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Allow Me to Explain (30 of 439) – Where Do Fish Come From?

August 11, 2011

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30. From what were the animals created? Gen 1:20 vs. Gen 2:19

This is a popular one, actually.

Genesis 1:20
Then God said, “Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens.”

Genesis 2:19
Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name.

Genesis 1 is the classroom poster on creation. Day 1: Light, Day 2: Heaven, etc. Genesis 1:20 is Day 5: Sea creatures and birds.

All we’re told in each case is “God said,” and, “it was so.” We don’t really know what the rest looked like. It’s assumed that fish and birds popped out of thin air, but it’s just as likely that dirt came together in the shapes of whales and cranes. I’m not going to make that case, but let’s make sure we’re separating scripture from our preconceptions as we go.

If Genesis 1 is the classroom poster, Genesis 2 – it is widely accepted – is the text book on the later part of creation. Consider:

  • Genesis 1:26-30 tells us about the human part of Day 6. He made man and woman, He blessed them, He gave them some basic instruction. All on Day 6.
  • Genesis 2:4-6 begins, “This is the history of the heavens and the earth, and when they were created.” Verse 5 mentions that man was not yet created, so we can assume we’re backing up a little bit.
  • Genesis 2:7, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground …” We know we backed up, and this is our clue as to where we are. God formed man, so we’re back on Day 6.
  • Genesis 2:8, “The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed.” Adam is alone. No Eve yet. This must be Day 6 still, but we’ve moved from the big-picture classroom poster, to the text book detail.

There are big lessons inherent in the creation of mankind, so it’s worth going back to for some more detail.

Genesis 2:19 simply says that God formed (not “made” or “created,” just “formed”) every living being out of the dirt so Adam could name them. The earth is already teeming with animals, per God’s instruction, but there’s an object lesson going on here.

It’s been said that God did this exercise with Adam to establish his authority over the rest of creation – to let Adam partner with Him, and to teach creation subjection to Adam. [doubtful pause] Adam’s spirit came from the breath of God. I don’t know that Adam had any kind of insecurity. And I don’t think the untainted creation needed proof that Adam was in charge. Adam was the one made in God’s image; Adam looked like the Creator. I don’t think rebellion was a concern with the fauna.

In 2:18, God decides that it’s not a good idea for Adam to be alone, and that he needs a companion, “comparable to him.”

But in between this decision and the actual creation of Eve, we read about this weird exercise of naming animals. It’s never specifically explained, but I think God did it to set up Adam.

God, because He’s so wonderful, seems to get a kick out of creating and developing desires in us … and then meeting them. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled (Matthew 5), but you have to hunger and thirst first. We were created to be loved, but no love really satisfies that longing except God’s love. We were created to live and die for a great purpose, but no purpose really satisfies that desire except His. We were created to experience the supernatural, but no magic or haunting really meets the depths of that need but His presence.

So Adam is taken through this parade of creation. God, effectively, shows him every option he has for companionship because He knows that none of it will satisfy the void in Adam’s heart. And that is why God forms representatives of His creatures out of the ground. He is showing Adam that even if He makes a dog the same way He made Adam, it’s not enough.

God effectively says, “Look. It’s made just like you, name it.” And Adam is looking for a helper, a companion, “comparable to him,” but he doesn’t find it, so he names it something else. Elephant. Whale. Crane. Badger. Whatever, but not Man. Not Woman. Not comparable to him. It’s not just about form, or raw materials, there’s something else that’s missing.

And when he’s gone through all of it – and he has to go through all of them so he’ll never wonder about the one they didn’t try – he’s as hungry as he could possibly be for a real companion, and then God sedates him and creates Eve. Adam’s response in 2:23 proves that it worked, he is beside himself with joy.

Animals were created out of God’s word – whatever that looked like. In Genesis 2:19, something else is going on, and God is using the dirt to show Adam that he’s not the same. Even if the same raw materials are used, you’re not the same. It’s not about the dirt, the creation. You’re different. And you know it.

(It may prove true that my interpretation of Genesis 2:18-23 is completely off, and I’m okay with that. The point, if you’re really keeping score on the poster, is that it’s not two separate creation stories. Genesis 1 is the creation of animals. Genesis 2:19 is details of Day 6, and we’re talking about a different event. God is creating a few more for a different purpose.)

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