Today we read the second part of the creation story from chapter one of the Book of Genesis, days five, six and seven. I am sure that they split the story up into these parts to provide readings of about the same length on both Monday and Tuesday. However, it might have been better to split them a little differently in terms of helping us to understand the readings and the order in which things were created.
On days one, two and three, God created light thereby creating day and night, separated the waters thereby creating the sky, and then created the earth and its vegetation. On days four, five and six, God “populated” these three created realms. On day four God created the sun, the moon, and the stars. On day five, God created the birds of the air and the fish of the sea. On day six, God created the creatures and man which inhabit the earth. There is a special kind of order expressed in this division of God’s labors.
Today’s reading also features the first poetry of the Bible which is 40% poetry. Fittingly, that poetic statement concerns the creation of Adam and Eve:
God created mankind in his image;
in the image of God he created them;
male and female* he created them. (Genesis 1:27)
In every instance, God looks at what God has created and decides that it is good. When it comes to the creation of mankind, the sacred writer qualifies that statement by saying that it is very good.
The nations that surrounded Israel worshipped various idols and gods and goddesses. They are often represented by the various elements of the universe. Notably, the Book of Genesis reveals that God created all of these figures. It is the purpose of the sacred writer to leave it unequivocally stated that all of the pagan gods and idols were created by the God of Israel.
Genesis is the first book of the Bible, but it was not the first book to be written. It is not meant to be a historical record of God’s activity. It is a reflection on the human situation and the created universe. It uses the cultural milieu of Israel to reflect on their faith in God. Consequently, the fact that God rests on the seventh day, the fact that the calendar is divided into groups of seven (the perfect number in their thinking), and the fact that humankind is given dominion over the whole of creation speaks to this peoples way of thinking about the universe.
Tomorrow we will hear yet another creation story that is markedly different in both its order and its expression of humankinds place in the created order. This story comes from a different tradition and from a different cultural milieu. Even in the first chapters of the Scriptures we find that there were differing opinions. However, more about that tomorrow.
For today, we simply marvel at the fact that God’s work of creation, all of the elements of the universe and all of the creatures that populate it, are good, very good.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator