Albert Barnes Notes on the Bible
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Albert Barnes Notes on the Bible
Genesis 1:24-31

VIII. The Sixth Day

24. בהמה  behēmâh, "cattle; dumb, tame beasts."

רמשׂ  remeś, "creeping (small or low) animals."

חוּה  chayâh, "living thing; animal."

חוּת־חארץ  chayatô-chā'ārets, "wild beast."

26. אדם  'ādām, "man, mankind;" "be red." A collective noun, having no plural number, and therefore denoting either an individual of the kind, or the kind or race itself. It is connected in etymology with אדמה  'ădāmâh, "the red soil," from which the human body was formed Gen_2:7. It therefore marks the earthly aspect of man.

צלם  tselem, "shade, image," in visible outline.

דמוּת  demût, "likeness," in any quality.

רדה  rādâh "tread, rule."

This day corresponds with the third. In both the land is the sphere of operation. In both are performed two acts of creative power. In the third the land was clothed with vegetation: in the sixth it is peopled with the animal kingdom. First, the lower animals are called into being, and then, to crown all, man.

 

Genesis 1:24,25 "And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good."

This branch of the animal world is divided into three parts. "Living breathing thing" is the general head under which all these are comprised. "Cattle" denotes the animals that dwell with man, especially those that bear burdens. The same term in the original, when there is no contrast, when in the plural number or with the specification of "the land," the "field," is used of wild beasts. "Creeping things" evidently denote the smaller animals, from which the cattle are distinguished as the large. The quality of creeping is, however, applied sometimes to denote the motion of the lower animals with the body in a prostrate posture, in opposition to the erect posture of man (Psalm 104:20). The "beast of the land" or the field signifies the wild rapacious animal that lives apart from man. The word חוּה  chayâh, "beast or animal," is the general term employed in these verses for the whole animal kind. It signifies wild animal with certainty only when it is accompanied by the qualifying term "land" or "field," or the epithet "evil" רעה  rā‛âh. From this division it appears that animals that prey on others were included in this latest creation. This is an extension of that law by which the organic living substances of the vegetable kingdom form the sustenance of the animal species. The execution of the divine mandate is then recorded, and the result inspected and approved.

 

Genesis 1:26,27

Here we evidently enter upon a higher scale of being. This is indicated by the counsel or common resolve to create, which is now for the first time introduced into the narrative. When the Creator says, "Let us make man," he calls attention to the work as one of pre-eminent importance. At the same time he sets it before himself as a thing undertaken with deliberate purpose. Moreover, in the former mandates of creation his words had regard to the thing itself that was summoned into being; as, "Let there be light;" or to some preexistent object that was physically connected with the new creature; as, "Let the land bring forth grass." But now the language of the fiat of creation ascends to the Creator himself: Let us make man. This intimates that the new being in its higher nature is associated not so much with any part of creation as with the Eternal Uncreated himself.

The plural form of the sentence raises the question, With whom took he counsel on this occasion? Was it with himself, and does he here simply use the plural of majesty? Such was not the usual style of monarchs in the ancient East. Pharaoh says, "I have dreamed a dream" (Genesis 41:15). Nebuchadnezzar, "I have dreamed" (Daniel 2:3). Darius the Mede, "I make a decree" (Daniel 6:26). Cyrus, "The Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth" (Ezra 1:2). Darius, "I make a decree" (Ezra 5:8). We have no ground, therefore, for transferring it to the style of the heavenly King. Was it with certain other intelligent beings in existence before man that he took counsel? This supposition cannot be admitted; because the expression "let us make" is an invitation to create, which is an incommunicable attribute of the Eternal One, and because the phrases, "our image, our likeness," when transferred into the third person of narrative, become "his image, the image of God," and thus limit the pronouns to God himself. Does the plurality, then, point to a plurality of attributes in the divine nature? This cannot be, because a plurality of qualities exists in everything, without at all leading to the application of the plural number to the individual, and because such a plurality does not warrant the expression, "let us make." Only a plurality of persons can justify the phrase. Hence, we are forced to conclude that the plural pronoun indicates a plurality of persons or hypostases in the Divine Being.

 

Genesis 1:26 "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth."

