God's work on the fourth day lay outside the earth, though in its effects a powerful influence on the earth was exerted. On the first day light had shone upon the earth, and day had been divided from night, but we are not told just how this result had been produced. The light-bearing matter may have been diffused; if so, it was now concentrated into one "great light," and the earth was set in relation to it. Also the "lesser light" was set in relation to the earth. They were now to give light not in a general way but specifically on the earth.
But more than this was included in God's purpose as to them. They were to be "for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years." We are well aware that the times— whether days or years—and the seasons are determined by them but the fact of their being signs is perhaps not so familiar to us. Yet there are illustrations of it in Scripture, such as Joshua 10: 12-14; 2 Kings 20: 8-11. There is also the Lord's prediction in Luke 21: 25. The beginning of Psalm 19 points in the same direction.
Then again, they were to rule the day and the night respectively. From the outset the earth was placed under the rule and control of heaven, even as regards the action of inanimate matter, so that in this these heavenly bodies become a sign that "the heavens do rule" (Dan. 4: 26), and a faint prophecy of "the kingdom of heaven," of which we read in the Gospel of Matthew. The sad fact confronts us that fallen man soon perverted all this, and began to worship these lights as though they were creator and not creature, thereby changing God's truth into a lie. Romans 1: 25 refers to this, we believe.
At the end of verse 16 we have three words—"the stars also"—and with this brief mention they are dismissed. The ancients were acquainted only with those visible to the unaided eye, but those they did see they misused in the attempt to foretell the future, and astrology aided many heathen practices. Here we are simply told that they are the creatures of God's hand.
It is worthy of note that here the two "lights" are not named. The word "sun" does not occur until Genesis 15: 12 is reached, and the first mention of "moon" is in Genesis 37: 9, where sun, moon and stars appear together, and their symbolic meanings are fixed in connection with the family — the original and most primitive unit of government in the earth. Jacob, the patriarch was supreme in his family. The mother reflected his authority, and was secondary. The brethren were entirely subordinate. Sun, moon and stars symbolize authority, supreme, secondary and subordinate, and this right through Scripture.
Again we have the words, "and God saw that it was good." That creation should be under authority and control was good. We find, alas! that man, when created as the head of things, soon repudiated the Divine authority and plunged into lawlessness, which is sin. That emphatically is not good, but it should make every believer keenly realize how important it is to be subject in all things to the authority of the word of God.
The rule of heaven being thus established, God proceeded on the fifth day to bring into being an order of life much higher than the vegetable kingdom of the third day. Moving creatures that had life now appear, to fill the seas and the air immediately above the earth. The word translated "whales" simply means monsters that inhabit the waters, whether seas or rivers. All these too, like the herb and tree previously, are made after their kind, and are bidden to reproduce themselves and multiply.
In verse 21 we get the word "created" for the second time. It appeared in verse 1, the original creation of the heaven and the earth. The intervening verses have told us what God made out of His original creation. Why does the word occur again here? We believe, because here the waters were commanded to bring forth "the moving creature that hath life." We see nutrition growth and reproduction in the vegetable kingdom. Here we see another order of things altogether, creatures with powers of sensation and of voluntary motion. Indeed the word translated "creature" in verses 20 and 21 is really "soul." On this fifth day then there was the introduction of a higher form of life, involving soul, so this was distinctly and properly creation.
As the result then of God's work on the fifth day both the waters and the air were furnished with living souls, that would be fruitful and multiply until both were filled.
In the early part of the sixth day God similarly furnished the earth with living souls, both beast and cattle and also creeping things. We notice that God made them: it does not say that He created them. Though so different externally from the denizens of the waters and the air, they were still only "living souls," and hence the word created is only used when first "soul" was created as distinct from matter.
We notice too that in both verses 24 and 25 the "beast of the earth" is distinguished from the "cattle." We gather from this that originally, and before sin came in, God designed certain animals to be specially for the upkeep and benefit of the man He was about to create. After sin came in the beasts developed their wild and savage nature, while the cattle remained comparatively docile and useful to man.
Man was to be the climax of all this work of God, and before the sixth day closed he appeared.
Verses 26-28 are of the deepest importance, and for the third time in this chapter we get the word created. This is because once more a totally fresh element was introduced, though we do not find it mentioned until Genesis 2: 7 is reached. Man possesses spirit by the inbreathing of God. We may say therefore that in Genesis 1 we get three acts of creation. First, the original creation of matter. Second, the creation of soul. Third, the creation of spirit, which is man's prerogative as far as this world is concerned, since the creation of angels is outside the range of this chapter. All three acts bear upon man, for he possesses spirit, he is a living soul; his body is composed of terrestrial matter.
Verse 26 shows us that from the outset man was the subject of Divine consultation or counsel. That God should say, "Let US," is worthy of note. Elohim is, as we have said, a plural Name. In the Old Testament the three Persons in the Godhead are not revealed, but now that They are revealed we can see that, inspired of God, the language of our chapter is quite consistent therewith. There was present to the Divine mind all that man would turn out to be, and he was only brought into existence after this consultation within the Godhead Himself. In verse 26 it is "Our image:" in verse 27 it is "His image." There is no incongruity for it is the eternal "Three in One" who speaks.
