Saturday, January 18, 2014

Old Testament Lesson 3: The Creation

"The three pillars of eternity, the three events, preeminent and transcendent above all others, are the creation, the fall, and the atonement. These three are the foundations upon which all things rest. Without any one of them all things would lose their purpose and meaning, and the plans and designs of Deity would come to naught."                                              Bruce R. McConkie The Three Pillars of Eternity
Today we will study the first pillar of these three pillars: The Creation. I have gone through it verse by verse as I feel there is just too much in these few simple verses to miss if we discuss general topics. But I have done so in the hope that it will bring to mind feelings of gratitude and joy for this wonderful creation that has given us so much. Do not get so caught up in the details that you forget to enjoy the overall beauty of this earth and all that is in it.

Period 1 of Creation: Light
v.2-5 (Moses 2, Genesis 1, Abraham 4)

v.2 the creation story of earth starts by indicating there were already materials to work with: darkness, waters, and an earth without form/void which was desolate/empty = matter, just not organized matter and unable to have growth due to absence of light. Darkness stunts our growth.This was not 'ex nihilo' (creation out of nothing) but creation using materials. God is the master chemist/physicist/biologist/scientist. He creates/He organizes.  Is the Spirit of God referring to the Holy Ghost or to the premortal spirit of Jesus Christ? cf John 1:1-5 Was it their mere presence as beings of light that created the light or was it introduced through some more mysterious process involving moving over the waters. 

v.3 the most basic element of life - LIGHT.  Light was necessary as much as water or earth. Aside from needing light to see what you are doing (ever tried to get that screwdriver out of the tool box in the shed/garage without a light? Ouch!), you also need light to grow things. Every seed you wish to grow needs earth, water and light. They need light to grow. Darkness alone will not create or grow life. Thus all this dark matter had to have an ingredient added - light. The only people that could add light are those who have light. Godhead. God the Father, Jesus Christ the Word and the Holy Ghost are the source of light. cf Doctrine and Covenants 88:7-13

v.4 "saw the light, that it was good"divides light from darkness (light divides by it's very introduction, it creates opposites as darkness cannot exist where there is light). This is the very same process as happened to the intelligences in the pre-mortal existence. Organization of intelligences seems to have created a natural division between those that were noble and great and those with darkness within. When God saw the noble and great ones with their light, he saw that they were good. cf Abraham 3:22-23 

v.5 the period of earth with darkness and the period of earth with light were considered as part of the same period of creation. Note that evening comes before morning in the measure of time. So too, to this day, the Jewish culture considers the day to begin in the evening (eg. their Sabbath or Shabbat begins once it gets dark on our Friday evening and goes through until Saturday's light is finished).

v.5 in Moses 2 very interesting differences to Genesis
  • "this I did by the word of my power" (Jesus Christ = Creator)
  • "and it was done as I spake" (all things obeyed God)
Who do we know wants to take the credit away from Christ and wants us to think it is ok to rebel against God? Seems to me Satan used his influence to have these two key facts removed from the text of the Old Testament.

Period 2 of Creation: Firmament (Universe/Heavens/Atmosphere)
v.6-8 (Moses2, Genesis 1, Abraham 4)

v.6-7 Abraham seems to clarify what Moses said in his account - that the firmament actually was designed to divide the waters mentioned in v.2 - waters above from waters below the firmament
v.6 and it was so even as I spake (again obedience highlighted)

What are these waters? When the waters were divided what became of the waters above the firmament? Are those the waters in the atmosphere, like rain, etc? Or are these waters some other waters beyond the boundaries of our universe?
Another creation, but this time no mention of it being good. Why was it not mentioned? Was it not as good? Did it just not satisfy God as much as other parts of his creations?

Period 3 of Creation: Sea, Dry Land, Seeded grass, plants and trees
v.9-13 (Moses 2, Genesis 1, Abraham 4)