Man. - Man is a new species, essentially different from all other kinds on earth. "In our image, after our likeness." He is to be allied to heaven as no other creature on earth is. He is to be related to the Eternal Being himself. This relation, however, is to be not in matter, but in form; not in essence, but in semblance. This precludes all pantheistic notions of the origin of man. "Image" is a word taken from sensible things, and denotes likeness in outward form, while the material may be different. "Likeness" is a more general term, indicating resemblance in any quality, external or internal. It is here explanatory of image, and seems to show that this term is to be taken in a figurative sense, to denote not a material but a spiritual conformity to God. The Eternal Being is essentially self-manifesting. The appearance he presents to an eye suited to contemplate him is his image. The union of attributes which constitute his spiritual nature is his character or likeness.

We gather from the present chapter that God is a spirit Genesis 1:2, that he thinks, speaks, wills, and acts (Genesis 1:3-4, etc.). Here, then, are the great points of conformity to God in man, namely, reason, speech, will, and power. By reason we apprehend concrete things in perception and consciousness, and cognize abstract truth, both metaphysical and moral. By speech we make certain easy and sensible acts of our own the signs of the various objects of our contemplative faculties to ourselves and others. By will we choose, determine, and resolve upon what is to be done. By power we act, either in giving expression to our concepts in words, or effect to our determinations in deeds. In the reason is evolved the distinction of good and evil (Genesis 1:4, Genesis 1:31), which is in itself the approval of the former and the disapproval of the latter. In the will is unfolded that freedom of action which chooses the good and refuses the evil. In the spiritual being that exercises reason and will resides the power to act, which presupposes both these faculties - the reason as informing the will, and the will as directing the power. This is that form of God in which he has created man, and condescends to communicate with him.

And let them rule. - The relation of man to the creature is now stated. It is that of sovereignty. Those capacities of right thinking, right willing, and right acting, or of knowledge, holiness, and righteousness, in which man resembles God, qualify him for dominion, and constitute him lord of all creatures that are destitute of intellectual and moral endowments. Hence, wherever man enters he makes his sway to be felt. He contemplates the objects around him, marks their qualities and relations, conceives and resolves upon the end to be attained, and endeavors to make all things within his reach work together for its accomplishment. This is to rule on a limited scale. The field of his dominion is "the fish of the sea, the fowl of the skies, the cattle, the whole land, and everything that creepeth on the land." The order here is from the lowest to the highest. The fish, the fowl, are beneath the domestic cattle. These again are of less importance than the land, which man tills and renders fruitful in all that can gratify his appetite or his taste. The last and greatest victory of all is over the wild animals, which are included under the class of creepers that are prone in their posture, and move in a creeping attitude over the land. The primeval and prominent objects of human sway are here brought forward after the manner of Scripture. But there is not an object within the ken of man which he does not aim at making subservient to his purposes. He has made the sea his highway to the ends of the earth, the stars his pilots on the pathless ocean, the sun his bleacher and painter, the bowels of the earth the treasury from which he draws his precious and useful metals and much of his fuel, the steam his motive power, and the lightning his messenger. These are proofs of the evergrowing sway of man.

 

Genesis 1:27 "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them."

Created. - Man in his essential part, the image of God in him, was entirely a new creation. We discern here two stages in his creation. The general fact is stated in the first clause of the verse, and then the two particulars. "In the image of God created he him." This is the primary act, in which his relation to his Maker is made prominent. In this his original state he is actually one, as God in whose image he is made is one. "Male and female created he them." This is the second act or step in his formation. He is now no longer one, but two, - the male and the female. His adaptation to be the head of a race is hereby completed. This second stage in the existence of man is more circumstantially described hereafter (Genesis 2:21-25).

 

Genesis 1:28 "And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth."

