The text we are studying for Sunday, September 9 is Genesis 1:14-25 – the next three days of creation, just up to the creation of humankind. Here are my [few] notes on that text:
BACKGROUND AND CONTEXT: We are still working our way through the narrative of God’s original creation. According to one commentary, in the first part of the narrative God establishes three realms (light and darkness; sky; earth with vegetation); now, God fills those regions with inhabitants.
CLOSER READING: The lights in the “dome of the sky” (v14) seem to be distinct from the “primordial light” that begins the story. There is more than one way to think about this. Rashi understands God to have created the lights on the first day, and then placed them on day four. But we might want to think of light itself as being distinct from the individual bearers of light we observe in the sky.
The lights are to rule the day and the night. It might be possible to think of this rule as meaning “regulate” – that would be consistent with the language of the lights being for signs and seasons and days and years. (“Regulate” is a synonym for “rule,” actually, but it feels different somehow. Technically, the thermostat rules the temperature in the living room, but we don’t usually complain that the thermostat is bossy or trying to “rule the roost.”) It would be equally accurate to say the lights “have dominion” over the day and night, according to the lexicon. This might be something to think about, too, though it’s not the same word translated as “dominion” in v26.
The narrator gives a lot of space to the lights.
In v20 the waters bring forth living things, in the same way that the earth brings forth vegetation back in v12; in v21 this bringing forth is identified as God’s creation.
There’s a similar structure on day six, when God says “let the earth bring forth living creatures,” which are then attributed to God’s making in v25.
God likes collaboration, we might be tempted to conclude.
Other readers note that God blesses the sea creatures and the birds. (Rashi says this is because they need it, because people hunt them and eat them, although this activity doesn’t seem to be authorized immediately, pace v29.) It isn’t clear, though, that we ought to make too much out of the observation that God does not bless the beasts of the earth.
The beasts of the earth are categorized in an interesting way (v24): cattle, creeping things, and wild animals. To me this seems like a human way to think about animals: the ones we herd (and eat and sacrifice), the ones we try to keep out of the house, and the ones we and the cattle have to run away from.
In any event, God sees that it is good in each case (vvv18, 21, 25).