Dr. James T. Naismith of Peterborough, Ont., a physician and Bible teacher, continues his series of studies in Genesis. Copyright by Everyday Publications, used by permission.
Right at the outset of the book of Genesis we are introduced to its main character — God. His name appears 32 times in the first chapter, occuring in all but five of its 31 verses, and twice in six of these verses. Of all the 50 chapters of the book, there are only 5 in which His name is absent — 23, 34, 36, 37, 47.
The very first mention of “God” is significant. The name “God” is the plural Elohim, while the verb created is singular — a strong early suggestion of the Trinity acting in unity. A similar significance may be seen in verse 26, where “God” (plural) said: “Let us (plural) make (pl.) man in our (pl.) image” (singular) — indicating the counsels of the Triune God in creation.
Hebrew Names For God in Genesis
1. ELOHIM — occurs exclusively from Chapter 1:1 to 2:3 (35 times in 34 verses) and frequently through the remainder of the book (about 2500 times in the Bible). The name is the plural of ELOAH (root meaning — to worship, adore) and presents God as the one supreme object of worship and adoration.
2. JEHOVAH — usually rendered “the LORD” — much less frequently “GOD” in the KJV (letters all capitalized). Means: “He that always was and is and ever was and ever is to be.” (Derived from three words — YEHI - He will be; HOVE - being; HAHYAH - He was). See Rev. 1:4. It indicates His eternal existence and constant faithfulness, and is the title particularly used to express His relationship to His people. This name occurs alone from chapter 4 on, but from chapter 2 verse 4 through chapter 3, it is joined with ELOHIM — The LORD God.
3. EL - found first in chapter 14:18, 19, 20, 22 — signifies Strong, Mighty, or First, and describes God as the Mighty One, the First great Cause of all.
4. ADONAHY - Sovereign Lord or Master — is first found in Genesis 15:2, 8, where it is combined with JEHOVAH “Lord GOD,” i.e. “ADONAHY JEHOVAH.” It occurs alone in 19:18 — “my Lord,” and 20:4 — “Lord.”
Titles of God Used in Genesis
God revealed Himself to His people early in human history by some very meaningful titles. Here are some:
THE MOST HIGH. EL ELYON. Gen. 14:18, 19, 20, 22. Indicates God as the Supreme Being — above all others. Compares the New Testament titles — “The Highest” — Luke 1:32, 35; “most High God” Acts 16:17.
THE ALMIGHTY GOD. EL SHADDAI. Gen 17:1; 28:3; 35:11; 43:14; 48:3; 49:25. Note that EL is singular, while Shaddai is plural. The title emphasizes the Strength, or perhaps, the Sufficiency of God.
THE EVERLASTING GOD. EL OLAM. Gen. 21:33. As in the case of the first two titles, Abraham was the first person to whom the Lord revealed Himself by this title, reminding him of God’s unchangeableness. He is the God of the everlasting covenant, 9:16; 17:7, 13, 19, who gives an everlasting possession to His people, 17:8; 48:4, and who created the everlasting hills, 49:26.
THE GOD OF HEAVEN AND THE GOD OF THE EARTH. Gen. 24:3. (See also v. 7.) The God who created the heaven and the earth, Gen. 1:1, is Sovereign in both of these spheres.
THE GOD OF BETHEL. EL BETHEL. Gen. 31:13. Bethel —the house of God — was the place where Jacob, setting out from home years before, had met with God and had experienced His presence and received promises of His protection, Gen. 28. He is ever after the God of Bethel, maintaining His presence and fulfilling His promises.
THE GOD OF ISRAEL. ELELOHE-ISRAEL. Gen. 33:20. The mighty God of Israel — remaining the same in spite of human failures.
In all these titles, the name El is used of God. The same name occurs as part of a number of names in Genesis; e.g. Bethel — the house of God; Peniel — the Face of God, 32:30. Eliezer — God, my Helper, 15:2; Ishmael — God will hear, 16:11; (note that He also sees — 16:13) .
JEHOVAH JIREH. Gen. 22:14. The first of several combination titles of Jehovah in the Old Testament. This one means: Jehovah will see (to it) or provide — as He had just provided for Abraham on Mount Moriah.
Characteristics of God in Genesis
The God of Genesis is the God of the Bible — the true God. His characteristics, displayed here, are revealed throughout Holy Scripture. Here are some that are clearly suggested, or unmistakably revealed in this first book of the divine library, and can be traced through its pages: Unity (as opposed to many heathen deities);
Trinity — suggested, as we have seen, in the opening verse and chapter;
Infinite ability — for example, to create the world;
Sovereignty and authority over the heaven and the earth He created:
Eternity — He is the Everlasting God;
Immutability — expressed in one of His favorite titles, Jehovah; Personality — Entering into a personal relationship with His creatures, seen in many of the verbs that are used of God’s activities in this book;
Activities of God in Genesis
God presents Himself to us in Genesis as:
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. With sublime, majestic grandeur, the Word of God commences. “This single sentence separates the Scriptures from the rest of human productions.”