The divine blessing is now pronounced upon man. It differs from that of the lower animals chiefly in the element of supremacy. Power is presumed to belong to man's nature, according to the counsel of the Maker's will Gen_1:26. But without a special permission he cannot exercise any lawful authority. For the other creatures are as independent of him as he is of them. As creatures he and they are on an equal footing, and have no natural fight either over the other. Hence, it is necessary that he should receive from high heaven a formal charter of right over the things that were made for man. He is therefore authorized, by the word of the Creator, to exercise his power in subduing the earth and ruling over the animal kingdom. This is the meet sequel of his being created in the image of God. Being formed for dominion, the earth and its various products and inhabitants are assigned to him for the display of his powers. The subduing and ruling refer not to the mere supply of his natural needs, for which provision is made in the following verse, but to the accomplishment of his various purposes of science and beneficence, whether towards the inferior animals or his own race. It is the part of intellectual and moral reason to employ power for the ends of general no less than personal good. The sway of man ought to be beneficent.

 

Genesis 1:29,30
29 "And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat."

Every herb bearing seed and tree bearing fruit is granted to man for his sustenance. With our habits it may seem a matter of course that each should at once appropriate what he needs of things at his hand. But in the beginning of existence it could not be so. Of two things proceeding from the same creative hand neither has any original or inherent right to interfere in any way whatever with the other. The absolute right to each lies in the Creator alone. The one, it is true, may need the other to support its life, as fruit is needful to man. And therefore the just Creator cannot make one creature dependent for subsistence on another without granting to it the use of that other. But this is a matter between Creator and creature, not by any means between creature and creature. Hence, it was necessary to the rightful adjustment of things, whenever a rational creature was ushered into the world, that the Creator should give an express permission to that creature to partake of the fruits of the earth. And in harmony with this view we shall hereafter find an exception made to this general grant (Genesis 2:17). Thus, we perceive, the necessity of this formal grant of the use of certain creatures to moral and responsible man lies deep in the nature of things. And the sacred writer here hands down to us from the mists of a hoary antiquity the primitive deed of conveyance, which lies at the foundation of the the common property of man in the earth, and all that it contains.

The whole vegetable world is assigned to the animals for food. In the terms of the original grant the herb bearing seed and the tree bearing fruit are especially allotted to man, because the grain and the fruit were edible by man without much preparation. As usual in Scripture the chief parts are put for the whole, and accordingly this specification of the ordinary and the obvious covers the general principle that whatever part of the vegetable kingdom is convertible into food by the ingenuity of man is free for his use. It is plain that a vegetable diet alone is expressly conceded to man in this original conveyance, and it is probable that this alone was designed for him in the state in which he was created. But we must bear in mind that he was constituted master of the animal as well as of the vegetable world; and we cannot positively affirm that his dominion did not involve the use of them for food.

 

Genesis 1:30 "And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so."

The whole of the grasses and the green parts or leaves of the herbage are distributed among the inferior animals for food. Here, again, the common and prominent kind of sustenance only is specified. There are some animals that greedily devour the fruits of trees and the grain produced by the various herbs; and there are others that derive the most of their subsistence from preying on the smaller and weaker kinds of animals. Still, the main substance of the means of animal life, and the ultimate supply of the whole of it, are derived from the plant. Even this general statement is not to be received without exception, as there are certain lower descriptions of animals that derive sustenance even from the mineral world. But this brief narrative of things notes only the few palpable facts, leaving the details to the experience and judgment of the reader.

 

Genesis 1:31 "And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day."

Here we have the general review and approval of everything God had made, at the close of the six days' work of creation. Man, as well as other things, was very good when he came from his Maker's hand; but good as yet untried, and therefore good in capacity rather than in victory over temptation. It remains yet to be seen whether he will be good in act and habit.

This completes, then, the restoration of that order and fullness the absence of which is described in the second verse. The account of the six days' work, therefore, is the counterpart of that verse. The six days fall into two threes, corresponding to each other in the course of events. The first and fourth days refer principally to the darkness on the face of the deep; the second and fifth to the disorder and emptiness of the aerial and aqueous elements; and the third and sixth to the similar condition of the land. Again, the first three days refer to a lower, the second three to a higher order of things. On the first the darkness on the face of the earth is removed; on the fourth that on the face of the sky. On the second the water is distributed above and below the expanse; on the fifth the living natives of these regions are called into being. On the third the plants rooted in the soil are made; on the sixth the animals that move freely over it are brought into existence.

This chapter shows the folly and sin of the worship of light, of sun, moon, or star, of air or water, of plant, of fish or fowl, of earth, of cattle, creeping thing or wild beast, or, finally, of man himself; as all these are but the creatures of the one Eternal Spirit, who, as the Creator of all, is alone to be worshipped by his intelligent creatures.

