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Creation's Parables : Genesis 1

Time and Poetic Order

By Jo Helen Cox


Creation's Parables is a paraphrased account that leaves perfectionism out of the Biblical story, simply because the Bible never stipulates God created everything perfect or anything perfect.  Instead, nature acts as interpreter to relate the events of biblical creation: the story of nature told by nature.

This is an analysis of how the poetry of Genesis 1 dictates its meaning.  As poetry, the word "day" need not be 24 hours intervals.  As poetry, the sun is created before earth forms.  Surprisingly, the details match the evidence.

The Bible’s first line is a statement of worship that encompasses all of creation.  The Bronze Age poet, only knew “matter” as "stuff."  He used the word “Earth” to describe everything of matter.

Passages quoted are from the New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by Permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


God took time to reveal creation to us.  Religious and scientific knowledge did not arrive overnight.  The accumulation process spans the entire existence of humanity.  Every discovery brings insight that awakens new questions begging for answers.  That same process exists in Genesis One, where events built upon previous events.

Every part of Genesis One implies time.  Consider the active verbs: create, hover, separate, made, gather, produce, increase, fill.  Each one paints a picture of work.  Work takes time.  God utilized time, watching or tweaking each particle, one at a time.

A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night,” says Psalm 90:4.  The writer bluntly states time is our concern, not God’s.  We can restate this in our vernacular: A billion years in your sight is like an hour that has just gone by, or a millisecond in the night.


Poetic Days


The sun’s relationship with Earth determines hours.  24-hour days could not exist before the sun’s creation.  This anomaly was noted by St. Augustine in his book, “De Genesi ad Litteram,” Translation by J.H. Taylor in Ancient Christian Writers (New York: Newman Press, 1982).

Poetry removes this 1700-year-old conflict.  The sun, moon, and stars fill the opened universe before Earth forms in days two and three.

Greek, Latin, and English use their word “day” just like Hebrew.  It generally means a 24-hour period, yet, the phrase, “In Abraham’s day,” requires years.  Context determines meaning.  The Hebrew words translated “evening” and “morning” actually mean “end” and “beginning.”  Only nature can tell us the duration of each poetic “day.”

Several forms of poetry deliberately hide a clue to unlock meaning.  Genesis One repeats every detail except one, that of season.  Days have ends and beginning just like that of seasons.  Therefore, the word “day” can be interpreted as a cosmic “season.”

What to Worship

Genesis One mocks the worship of nature gods, though today’s readers generally miss the audacity.  God’s creation is “good” but not worthy of worship.  In essence, Genesis One says, “One God created everything.  No others need apply.”

1 “In the beginning God created heaven and earth…”  Only He is worthy of worship!

Day 1, gods associated with light and darkness (angels, demons, spirits)

Day 2, gods associated with sky and water

Day 3, gods associated with earth and plants

Day 4, gods associated with astral bodies

Day 5, gods associated with aquatic animals and birds

Day 6, gods associated with any land animal including man

Day 7 – One God created all the above.  We are creation.  Take time to contemplate Him and His works.

Poetic Structure

Introduction states content

Day 1 opens the universe with light ------- Day 4 fills the universe with objects

Day 2 opens sky and ocean -------------- Day 5 fills the ocean and sky with animals

Day 3 opens land and readies it ---------- Day 6 fills the land with animals and people

Day 7 conclusion and foundation for weekly contemplation


Circular Outline

The introduction proclaims everything created comes from (a) One Creator.

Linking Day 1 to Day 4 — After the beginning, (b) first light leads to separation of (c) light from dark, which produces (d) stars like our sun, around which (e) unlit bodies form, which guide us to understanding the (b) light.

Linking Day 2 to Day 5 — From the “heavens”, (f) atmosphere collects and precipitates (g) oceans, which provides suitable environment for prolific (h) aquatic life, which slowly transforms into (i) flying animals capable of dominating the (f) atmosphere.

Linking Day 3 to Day 6 — Out of the (g) oceans (j) dry land expands and provides suitable minerals to support life, from which came the first multi-cellular life forms to dominate land, (k) plants.  They provide an environment for prolific (l) land animals, which eventually produced (m) humans, which dominate the (j) land and carry the image of the (a) One Creator.

Day 7 — The Poet invites the reader to contemplate the loving details of God’s creation.  It links that expansive time span with the time it took for the Hebrew nation to form.  Both need time and involve continued ongoing processes.


Order of Astral Bodies

The creation list of astral bodies (Earth, sun, moon, and then stars) seems to contradict scientific order.  Stars should come first, but "day" 4 makes stars an afterthought.

Defining the passage with a human viewpoint in poetry allows the statement “God set them in the expanse” to be a “who-dun-it” statement instead of an immediate action.  The text relates the astral objects back to humans, and a human viewpoint lets the poem match science.  We use these objects in the biblical order, the most influential first.  The poet grasped that the astral bodies defined days and seasons.  Seasons guide life forms, and humans are no exception.

Human obsession with repetition gave the lights of the sky spiritual superiority and dominion.  But the use of these objects was more important than the mystery.  Astral bodies as timepieces speak of their predictability.  The obsession to understand guided people past magic to mathematics.  Like modern science, the God of the Bible thoroughly rejects the mystic and magical concepts of astrology.




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