Dimensions of the Hebrew Word for “Create” (בָּרָא) -- By: Thomas J. Finley

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 148:592 (Oct 1991)
Article: Dimensions of the Hebrew Word for “Create” (בָּרָא)
Author: Thomas J. Finley


Dimensions of the Hebrew Word for “Create” (בָּרָא)

Thomas J. Finley

Associate Professor of Old Testament and Semitics
Talbot School of Theology, La Mirada, California

The term בָּרָא is virtually the only Hebrew word translated “create,”1 and it evokes immediately a sense of mystery and awe that surrounds the Lord God. Hearing it, one enters, as it were, into the heavenly temple and catches a glimpse of one’s utter creatureliness in the presence of the incomparable Creator. It is every bit as explosive a term as “omnipresent,” “omniscient,” or “omnipotent.”

A comprehensive examination of the uses of בָּרָא leads to the conclusion that in all cases it refers to activity performed exclusively by God, never by man. The charged human feelings and astonishment that often accompany acts of בָּרָא can be gauged by the resounding declaration in Deuteronomy 4:32: “Inquire from one end of heaven to the other. Has anything like this great thing happened, or has anything like it been heard?”2

The verb בָּרָא occurs 48 times in the Old Testament, with instances concentrated in Genesis (11 times), Psalms (6 times), and especially in Isaiah (21 times). There are three references in Ezekiel (21:30; 28:13, 15) and one reference each for Exodus (34:10), Numbers (16:30), Deuteronomy (4:32), Ecclesiastes (12:1), Jeremiah (31:22), Amos (4:13), and Malachi (2:10). A number of synonyms, such as “make,” “form,” or “build,” are used of creation by God, but בָּרָא is the only term for which God is the only possible subject.3

An important question is whether בָּרָא implies the use of preexisting materials. Did God create ex nihilo, out of nothing? Genesis 1:1 does not connect creation with any statement of preexisting materials.You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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