Theology of creation in the Old Testament

Theology of creation in the Old Testament

  • Post Category:Deepening

The purpose of the theology of creation is ethical and religious.

The theology of creation is based on divine revelation and can only be understood by faith

 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. Hebrews 11.3

The text read is shifted between the Genesis story and modern scientific thought : Genesis 1-11 is not a scientific, but pre- scientific document.
The order of creation is seen from the point of view of an observer on Earth, experienced from the five senses.



The Hebrew people facing world views of other peoples

Genesis was written and given by Moses to the Hebrew people from leaving Egypt to entering the Promised Land.

The matter was to fight against the Hebrew people’s fear who believed that the political power of the Egyptian pharaoh and the might of the Canaanite kings depended upon the might of their gods.

God has promised to deliver his people enslaved in Egypt; pagan gods are put back in their place , reduced to the rank of creatures : the sun and moon are not even named:

God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. Genesis 1.16

They are merely referred to as lights made by God. Why should one have to fear them?  
God’s power is greater than that of the pharaohs and of the gods, as it is demonstrated by the ten plagues of Egypt.

The ninth plague is directed against Ra, the sun god :

Exodus 10.21-22  Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that darkness will spread over Egypt—darkness that can be felt.”  So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and total darkness covered all Egypt for three days.

The tenth plague is directed against Pharaoh deified

Ex 12.29   At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well.

The creation story as it should be understood by the people of Israel

The good creation was made by God, absolutely good and sovereign.

God alone is the creator
God alone is the author of creation, made from nothing (ex nihilo)

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and Hebrews 11.3

There is no eternal matter nor dualism as in other worldviews.

If there were some other form of existence or of force which, these would oppose God and escape his control. Creation is a free act , decided by God, and only in this way can God be the Lord.

Acts 17.24-25  The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.  And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.

God is transcendent (above, distinct from creation) and immanent (in the creation)

Ephesians 4.6  Only one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

He is also an sovereign God upon whom everything depends :

Colossians 1.17 In him all things hold together
Acts 17.28 In him we live and move and have our being.

The creation by the three persons of the Trinity

1 . God the Father is the creator

Genesis 1.1

Psalm 33.6-7    By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.
He gathers the waters of the sea into jars; he puts the deep into storehouses.

2 . God the Spirit is the creator in Genesis 1:2

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

3 . God the Son is the creator in the New Testament

John 1:3  Through him (the son) all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

Colossians  1.16  For by him (the son) all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.

The plural in: “Let us make man in our image ” (Genesis 1:26 ) reflects the Trinitarian nature of God.
The creation of mankind is linked to the work of the Spirit (Genesis 1.2).

Genesis 3.21 “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil

The Son in the creation

Hebrews 1.1-3 In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.
The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

Hebrews 1.2b attributes the creation of the world to the Son  (John 1.3, Col 1.16). Hebrews 3a identifies him as image and glory of God, as the revelation of the glory of the creator (Genesis 1.2b)

Role of the Son in the creation

He is present in the Spirit in Genesis 1:2 , he created mankind in his own image of the Son. He is also present in the re-creation, in the new creation by the Holy spirit

John 20:22   And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
1 Cor 15.49 And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.

The Spirit in Creation

In the beginning, the Spirit plays his part in the creation of things visible and invisible (Genesis 1.2a) The Spirit of God was hovering over the waters (Genesis 1:2 b .

Creation by the glory and for the glory of God


The creation is theocentric ( God-centered ) .

Revelation 4.11 ” You created all thongs  and by your will they were created and have their being “

A theophany of glory

In a kingdom invisible to man, God is supernaturally seen by the prophets. He is surrounded by a cloud of glory

Ezekiel 1.4  I looked, and I saw a windstorm coming out of the north—an immense cloud with flashing lightning and surrounded by brilliant light. The center of the fire looked like glowing metal
1.28  Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him.

Amid a multitude of heavenly winged beings

1.5  And in the fire was what looked like four living creatures. In appearance their form was that of a man,
1. 13, 14 The appearance of the living creatures was like burning coals of fire or like torches. Fire moved back and forth among the creatures; it was bright, and lightning flashed out of it. The creatures sped back and forth like flashes of lightning.

He moves along with a throne – chariot made of wheels

1:15-17  As I looked at the living creatures, I saw a wheel on the ground beside each creature with its four faces. This was the appearance and structure of the wheels: They sparkled like chrysolite, and all four looked alike. Each appeared to be made like a wheel intersecting a wheel. As they moved, they would go in any one of the four directions the creatures faced; the wheels did not turn about as the creatures went.
11.22  Then the cherubim, with the wheels beside them, spread their wings, and the glory of the God of Israel was above them.

The wheels are animated and propelled by the Spirit

1.19-21   When the living creatures moved, the wheels beside them moved; and when the living creatures rose from the ground, the wheels also rose. Wherever the spirit would go, they would go, and the wheels would rise along with them, because the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels. When the creatures moved, they also moved; when the creatures stood still, they also stood still; and when the creatures rose from the ground, the wheels rose along with them, because the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.

