The text we’re studying for Sunday, September 9 is Genesis 1:14-25, the continuation of the account of God’s creation of the heavens and the earth. We’re on days four through six this week. [Some notes on the text are here.] Here are a few questions that we might want to give some thought to or consider in class:
[An aside: In light of Calvin’s comment about “true and certain wisdom” consisting of “the knowledge of God and of ourselves” (Institutes I.1.i), I think we’re generally looking for more of one or both of those kinds of knowledge when we study Scripture, at least ultimately. But the Genesis 1 text seems to lend itself emphatically to thinking about what we are learning about God. Because, although we might think it’s all about the heavens and the earth, which it is, in a way, God is the sole actor and speaker in this text. It really is all about God. This is just by way of explaining why it seems like there’s really only one question here: what does this tell us about God?]
Do we want to do any thinking about the relationship of the individual lights (vv14-18) to the primordial light (vv3-5), which precedes them? Do we have any particular image of this relationship? (E.g., do we think of the heavenly bodies as containers for the light, sort of like hurricane lamps? Or do we think of them as sources of light? Or what?) Where do we have this image from? (School? Television? The lights in the living room? …) Where does this line of thinking get us? How do we feel about that? Why?
What do we understand the term “rule” to mean in v16 and 18? For whose benefit are the lights going to “be for signs and seasons and for days and years” (v14), do we think? (E.g., is this preparation for the humans, or is it for the benefit of other creatures at this point, like the plants, who are already alive, or the animals who are soon to come?) Why do we think this? We have been dealing with living creatures since v12 – should we think we are back to inanimate creation in v14, or do we think we are still dealing with creatures that are alive [maybe we’ll want to add “in some sense”]? What difference does our answer make? Why, do we think? What does God’s incorporation of this cosmic ordering system into creation tell us about God?
When we read vv14-19, what image or images do we have in mind? For instance, do we think of God making a science project, do we imagine something rather small? Do we think of God making something vast, on the scale we would hear about at the Adler Planetarium? What do we see in our mind’s eye? Why is that, do we think? What difference does our answer seem to make for our awareness of God?
[Another aside: Thinking of this made me think of a video our daughter shared with us, that she had seen when she took astronomy last year. It was cool, and eye-opening. And remember: this is just the solar system. When it comes to the universe …
When we think of the waters swarming and birds flying above the earth (v20), what images come to mind? Where do those images come from? When we hear about the sea monsters, what comes to mind? Again, from where? God includes the sea monsters in the “good” God sees in v21. (We might want to compare Job 41 here.) Does this tell us anything about God, and about the difference in God’s perspective on goodness and ours? What? How comfortable or uncomfortable are we with that? Why?
The words “every kind” are repeated (twice in v21, twice again in v24, three times in v25). Why, do we think? What does thinking of the many kinds of sea creatures, birds, and animals bring to mind? What does this tell us about God? Why do we say that?
[Another aside: this makes me think of the Creator’s “inordinate fondness for beetles” – a quote that showed up in a paper by a professor of mine once – which of course I couldn’t find a copy of, but the Quote Investigator does have an entry on the quote, which seems to have come from J.B.S. Haldane.]
God blesses the sea and air creatures in v22, specifically telling them to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” How do we hear this blessing? (E.g., does it sound tender to us, friendly, commanding, …?) What gives us that impression, do we think? What difference does our answer make for how we understand this text?
What if we consider ways the creation might have been different? (For instance, God wouldn’t have been compelled to fill it with fish and birds …; or light, for that matter; …) Does this thought experiment give us any appreciation for specific features of this particular creation? Any insight into God’s intentions in incorporating these specific features? What insight is that?