The Fifth Creative YOM

Understanding The Creation 04

Genesis 1:20–23

At this stage, there were seas, land, vegetation, fruit trees, and signs of seasons, months and years on the earth. But the size of the forest or how many kinds of plants existed were unknown to all of Bible readers. In the lesson last week, we encountered the difficulties in explaining the reason why the celestial bodies were mentioned in the fourth creative Yom as if they were created at that time. The fact that God announced the purpose for the lights on the fourth Yom does not mean they had not already been performing that purpose since “the beginning.” The point of the narrative is to show that God waited until the fourth Yom to explain His purpose for creating the sun, moon, and stars in “the beginning.” Why did God wait until the fourth Yom to announce the purpose of the sun, moon, and stars? The answer lies in the overall structure of the creation account.

The parallel relationship between the events of the first three Yoms and the last three Yoms has long been recognized. On the first three Yoms, God’s activity focused consecutively on the sky, the seas and the land. On the last three Yoms, God’s activities again focused on those three realms. On the fourth Yom, God commanded the sun, moon, and stars to distinguish day and night and all the signs and seasons (1:14–15). On the fifth Yom, God commanded the seas to swarm with fish, and sea creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the skies. On the sixth Yom, He commands the land to bring forth animal life. Having prepared, in consecutive order, the skies, the seas, and the land on the first three Yoms; God, on the last three Yoms, proclaimed the purpose for those things which were to fill the skies, the seas, and the land. God waited, therefore, until the fourth Yom to make known His plan for the signs that were to fill the skies.

On the fifth Yom, God populated the land with many kind of living creatures. The text divides the fifth Yom into two stages extending into the sixth Yom. The narrative of the fifth Yom follows a familiar pattern. In v.20, God speaks (‘And God said’), and in v.21, God acts (‘So God created…’). As in the other sections of this narrative, if we careful attention to detail, it can help us see clearly the author’s overall purpose. First, the word “created” (bara) is used. It is used six times in the creation account (1:1, 21, 27; 2:3). In other places in Genesis 1, the word make (asah) is used to describe God’s actions. Why is the verb bara used to describe God’s actions on the fifth Yom? In particular, why are the “great sea creatures” (1:21) singled out by the use of this word “bara?

One suggestion is that the use of the word “bara” is intended to mark the beginning of a new stage in the creation account. For the first time, we hear of the creation of the “living beings,” a group distinct from the vegetation and physical world of the previous Yoms. Each new stage in creation is thus marked by the verb “bara:” the universe; the living creatures, and humanity. “And God said, Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens. So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.” (1:20–21). The use of bara on the fifth Yom also may be related to the notion of the blessing, which is mentioned for the 1st time in that Yom.

How did God create the living creatures that move? Genesis 2:19 wrote “Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.” If we just focus on the narrarive of chapter 1 and not pay attention to the description of how those birds were created in the next chapter, many may think God spoke into existence of those creatures in an instant. Nay, the above verse says that He formed them from the dirt of the ground and made them become living creatures. This account once again proved that it took time for those creatures to be created. They did not appear instantly as a bolt of lightning.

Birds are totally different from fish. God created the body of each kind of animal amazingly. They have a system to breathe, a system to digest, a system of blood circulation, the neural system, and an excretory system. The Bible does not say how did God create them, but it’s clear that He created every details in the body of living beings. The more we learn, the more we found that the body of each animal was fearfully and wonderfully made by God. How did He create them is still a mystery to any human mind. Because the creative Yom have been shown to be long periods of time, therefore, the “great sea creatures” likely reference the dinosaurs or large crocodiles. We really do not know when did the dinosaurs appear of how were they extinct. But in Cambodia, on a wall of the temple Angkor Wat, a carving of a dinosaur is very clear; or in Peru, numerous burial stones depict men interacting with great beasts that look like dinosaurs. Some have long necks and long tails; others have pointed structures on their spines, small forearms, and vicious teeth. Those things point out that those people had seen the dinosaurs or heard about them in their time.

Does anyone ask how did those sea creatures, living creatures in water, and birds find the food for themselves after they were created? In the third Yom, God had prepared plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit enough for all the living creatures will be created on the fifth and sixth Yoms. God told the first two humans: “And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food” (1:30). When examining these details, we could see that the third Yom was a very long stage. It may consist of many long periods of time. Because God set the law of physics for the plants to yield seeds, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, it must take time for them to grow, yielding seed; the plants then expanded to become fields and forests. There must be a lot of fruits that fell into the waters to prepare enough food for the fish.

Some people have been claiming that at the moment when vegetation, and trees, and fish, and birds were created, they were in a great number; plants filled the dry land, fish swarmed the waters, and birds filled the sky on the earth. But the following verse tells otherwise: “And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth” (Genesis 1:22). If the fish must multiply to fill the waters in the seas, and the birds must multiply to fill the earth, then at the moment of their creation, they were not in great numbers. We really don’t know how many kinds or how great the number of each kind were created. Perhaps there were hundreds of pairs of each kind when they were created and then multiplied later.

Once again we read “and there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day” (23), after God created all the sea creatures, every living creature that moves, and all of the birds. The end of the fifth long period of time had come, and the beginning of the sixth long period had arrived. The finding the real meaning of the statement “and there was evening and there was morning” answer many difficult questions when we read Genesis One. The story of creation in this chapter is the briefest of summaries; it does not give an account of everything that happened. But a carefully studying of Genesis One will bring us to many new and interesting discoveries of God’s creation.


Rev. Dr. CTB