We all know the cliche, “Put your best foot forward” – meaning to do your best, and be your best and strongest and fastest and smartest, etc. the first time you meet someone. When God inspired the Holy Scriptures, He certainly did this very thing with the first verse of the Hebrew Scriptures! Dr. Henry Morris, founder of the Institute of Creation Research (ICR) wrote in his excellent book, “The Genesis Record“: “The first verse of the Bible is the foundational verse of the Bible.” He goes on to say, “It is the foundation of all foundations and is the most important verse in the Bible. Since it is the opening statement of the world’s most often printed book, these are surely the most widely read words ever written. Most people at least start to read the Bible and, therefore, most people have read at least these opening words in the Bible, even if they never got any farther.” [The Genesis Record, p. 37]
In order to really understand this foundational verse of the Bible, I have included it below and will discuss each Hebrew word.
בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ׃
The first word of the Hebrew text, בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית, B’reshit, is also the Hebrew name of the first book since the names of the books in the T’nakh are taken from the first word (or phrase) in the Hebrew text. The Hebrew root, ראש, which is found in בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית (B’reshit), [highlighted in red] literally means ‘head’, but has come to mean ‘start’ or ‘beginning’ hence it is translated into English as ‘in the beginning’ in the KJV. Sometimes the subject and verb are reversed in Biblical Hebrew and therefore the next word, בָּרָ֣א , bara, [Strong’s #1254] is the verb meaning ‘to create’. The best definition is the Latin phrase: creation ex nihilo which means ‘creation out of nothing’. The verb bara occurs 28 times in the T’nkh and only takes the subject of God names (usually Elohim). Only God can create!!
The first occurrence of God’s name in the Hebrew Scriptures is Elohim, אֱלֹהִ֑ים, [Strong’s #0430]. There are many Hebrew names of God, but Elohim stresses God’s majesty and omnipotence. The ‘im‘ ending (Heb: ים) is the masculine plural for Hebrew nouns. Many scholars call this the “Royal We” since it is a plural noun, but is paired with bara, which is conjugated in the singular. Dr. Morris commented, “Thus Elohim is a plural noun with a singular meaning, a ‘uni-plural’ noun, thereby suggesting the uni-plurality of the Godhead.” [“The Genesis Record“, p. 39]
The little word et, אֵ֥ת, occurs two times in this verse and marks the definite direct object of the verb bara. It has no equivalent in English and thus is not translated. An interesting side note is that אֵ֥ת (et) is composed of the first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet – aleph, א, and tav, ת. In Genesis 1:1, Bara has two definite direct objects: HaShamayim, הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם, (the heavens) [Strong’s #8064] and HaEretz, הָאָֽרֶץ, (the earth) [Strong’s #0776]. Note the Hebrew word for ‘water’ is mayim, מים and is contained within the word for ‘heavens’. This helps us to understand better the latter verse in Genesis 1:6 speaking of the firmament that divided “the waters from the waters”.
Drawing on Dr. Morris’ ideas, Genesis 1:1 sets the stage for the creation of all other things. Look at a basic grammar diagram of the verse:
God’s WORLD and God’s WORD both emanate from Him and therefore they do not contradict. Both contain attributes of the God that made them. And so, God constantly uses the physical world to teach us spiritual truths. So right here in the foundational verse of the foundational book, God is teaching us about Himself. The space/time/matter continnum (ie, the universe) that God created in Genesis 1:1 reflects the “uni-plurality of the God-head” as Dr. Morris so aptly stated it, “God is one, yet more than one.” [The Genesis Record, p. 39]With the diagram, we can “see” that God created the space/time/matter universe that we live in. Now ours is a universe – emphasis on the ‘uni’ aspect [ie, only ONE], but it clearly is composed of three entities. These three are not really ‘parts’ because parts can be taken apart – like a car. The three entities of the universe are eternally linked into one reality and cannot be removed from each other. The scientific phrase for this is the space/time/matter continuum. Therefore we live in a UNIverse (not a triverse). Notice that each of these three also exist as a continuum. Space is a continuum of length, width and height. Matter is a continuum of solid, liquid and gas. Time is a continuum of past, present and future. God of course, exists outside of the space/time/matter universe that He created. He is outside of space because He is omni-present. He is outside of matter, because He is a Spirit. He is outside of time, because He is eternal.
The creation account is the foundation for good science and good theology and we need both to live successfully in this life and to prepare for the life to come! The Book of Genesis reminds me of how great and mighty God is! If God can create the universe, then I think He can handle my problems, regardless of their depth, and magnitude, without any difficulties! And this is a good reminder for us all!
References: The Genesis Record, by Dr. Henry M. Morris
Available from the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) – icr.org
I highly recommend this book. It is the best one I have ever read on Genesis.