Biblical Chronology, Vol. 9, No. 11
Copyright James B. Jordan 1997
The third day completes the initial structuring work and the initial filling work. First, God separates land and sea, putting the sea below the land. This reproduces the configuration that has just been set up in heaven: land over sea. The earth is being modelled after heaven. There is now an altar-platform on the earth as well as right below heaven (the firmament). The configuration of the whole universe at this point can be diagrammed as follows:
Heaven: Throne (fire-matter-air)
Firmament: Outer space
Earth: Fire (firmament-heaven light)
Only at this point, in the middle the third day, is the structuring work "good," because now the earth has been made after the image of heaven.
Verse 9 does not say that the land was thrust up above the sea, but that the sea was gathered to that the land appeared. In other words, part of the land sank down and the water ran off from the rest of the land. The downward flow of the water is baptismal, we we have noted above.
The land is now ready to be productive; things can be generated out of it. Up to this point, conditions were not right; now they are. Plants appear. Plants are "machines" that convert water, air, fire (light), and earth into food and decoration. Plants are the initial form of glory over the land, replicating God’s glory in blossoms, scents, and food. Let us recall that man is made of soil, and so is destined also to be covered in glory. Perhaps it is noteworthy that glory was to be conferred on man by eating of the Tree of Knowledge, after the temporary probation. (That it was temporary is clear from 1:29.) Plants, the glory of the land, would pass on glory to man, made of the land. In the church, we get the glory of Christ from plants: bread and wine.
Only two kinds of plants are specified as having been made at this point. Only grain plants and fruit-bearing trees are mentioned. According to 2:5, the "shrubs of the earth" were not made at this point. This leaves many kinds of plants unaccounted for. We simply don’t know when God made other kinds of food plants, or when He made the plants of the water. It may be that grape vines were made on the third day, or it may be that, since Noah was the first to plant a vineyard, they did not appear until after the Flood (9:20, according to one way to translating this verse). All the same, fruits and grains are the foundation of fermented juice and bread and oil, the sacramental plant-products used in the Bible throughout. Every Israelite had his own field, vineyard, and olive grove: his own cosmos, as an image of God.
Let me suggest that the three kinds of plants mentioned in Genesis 1-2 are the root of the three special plants of the kingdom: fruit trees (olive; oil); grains (bread); shrubs (vines; wine). We shall find this same kind of triple list later in the chapter also.
Plants are the vestments of glory for the land. If we study covenant-making events later on the Bible, we find that being vested by God as His glorious servant is part of the covenant event, one way or another. This is most obvious in the vesting of Aaron, but baptism (which clothes us with water) is another example.
At the end of the third day, God has finished taking care of the three problems facing Him at the beginning. The world is no longer dark, unstructured, or empty. I shall be bold and suggest that these three problems reveal in a very general way the three Persons of God. Clearly, the Spirit gives the light, but we begin at the Throne of God with the Father speaking the Word and sending the Spirit. The filling or glorifying is to be associated with the Spirit, for He is the glorifier. The structure of the creation is to be associated with the Son, who holds all things in their place (Colossians 1:17); and the Son is the Firmament, the Mediator between heaven and earth.
grain bread – Son
olive oil – Spirit
wine – Father (the drink of rest and enthronement)
Finally, the completion of the initial work on the third day opens up the third-day theme that is found throughout the Bible. The third day is always the time of initial completion and judgment, which makes possible the last four days of the week.
Psalm 104:5-18 comments as follows. Initially the waters were over the mountains, but then they fled down to the seas. God set a boundary that they might not again cover the earth. This seems to include the Flood in its perspective, for only after the Flood was it true that the waters would never cover the earth again.
Various kinds of watering are mentioned: springs, streams, rain; and then the two kinds of plants we have seen mentioned on the third day: grass for cattle and bread for man in v. 14; wine, oil, and bread in v. 15.
