text is to demonstrate that the world is made in an extremely orderly, purposeful way. There was ‘evening and morning’ not just once — but regularly, faithfully, continually. What we have here is a cosmos, not a chaos. And because God created everything, nothing is outside of his control, or outside of his rightful authority. The animals, plants, and even the mountains and seas are all part of a choir of praise to the glory of God. This is said explicitly in Psalm 19 and Psalm 150.
Notice too that only we are described as made ‘in the image’ of God. It is clear that we have a closer relationship to God than any other creature. We were made by God to be in relationship with him and to rule the world on his behalf. God gives us the task of subduing the earth and ruling over creation as his representative. Note too that it is only after the creation of human beings that the world is declared for the first time to be ‘very good’ (Genesis 1:31).
- Tim Keller