v.9 "let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place" This seems to be in agreement with scientists who believe that the earth began as one single large land mass (Pangaea) and one single large sea mass (Panthalassa) cf Genesis 10:25 (earth divided in days of Peleg)
v.10 dry land called Earth; waters called Sea or Great Water. He saw that it was good.
v.11-12 grass, plants and trees all with ability to produce life from within themselves are created. Notice that with the introduction of light, and a suitable atmosphere, and then with the separation and order of land and water, the environment was now able to sustain life that could reproduce. This in turn sets the scene for animal and human life that needs the oxygen produced by the plants, to breath. Everything in its order. Organized, planned, perfect.
Once more it was even as he spake and once more he saw that it was good.
v.12 note the phrase "to bring forth..from its own seed, yielding fruit, whose seed could only bring forth the same in itself, after his kind" used for the grass, the herbs and the fruit trees. This seems like a very pointed thing to say. Why? What was the Lord thinking here? Was he already dispelling the philosophies of man that would suggest a more evolutionary process where species adapt into other species? Is it different in plant life to animal life?
v.13 Abraham adds an interesting sentence before telling us this was the third day. He says, "And it came to pass that they numbered the days." Why this little additional explanation? We can see they were numbering the days, he already indicated that twice before. So why does he clarify now that they were numbering the days? Is this a little nod to the role of mathematics in the creation?

Period 4 of Creation: Sun, Moon and stars
v14-19 (Moses 2, Genesis 1, Abraham 4)

v.14-15 why was there a need for extra lights? Wasn't the Day and the Night already separated? We are told they will be used as signs and symbols and to help predict the seasons and tell time (days and years) but it then reasserts that these lights will be there to give light upon the earth. So why? Maybe as the Lord was the current source of light, they needed to create more permanent light fixtures for earth as he wouldn't always be around?
v.16 "I God, made two great lights...and the stars also were made." In the context of this scripture, the stars seem much less important or worthy. When considering this sentiment in relation to their symbolism to the three degrees of glory (cf 1 Corinthians 15:40-42) it would seem the Lord is making a strong case for us avoiding the glory of the stars (cf Doctrine and Covenants 76:81-86, 98-112).
v.18 Abraham makes a fascinating diversion from the other accounts in Moses and Genesis here, when he indicates that the Gods waited and "watched those things which they had ordered until they obeyed". I find this a fascinating insight into the creation. These things did not happen in an instant. Creation is a process. It takes patience and hard work. And it involves agency. Does "ordered" mean commanded or set in place in this verse? If they were waiting does it imply all creation has agency?

Period 5 of Creation: Water creatures and winged birds
v.20-23 (Moses 2, Genesis 1, Abraham 4)

v.20 "let the waters bring forth" - is this suggesting the water was a key element in creating the moving creatures of the sea? "Abundantly" - doesn't seem any sign that the Lord intended for things to run out. 

v.21 "after their kind" again it seems this key phrase is aimed at refuting any suggestion of cross species evolution.

v.22 God blessed the fowl of the air and the creatures of the sea to be fruitful and multiply and "fill" the sea and the earth. An interesting part of the creation I had not ever considered before. Why did he bless these and not the other creations prior to this?

Period 6 of Creation: Earth beasts, insects, animals. Adam and Eve.
v.24-31 (Moses 2, Genesis 1, Abraham 4)

v.26-27 "in our image, after our likeness" - male and female. This verse seems pretty clear in indicating we are modelled after divine beings who are male and female. Being one of the few to have seen the Father and the Son, Joseph Smith is qualified more than most to explain more to us: 
"God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret...if you were to see Him today, you would see Him like a man in form - like yourselves in all the person, image and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God..."
How was Adam created? cf Moses 6:59

v.26, 28 mankind is given dominion of fishes of the sea, beasts of the earth and fowls of the air. Here is our first kingdom. How do we rule over this world we are given to govern? Do we look after it, do we help it to grow and live or do we extinguish and destroy it? These verses really imply a lot about our purpose and divine destiny. We, of all the creations were the only ones modelled after God, made like Him and given the potential to be as Him. We were even given a kingdom to rule over in preparation for the many kingdoms we could rule over if we prove able and worthy. All of this is found in the first chapter of the first book of scripture available to mankind all over the world. There is no doubting that if they want to, mankind can know who they are and what their purpose really is.

v.28 another blessing, this time to mankind. Abraham's version seems to indicate that the Fall was definitely part of the plan. "We will cause them to be fruitful and multiply...". Considering when they were first created in a state of innocence they would not have been able to have children, this is a very powerful statement of intent.

v.25,31 God saw that all of his animal creations were good but what does he say of those he made in his image? "very good" This is the first very good of all His creations. It seems to me that God got the most joy and personal satisfaction when he created man. 

