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What was God’s first act?

The first act of God recorded in the Bible is the creation of the heavens and the earth in the opening verses of Genesis chapter 1. This marks the beginning of God’s creative work and sets the stage for the rest of the biblical narrative about God’s relationship with mankind. Understanding God’s first act provides insight into His character, purposes, and plans for humanity.

The Significance of Creation

God’s act of creation demonstrates His eternal power and divine nature. As the Apostle Paul stated in Romans 1:20, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” As the all-powerful Creator, God reveals aspects of His identity and sovereignty through the act of creating the cosmos out of nothing.

Creation also marks the initiation of God’s intentional design for humanity. Genesis 1:26-28 describes how God made mankind in His image to rule over the earth He prepared for them. The order and life evident in creation reflect God’s purposeful plan. He created an environment suited for sustaining human life and relationship with Him.

Old Testament Accounts of Creation

The Old Testament contains two primary Creation accounts:

Genesis 1:1-2:3

This narrative outlines the seven days of Creation week. On each successive day, God created or ordered a specific aspect of the cosmos.

Day God’s Creative Acts
1 Light, day, night
2 Sky, waters separated
3 Dry land, seas, vegetation
4 Sun, moon, stars
5 Birds, fish
6 Land animals, humans
7 God rested

This account highlights God systematically building a habitable world and filling it with living creatures. The pinnacle of Creation was humanity, made uniquely in God’s image on the 6th day. God pronounced His finished work as “very good” (Genesis 1:31).

Genesis 2:4-24

Whereas Genesis 1 provides a wide view of Creation, Genesis 2 offers a complementary close-up look at key events. This account specifically describes how God formed man from dust and breathed life into him (v. 7). It also records God planting the garden of Eden, causing vegetation to grow (v.8-9), and creating the first woman from Adam’s rib (v.21-22). Details about the tree of life, the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and the four rivers flowing from Eden also appear.

Together, these chapters reveal a complete picture of God orchestrating the heavens and earth for habitation and creating humans for relationship with Himself. The order, purpose, and unity evident in Creation reflect God’s wisdom and care.

The Process and Meaning of Creation

Examining what Genesis reveals about how and why God created provides deeper insight into this inaugural divine act.

God Created Ex Nihilo

The Hebrew verb used in Genesis 1:1 for God’s initial act of creation is bara, which means He created out of nothing. Unlike a carpenter building furniture from existing materials, God produced the raw materials for the universe Himself. This demonstrates His unlimited power and divine capabilities.

Theologians refer to this as creation ex nihilo, from Latin meaning “out of nothing”. God alone has the power to bring forth something entirely new simply by the exercise of His will.

God Created with Order and Purpose

The structure evident in Creation week displays the orderly, purposeful way God formed the cosmos. Each day built on prior acts to compose an organized, functional world tailored for mankind.

For example:

Steps with Order and Purpose
Day 1: God created light, separating it from darkness to form regular periods of day and night. This provided order and a way to mark time.
Day 2: God made an expanse separating waters above from waters below. This formed the sky, providing an atmosphere and climate control.
Days 3-6: God filled the various environments He fashioned with appropriate inhabitants.

The orderly progression of Creation reveals the careful thought and purposeful intent God applied in preparing the world for mankind.

God Created a Suitable Habitat for Humanity

The environment God shaped during Creation week reflects His considerate provision for the creatures made in His image. As Psalm 104:24 declares, “How many are your works, LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.”

Specific aspects of Creation suited for sustaining human life include:

– Dry land and oceans containing an abundance of organisms to supply food (Genesis 1:9-12, 20-21)
– Sun, moon, and stars to provide light, signs, seasons and direction (Genesis 1:14-16)
– Balanced ecosystems and fertile vegetation on land (Genesis 1:11-12, 24-25)
– Atmospheric expanse allowing air flow, moisture, and climate regulation (Genesis 1:6-8)

The suitability of the habitat God prepared for humanity demonstrates His caring concern for our needs and welfare.

Interpretations of Genesis Creation Accounts

Scholars examine the Genesis accounts of God’s creative work through various interpretive lenses. These include literal, allegorical, literary, and theological perspectives.

Literal Approach

The literal view takes the Genesis narrative as historically accurate descriptions of God supernaturally forming the universe, earth, and life in six 24-hour days. This approach typically correlates the six days with specific ages of natural history.

Those holding the literal position emphasize the importance of taking the text at face value as true, reliable accounts of history. They believe reading Creation as metaphor undermines biblical authority.

Allegorical Approach

Some allegorical interpretations view the days of Creation as long epochs or metaphorical depictions of logical categories. Augustine saw the days as successive epochs in the mind of God rather than literal 24-hour periods. Origen allegorized days 1-3 as the spiritual creation, days 4-6 as the material creation, and day 7 as the heavenly rest.

Such views regard Genesis as describing Creation events in symbolic, non-literal ways open to various interpretations. Allegorical readings often reflect influences from Greek philosophy and focus on mining spiritual insights.

Literary Analysis

Literary analysis examines the structure, genres, word patterns, and literary features of the Creation accounts rather than focusing on their precise historicity. This approach notes differences between the seven-day chronological layout of Genesis 1 versus the topical arrangement in Genesis 2.

It also calls attention to the rhythmic, poetic features of the Genesis 1 narrative, such as the repetition and cadence of “And there was evening, and there was morning – the _____ day.” Literary analysis thus highlights the skilled, thoughtful composition of the texts.

Theological Interpretation

Theological interpretation considers the Creation accounts in light of biblical teaching about God’s nature, attributes, and relationships with humanity. It focuses on timeless truths Genesis reveals about God’s character and purposes. The process or timing of Creation is secondary to the theological meanings conveyed.

This view sees Genesis highlighting God’s supreme power, wisdom, authority, and care without mandating one mode or timeframe for Creation. It underscores enduring theological truths rather than scientific precision.


In summary, the opening act of the biblical narrative centers on God bringing forth the heavens and the earth. The Creation account in Genesis provides insight into God’s character, His thoughtful ordering of the world, and the beginnings of His purposeful plan for humanity. How God created is not fully explained, allowing room for interpretive discussion. But why God created powerfully conveys His loving authority, wisdom, and provision. Through His first act of Creation, God displayed foundational divine attributes that characterize all His subsequent works recorded in Scripture.