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Don Stewart :: What Does Genesis 1:1 Tell Us about the Creation of the Heaven and the Earth?

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Don Stewart
The first verse of the Bible contains some of the most famous words ever written.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

There are several things that this verse teaches us that are foundational to our understanding of the total message of Scripture.

In The Beginning

The first words in Scripture are In the beginning . . . The beginning is the commencement of creation. Humankind can look back to this beginning as an initial, historical reckoning point. However, no one knows when this beginning was. The Bible emphasizes the fact of creation by God, rather than the exact time that creation occurred. The beginning in Genesis 1:1 sets the stage for the rest of the biblical story.


Genesis records that a personal, all-knowing, all-powerful God created everything that existed. The Bible emphasizes that the Lord is the Creator of all things.

For He is the Maker of all things (Jeremiah 10:16).

The only thing that He did not create was Himself. The Bible says God has always existed:

Even from everlasting to everlasting You are God (Psalm 90:2).

Existence Assumed

Without argument or preface, God is spoken of as the Creator in the Bible's first verse. The fact that God is the Creator of the universe is assumed or stated in all the books of the Bible. There is no attempt to offer proof that He exists. The Book of Genesis was written to a people who believed in this Creator God. He had been revealed to them as the only God who exists.

Nature Of God

We learn something else about the character of God from the words used in Genesis 1:1. The Hebrew noun translated God is plural while the verb translated created is singular. This is the first indication in Scripture that God is a Trinity. The Trinity can be simply defined as follows: within the nature of the one God there are three eternal Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. These three distinct Persons are the one God. Jesus spoke of the three Persons of the Trinity.

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19).

The doctrine of the Trinity is not fully revealed until the New Testament but is foreshadowed in the Old Testament.

Creation Out Of Nothing

We also learn something about the nature of God's creative activity from the Hebrew word used in Genesis 1:1. The word translated create in Genesis 1:1 is the Hebrew word bara. This word implies there was no previous existing matter when God created the universe. The verb bara is used for creating out of nothing in Genesis 1:1, and in most other places it appears in the Bible. God is always the subject when this verb is used. It is never used of any human action in the simple tense in Hebrew.

Three Times In Creation Account

The verb bara is used only three times in the Genesis account of creation and only for the most important things God made. It is used of the creation of the heavens and the earth, (1:1), the sea creatures and the birds of the air, (1:21) and humankind (1:27).

No Pre-Existent Material

With regard to physical entities, there were no pre-existent materials that God used to created the universe. Adam, the first human, however, was made from the dust of the earth that God had previously created (Genesis 2:7).

Other Scriptures

Scripture elsewhere indicates that God created the universe out of no pre-existing materials. The New Testament makes it clear that God created the universe by His spoken Word alone:

By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible (Hebrews 11:3).

Christ Is The Creator

Jesus Christ is said to have created all things and existed before all things. The beginning of the Gospel of John reads:

All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made (John 1:3).

The Apostle Paul told the Colossians about Jesus Christ.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist (Colossians 1:15-17).

Creation In Stages

It seems that Genesis 1:1 speaks of the original formation of the heavens and the earth, and has in view the initial (though not finished) product that came from God's creative hand. In the beginning, or first stage of the work, the heavens and earth were not yet in the final form God intended for them, and were not dressed with vegetation or populated with animals and men. Later, God acted in further steps, or stages, to bring these to their completed and finished form.

Heavens And Earth

The final phrase in verse one, heavens and the earth, speaks of everything that exists. The Hebrews had no word for universe. When this phrase is used in Scripture it denotes all things that exist. For example, we read in Isaiah.

Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, and He who formed you from the womb; I am the Lord, who makes all things, who stretches out the heavens all alone, who spreads abroad the earth by Myself (Isaiah 44:24).


The first verse of the Bible provides us with information about the creative process.

1.The first verse of the Bible tells us the heavens and the earth were created by a personal all-powerful God. His existence is assumed.

2.The earth was created out of no pre-existing matter.

3.God's initial creative work (1:1-2a) did not bring the earth to its complete and finished condition. God moved in successive, related steps to accomplish this.

4.When the Bible states that God created the heavens and the earth, it is the same thing as saying that He created all things.

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