Creation of Heaven and Earth
Ain Soph – The Unknown God
Genesis II, V. 4, 5, 6. (English R.V.)
v. 4: “These are the generations of the heaven and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord Cod made earth and heaven.
v. 5: “And no plant of the field was yet in the earth, and no herb of the field had yet sprung up : for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth and there was not a man to till the ground;
V. 6: “but there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the, whole face of the ground.”
The first thing we notice when we compare the above version with the original Hebrew Text, is that the latter contains a word which is not translated at all in the English. It was also ignored in the Latin translation. The translators apparently did not know what to do with it. The Hebrew Text reads: “aelleh tho-ledoth.” The little word “tho,” which the translators have passed over, denotes “symbolic.” It may be applied to a book, a fable, a hieroglyph, a discourse, or anything else which, is of a “symbolic” nature. The translators of the “Septuagint” did not ignore the word, but they “by-passed” its real meaning (for reasons we have already referred to), and translated it merely by the word “book”; that avoided raising awkward questions. What the whole phrase really stated quite clearly was, that the “generations” or “productions” of the heavens and the earth, to be described in the succeeding chapters. would be described in symbolic language. It is particularly illuminating that the writer of Genesis should himself tell us this in advance. He takes the ground from under the feet of those who are continually seeking to “literalise” and “de-spiritualise” the Bible. The Hebrew word which in our version is translated “generations” is “toldoth.” This word is based on the word “iahlad”- “to give birth to” or “to produce.” It is used in both senses; for instance, in his commentary on Genesis, when dealing with this verse, Delitzsch quotes a passage from one of the Talmudic writings which he translates as follows:- “The productions of the heavens are made of heavenly materials, those of the earth of earthly material.” With all due respect to a great scholar we may point out that the translation sounds painfully materialistic in comparison with the original. The use of the word “material” for what is purely immaterial, heavenly, is far from happy (especially as there is no word equivalent to it in the original). But such are the limitations of language when the spiritual is dealt with. Even Shakespeare found the same difficulty : “We are such ‘stuff’ as dreams are made of.” However, the word translated “productions” is the word of our present text: “toldoth,” and in that case no better word suggests itself. The word which Delitzsch translates “are made of” is the passive form of the past tense of the verb “to create.” This is an example of how late Hebrew writers had begun to lose the distinction between the words “to create” and “to make,” which the writer of Genesis always observed. The passage is interesting in itself and it has a direct bearing on what we shall ‘have to say presently.
But before going further into that matter it may be well to refer to certain difficulties, in the wording and construction of the verse (4)’ which have given commentators trouble. They are of a kind that is constantly being met with throughout the Bible, and in fact, in all very ancient writings. especially those of an inspirational nature. This verse (and indeed the whole narrative). somewhat lacks the logical precision and completeness of detail that we found in the “Creation” narrative. On first reading the verse we are rather uncertain as to whether, or to what extent, it is referring back to the process of creation, or looking forward to the process of “bringing forth,” forming,” or “making.” We thin-k, however, that when it is examined more closely, the difficulties will disappear, and the meaning become clear. One difficulty arises from the fact that most ancient languages were singularly lacking in means of separating the sentences or parts of a sentence clearly. We mark a new sentence by making the first letter of the first word in it a “capital” letter. We indicate the divisions of a sentence by the use of the comma, the semicolon, the colon, or the full-stop. We put words in “parenthesis,” within brackets ( ); and any sentence which asks a question we distinguish by the “note of interrogation”?, etc. In primitive languages were few, if any. expedients of that kind, with the result that the reader was left very much to his own judgement or intuition to decide the exact meaning of many sentences, and naturally some mistakes were unavoidable. It is really very surprising that writers were able to make themselves as intelligible as they did, especially as their vocabularies were more restricted and their grammatical rules less precise than ours. Ail these things add to the difficulty of satisfactorily translating ancient records. Scarcely any two scholars will be found to translate a Babylonian tablet, or an Egyptian hieroglyphic inscription, exactly alike. Different interpreters will see different meanings in words, and each may approximate to the meaning the writer had in mind. (Compare, for instance, the version of the “Psalms” in the English Bible with that in the “Book of Common Prayer.”)
Maimonides, one of the greatest of Hebrew scholars, said that no one could attach a specific meaning to a Hebrew word without a careful study of its context and application. That is what we have to do in every case of doubt of difficulty. and that is what we must do in the case of the verses we are studying.
The two phrases: (a) “heaven and the earth when they were created,” and (b) “in the day that the Lord God made earth and heaven,” require a little explanation. “When they were created” should be read rather in the sense of: “when they had been created.” Hebrew has not the elaborate variety of “tense” forms that modern languages have; it is content to distinguish what is “past.” “continuing.” and “future” in a simple way.