Coming after the third day, when the initial work was completed, the fourth day is a preliminary sabbath. A study of the sabbath in the Bible will show that it is associated with enthroned rest, and the enthronement of rulers is the fourth-day theme.
The fourth day is the center of the week, and the center of the narrative, chiastically considered. If we read the narrative in a linear fashion, the climax is the sabbath; but if we read it chiastically, we move inward to the central thought, which as we have just noted is a preliminary sabbath. It is the beauty of chiastic writing that it enables the writer to do several things at once. He can put the opening and final thoughts at the beginning and end, and the central or governing thought in the center. Also, he moves up to the central or pivotal thought, and then back out.
Thus, the fourth day is central. Man, made on the sixth day, is symbolically positioned in the firmament, made on the second. Now man is described in terms of lights placed in the firmament. Under the Old Creation, these angelically-administered lights governed time, festivals, important days and years, and ruled the earth. In the New Creation, in Christ, man now does these things, which is why the Old Creation calendar is superseded in Christ.
The fourth day is pivotal. It provides a second completion to the first three days, and introduces the latter three days. In terms of completion, the fourth day finishes the four-fold orientation of the world, displayed in the tabernacle:
West Ark-throne Heaven (day 1)
East Altar-platform Firmament before God (day 2)
North Table of Bread Plants on land (day 3)
South Lampstand Lights in firmament (day 4)
Day 1 Throne Father
Day 2 High Altar Son
Day 3a Low Altar Son
Day 3b Glory Plants Spirit
Day 4 Glory Lights Spirit
(For an extended discussion, see my essay "Behind the Scenes: Orientation in the Book of Revelation," available from Biblical Horizons , Box 1096, Niceville, FL 32588.)
The fourth day also completes a movement down and back up. We began in heaven, moved down to the light in the sky, down to the firmament, down to the land and then down to the sea (v. 10), back up through the plants that grow toward heaven, and farther up into the firmament of stars.
On the other hand, the fourth day begins the second half of the week. We have moved from light to structure to filling already. Now we begin again with light, move to filling (days 5 and 6a), and then to structure (man as ruler, "subduer"), and end with the Great Day of the sabbath, a return to eschatological light.
Thus, the fourth day is chiastically related not only to the second and sixth days, but also to the first and seventh. We begin with the primordial light of the Spirit. At the center we find the lights within the cosmos, which signify angels and men. At the end we come back to the Day of God, the eschatological Light. This is essentially a movement from Spirit to Son to Father.
On the fourth day, God congealed the light within the earth into bodies inside the visible firmament. We saw that the light originally came from the shining of the Spirit, and then by implication was spread out in the firmament, which was located where the Spirit was. The alternation of evening and morning was an alternation of a bright sky with a relatively dark one. Now that light sky congeals to form the heavenly bodies.
This congealing formed the stars and galaxies that we see in the sky. In terms of how the universe works, it is perhaps no surprise that in congealing, this plasma acquired rotation, forming spinning stars, double stars, planets, moons, and rotating galaxies. This did not take millions of years, however, but happened quite rapidly. It is entirely conceivable, however, that some of the currently proposed mechanisms of how the universe came to have its present configuration are correct, but that the timing is way off. Possibly the earth began her rotation at this point as well.
Isaiah 40:22 may shed a good deal of light on the firmament and the starry heavens. The second half of the verse reads:
The One stretching out like a thin veil heavens,
And spreading them out like a tent for dwelling.
Note that in the first phrase, the heavens are a thin veil, as thin as a layer of dust (as the Hebrew implies); while in the second phrase the heavens are a spacious tent.
On the basis of this, and from Genesis 1, I suggest that the following is the sequence of events:
First, on Day 1 a created light of glory is positioned above the earth.
Second, on Day 2 that light is stretched out as a thin veil over the earth.
Third, on Day 4 that veil is spread upwards and outwards to form outer space. The substance of the veil is broken up and congeals to form stars, planets, asteroids, dust, etc. This rapid spreading upwards and outwards from the earth may account for some aspects of "red shift" phenomena.