Man was treated in both the image and the likeness of God. The former word seems to be used in Scripture for that which represents unseen realities. The images of the heathen world represented their gods, without necessarily being like them, for indeed they had never seen the demons they worshipped by means of the images that represented them to their eyes. Man was made, then, to represent God to the lower creation over which he was set. But he was also made after the likeness of God; that is, he was really like God in certain important respects. Not in all respects of course, for God is infinitely holy and man was merely innocent. Still man was God's "offspring" (Acts 17: 28, 29), a spirit being, though clothed in a body of flesh and blood, and hence with intelligence and moral sensibilities, which are a reflection of that which subsists on an infinite scale in God Himself.
Here let us pause a moment that we may realize the frightful debasement in both mind and morals which must flow from the degrading theory that man is only an improved ape, or come up from the protozoa, that are supposed to have existed in primordial slime, millions of years ago. Evolutionary theories have about them the fatal fascination of enabling their adherents to ignore the fall of man, and the state of sin in which he is found. What the Bible calls sin they regard as being merely unpleasing traces of animal ancestry manifesting themselves. The past 80 to 90 years have witnessed two things: the revival of the theory of evolution under the speculations of Darwin, which enables men to theorize on their ascent; and the descent of the more civilized peoples, where the theory has been mainly propagated, to a level of savagery and bestiality, far below the level of the heathen. This has been seen more particularly in the past ten years.
NO! Man was created in the image and likeness of God, and his present condition of sin and degradation is the fruit of a great spiritual catastrophe, which is on record in Genesis 3. He is now a fallen sinner; he never was an exalted ape.
Another thing about man confronts us in verses 26 and 28 he was created to hold dominion over the lower creation. In this feature he appears to be unique. There are rulers in the angelic world—"principality, and power, and might, and dominion" (Eph. 1: 21)—but their rule only extends over beings of their own order. Dealing with angels, Hebrews 1: 14 asks, "Are they not all ministering spirits?" Yes, all, even to the archangel himself, were created to serve. As far as Scripture informs us, only man was made to have dominion over others.
This is deeply interesting for it shows us that the Second Man was before God from the outset. The defection of the first man did not take God by surprise. When God said, "Let us make man," He knew what was involved. Man was not to be a mere machine, or unintelligent and irresponsible like the brute creation, but a moral agent capable of representing God, but capable also of rebellion against Him. As the fruit of sin man has lost control of himself and misused his dominion, but God's original thought for man is going to be realized on a vastly larger and grander scale in the Son of Man, who is the last Adam. Psalm 8 envisages this glorious prospect.
Verse 27 states that duality characterizes man. It says that God created "him; male and female created He them." This fact is elaborated in Genesis 2, but the few words here show us how closely male and female are identified. The word, "man" covers both, and jointly they were to have the dominion, though the male from the outset was given the leading place. From the outset too they were blessed by God and bidden to multiply and replenish the earth. Before sin came in therefore children were in God's purpose for them.
The closing verses of the chapter show that the vegetable kingdom was designed to provide food for both man and beast. After the flood animal food was given to man— see, Genesis 9: 3, 4. Before sin came in, and death by sin, no animal was to be slain for man's food.
With the creation of man—male and female—and his being set in dominion and blessed, the work ofthe sixth day reached its end. As it concluded, God surveyed all that He had made. Six times already we have been told that God saw it was good, now on this seventh occasion, when the whole was inspected, we are told that all was very good. Let us take note of this for it demolishes at one blow the whole system of error, miscalled "Christian Science," which has, as one of its most fundamental dogmas, the idea that matter is evil and only spirit is good. The truth is the exact opposite of this, for when evil entered it came in by way of spirit and not matter.
We have seen that this chapter, from the first verse onwards, refutes Unitarianism, for GOD—Elohim—in the plural occurs no less than 32 times. We have seen how it refutes Evolution, for every species reproduces itself "after his kind." We have just seen how Christian Science is refuted; and now as we open Genesis 2, we meet with a statement that reinforces what has been apparent all through Genesis 1; namely, that God is outside and above all that He created and made. Thus, on the seventh day when creation was what we may call "a going concern," God is said to have rested. Thus Pantheism—the idea that God is only to be conceived of as immanent in creation, pervading all nature—is wholly denied. He may indeed act in nature, but He is transcendent, essentially above it in Person and Being.
Genesis 2: 1-3, really belongs to Genesis 1, and completes the paragraph. The seventh day was a day of rest for God. His work had involved both creating and making, but all was now complete, and evidently He has not set His hand to work of that order from that time until now. The entrance of sin necessitated His taking up work of another order, and the Lord Jesus alluded to this in saying, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work" (John 5: 17).
Thus the seventh day was specially blessed and set apart, and we may say that a seventh day of rest after six days of work is a thought that dates back to the very beginning of man's history. The word "sabbath" does not occur until we reach Exodus 16: 23, where it designates the seventh day after the manna was given. After that the law was given, and this "sabbath"—this "ceasing" as the word means—became a legal institution for Israel, and a sign between them and the Lord for ever, as stated in Exodus 31: 17. Hebrews 4: 4-10 also alludes to this, and evidently Israel will yet enjoy her sabbath in the millennial age; God thus redeeming the sign He had given.
The sabbath was never given as a sign to the Church. In Christ we have not the sign but the things signified. The Seventh Day Adventist would put us back under the law, and into the comparative darkness of Judaism, ignoring the fact that for us the new moons and sabbath days are over, as indicated in Colossians 2: 16. Nevertheless we are as Christians very thankful to be able to observe one day's rest in seven, as indicated from creation, and to have that day of rest on the first of the week, the day when our Saviour rose from the dead.