What is the meaning of Genesis 1:1?
Genesis 1:1 is a magnificent opening for the Bible. The verse is simple, and yet profound and 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. Genesis 1:1 (NASB)
What Does Genesis Mean?
The title “Genesis” is derived from the first Hebrew word in Genesis 1:1 which is beresit, which means “in the beginning.” The Greek title of the book means “origins” or “beginning.” That is, the Genesis meaning in Hebrew is “in the beginning” and the Genesis meaning in Greek is “origins.” Advanced information is provided in the first eleven chapters of the book of Genesis. These chapters are essential for understanding every major doctrine in the New Testament.
Origin of the Creation — Genesis 1 describes how the world was created and explains that humans are made in the image of God, but that is not true of the animals. Genesis introduces us to the Garden of Eden, rivers, trees bearing fruit and the origin of work.
Origin of Man and Marriage — Genesis 2 tells us that the first husband and wife were Adam and Eve. Genesis 2 explains the origin of work, defines the origin of wives, the origin of marriage and the purpose for marriage.
Origin of Sin and the Curse — Genesis 3 introduces us to Satan who appeared as a serpent. It explains the origin of sin, the presence of evil in the world and the curse of sin that exists on the world. Genesis 3:15 is the first prophecy of the future Messiah, who is Jesus Christ. Genesis 3:24 is the first mention of an angel — a cherubim.
Origin of Children, Murder, Cities, Polygamy and Music — Genesis 4 documents the first birth, first murders, first cities and first metal work.
Origin of Civilization — Genesis 5 provides the first genealogy of civilization.
Origin of Rain, Noah’s Ark, the Flood and the Rainbow — Genesis 6-9 explains the evidence that exists for a worldwide flood. Genesis 6:1-4 is about some of angels of God who produced children in some way with beautiful women.
Origin of False Religion and Languages — Genesis 11 documents the first false religion and the origin of languages. Genesis 12-50 are about Abraham and Isaac and their descendants through Joseph.
“When” – In the Beginning
The opening three words of Genesis 1:1 tell 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 to happen.
“Who” – God
The next word in Genesis 1:1 tells us who did something. The who is God. It is amazing that the Bible does not start with some philosophical argument about the existence of God. It just tells us that God exists and in the rest of Genesis 1 we are told what God 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 it 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. He is a trinity.
“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)
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 our 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 created everything good — the world and mankind (Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31), but mankind sinned and destroyed paradise. Now men and women live in a world filled with hate, evil and disease.
God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. Genesis 1:31 (NASB)
God made everything good, but men and women love evil. Just look at the world around us. God had given men and women some freedom to make things worse or better. Men and women chose to do evil. Even their best deeds are evil. Their deeds are self-centered. God allows men and women to make their lives worse. But God has provided a solution to the problem of immoral behavior. A person can become a Christian by believing in Jesus, have their sins forgiven and live with God forever. Otherwise, they will spend eternity in another place that God has created called hell.
1. Gleason L. Archer. A Survey of Old Testament Introdction. Moody Press. 1996. p. 154.
Suggested Links:Genesis Q&A
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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”?
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