Genesis 1.6-27

The story continues…the harmony continues…

  1. Elohim said, “Let there be a space in the midst of the waters, and let it separate between water and water.”

The Hebrew word rakia has traditionally been translated as “firmament” or sometimes as “expanse”.  It is an extended surface.  According to Chumash Etz Chayim (meaning “tree of life”), it “is often used for hammering out metal or flattening out earth, which suggests a basic meaning of ‘extending’… [it is] viewed either as a vast sheet of metal or as a layer of solid ice.”  I prefer the term “space” because it is the space between the water of the land and the waters of the atmosphere.

Elohim continues to shape the earth and form things in a harmonious fashion.  Several times Elohim perceives that “it was good” except for on day two when he does not say this at all and on day three when he said it was good twice. Then in verse 21…

  1. And Elohim created the great taninim… What is a taninim?  In this verse it has been translated as sea monsters, sea creatures, and sea giants just to name a few.  This word is used no less than 27 times throughout the Tanach, either in the plural (taninim) or singular (tannin):  Exodus, Deuteronomy, Job, Psalms, Isaiah, Jeramiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel and Micah.  It has been translated as different things at different times depending on the English translation: sea monsters, snakes, jackals, monsters, dragons and whales.  Today in Modern Hebrew, it is used for crocodile…but back to biblical Hebrew. I could not find commentary on this verse in either the Etz Chayim or Artscroll Chumash.  Strong’s (# H8577 intensive from the same as H8565) states that it is a land or marine monster like a jackal or sea-serpent.  Come on!  That means they do not know what it is since a “sea serpent” is very different from a “jackal”.  Langenscheidt’s Hebrew English dictionary has this information: “great water animal, whale, shark, crocodile, serpent, sea-monster”.  Still no way to know which of these the original authors meant but whatever it meant then, it was significant to be used as many times as it was.  By looking at the other places it is used, you can form your own ideas about what it might mean.  Taninim or tannin is mentioned in: Gn. 1.21; Ex. 7.9, 10, 12; Dt. 32.33; Jb. 7.12; 30.29; Ps. 44.19; 74.13; 91.13; 148.7; Is. 13.22; 27.1; 34.13; 35. 7; 43.20; 51.9; Jer. 9.11; 10.22; 14.6; 49.33; 51.34, 37; Lam. 4.3; Ez. 29.3; 32.2; Mic. 1.8
  1. …let us make man in our image… One midrash state that God is speaking to the ministering angels while Christians say it is proof text for the Trinity.  My understanding is this text is a much older adaption of an earlier Canaanite creation story.  In the ancient polytheistic Canaanite religion, Elohim referred to the gods.  El is the father of the gods (Elohim) and each of his 70 (This will come up later, although in the Bible it will refer to the 70 nations) children will have dominion over a specific area on earth.  In many, if not all ancient polytheistic religions, the people were in the image of their gods and their idols were often in human or animal-like forms.
  1. So both male and female are created at the same time in the image of the gods.  It makes sense to say “gods” because although the text does not state how many humans were created, at least two of them were created…and the gods that created them were at least male and female themselves…or rather, this is how the author of this section of the bible viewed the gods at the time.

In the next segment, I will be discussing a different creation story in which a different god is named.

Until then, l’shalom.

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