The Story Of Creation And It’s Surprising True Meaning
Originally published at https://www.rethinknow.org
The story of creation found in Genesis 1 & 2 is one of the most famous stories in the entire Bible. But while it’s well known the significance of the creation account is often missed. We miss the point because we focus on the wrong details.
Many Christians choose to die on the hill of defending a literal 7 days of creation. But, what if that’s not the point of the story? I think the significance of the story of creation is much greater than the details of how God created the world. I think we’ve missed the point of this story of creation.
I know in saying that might make some of you uncomfortable. But stay with me. Let’s dive a little further into Genesis 1 & 2 and the creation account and see what it has for us today.
The Creation Account In Genesis 1 & 2
The creation story takes place in Genesis 1 & 2 and entails 7 days of creation. Here’s a brief summary or you can read it here: Story Of Creation In Genesis 1 & 2
Genesis Story Of Creation
- Day 1 — God created light and separated the light from the darkness, calling light “day” and darkness “night.”
- Day 2 — God created an expanse to separate the waters and called it “sky.”
- Day 3 — God created the dry ground and gathered the waters, calling the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters “seas.” On day three, God also created plants and trees.
- Day 4 — God created the sun, moon, and the stars to give light to the earth and to govern and separate the day and the night. These would also serve as signs to mark seasons, days, and years.
- Day 5 — God created every living creature of the seas and every winged bird, blessing them to multiply and fill the waters and the sky with life.
- Day 6 — God created the animals. And finally, God created man and woman in his own image. He blessed them and gave them every creature and the whole earth to rule over, care for, and cultivate.
- Day 7 — God had finished his work of creation and so he rested on the seventh day, blessing it and making it holy.
This is the creation account most of us are probably most familiar with. But this is only half the story. In Genesis 2:4 a second creation account starts. Most theologians agree that this is indeed a second account of creation and not a continuation of the story.
In Genesis 2:3 day 7 of creation is wrapped up as God rests. Then in Genesis 2:4 it resets and goes back to God creating the world. This shift is even clearer in the original Hebrew as the author (or possibly authors) has a major shift in literary style.
Now all the major details in the two creation stories are same, but the way the story unfolds is much different. The first is more formulaic. It lays out creation in a nice and neat list. The second jumbles the order and turns the details into more of a dramatic narrative. These two accounts give us a unique look into the story of creation.
This style of writing gives us a clue as to what the creation story means and what the creation account is not.
What The Creation Account Is Not…
Many Christians choose to die on the hill of defending a literal 7 days of creation. But in doing so miss the point of the story of creation. The creation account is not a detailed scientific report.
Don’t misunderstand me. Genesis 1 & 2 contains a lot of truth… BUT. It’s not scientific truth. When we only view this passage as a defense of the literal 7 days of creation we are missing the incredible message this passage has for us today.
We shouldn’t count the details of this story, rather we should weigh them. We shouldn’t look at the story of creation as the exact methods God used to create the world. Rather we should look at the implications, the meaning, of the creation account.
The beauty of the story of creation is not found in the details, but rather the overarching story.
I’m not trying to convince you that Genesis 1 & 2 isn’t to be read literally. Frankly, I don’t care if you believe in a literal 7 days of creation account or not. What I want you to do is to step back from the details of how God created the world and look at the implications this story holds for us today.
If you are still with me, let’s take a deeper look at the creation account.
When The Creation Account In Genesis 1 & 2 Was Written
When we read the Bible we always need to consider the context in which it was written. Who was it written to?
When it comes to the creation account in Genesis 1 & 2 it’s tough to know the exact details. Traditionally Christian and Jewish scholars attribute Moses as the author of Genesis. This seems to be affirmed in the New Testament. This would put the dating of Genesis around 1445 B.C.
Again, this is debated among scholars much smarter than me. If you want to dive deeper check out this articles from a more academic standpoint:
Who Wrote The Book Of Genesis?
When Was Genesis Written?
You might be thinking, who cares about when it was written and who wrote it…well you should care. Here’s why.
The context in which a passage is written helps us understand the significance for us today. When it comes to the creation account we know Moses penned these words. That means these words were written at the same time Israel was wandering around the desert waiting to enter into the Promise Land. Is it a coincidence that the creation story was penned during that time? Doubtful.
During this point in history the Israelites were in a fragile spot. They had just spent over 400 years in slavery. Generation after generation grew knowing nothing of freedom. Their identity was that of a captive people.
Moses leads them out of captivity, but they still keep their old mindset. They are acting like a captive people, even wanting to go back to their captors. They don’t understand freedom, and they don’t know their true identity. All they know was living in captivity. So they acted like captives.
