Genesis 1:1-2:3 As A Prologue To The Book Of Genesis -- By: Ian Hart

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 46:2 (NA 1995)
Article: Genesis 1:1-2:3 As A Prologue To The Book Of Genesis
Author: Ian Hart

Genesis 1:1-2:3 As A Prologue To The Book Of Genesis

Ian Hart


The creation narrative of Genesis 1:1-2:3 is characterised by three fundamental ideas which are linked to each other by the theme of man’s work: creation in six days, man as the image of God, and the Sabbath. This theme is sustained in the main body of the book of Genesis, as one would expect with material which was intended to serve as a careful prologue to the rest of the book.

I. The Six Day Structure Of The Creation Narrative

In the seven-day structure that the author has used for his presentation of creation and the Sabbath, God’s resting on the seventh day is plainly presented as a pattern for man to follow.1 It would be difficult therefore to maintain that his working on the previous six days is not presented as a pattern for man to follow.2 A day of rest makes no sense unless it is preceded by days of work. A command to rest on the seventh day is fairly explicit: the relevant paragraph has three consecutive sentences, each of which consists of seven words and

each of which contains in the middle the expression ‘the seventh day’; and it is stated that God blessed and hallowed that day. A command to work on the six previous days is at least implied.

This implication is strengthened by a surprising use of a particular word. The work which God has done on the six days is referred to in Genesis 2:2-3 three times as מְלָאכָה, the word for ordinary human work (e.g., Gn. 39:11): ‘Joseph went into the house to do his work’). Of 155 occurrences of מְלָאכָה in the OT only these three and one other refer to God’s work; whereas מַעֲשֶׂה is frequently used of either God’s work or man’s. The use of this word is surprising, since one of the author’s emphases throughout the chapter is on the uniqueness of the work of creation; the most probable reason for its use is that it was intended to emphasise the correspondence between God’s work and man’s.

I therefore suggest that the author’s purpose in giving a six-day structure to his creation narrative (a structure unknown in any other ancient creation narrative) was to set forth a pattern, for man to follow, of working for six days.

It should be noted that it is not only the literary structure (i.e., the six...

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