Genesis: In the beginning...

A Bible Study on Genesis 1-11

creation3.gif (6364 bytes) LESSON 1

For Devotions:

bulletRead Psalm 8.
bulletIn your opening prayer, name some things in God’s creation for which you are particularly thankful.

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For Openers:

bulletIf you had been in charge of the creation of the universe, what is something you might have not bothered to create?
bulletThe most beautiful place I have ever seen is...
bulletWhat is the best thing you have made with your own hands?

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For Your Information:

bulletRead through Genesis 1.1-2.3 and:
bulletcircle the word "good" every time it appears,
bulletnumber each day by marking it in the margin,
bulletunderline every verb which indicates something that God did.
bulletFor the time before creation and each day of creation write down or draw what happened on that day. (Use this printable table, if you want.)
bullet1.1-2 - Be sure to note any footnotes your translation may have to these verses. Read John 1.1-2 to see the context within which we Christians make sense of creation.
bullet1.5 - Note that it says, "And there was evening and there was morning..." The order of this wording explains why Israelites reckon days from sunset to sunset.
bullet1.6-8 - The description of God separating the "waters that were under the dome" from the "waters that were above the dome" reflects the ancient understanding of a flat earth with the "firmament" or "dome" of the sky as something like a hard bell that separated the waters above from those below. (Cf. Job 37.18 and Isaiah 42.5.)

1:26 - Who is the "us" when God says in verse 26, "Let us make humankind in our likeness..."? There are three possibilities. a) Traditionally in the Christian church the "us" has been understood as a reference to the Triune God which we confess: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. b) The "us" possibly reflects a grammatical circumlocution. That is, God does not say, "Let me make..." but instead God the Creator of all has made a decision that affects all creation. Speaking, therefore, on behalf of all who recognize him as King, God says, "Let us make..." c) Within the ancient Hebrew culture, it is more likely a reference to the heavenly court. (See #3c above and also 1 Kings 22:19; Job 1:6; Isaiah 6:1-3.) The text emphasizes the special attention with which God created humans (see 1:27 where "create" is used three times). But the text also wants to be clear that humans are not exactly the same as God. Not only are we created in the "image" of God, but it is also an image that we share more vaguely with all the heavenly beings. (See Psalm 8:5 and note the footnote to the verse.)

bullet2.1-3 - Recall that this Sabbath day in Judaism is celebrated from Friday evening to Saturday evening. Why then do we now celebrate the Sabbath on Sunday? (Hint: Mark 16.2.)

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For Discussion:

  1.     Look at the verbs used to describe God’s activity. What creative things does God do? What is the main thing that God does in creation?
  2.     1.1-2 - Does the Bible tell us anything about what existed before the creation of the heavens and the earth? What difference would it make to translate, "In a beginning..."? What difference would it make to translate, "... when God began to create..."?
  3.     1.1-2 - What are some words you would use to describe what things were like before God began creating? Does the world and universe today seem to be heading back to this state or away from it?
  4.     1.3-5 - What did God not say was "good"? How might this be significant?
  5.     In what way was creation good? For what was it good?
  6.     1.9-13 - Why is there such an emphasis on "seeds"?
  7.     1.14-19 - Why did God make the sun, moon, and stars?
  8.     1.20-23 - How is the creation of the water animals and birds different from how God created the other things?
  9.     1.29-30 - According to these verses, are people allowed to eat animals for food? Is this an argument for vegetarianism?
  10.     2.1-3 - What sets the seventh day apart from the others? How do you bless and hallow the Sabbath day? Is it okay to work on the Sabbath day? What do you think of the suggestion by Walter Brueggemann that the Sabbath is "an antidote to the enormous anxiety we have about the fragility of the world"?
  11.     Is there any logic to the order in which things were created? Are humans the ‘crown’ of creation, or were we created last because we are most dependent on all that had already been created?
  12.     What does it mean in 1.26 for humans to be created in the "image" of God?
  13.     Can a person come to know God by studying nature?
  14.     Is there a contradiction between Genesis and the theory of evolution?
            Internet Extra! The Lutheran magazine featured some very helpful articles summarizing recent developments in this debate. Click here to read them.
  15.     1.28 says that humans are to "subdue" the earth and "have dominion" over it? What does this mean in regard to environmental policy? To research involving animals?
  16.     In what way are we humans ‘creative’? (What other things in creation are creative?) Are we creative for good or not?
  17.     What is the point of this story of creation? How does it fit into the big picture of the Biblical story?
  18.     When might be a time in your life when you will especially want to reflect on this passage again?
  19.     Consider how some artists have interpreted this passage in Genesis. Some musical  examples worth studying include:
    bulletBruce Cockburn's "Lord of the Starfields" from his 1976 album, In the Falling Dark - Click here for the lyrics. A commentary on Cockburn's spiritual journey is available here.
    bulletSteven Curtis Chapman's "King of the Jungle" from his album, Heaven in the Real World - Click here for the lyrics. A RealAudio clip is available here.

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For Later:

bulletRead and relate Psalm 33, Psalm 104, and/or John 1.1-14 to the Genesis 1.1-2.3 story.
bulletFor a devotional approach to the story of creation, read Psalm 148 or sing the hymn "Earth and All Stars" (LBW #558).
bulletMake specific plans on how you will keep the Sabbath day holy.

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NEXT LESSON:What's in a Name?

Mark G. Vitalis Hoffman

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