This is why Moses receiving the 10 Commandments (Exodus 20) was such a big deal. When they left Egypt they lost their sense of purpose and direction. For years it had been, do what you’re told. With their new found freedom they had no guiding principles. Their whole life shifted, they had a completely new normal, and they had no idea how to live. The 10 Commandments gave them that framework.
This is important because this is the context in which Genesis is written. These are the people who it was first written to, a nation of former slaves now wandering through the desert. Not really sure of who they are and still learning to trust God.
The next question we should ask is, why this story told to these people? What is the meaning of the story of creation for us today?
The Meaning Of The Story Of Creation
Maybe the most basic meaning of the story of creation is that God created the world. That is clear in this story and throughout the rest of the Bible. There’s not much room to debate that, the Bible is clear time and time again who created the world. We can debate the “how” but not the “who.”
But as we have seen the real significance of the creation account is much deeper. So let’s take a look at what it means for us today.
Here’s 4 takeaways from Genesis 1 & 2:
The Story Of Creation Is A Reminder Of Our Identity
Maybe the biggest implication from this story is where our identity is to be found. We were created for a reason and with a purpose. Our identity is wrapped up in this story. We are created in God’s image. It’s who we are.
At the time this creation account was written the Israelites desperately needed this reminder. They had this warped view of their purpose. God told them this story to remind them. And I think that’s a reminder that we need to hear today. That’s the beauty in this story. It’s a reminder that God created humankind with a purpose in mind. We are the center of his creation, his prize possession. That’s our identity.
In many ways we are no different than the Israelites wandering the desert. We are slaves to our desires and our sins. We’ve forgotten who we are and whose we are. We’ve forgotten where we came from and what purpose we have. In many ways we are in the same identity crisis that the nation of Israel faced in the desert 3400 years ago.
The story of creation is a powerful reminder of who we are in God. We are loved and created by God.
The Story Of Creation Reflects God’s Goodness
When God finished creating the world he said that it was good. He was very pleased with what he created. Six times in this narrative it is noted that God looked at his handiwork and said that it was good. And when he made man, he said it was very good (Genesis 1:31).
God’s creation was good, full of beauty, order, complexity, and variety. It was indeed very good. The amount of thought and detail that went into creation shows us God’s goodness. He didn’t have to make so many colors, flavors, smells, varieties, animals, and everything else. But he did. Why? Because he’s a good God who wants us to enjoy what he’s created.
The story of creation reminds us that God is good. At the time this passage was written Israel was in a difficult season and need this reminder. The same is true for us today. The creation account, and the creation around us, reminds us that God is indeed good.
The Story Of Creation Is A Pattern To Live By
There are 7 days of creation. But all the creating happens in the first 6 days. On the 7th day there was no creating, only resting (Genesis 2:2). God wasn’t tired, he didn’t need to rest. He was fully satisfied with what he had created so he rested.
God was giving us a pattern to live by.
Jesus expands on this concept in Mark 2:27. This day of rest is not a rule to follow, it’s a gift to enjoy.
From the very beginning God had set up creation so that we would have room to rest. The creation account gives us a pattern to live by. We work for 6 days. We go to our jobs, we take care of our family, upkeep our house, and all other responsibilities we have. But on the 7th day we can rest and rely on God to do the rest.
Rest is a gift that God has given us. The creation account highlights this pattern, this gift, that God has set up for us. For Israel as they wandered the desert they needed a reset. They needed a new pattern to live by. That’s what God was giving them in the story of creation.
To learn more about what it means to rest I highly recommend: Subversive Sabbath
The Story Of Creation Is A Reminder Of Our Role
The story of creation is a reminder that we have a role to play. God has given us responsibilities. Adam and Eve were tasked with ruling over the garden (Genesis 2:15). From the beginning God has allowed humans to play pivotal roles in his creation. We are cared for and have a role in creation.
I think it’s important that we recognize that we don’t have to, we get to. Our responsibilities should be a joy, not a burden. When sin entered the picture one of the consequences was work was now toilsome. But we shouldn’t view our role as a burden, rather a purpose.
The story of creation reminded the Israelites that God had an important role to play. Coming out of captivity this gave their life a new purpose. It’s a reminder they need and one we need today. God has something for each of us to do. He’s created each of us for a reason and a purpose. We have a role to play.
In pursuit of defending a literal 7 days of creation we’ve lost sight of this powerful reminders. It doesn’t matter if the creation account is a literal 7 days or if the 7 symbolizes perfection and completion. That’s not the point of the story of creation in Genesis 1 & 2. Stop trying to figure out how God created the world and reflect on the implications for your identity that stem from this story.
Let’s hear from you! What do you think of the story of creation? How does the creation account impact your life?
Originally published at https://www.rethinknow.org on February 1, 2021.