Let us now look at a few other Hebrew words that occur in the creation narrative. Notice that the meaning of these words is not as tightly constrained as we find in English.
- reshiyth (re-sheet´): beginning. In Genesis 1 it occurs in the form bereshith and is usually translated as “In the beginning.” The prefix be can mean in, at, or on. Bereshith is the title of the book in Hebrew. In English we often think of the beginning as a point in time, but the Hebrew word most often refers to an initial period of time. This will be discussed later when we consider the literary structure of Genesis 1.
- Elohiym (el-o-heem´): The plural form of Eloahh (el-o´-ah). It is a combination of the words el (the strong one) and alah (to bind oneself by oath). Thus Elohiym is the mighty and faithful one. It is the only name for God used in Genesis one. In Genesis chapter two Elohiym is combined with Yahweh and is translated as “the Lord God”. This provides a connection between God as the creator and the covenant God of Israel.
- ruwach (roo´-akh): The word for wind, spirit, or breath. When it occurs together with Elohiym it is usually translated as the Holy Spirit.
- shamayim (shaw-mah´-yim): The sky, the heavens, or the spiritual realm. These three realms are sometimes referred to as the first heaven, the second heaven, and the third heaven.
- erets (eh´-rets): Can mean earth, field, ground, land, or region. It often refers to the “Promised Land.” In modern Hebrew ‘erets’ is used when referring to the United States. The Expression for United States is literally United Lands.
- towb (tobe): Can mean good, beautiful, pleasing or functioning as it should.
- adam (aw-dawm´): The word for human, man or mankind.
In the Hebrew there are three primary creation verbs used in the first chapter of Genesis. They are “bara”, “asah”, and “hayah”. Their meaning and usage in Genesis 1 are given below.
bara (baw-raw´): to create; to bring forth something that is radically new. It doesn't necessarily mean that something is made out of nothing as can be seen in the description of man's creation (Gen 2:7) where man is formed from the dust of the ground.
God created the heavens and the earth Gen 1:1
So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. Gen 1:21
So God created man in his own image Gen 1:27
asah (aw-saw´): make; produce; fabricate. This verb doesn't necessarily imply that something is being made out of something else, you have to look at the context. In fact it doesn't necessarily mean that anything is made. It can have the meaning of appointing or designating something to perform a certain task. This could be the meaning on the fourth day.
God made two great lights — the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. Gen 1:16
God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. Gen 1:25
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image Gen 1:26
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. Gen 1:31
hayah (haw-yaw): cause to appear or arise; come into existence.
Let there be light Gen 1:3
Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water. Gen 1:6
“Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” Gen 1:9
“Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, Gen1:14
and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth. Gen 1:15
Be fruitful and increase in number; Gen 1:28