God reveals his presence as King of glory

1.26 27 Above the expanse over their heads was what looked like a throne of sapphire, and high above on the throne was a figure like that of a man. I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him.

In this realm, the Son of man in the Old Testament,

Daniel 7.13-14   “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

i.e. the Christ glorified in his ascension will receive eternal sovereignty , in the light of the fire or of the sun,

Ps 104.2  He wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent

like a shining rainbow,

Ezekiel 1.28  Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking.   

He will carry out the divine judgments.

Daniel 7.10  A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him.
Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was seated, and the books were opened.

Jeremiah 1.9-10  Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “Now, I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”

Revelation  4.4-8  Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. Before the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. Also before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.
In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.”

Life born of light

Life is born of light (Gn 1.3), it goes on by biological generation (Gn 1.11 , 20, 21).
The creation is done by successive differentiation (Gn 1. 4, 10, 12, 18 , 21, 25 and 31) , with alternating light and darkness for the succession of time.

God maintains the world in existence (Ps 104. 27-30).

All of your creatures wait for you to provide them with food on a regular basis.
You give food to them and they receive it; you open your hand and they are filled with food.
When you ignore them, they panic. When you take away their life’s breath, they die and return to dust.
When you send your life-giving breath, they are created, and you replenish the surface of the ground.

Creation by the Word

Creation by the Word
”And God said ” (v. 3 , 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26)
God calls things into existence and they exist; he gives them orders , evaluates them and  then goes on to the following day. God is intelligent, powerful, tidy and absolutely sovereign (Ps 33.6).

Schematic divisions of the creation story  

There is a careful literary construction in Genesis 1 and 2: 5 formulas for each day Announcing: “And God said “, Order: “Let there be ” Report: “and it was so ” or “and God did,” Appraisal : “It was very good” Setting of the time : “It was the first day … ” 10 times : ” God said”. Compare with the 10 commandments

Creation in 7 days 

V.1 : 7 Hebrew words V 2: 14 Hebrew words  (2 x 7). Elohim : 35 times (5 x 7 ) 6 days of work , 1 day of rest , a model for Israel

The creation is written on 2 tablets

“God created the heavens and the earth”(Gn1.1). “This is the story of the heavens and the earth when they were created” (Genesis 2.4). The first creation story is resumed and completed by a second one on the second tablet: an oriental literary technique The first tablet shows God above the creation, setting up the heavens and the earth The first three days correspond to the last three days: At first God creates the shape : days 1-3 . Then he fills it with a material which corresponds to the shape : days 4-6

CREATINGFILLING
A: Day 1 ( 1:3-5 )A ‘:  day 4 ( 1:14-19 )
Separating light from darknessLights : sun , moon and stars
B:  day 2 ( 1:6-8 )B ‘ : Day 5 ( 1:20-23 )
Sky / heavenFishes and birds
C: Day 3 – ( 1:9-13)C ‘: Day 6 ( 1:24-30 )
Land and vegetationTerrestrial animals and humans
Day 7 – God rests (1.31

 

The first tablet underlines the 7th day which God blesses and sanctifies “The Sabbath rest for the people of God”   (Hebrew 4.8-11 and Matthew 11:28-30)

The second tablet shows God present in creation. He kneads mud, breathes in the nostrils of man to infuse life into him.

The first tablet is centered on God, the second on humanity, both complement one another.

Creation of the living beings

It is a  “second” creation from dust (Genesis 2.7).

Animals are shaped from the ground of the earth (Gen 2.9) and reproduce themselves by biological generation.

The first man is a living soul, also shaped from dust of the ground (Adam comes from adama: earth). But unlike the animals he gets life by divine insufflation of the divine breath ( Gen 2.7).

On the sixth day, God created human life and ” blessed ” the man and the woman in order that they also procreate ( 1:26-28 ) .

Man created in the image of God (1:26-27)

Man is the image of God by thinking, oral communication and relationship with God by the blessing he gets from God. Authority and responsibility are given to the human being as God’s representative on earth, the kingdom of God is delegated to the human couple that dominates the earth (1:26-28 , Ps 115.16b).

The human being represents the Creator, he is viceroy of the earth ( Ps 8.4-7 ) in the Garden of Eden ( 2.15; all that appears in his giving names to the animals ( 2.19) in the creation of woman, an assistant ( ezer ) similar to him ( 2.24)
Eve, a type of the Church, receives such authority and responsibility in imitation of God’s.

The glory of God as God’s image reflected in man

In his glorious kingdom, the thrice holy God sits as king and judge ( 1 Ez , Es 6.3). The foundation of his throne shrouded in clouds is justice and righteousness and faithfulness. (Ps 97.2 ) . The Son is the model for the filial aspect of the image of God in man (Heb 1.2)

Man is created in the likeness of the glory of God (Ps 8.5-6 , He 2.7 ) to be a spiritual temple of God in the Spirit (Ephesians 2.22 , Psalm 104:29-31 , Ezekiel 37. 1,10.14 , Lk 1.35).

