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Parashah 1: B'resheit
("In the Beginning")

by Michael Bugg

Torah:  B’resheit (Genesis) 1:1-6:8

Haftarah:  Yesha’yahu (Isaiah) 42:5-21 (Sephardic), 42:5-43:10 (Ashkenazi)

B’rit Chadasha:  Yochanan (John) 1:1-18

The Theme

The Bible begins with a sublime sentence made up of seven words in the Hebrew:

 בראשׁית ברא אלהים את השׁמים ואת הארץ

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Pagan mythologies always begin with the existence of some form of matter and describe the birth of their gods.  The Bible, in contrast, presents God as the Eternal One, the “I Am” from whom all matter and energy were created.  The very existence of the universe, which science agrees did not always exist but had a beginning, testifies to the existence of the One who created it.  This is not a new conclusion, but one as old as the faith:  Rabbi Akiva noted nearly two thousand years ago, “Just as the existence of a house testifies to the builder and the existence of a garment testifies to the weaver, so the existence of the world testifies to God who fashioned it” (Mid. Tem. 3).  Even earlier than that, another rabbi wrote, “For the invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even his everlasting power and divinity; that they may be without excuse” (Rom. 1:20).

In our reading from the prophets, we open with Isaiah echoing the events of the second day of creation when he calls the Holy One, “He who created the heavens and stretched them out, He who spread out the earth and that which comes out of it.”  The fact that God stretched out the heavens is attested to in numerous places in Scripture (Gen. 1:6-8; Isa. 40:22, 42:5, 45:12, 51:13; Jer. 10:12, 51:15; Zec. 12:1; Job 9:8)—so often, in fact, that we can view it as a central theme of the creation.  The stretching out of the universe has also stretched out the light travelling across the universe so that it can be measured by modern scientists.  Robert Jastrow records the upheaval this caused in the scientific community in his book God and the Astronomers.

By his careful choice of the same opening phrase, “In the beginning . . .” for his Gospel account, John leads us to two subtle truths.  The first, that the Messiah Yeshua is the incarnate Wisdom and Torah of God, we explore here.  The second, that through Him the Father has made a new Beginning for creation, is a constant theme throughout the New Covenant Scriptures.  When we understand these two truths, all of Scripture comes together in a consistent, elegantly patterned message of salvation.

Indeed, almost every theme in the Bible finds its origin in this first, foundational parashah reading:  Creation, sin, judgment, the promise of redemption, the Messiah, atonement, spiritual warfare and the final victory over the Adversary, etc.  These themes are woven together like an incredible tapestry towards their conclusion, the renewal of the world, predicted by the prophets and shown in the book of the Revelation.

Other Notes:

B’resheit (Genesis) 1

The Structure of the Days of Creation:




Day 1


Day 4

Day 2


Day 5

Day 3


Day 6

And said R. Judah said Rab, “Ten things were created on the first day, and these are they: heaven and earth, chaos and desolation, light and darkness, wind and water, the length of day and the length of night; “heaven and earth: ‘In the beginning God created heaven and earth’ (Gen. 1: 1); “chaos and desolation: ‘And the earth was chaos and desolation’ (Gen. 1: 2); “light and darkness:’ as to darkness, ‘And darkness was upon the face of the deep’ (Gen. 1: 2); as to light, ‘And God said, let there be light’ (Gen. 1: 3); “wind and water: ‘And the wind of God hovered over the face of the waters’ (Gen. 1: 2); “the length of day and the length of night: ‘And there was evening and there was morning, one day’ (Gen. 1: 5).” –b. Hagigah 12a

v. 1 – The rabbis hold that Creation began on Rosh HaShannah, based on an anagram: בראשׁית (“in the beginning”) can be rearranged to read בתשׁרי א, “the first in Tishri.”  They also midrashically rendered the first word as, “With Beginning,” that is, with the Torah itself (for just as Genesis is known as B’resheit for its opening word, so the whole Torah may be seen as bearing the same name). 
      When Yochanan (John) likewise begins his Gospel account, “In the beginning . . .”, he clearly means for us to refer back to the first verse of the Torah.  The Messiah was not only existent in the Beginning as the Word, Wisdom, and Torah of the Holy One, but His Coming heralds a new Beginning for all Creation.

v. 2 – “was” (היתה) may be translated “became,” that is, “And the earth became without form and void . . .”  From this some have theorized a gap of unknown length between the first two verses in the Bible as a way of reconciling the six days of creation with the popularly accepted 15 billion year age of the universe.  In favor of this view, Isa. 45:18 says that the Holy One did not make the universe “void,” and Jer. 4:23 suggests that a place being “without form and void” comes as the result of God’s righteous wrath.  Against this view, the entire theme of this chapter is that this is the original creation of the universe, not a repair of it, “for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day” (Exo. 20:11). 
      The word translated “deep” is tehom (תּהום), which is the equivalent of the Greek word abussou, or Abyss.  Cf. 7:11f, 49:25; Exo. 15:5f; Deu. 33:13; Isa. 51:10, 63:13; Ezk. 26:19, 31:4f; Jnh. 2:5; Hab. 3:10; Job 38:16, 30; Psa. 33:7, 71:20, 104:6, 106:9; 135:6; 148:7; Luke 8:31; Rom. 10:7; 1Pt. 3:9; Rev. 9:1ff, 11:17, 17:8, and 20:1.

v. 3 – “Let there be light.”  Not the light of the sun, which would not appear until the fourth day (v. 16). 