The appointment of rulers and governors is always part of a covenantal act of God, as when Abraham was set up to minister to the nations, or when Israel was given rulers in Exodus 18.
In terms of cosmology, a few further thoughts are warranted. Physically speaking, we have seen that the firmament is outer space, above the atmosphere where the birds fly. In the Old Creation, the departed saints seem to have dwelt in the firmament. Whether this was in another dimension or in outer space, we don’t know. We do know that they were near the highest heaven, and were able to communicate with God (Revelation 6:9-11; the altar spoken of is the Incense Altar, located in the firmament of the Holy Place, which is the symbolic ladder that reaches from the firmament heavens to the highest heavens).
At the same time, it does not appear that we can see through the firmament with telescopes and discern the throne of God. The firmament continues to be a barrier between heaven and earth until the full end of history. Heaven is located somewhere else, not contiguous with the physical cosmos we can travel in.
There are a couple of possibilities. One is that somehow the firmament (outer space) is closed in upon itself, circular in some way, so that to travel far enough in one direction is to return to one’s starting point. This is one modern theory. Another is that the universe is truly infinite. This is not unacceptable to Christian belief. God is infinite in Himself, independently infinite, while an infinite universe is dependently infinite. Consider that human beings will live forever, and are thus infinite in that sense. Possibly the universe goes on forever, and the removal of the firmament at the end of history will mean that heaven is near to every part of it.
Turning to another question: At the present time, it is widely assumed that the speed of light is the same everywhere in the universe, and has always been the same. Thus, the stars are said to be trillions of miles away from the earth, measured in terms of the span of time it takes light to travel in a year (light-years). This notion, we must insist, is simply an assumption. The modern view is that space is "nothingness," and is therefore the same throughout. From the standpoint of creation, however, space is created, a "something" called the firmament. Space is a matrix in which all the bodies in space move, and through which light moves.
There is no good reason to think that the speed of light is the same everywhere in the universe. Light may travel much faster between stars, and still faster between galaxies; that is, light may travel much faster away from "gravity wells" like the sun and the earth. Light from the farthest places in the universe may well reach us in only a few years.
Moreover, there is no good reason to think that the speed of light has remained the same throughout history. It may have begun at near infinity, and have slowed down exponentially since then. If the curve of the speed of light’s diminution is hyperbolic, then it may be that by now it is slowing down at a very slow, almost imperceptible rate. Or, to put it another way: If the matrix of space expanded rapidly on the fourth day, as I have suggested, then perhaps the "thinning" of that firmament-matrix resulted in a diminution of the speed of light through it.
In short, there is no reason to reject the notion that the starry universe rapidly expanded and congealed on the fourth day, and that light from faraway objects reaches us rather rapidly. Modern scientific theories and constructs are against this idea, but until we actually move into space and measure light’s speed, we shall not know. Our researches have only begun to scratch the surface of the outer foyer of the starry universe.
The heavenly lights were made to govern, and government is not primarily spatial, but temporal. The governing lights separated day and night, and were established as symbols, for setting up festival times (mistranslated "seasons"), days, and years. We see this throughout the Old Creation. The people of God knew when to celebrate Passover, a day, by observing the sun’s vernal equinox and then the first new moon thereafter, and then counting fourteen days to the full moon. The signs of the zodiac, to which the Bible refers more than once, were also part of the symbolic display of the firmament.
We may learn from this that the real power of government is the appointment of times, the kinds of times mentioned in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.
