Bible Question:

What is the meaning of Genesis 1:1?

Bible Answer:

Genesis 1:1 is a magnificent opening for the Bible.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1 (NASB)

The verse is simple and yet, insightful. It tells us when something happened, who did it, what occurred but not why it occurred.

In the Beginning God Created the Heavens and the Earth

“When” – In the Beginning

The opening three words of Genesis 1:1 tells us when something happened. The Hebrew word that is translated as “beginning” is resit. The root meaning of resit is “beginning, chief, first, what comes first or beginning point.” The word tells us that at some point in the distant past something happened and it was the first thing.

“Who” – God

The next word in Genesis 1:1 tells us who did something and we are introduced to God. It is amazing that the Bible does not start with some philosophical argument about the existence of God. It just tells us God exists and in the next words will tell us what He did.

The Hebrew word for God is elohim which simply means “God.” This word occurs 2600 times in the Old Testament and all but a few times is translated as God. The word is plural and implies that God is plural. From Deuteronomy 6:4 we discover that this plural God is also one.

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD. Deuteronomy 6:4 (NASB)

The Hebrew word that is translated as “LORD” is Yahweh. The Hebrew word that is translated as God in this verses is elohim. That is, Yahweh is elohim. Then we are told that Yahweh is one. The Hebrew word translated as “one” refers to the cardinal number one. That is, He is not two, three, four or five gods. He is just one God. This means that the God introduced to us in Genesis is a plural-one.

“What” – Created

Next we are told what He did. He created. The Hebrew word that is translated as “created” is bara and it means “to create,” “to shape,” “to fashion” or “to form.” The word reveals that God shaped or formed the heavens and the earth. What He did is described in the verses that follow. Verse 2 tells us that God started with an empty earth that had no shape.

The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the  surface of the deep, and  the Spirit of God  was moving over the surface of the waters. Genesis 1:2 (NASB)

That is, the meaning of the Hebrew word (tohu) translated as “formless” is nothingness and the Hebrew word (bohu) translated as “void” means emptiness. These two words describe the earth. Verse 2 describes the first creative act and then the chapter proceeds to describe our God’s creative acts.


The rest of scripture confirms that God created this universe. The following verses are amazing.

Hezekiah prayed to the LORD saying, “O LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, who is enthroned above the cherubim, You are the God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Isaiah 37:15-16

Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired.
His understanding is inscrutable. Isaiah 40:28 (NASB)

It is He who made the earth by His power,
Who established the world by His wisdom;
And by His understanding He has stretched out the heavens. Jeremiah 10:12 (NASB)

Isaiah 40:26 tells us that God made the stars and calls them by name. Isaiah 45:18 states that the creation proves our God exists and there is no other god. Jeremiah 32:17 says that God created the universe and there is nothing too difficult for Him. Jeremiah 51:15 affirms the power, wisdom and understanding of God.

It is He who made the earth by His power,
Who established the world by His wisdom,
And by His understanding He stretched out the heavens. Jeremiah 51:15  (NASB)

Maybe one of the most magnificent descriptions of God’s creativity and power is Job 38:1-41:34. It is an awesome passage to read.

What is the meaning of Genesis 1:1? The meaning is that God exists and His creative power  is the cause of everything in our universe and it occurred in the beginning!

Suggested Links:

Genesis Q&A
Why do the creation accounts in Genesis 1 and 2 differ?
Is there a gap between the first and second verse of Genesis 1?
When Were Dinosaurs Created?
Did God create the sun on the first or fourth day?
Why does the Geneva Bible translate Genesis 1:9 as “God saide againe”?
The Young Old Earth