The creation is good and blessed

The creation is declared 6 times ” good and 1 time ” very good “.
The gift of life is manifested by the creation, reproduction and prosperity (Gn1.11 -12 , 1.29).

The prosperity of all forms of life ( 1.22 , 28) is a sign of God’s favor which manifests itself in an abundant reproduction (1.21).

Praise to the Creator

Creation, anti-creation (destruction), re- creation

Belief in creation is evident in many texts of the Old Testament

Creation, Genesis 1-2

Background: formless and empty – separation of the waters – water gathered to one place, Gen 1.9
Anti- creation, the flood, Genesis 7-9

An anti-creation (destruction), reverse of the creation of the world, followed by a re-creation.
The distinction between the waters is canceled, Gn 7.11 Order to destroy life, Gn 7.21.

After the flood,  re-creation, Genesis 8.1

After the flood, God blesses Noah … Genesis 9.7 Then the earth is repopulated.

Facing the sea and in the desert, a re-creation

The wind from East in Exodus 14.21. The breath of Exodus 15.8-10. God present in the pillar of cloud and fire, protects and manages his people, Ex 19.4

 Creation of the world and creation of God’s people in the prophets

Isaiah 39-48
Devastated by the Assyrian invasion, the people of Israel is tempted to serve the Babylonian gods, Is 39The people are discouraged, Is 40.1-27
Isaiah uses the themes of creation to correct and exhort the people of his time to build or rebuild the people of God in a holy nation.
He emphasizes the greatness and sovereignty of God, Is 40.12-31. God cannot forget Israel, He is the creator, who stretched out the heavens and the earth, Is 40.12. God makes nations and decides on their importance or unimportance, Is 40.15-17. God who controls the stars in the sky, is able to mobilize forces for the sake of Israel, Is 40.26

Isaiah emphasizes the need to eliminate the other gods (idols) of the very thought of Israel, Es 43.1-11

The Lord, the Creator formed Israel, Es 43.1. Israel should trust God because of the past, Is 43.1-7 because God has always been present with him so far, Is 43.2. Israel must not be afraid, Is 43.5-6, for the Lord will restore all those he created for his glory, Is 43.7. God is the Lord. There is no other God, Is 43.10, so there is no other savior, Es 43.11.

God, the Lord is the only one who is able to announce future

In 538 BC, God promises to send Cyrus, king of Persia, who is not yet born, to free Israel from slavery, Is 44.28, 45.1. God knows all future events, and he is ready to reveal some of them to encourage Israel to turn rather to the Creator than to the creature.

God leads the future for his own glory, Isaiah 44.9-48.16.

Choose God, not idols, Is 46.9 Israel was a rebel from birth on, Is 48.8, God will rebuild it for his glory, Is 48.10-11 He who founded the earth, can have this promise fulfilled, Is 48.12-13 God will save Israel from Babylon and make his people a witness to the nations, Es 48.14. So God will be recognized as the ruler of all creation.

At the end of time the creator will “create new heavens and a new earth” Isaiah 65.17-25

Crying and diseases will stop, Is 65.19-20. Peace among all creatures will be restored, Is 65.24-25. Isaiah applies the truths of creation to the situation of his time, which is very different from that of Moses in Genesis 1

Creation, worship and wisdom of God in Job and the Psalms

The biblical theology of creation affirms the personal wisdom and the absolute sovereignty of God over the created order.

Psalm 90

God is the protector of Israel throughout all generations, Ps 90.1 God as Creator has neither beginning nor end, Ps 90.2. God is the Lord, he has the power to give and take life, Ps 90.3-6. We must pray him to be freed from sin and forgiven, Ps 90.7-17

Psalms 95, 96

Israel must worship him who made them, Psalm 95.1-7. He is a king “above all gods” Psalm 95.3. The Lord is “to be feared above all gods” Ps 96.4. “All the gods of the nations are idols “Ps 96.5
These texts encourage Israel to reject all other so-called gods in favor of the creator who rules creation. He is worthy of praise, obedience, and worship.

How the creator has led the creation, Job 38-42

God controls the universe with kindness and plays his role as only God and only Creator (Job 38-41)
God laid the foundations of all that is created on earth, Job 38.4-7, both the inanimate and the animate, Jb 38.39-39.30. He is the creator who sustains all that has been made, Jb 38.25-41. Job admits that he knows nothing about the organization of the universe and promises to be quiet before the Creator, Is 40.3-5. The Creator manifests his power, he only is able to tame the large sea creatures that terrify seamen Jb 40.6-41.34 Job is satisfied with the response of God Jb 42.1-6
The creator is worthy of being served because we can trust him.

C.Streng

Close Menu