Period 7 of Creation: Sabbath Day
v.2-3 (Moses 3, Genesis 2, Abraham 5)

v.2-3 How did God make the Sabbath? God rested from all his work, but he still did create something in the 7th period - the sabbath - he blessed the day and sanctified it. The verb to bless in this verse comes from the Hebrew word "varech" which implies kneeling. Sanctified comes from the Hebrew word "kaddesh" which implies setting apart, consecrating for something special, or holy. To me there is a general sense that this day was a day to look back on all that had been accomplished and to give thanks that it was good. Now of course the question might be asked - who do the Gods have to give thanks to? Maybe that's another lesson another day but certainly it was a day of reflection on and resting from earthly matters. A day of holiness and a day of blessing. I believe this is a great way to regard our Sabbath. (cf Doctrine and Covenants 84:24 for another definition of rest: "fulness of his glory")

Garden of Eden
v.8-15 (Moses 3, Genesis 2) v.8-13 (Abraham 5)

Why did God create this garden? If everything he had thus created all over the earth was so good why the need for this garden?
I believe a teacher who knows the importance of setting a controlled environment for their classroom will probably understand why. Notice the location of the two trees mentioned  -tree of life and tree of knowledge of good and evil. God commanded Adam and Eve not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil but yet he set this forbidden tree, not in the corner, not protected and shielded, but right in the middle and he made it pleasant to the sight! As a teacher who wants his pupils to learn something, that is a great way to guide the class to learn the lessons they need to learn while still giving them agency to choose for themselves. 

Abraham is alone in the 3 accounts of the creation in indicating that at this point Adam had not been appointed his time of reckoning. The verse (Abraham 5:3) implies that somehow this garden and Adam were still close to the dwelling place of God. What does this mean? Is it significant? Should we deduce from this that it was only when the Fall happened that the earth fell into it's present orbit and present reckoning of time?

v.18-23 (Moses 3, Genesis 2) v.14-19 (Abraham)

"it is not good that man should be alone"
"an help meet"
It is clear that it was not part of the plan to have Adam live alone. Eve was to live in eternal partnership with Adam - working together, complementing each other in tandem for the good of the earth and to help multiply. They were always meant to be equal in partnership while possessing different skills and qualities that when united create life and a perfect environment for growing life.

"The story of the rib, of course, is figurative"                                                                                                       Spencer W. Kimball 
So what does it symbolize then? 
"Interesting to me is the fact that animals fashioned by our Creator, such as dogs and cats, have thirteen pairs of ribs, but the human being has one less with only twelve. I presume another bone could have been used, but the rib, coming as it does from the side, seems to denote partnership. The rib signifies neither dominion nor subservience, but a lateral relationship as partners, to work and to live, side by side."                                                                                    Russell M. Nelson 

"Caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam" - if this story is figurative and there was no surgery and rib removal, why did Adam need to sleep. As you read the scriptures you may notice that sleep precedes the covenants the Lord makes with both Abraham and Jacob. Many stories also indicate instructions and blessings coming in dreams. Could it be that Adam was being taught or put under covenant as he was being introduced to Eve?

Other insights:

Maths and the creation - aside from the days of creation being numbered, did you notice how much division and multiplication is included in the story of the creation. It would seem that division is a eternal principle of organization and growth. I am sure those more mathematically minded than myself could add insight on this topic. But if you get a moment consider just consider how cells divide over and over in the creation of a new life. 

"Let there be" - seems to be suggesting "allowing" or creating the environment where natural laws can be enacted and obeyed.

Length of the Creation
"Some decades ago, the Council of the Twelve Apostles was asked to settle the controversy about the time required for the Creation and the length of a “day” in the Creation.  Some members of the Church took the position that a day was a 24-hour period; some believed that a day was an indeterminate period of time designated by accomplishment of events rather than a particular duration of set time measurements; and others were of the opinion that a day in the Creation was the same as stated in Peter 3:8 where Peter said that “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years” (See also Abraham 3:4).  The decision of the Quorum was that the Lord had not revealed the length of the Creation—therefore, a Latter-day Saint may chose to believe any of those definitions since no “doctrine” has been given which binds faithful saints to accept one definition over another." *Also see Old Testament Student Manual - Institute/Church Educational System (CES) - Religion 301, 3rd ed., pgs. 28-29 "How Old is the Earth?"

Organization and planning and one step at a time: do we often get overwhelmed at our week ahead. Do we feel that maybe there is too much to do and so little time to do it in? Do we panic about next Saturday without getting Monday under our belt? The order and planning of the creation is a great example of how to live our lives. And it seems it is one of the principles the Lord is expecting us to learn while we are here.
Maybe the lesson in all of this is that it doesn't matter how long it took, just as it doesn't matter how long it takes us to do something as long as we are actively doing it, organizing, sorting and dividing, creating and growing - and when it is completed make sure it is good or very good.

Still got questions?: cf Doctrine and Covenants 101:32-34

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