Preface Introduction Chapters Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Appendices Appendix I Appendix II Appendix III Appendix IV Appendix V Appendix VI Appendix VII Appendix VIII Appendix IX Appendix X Appendix XI Appendix XII Appendix XIII Appendix XIV Appendix XV Appendix XVI Appendix XVII Appendix XVIII Appendix XIX Appendix XX Appendix XXI Indexes References Names Biblical References General Bibliography
The Meaning of Exodus 20.11.
It is very frequently argued that the wording of Exod. 20.11, "For
in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in
them is, and rested on the seventh day....", excludes the possibility
of a gap between Gen. 1.1 and 1.2 because the whole process of
creation was completed within these six days. Those who argue thus
assume that the days are literal days - and in this, I think they are
quite correct. But it is of tremendous importance in studying the
Word of God to observe the precision with which words are used,
especially where some important doctrine or institution is involved.
What we are told here is that God in six days "made" (  , 'asah)
the heavens and the earth. It does not say that He created (
bara) them in six days.
I have seen it argued that these verbs are interchangeable because
they are used sometimes in successive verses with what appears to
be identical meaning. For example, in Gen. 1.26 it is written, "And
God said, Let us make man in our image after our likeness....", and
in verse 27, "So God created man in His image, in the image of God
created He him". Superficially, the two verbs do appear to be
equated here. But as Origen and other early commentators noted,
by carefully observing what is said and what is NOT said in these two
verses, there is an important lesson to be learned, and the lesson
hinges upon the difference in meaning between these two governing
verbs, 'asah and bara.
It is often found that light is shed upon the fundamental meaning
of a word by noting the way in which it is first used in Scripture. The
verb 'asah appears significantly in this respect in Gen. 1.16: "And
God made two great lights...." It seems unlikely that the sun and the
moon were not created until the fourth day since green things would
hardly be brought into being before the sun was created. The ref-
erence in Gen. 1.16 seems more likely to refer not to a creation but
rather to the appointment of the sun and moon as rulers of the Day
and Night: they were appointed as markers of time ("signs" - verse
14), precisely as Psa. 104.19 indicates; "He appointed the moon for
seasons", If we allow that the basic meaning of the Hebrew verb
'asah is not creation but rather the giving of a new role to something
already in existence, then we have plenty of illustrations throughout
Scripture of the use of this verb in this sense.
In the New Testament we are told that Jesus was made a High
Priest after the order of Melchizedec (Heb. 6.20). This illustrates
the sense in which "made" means "appointed". In I Ki. 12.51 we
have a quite exact parallel where we are told that Jeroboam appointed
('asah) priests of the lowest of the people. In Amos 3.6 the question
is asked, "Is there evil in any city and God hath not appointed ('asah)
In the Old Testament where the word 'asah forms part of a personal
name, it is most appropriately rendered by the English "appointed".
Thus we have in II Sam.2.18 the name Ahasel, meaning "God has
appointed". In II Ki. 12.14 we have the name Asahiah which means
"Jah has appointed". Inl Chron. 4.35 we have Asihel, which means
"appointed of God".
The word is used of dressing a calf for a meal, ie., preparing it
(Gen. 18. 7,8; Jud. 13.15). It is used of trimming a beard (II Sam.
19.25). In Deut.21.12 it is used of trimming one's nails! And
in Esther 1.5 it is used of preparing a feast for the court.
Strong's exhaustive Concordance of the Bible gives a number
of meanings to the verb, including the word "appoint", but never the
meaning "to create". The word is employed in speaking of the
clothes which God made for man (Gen. 3.21), and of clothing which
man makes for himself (Exod. 28.2 f.). It always involves working
over something which already exists, and usually with a view to
changing its form. Sometimes it has more precisely the idea of
appointment in the sense that the making is in the future: a multitude
of descendants, for example (Gen. 13.16). And it may have the
meaning of appointment in a more abstract sense as when a covenant is
made between God and Israel (Gen. 9.12). At least within biblical
usage it never means the creation of something out of nothing.
In Isa.45.18 we find a whole series of verbs setting forth God's
plan for the earth in which He is said to have created it (bara),
fashioned it (yatsar), appointed it ('asah), and established it (kun).
Each word has a specific meaning, and it is not merely re-iteration.
Allowing the word, then, to bear the sense of appointment rather
than assuming that it is a synonym for creation, we may observe
in Gen. 1.26 that God appointed for man that he should bear His
image and His likeness: but that when the plan was put into effect
and man is spoken of as having been created, reference is made
only to the image - and significantly, no reference is made to the
likeness. We may gather from this that while both image and
likeness were appointed ('asah), only the image itself was created
(bara) by God, the achievement of the likeness being left as some-
thing to be wrought out by experience.
Origen noted, rightly, that while God intended that man should
bear both His image and His likeness, He created only the image,
whereas the likeness was something which was "appointed", some-
thing to be achieved, to be wrought out in life by the individual who
therefore has a responsible part to play in the achieving of it. A
number of passages indicate that the image has to do with relation-
ship, in fact with sonship, and as a consequence of this relationship
involves also in a certain sense ownership. As Jesus said of the
coin (Lu. 20.24), the image which was stamped upon it signified that
it belonged to Caesar. The image, when it is stamped upon man,
signifies likewise that he belongs to God, and not only that he belongs
to God as something possessed but rather that he belongs to God as
a son belongs to his father. Hence it is common to find in the New
Testament that when a man by new birth becomes a son of God
(Jn. 1.12), he is at the same moment re-created in the image of God,
to restore the image lost in the Fall. The image, therefore, is
something which God creates, and it gives to the individual his unique
relationship with his Creator. God is not the father of His creatures
merely because He created them, for He created the cattle also but
this does not make Him their father. But unlike all other creatures,
man was created at first, and is re-created, in the "image of God"
and thereby achieves his sonship.
But as to the likeness, it is appointed for man but it is not created,
it is something to be achieved through experience but it is not imposed.
The force of Satan's initial temptation was that man might achieve
this likeness (Gen. 3.5: "Ye shall become like God") by the wrong
means. David said he would only be satisfied when he awoke with
His likeness (Psa.17.15). When John wrote his first Epistle he
said (I Jn.3.1,2): "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath
be stowed upon us that we should be called the sons of God.... Be-
loved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what
we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be
like Him...." Our assurance is that we are, right now, sons, for
by an act of God we have had His image stamped upon us: but we do
also have the assurance that the appointed likeness will yet be achiev-
ed, being brought to perfection when He comes.
Thus by taking care to distinguish between words which super-
ficially seem to be indistinguishable, Scripture sheds a new light
upon the original purposes of God and how they will be fulfilled. The
word 'asah does not mean "to create", but rather "to make" in the
English sense of "appointing".
I do not suggest that the meaning of appointment is the only meaning
of 'asah. It has other meanings which come close to the common
English word "make" in the sense of doing or working at something.
But the fact is that the meaning of appointment, in the sense of
working upon something which already exists in order to effect a
change in it until it becomes something further is commonly involved.
So that when we are told in Exod.20.11 that God made heaven and
earth in six days, we are not called upon to assume that this has
reference to the original creation. We may be quite justified in
reading this as a reference to the re-working of something which is
already in existence, just as the sun and the moon and the stars may
very well have been in existence long before they were appointed to
mark the times and the seasons for man who was about to be intro-
duced. Exod.20.11 surely refers to the work of these six: days
not as a time of creation ex nihilo but as a time in which a ruined
cosmos was re-ordered as a fit habitation for man. And when this
re-ordering was completed, God rested.
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Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved