5) Gen 1:9–13: On the third day, the Lord began organizing what he had created.

Moses wrote, “God said, ‘Let the waters below the heavens be collected to one place and let the dry ground appear.’ And it was so. God called the dry ground ‘earth,’ and the collected waters, he called ‘seas.’ And God saw that it was good.”

This separation of dry land from the seas set the parameters necessary for terrestrial life.[1]

A strong connection exists between the two commands, for the gathering of the waters enabled the land to emerge,[2] similar to what the Israelites had seen during their escape from Egypt (Exod 14:21–22).

In contrast to our modern view of the earth as continents surrounded by oceans, people in the Ancient Near East (ANE) saw the world as land containing great bodies of water.[3]

            Unlike on previous days, on the third day God performed two separate acts of creation. He also did this on the sixth day. This maintains the literary parallelism between days one and four, two and five, and three and six.[4]

“Then God said, ‘Let the earth sprout grass, [and] plants scattering seeds, [and] fruit trees bearing fruit according to their kind, which have seeds in them on the earth.’ And it was so. Then the earth grew grass [and] seed-bearing plants according to their kind, and trees bearing fruit according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.”

In the second creative act of this day, the Lord produced various types of vegetation.[5]

God desires to reign over an infinite variety of life.[6] Thus he created plants and trees which reproduce “according to [their] kind, which have seeds in them.”

The Hebrew term for “kind” (min) allows for a broader range than “species,”[7] while “seeds” (zera) imply a close resemblance to the parent.[8]

Significantly, God commanded reproduction “according to its kind” for plants and animals but not for humans (Gen 1:24, 26). This may indicate that God intended that vegetation and animals propagate more than the same species,[9] as the term “kind” does not correspond to a scientific species or genus.[10]

For the last time in this creation narrative, the Lord named what he created. Soon he would delegate that responsibility to people (Gen 2:19–20; Gen 4:1).[11]

Once he had made the basic structure which supports life, God declared it “good.”[12]

In contrast, Sumerians believed the continued fertility of their land depended upon the ritual reenactment of the death of Dumuzi, the goddess Inanna’s lover. Yet, the rite centered upon cultic prostitution, rather than human sacrifice. Her temples included bridal chambers where a priestess engaged in mystical marriage with the king to renew the land’s productivity.[13]

However, God willed that all he had produced should live and create new life,[14] using his generative power to follow his master design.[15]

We began with a day of black and white, added the blue of ocean and sky on a second day, and now include green. Soon we shall see the full palette of colors.[16]

Enuma Elish follows a similar sequence of creating time, climate, and the ingredients necessary for agriculture.[17]

Marduk, the son of the gods, appointed the days to the sun god and established night and day. Then he took saliva from the evil water goddess he had slain and used it to create clouds, winds, and fog. After that, Marduk formed mountains and the rest of the earth from her body before opening the deep waters and springs. “Thus he covered [the heavens] and established the earth.”[18]

Image via Wikimedia Commons

 

Read Gen 1:9–13. Why did Moses record two acts of creation on the third day? How did God prepare the earth so that vegetation could grow? What is the significance of the command for plants and animals to reproduce “according to their kind”? How does the account in Genesis parallel and differ from that of Enuma Elish?

 

 

 

 

 

Go to Introduction to Chapter 2

 

[Related posts include Living Things from the Earth (Gen 1:24–25); A Reversal of Creation (Gen 7:5–16); God Reverses the Flood (Gen 8:2–5); and Author and Date of Genesis]

 

[Click here to go to Chapter 1: God Establishes His Cosmic Temple through Creation (Genesis 1:1–13)]

 

[1]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 20.

[2]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 124–5.

[3]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 20.

[4]Walton, Genesis, 113.

[5]Hamilton, Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 125.

[6]Bonhoeffer, Creation and Fall: A Theological Exposition of Genesis 1–3, 57.

[7]Swanson, “מִין” (min), DBLSDH, 4786.

[8]Desmond T. Alexander, From Paradise to the Promised Land,  Ed (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), 105.

[9]P. Beauchamp, “מִין” (min), TDOT 8:288–90, 289.

[10]Mark D. Futato, “מִין” (min), NIDOTTE 2:934–5, 934.

[11]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 125.

[12]Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 62.

[13] Joseph P. Healey, “Fertility Cults,” ABD 2:791–3, 792.

[14]Bonhoeffer, Creation and Fall: A Theological Exposition of Genesis 1–3, 57.

[15]Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 62.

[16]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 126.

[17]Walton, Genesis, 114.

[18]“The Creation Epic” (Enuma Elish), in ANET, lines 5.45–66, 501–2. https://archive.org/stream/Pritchard1950ANET_20160815/Pritchard_1950_ANET#page/n531/mode/2up.