In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1
- In the beginning
The first verse of the Bible describes the beginning — not the beginning of God but rather the beginning of the universe. This is the start of history — our history, Earth’s history, the cosmos’ history.
Hebrew elohim (prn. el-o-heem’). The word el is much like our English word “God” — it is often used in reference to the one true God but also to lesser deities with a lowercase “g” (gods). The title elohim is the plural form, used in the sense of a majestic plural. This is a title of superlative — He is el but He is much more than other deities — He is elohim!
This is our first introduction of God in the Scriptures. It is important to note that His existence is simply assumed, with no attempt being here made to argue for His existence.
Immediately God is established as the Creator — He who is both separate from and infinitely greater than the physical universe; He is transcendent.
The word “created” (Hebrew bara) means “to bring about,” “to form,” and of course, “to create.” This creation has been described as ex nihilo (“from nothing”); if there were raw materials with which to create from, then the universe would have existed prior to it being here created, which is a logical absurdity.
This creation serves as a reminder that the universe has not always existed — it is neither self-existent nor self-sufficient. Rather, there was a point at which the universe went from nonexistence to existence, and it did so at the word of God.
As astronomers and cosmologists determine that our universe is ever more immense, filled with countless billions of stars and other celestial objects, we should increasingly glorify God for He is even greater!
- the heavens
The Hebrew word here (shamayim) refers to that which is lofty and above; step outside and look up, and you’ll see the sky — the first heaven. At nighttime, you’ll get a glimpse into the second heaven — outer space, where the celestial bodies reside.
At this initial creation, the heavens are empty — there are no birds in the sky, no stars in space. I guess you could say God created nothingness — the void of empty space within which everything else would go.
It is unclear whether the third heaven, the abode of God and the angels, is here in view, so I cannot say for sure whether Heaven is the same age as Earth or if it is indeed more ancient. One of the few clues we have is found in Job 38:4-7, where God tells us that when the foundations of the earth were laid, the angels (there described as morning stars and sons of God) sang and shouted for joy.
- and the earth
By “the earth” is meant that which is “firm” (erets) — the opposite of empty space and the raw materials of the universe. However, that special focus is given to our planet Earth is obvious from subsequent verses, wherein the solid materials are consolidated and formed into the blue orb upon which we dwell.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures quoted within this post come from the English Standard Version of the Holy Bible.