Said R. Eleazar, “Through the light that the Holy One, blessed be he, created on the first day a person could see from one end of the world to the other. When the Holy One, blessed be he, foresaw the generation of the flood and the generation of the division, and realized that their deeds would be corrupted, he went and hid away that light from them: ‘But from the wicked their light is withheld’ (Job. 38:15).” –b. Hagigah 12a

v. 4 – “Good” (tov, טוב) in Hebrew signifies not only moral good (just as “evil,” ra (רע), means not only moral evil, but also disaster), but also usefulness, prosperity, preciousness, etc.  In Hebrew’s original pictographic form, the tet (ט) is thought to have taken the form of a basket while beit means “house” even today, which was used to encompass that which it carried.  Thus, “good” was associated with everything that surrounded the house.  A more recent kabbalistic interpretation of the tet is that it pictures a man bowing to a king; in this case, tov would signify a man bowing before the King in His House on Mt. Zion, submissive to the will of the Holy One.

v. 5 – “Evening” and “morning” are ‘erev and boker in Hebrew, and it is because of their order here that in Judaism the day always begins with sunset, not at midnight or dawn as in other cultures.  Chuck Missler has suggested in his Genesis commentary that the words here may refer to the increasing order of the universe; i.e., in the evening, everything is shadowy and indistinct, but in the morning, they are made clear.
      “The first day,” as the end of this verse is rendered in most versions, is mistranslation.  The number given here is not rishon (ראשׁון), “first,” but echad (אחד), which can mean “one” or “a unity.”  Thus, it should be translated, “one day,” “Day One,” or “a unified day.”

vv. 6-7 – The “expanse” or “firmament” is the Hebrew word raiqa (רקיע), which literally refers to either a hammer or that which is hammered.  It is used here in the sense of a block of gold that has been hammered out into a thin sheet; thus, something that has been spread out.  That the Holy One spread out the heavens is attested to in Job 9:8; Isa. 40:22, 42:5, 45:12, 51:13; Jer. 10:12, 51:15; and Zec. 12:1.  It is interesting that modern science has also determined that the universe has been “spread out” or “expanded,” which has led to the Big Bang Theory.  Thus, the Holy One proclaims through the centuries that He not only made the earth, but the whole of the universe through His authority.

vv. 8-12 – The second day is the only one that God does not bless as good.  In vv. 10 and 12, the Holy One twice blesses the third day, in which He first created life.  This begins a repeated pattern in the Scripture of the second day being one of darkness and woe and the third day being one of great blessing in which someone has their life given back to them, as it was for Isaac, Jacob, Esther, Jonah, and of course, Yeshua.

v. 12 – “brought forth,” is the Hebrew word t’yatza (תוצא), which indicates something that had a previous dormant existence being brought out and made alive (see 3:16), not taldi (תלדי), which would indicate something entirely new being brought into being.

v. 14 – “signs,” cf. Luke 21:25. 

v. 16 – According to the Talmud, the sun, moon, and stars had been made on the first day, but were now brought out for display (b. Hagigah 12a again). 

v. 21 – “great sea creatures” or “great whales” is, in the Hebrew, hataniyn hagadolim (התנינם הגדלים), which would be more literally rendered, “the great serpents” or “great reptiles” (cf. Exo. 7:10).  The Bible does indeed refer to what we today call dinosaurs; some see a description of two dinosaurs in Job 41. 

vv. 26-27 – The Creation of Man.  Man was given six magnificent features at creation:  The image of God, dominion, gender, fruitfulness, blessing, and the Holy One’s pleasure.  In rabbinic literature, before the Fall Adam was conceived of as a near-divine being, “of an enormous size, extending . . . from heaven to earth [Gen. R. 8:1] . . . possessed of a glory derived from God Himself. . .  The First Man was therefore altogether glorious; his fall was correspondingly disastrous.” (Davies, Paul 46). 

      In Yeshua, then, we see a reversal of this sad state.  Where Adam fell by disobedience from true glory into our current degraded state (not even having the centuries of life Adam and his progeny continued to enjoy up until the Flood), Yeshua began “in the likeness of sinful man” (Rom. 8:3) and through obedience was restored Adam’s original glory (Php. 2:8ff, Rev. 1:12ff). 

v. 28 – “Fill the earth and subdue it.”  Man was ordered to exert his dominion over the earth.  In the next chapter, we see that he was to begin with a modestly-sized garden, “to cultivate it and keep it” (v. 15).  That is, Adam and Havah would be given a small area in which to start and then, as they had children, would spread over the earth until the whole planet was a garden.

      This plan of the Holy One tells us three important things:  First, that the whole earth was not yet a paradise; rather, it was a wilderness waiting to be tamed into a glorious garden.  Second, that God deliberately left the world “imperfect,” in the sense of not fully complete.  It had every good thing that Man would need, but the Holy One chose to give us purpose in being His instruments to bring Creation to its full glory.  And third, the pursuit of science—that is, the pursuit of the knowledge of how Creation operates rather than the pursuit of atheistic materialism—is a divine mandate, for only by understanding the world that God had created could Man fulfill the command to subdue and rule it. 





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