This chapter is also to be read with wonder and adoration by man; as he finds himself to be constituted lord of the earth, next in rank under the Creator of all, formed in the image of his Maker, and therefore capable not only of studying the works of nature, but of contemplating and reverently communing with the Author of nature.

In closing the interpretation of this chapter, it is proper to refer to certain first principles of hermeneutical science. First, that interpretation only is valid which is true to the meaning of the author. The very first rule on which the interpreter is bound to proceed is to assign to each word the meaning it commonly bore in the time of the writer. This is the prime key to the works of every ancient author, if we can only discover it. The next is to give a consistent meaning to the whole of that which was composed at one time or in one place by the author. The presumption is that there was a reasonable consistency of thought in his mind during one effort of composition. A third rule is to employ faithfully and discreetly whatever we can learn concerning the time, place, and other circumstances of the author to the elucidation of his meaning.

And, in the second place, the interpretation now given claims acceptance on the ground of its internal and external consistency with truth. First, It exhibits the consistency of the whole narrative in itself. It acknowledges the narrative character of the first verse. It assigns an essential significance to the words, "the heavens," in that verse. It attributes to the second verse a prominent place and function in the arrangement of the record. It places the special creative work of the six days in due subordination to the absolute creation recorded in the first verse. It gathers information from the primitive meanings of the names that are given to certain objects, and notices the subsequent development of these meanings. It accounts for the manifestation of light on the first day, and of the luminaries of heaven on the fourth, and traces the orderly steps of a majestic climax throughout the narrative. It is in harmony with the usage of speech as far as it can be known to us at the present day. It assigns to the words "heavens," "earth," "expanse," "day," no greater latitude of meaning than was then customary. It allows for the diversity of phraseology employed in describing the acts of creative power. It sedulously refrains from importing modern notions into the narrative.

Second, the narrative thus interpreted is in striking harmony with the dictates of reason and the axioms of philosophy concerning the essence of God and the nature of man. On this it is unnecessary to dwell.

Third, it is equally consistent with human science. It substantially accords with the present state of astronomical science. It recognizes, as far as can be expected, the relative importance of the heavens and the earth, the existence of the heavenly bodies from the beginning of time, the total and then the partial absence of light from the face of the deep, as the local result of physical causes. It allows, also, if it were necessary, between the original creation, recorded in the first verse, and the state of things described in the second, the interval of time required for the light of the most distant discoverable star to reach the earth. No such interval, however, could be absolutely necessary, as the Creator could as easily establish the luminous connection of the different orbs of heaven as summon into being the element of light itself.

Fourth, it is also in harmony with the elementary facts of geological knowledge. The land, as understood by the ancient author, may be limited to that portion of the earth's surface which was known to antediluvian man. The elevation of an extensive tract of land, the subsidence of the overlying waters into the comparative hollows, the clarifying of the atmosphere, the creation of a fresh supply of plants and animals on the newly-formed continent, compose a series of changes which meet the geologist again and again in prosecuting his researches into the bowels of the earth. What part of the land was submerged when the new soil emerged from the waters, how far the shock of the plutonic or volcanic forces may have been felt, whether the alteration of level extended to the whole solid crust of the earth, or only to a certain region surrounding the cradle of mankind, the record before us does not determine. It merely describes in a few graphic touches, that are strikingly true to nature, the last of those geologic changes which our globe has undergone.

Fifth, it is in keeping, as far as it goes, with the facts of botany, zoology, and ethnology.

Sixth, it agrees with the cosmogonies of all nations, so far as these are founded upon a genuine tradition and not upon the mere conjectures of a lively fancy.

Finally, it has the singular and superlative merit of drawing the diurnal scenes of that creation to which our race owes its origin in the simple language of common life, and presenting each transcendent change as it would appear to an ordinary spectator standing on the earth. It was thus sufficiently intelligible to primeval man, and remains to this day intelligible to us, as soon as we divest ourselves of the narrowing preconceptions of our modern civilization.


Albert Barnes Notes on the Bible
Previous Part: Genesis 1:20-23/ Next Part: Genesis 2:1-3

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