Genesis 1 Bible Commentary

John Darby’s Synopsis

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(Read all of Genesis 1)
Creation with man as head: God's work and God's rest

Let us examine then the contents of this book in order. First, we have the creation—creation in which man is found placed on earth as centre and head. We have first the work of God, and then the rest of God: at the close of His work, rest from labour, without presenting the idea that any one participated in it. God Himself rested from His work. Man comes in to take his place then in happiness at its head.

God's revelation given as to man's relationship with Him

But here some brief general remarks deserve a place. This revelation from God is not a history by Him of all that He has done, but what has been given to man for his profit, the truth as to what he has to say to. Its object is to communicate to man all that regards his own relationship with God. In connection with the second Adam he will know as he is known; and already, by means of the work of Christ, he has that unction of the Holy One by which he knows all things. But historically the revelation is partial. It communicates what is for the conscience and spiritual affections of man. The created world therefore is taken up as it subsists before the eyes of man, and he in the midst of it, and in so bringing it forward Genesis gives God's work as the author of it. What is here said is true of the whole Bible. Here it is evident in this, that nothing is said of the creation, but what places man in the position which God had made for him in the creation itself, or presents to him this sphere of his existence as being the work of God Thus no mention is made of any heavenly beings. Nothing is said of their creation. We find them as soon as they are in relationship with men; although afterwards, as a truth, it is fully recognised of course that they are so created.

God as Creator of the material universe

Thus also, as regards this earth, except the fact of its creation, nothing is said of it beyond what relates to the present form of it. The fact is stated that God created all things, all man sees, all the material universe. "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." What may have taken place between that time and the moment when the earth (for it only is then spoken of) was without form and void, is left in entire obscurity. Darkness was then upon the face of the deep, but the darkness is only spoken of as resting on the face of the deep.

Out of chaos and darkness the earth prepared and furnished

From out of this state of chaos and darkness in which the earth then lay God brought it, first introducing light into it by His word, and then formed seas and dry land, and furnished it with plants and living creatures. In this earth, thus prepared and furnished, man, made after the image of God, is placed as lord of all that was in it. Its fruits are given him for food; and God rests from His work, and distinguishes with His blessing the day which saw His labours closed. Man enjoyed the fruit of God's work rather than entered into the rest; for in nothing had he taken part in the work.

Light and order out of darkness and confusion

The first four days, God brings light and order out of darkness and confusion: light, the first day; the expanse as a scene of heavenly power over the earth, the second day; then He divided what was formed and orderly, on the one hand, from the moving powerful but shapeless mass of waters, on the other, and then ornamented the ordered habitable scene with beauty and fruitfulness on the third. The symbols of directing power were set visibly in their places on the fourth.

The prepared creation, proof of God's life-giving power

The scene of man's display and dominion was formed, but man was not yet there. But before He formed man, God created living energies of every kind in the seas, and earth, and air, which, instinct with life, should propagate and multiply, the proof of God's life-giving power, that to matter He could communicate living energy; and thus, not only a scene was formed, where His purposes in man should be displayed, but that existence, which man should rule so as to display his energies and rights according to the will of God, and as holding his place as vicegerent over the earth, apart and distinct from all, the centre of all, the ruler of all, as interested in them as his; living in his own sphere of blessedness according to his nature, and as to others, ordering all in blessing and subjection. In the midst of all the prepared creation, in a word, man is set.

Man formed a living soul in immediate connection with God

But this was not all. He was not to spring out of matter by the mere will of God, as the beasts, by that power which calls things that are not as though they were, and they are. God formed man out of the dust, and when formed breathed from Himself into his nostrils the breath of life, and thus man became a living soul in immediate connection with God Himself. As the apostle states elsewhere, we also are His offspring. It is not said "Let the earth bring forth"; but "Let us make." And He made man in His likeness, created him indeed to multiply as the other living creatures, but gave him dominion over them, and made him the centre and head of God's creation on the earth. The seeds of the fruitful earth were given to him, the green herb and its increase to the beasts. Death and violence were not yet.[1]

Man's creation distinct from all else

We shall see, in chapter 2, another immensely important principle brought out as to man, when the question of his relationship to God is brought forward. Here his creation is a distinct one from all else; he is presented simply, apart from every other thought, as God's workmanship as a creature, the head and centre of the rest, the ruler over them all. But this we may remark: while he represents God and is like Him we have nothing of righteousness and holiness here. This came in by redemption and the partaking of the divine nature. There was of course the absence of evil, and so far the likeness of God; but ignorance of it, not what God is in respect of it. It is much more here the place man holds, than his nature, though the absence of evil, and the spring of condescending affections as the centre of being, must have been found there, had he not fallen. These last are more the likeness, his place more the image. He was the central authority of all things, and all things referred to him as their head. All authority and all affections were related to him as their centre and head, and no sin, sorrow, or evil, or insubordinate self-seeking was there. Unfallen moral order would have been his delight.

God's rest

The first three verses of chapter 2 belong to the first chapter. It is the rest of God, He ceasing from His own works, all very good.

[1]Nothing can be more marked than the distinction of man—of that being in whom the purposes of God also were to be fulfilled; His delights were with the sons of men, His good pleasure in (not merely good will towards) men proved by His blessed Son becoming a man. Here no doubt it is the responsible man, but the difference from all other creatures is marked as strongly as possible. The sixth day's creation finishes with the usual formula, "And God saw that it was good" (chap. 1: 25), before man is spoken of. Then comes a solemn consultation to give him a special place, and the image and likeness of God are introduced by God as that after which He creates him. And it is repeated, "so God created man in his own image." I must say, to make a mere animal of him is monstrous and slights this passage, the emphatic declaration of God. As an order of being, he is evidently the counterpart of the ways of God, though this be only fully accomplished in Christ according to Psalm 8 which just brings this out: compare Romans 5:14 and Hebrews 2.