The first two chapters of Genesis record the story of creation. Since there were obviously no human witnesses of these great events, this account must have been given by divine revelation — in terms sufficiently simple and clear for ordinary men of all ages to understand, and not in scientific terminology that would be beyond the grasp of even the most learned scientists of any generation including our own.
The record of creation can be divided into two parts:
A. 1:1-2:3 Creation is described in general terms, and the name of God in this section is Elohim.
B. 2:4-2:25 This section specifically relates to man and his environment, and the combined name, Jehovah Elohim, the Lord God, is used. This is very appropriate since Jehovah is the name that particularly emphasizes God’s covenant relationship and faithfulness to man.
Considerable controversy has raged over the date and days of creation, in view of supposed scientific evidence that the earth is much more than a few thousand years old. There are several possible explanations, e.g.:
1. That there is a “gap” between the first two verses of Genesis 1. According to Isaiah 45:18, God did not create the earth in vain — tohuw —the same word is translated without form in Genesis 1:2. It is asserted that something must have happened after God created the earth — i.e. after Genesis 1:1, to make it without form. Those who hold this view believe this to have been associated with Satan’s rebellion against God —see Isa. 14:12-15; Ezek. 28:14, 15. As a result, any time period may be postulated between verses 1 and 2 of Genesis 1.
2. That the days of Genesis 1 need not be literal days of 24 hours. One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, 2 Pet. 3:8; and weeks in the Bible are not always literal periods of seven days, but may be seven years (e.g. Dan. 9:24). Each of the days may be a long period of time — one of God’s days rather than man’s days.
3. That the days of Genesis 1 were not days of creation but days of revelation, that is, that God revealed to Moses on successive days the various phases of His great work of creation.
There is, however, a growing conviction among an increasing number of scientists that there is no need to accommodate the plain statement of Genesis 1 to the hypothetical “long ages of the geologic time scale” which are a matter of faith rather than evidence. “Many creationist scientists believe the evidence favours a recent creation of the universe” in contrast to the billions of years demanded by evolutionists.
Whatever the explanation, Genesis 1 is a beautiful and majestic account of God, the Creator, at work. Here is revealed His power. Note the recurrent phrases: And God said … and there was; And God said … and it was so … and God saw that it was good. We can discern, too, His purpose — to make a habitation suited for man, the crowning work of His creation, and who, unlike the other creatures in the chapter, was made in God’s image and after His likeness. To accomplish this purpose, God had a definite plan, outlined, step by step, in Genesis 1. In verse 2, this habitation — earth — was without form, and void — empty and dark. The subsequent verses describe how God first provided light, v. 3, then fashioned and filled the earth, and finally created man to live on it.
The frequently repeated phrase in Genesis 1, And God said, is not only the command of the Creator but the fiat of the Sovereign, whose authority is absolute and to whom obedience is immediate. The same God is Sovereign over the affairs of all His creatures, and in particular, man. Genesis records some of these commands, given in the earliest days of human history, e.g. 1:28; 2:16, 17.
Man’s defiance of God and disobedience to His commands led to divine judgments — e.g. in Genesis 3:14-19; 4:10-12; 6:5-7:24; 11:6-9; 19:12-19. Note Abraham’s description of God in 18:25, The Judge of all the earth.
God’s judgment is mingled with mercy. Even while pronouncing judgment, following Adam’s sin, God provided salvation by a Redeemer and a sacrifice, Gen. 3:15-21. Likewise, while announcing judgment upon man by means of. a flood, God made provision for Noah and his family by an Ark.
Repeatedly through the book, e.g. in the sacrifices offered, we have a preview of the coming Redeemer, the Lamb of God.
The great Creator and Sovereign of the universe is seen in Genesis as a personal God, revealing Himself to men on earth and desiring communion with his people. Enoch and Noah both walked with God, 5:22; 6:9. Abraham walked before Him 17:1, and was the friend of God. Jas. 2:23; 2 Chron. 20:7; Isa. 41:8.
The stories of the patriarchs —Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph in particular — teach us that He who directs stars in their courses guides men in their lives, if they are submissive to His will. As examples, see Gen. 12:1-4; 13:14-18; 24:7, 27, 48; 26:2-5; 28:15; 35:1-3; 45:5-8.
God’s Relationship With Man in Genesis
The book of Genesis — as indeed, the whole Bible which it introduces — is primarily concerned with God and man in their mutual relationship: their fellowship prior to the entrance of sin, the disruption of that fellowship by sin, and the restoration of fellowship by the Redeemer and His sacrifice for sin.