We find another triplex of created objects here:
Great Light Father (the source of light)
Lesser Light Son (reflects the Father as His Image)
Stars Spirit (who gathers the host)
Finally, we should say a few words about geocentricity. The Bible is frankly geocentric in two important respects. First, the earth was made before the starry heavens and the sun. Everything moves out from the earth in Genesis 1. Second, the earth is the center of affairs, where humanity is placed and where Christ died and was resurrected. The Bible does not, however, teach that the earth is geographically or cosmically located at the center of the physical universe. Indeed, this is an unimportant question, and possibly a fallacious one. If the universe is infinite, or if it is closed in upon itself, any point in it may be considered central. In fact, when Jesus says, "Wherever two or three are gathered together in My name, there I am," He is saying that wherever the Church is planted is the center. Along these lines, consider where the center of the surface of a sphere is located. Any point on the surface of a sphere can be considered the center. Is Ararat, or Jerusalem, or Rome, the physical center of the world? Yes and no. Since humanity proceeded from Ararat after Noah, that is the center. Or it was. Is it still? To ask such a question is virtually to answer it. Whether or not the earth is physically located at the center of the physical universe, I know not. I do know that it is not a question dealt with in the Bible. (On this, see my essay "The Geocentricity Question," available from Biblical Horizons , Box 1096, Niceville, FL 32588.)
Moon and sun are discussed in Psalm 104:19-23.
The fifth day sees the creation of land and sea creatures. These are said to swarm, to form clouds in the sea and air, and thus are associated with the Spirit; for it is the Spirit who gathers the host of God around Him, forming the glory cloud.
The fifth day is often mistakenly put parallel to the second, as if birds are creatures of the firmament and fishes creatures of the sea. This is not the statement of the text. Birds fly "across the face of" the firmament — in front of it, not within it (v. 20). They are not part of the firmament, like the sun and moon, but dwell below it. While birds travel (usually) in the air (which is NOT the firmament), they are said to multiply on the earth (v. 22). Indeed, birds generally nest in trees. Thus, the fifth day is chiastically parallel to the third: land & sea : creatures of land & sea.
Once again, three groups of creatures are made, to wit:
Tannins (aquatic dinosaurs) the mighty Father
Fishes (sea) the Son, the Fisher King
Birds (air & land) the hovering Spirit (1:2)
The tannins, or aquatic dinosaurs, call for comment. The word "create" is used in connection with their making, and this word always indicates a special, wondrous act of God. These great creatures show up at the end of Job as signs of God power and rule. The fact is that stories of dragons are found all over the world, and both the Bible (Job) and the Apocrypha (Daniel and the Dragon) refer to them. The notion that these great creatures had died out long before humanity arrived on the scene is contradicted by the clear testimony of history.
This is the first of three days of blessing. The blessing here is to multiply and fill. This is the blessing of the Spirit, the Divine Matchmaker, who brings man and woman together, Bride and Christ together, and who creates a host for God.
The verb "be fruitful" contains the word "fruit," both in Hebrew and in English, linking the animals conceptually with the fruit trees of the third day.
There are those who say that Genesis 1 presents three days of realms and three days of rulers. Nothing is said about the fishes ruling the sea or the birds ruling the air or land. This scheme is fallacious.
Covenantally, God’s people always form a host around Him when the covenant is renewed.
Psalm 104:24-26 mentions the swarms of the sea and the great leviathan dinosaur.
At this point it might be well to take up a criticism of creationism, which is that there are a vast plethora of fossils in the world today, including coal and oil: too many (it is claimed) to have been deposited by the Great Flood. We cannot answer this objection fully here, but we can suggest some lines of an answer. I assume that the seas before the Flood were shallow throughout, and thus all teemed with life. Genesis 7:11 says that at the Flood "all the fountains of the great deep burst open." This indicates to me that the depths of the present oceans came into being at this point.
Moreover, since all the world was to be explored and occupied by men and animals, there is reason to believe that all the world was habitable at this time. There were no deserts, nor great mountain ranges, nor polar ice. Evidence for this is found in quick-frozen mammoths with warm-weather flora in their stomachs and mouths in Siberia.
Thus, the world may well have teemed with far more life than it sustains at present, and this would account for the vast fossil deposits found on the earth today. Since the Flood Year was a "year of miracle," we are also free to assume that angels arranged these deposits in such a way that they would be useful for the coming generations of man.
(to be continued)