The word “heaven,” of course, should be always plural- “heavens.” What the verse tells us, is that when the “heavens” and the “earth” had been created, they had special roles to play m the unfolding development of the Creative plan; they had to “produce” or “generate” certain forces or influences in accordance with their own natures, to act upon the evolving life of the universe, and-as we shall see later-particularly upon the soul-life of humanity. This is what the writer of the Talmud passage, quoted above, was referring to. The heavens and the earth were to be “producers” of necessary elements of “human” life in “the day of the making of earth and heaven by Ihoah Elohim.”
Notice here that the “Creative” order: “heavens and earth” is reversed in the “unfolding” of the plan. Now the order·is “earth and heavens.” In “Creation” everything began in God and worked downwards to the foundations of the “reality” that was to built up. Now the movement is from earth, upwards. That movement is what Science calls “Evolution”.
“Creation” was described as the “sovereign work” of Elohim, and as a six-fold “manifestation” of the Eternal One. That work was “finished.” The “seventh” “day” dawns Elohim has “returned” to Unity with the Eternal One. The narrative marks that by the introduction of the new Divine Name, “Ihoah-Elohim.” Creation has now to become realised fact ;-and it has also to “return” to completion and glorification in the same Unity with the Eternal One. “Listen, Israel. Ihoah our Elohim (is) Ihoah, i.e., “Eternal-Unity” (literal translation). Also compare John XVII, v. 21: “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me and I in thee, that they also may be one in us.
We cannot help noticing that from this point a totally different significance is given to the “seventh” day from that given to the other six. It becomes “the day.” “ha-yom.” That expression runs through Hebrew thought, throughout the ages, like a “leit-motiv”: “The Day”; “the” – Great Day”; “the day of the Lord”; “the Sabbath” (day of returning); “the day of Judgement,” etc. (“Judgement,” by the way. does not emphasise the idea of condemnation but of righting of wrong, of final adjustment, of the harmonising of discords, etc.)
Verse 5. This verse simply emphasises, in a “sketchy” but very graphic way, the fact (that we should now be familiar with) that “Creation” was not “realisation.” “Creation” was finished, but there was no plant in the earth, not a blade of grass had sprung forth, no rain had ever fallen to make vegetable life possible ; there was not a man to till the ground. That last sentence is of the greatest importance – but in the Hebrew text it tells much that the English fails to do. The Hebrew words translated “not a man” are “Adam ain,” “Adam was not”- “did not exist” (except as a spiritual potentiality). Then the Hebrew verse is very careful not to say that (had “Adam” been in existence) it was the “earth” he would have to “till,” but the “ground,”-the “Adamah,” the spiritual ground or source of his own being. That change-over from the use of the word “earth” in the earlier part of the verse to “ground” here, switches the thought of the verse into the spiritual realm.
It will be noticed that the Genesis writer, in these verses, does no more than touch on a few points, in themselves, scarcely connected with one another, and is quite unconcerned about questions of time or sequence. This unconcern really reveals the writer’s consciousness of the “timelessness” of Divine Spiritual Activity. The work of the “days” of creation was inter-penetrative, and time-sequence did not enter into the matter. We can form an idea of what the “timelessness of spiritual activity” means from an experience that everyone shares very frequently. We refer to the phenomena of dreams. It is well known that an elaborate dream, appearing to occupy long periods of time, may be the creation of a fraction of a second. It does not require time to grow in our minds-it just flashes into existence complete in every detail. But if we thus create in our minds an “idea” of something which is to be carried out in the realms of “time and space,” the carrying out of it must, of course, be subject to the conditions of time and space. The Bible, from beginning to end, being spiritual in purpose and expression, is very little concerned with chronology -or chronological sequence, even when, on the surface, it appears to be dealing with the duration of particular periods. For instance, no one has yet been able to settle, quite satisfactorily, bow long the Israelites dwelt in Egypt. There are several passages in the Bible dealing with that question; some even give definite figures-but these figures cannot be made to agree with one another, taken in a literal sense. The figures are symbolic. It was always the “idea” underlying the number-not the number merely as a literal number-that mattered to writers who wrote under the impulse of spiritual inspiration. This applies in a superlative degree, for example, to the “genealogies” given in Gen. V.-(one of the most wonderful passages in all literature, and certainly the most misunderstood). Spiritual facts cannot be “measured” in concrete numbers-but they can be symbolised by them.
The above remarks are somewhat of a digression, but they have a bearing on the verses we are considering, as they give a clue to the reason of a seeming tendency to incoherence or incompleteness in the narrative.
Verse 6. “but there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.” The narrative has said nothing about the “making” or “formation” of the earth. The writer just passes directly to what is concerned with the subject he is about to deal with. He speaks of the earth as in actual existence and beginning to carry out its purpose.
This verse is by no means so simple as it appears, and a little close examination will soon show that a literal interpretation of it is quite impossible. We have already mentioned in connection with verse 5 the significance of the “switch-over” from the physical word “earth” to the spiritual word “ground” (“Adamah”). Here we have exactly the same thing repeated.
Let us study the verse in detail :-The word “but” in the original is just simply “va,” the “conjunction” normally meaning “and.” As we have before explained, it may be translated in many ways in English according to the context. In this case the translators chose “but” because of the statement in the previous verse that no rain had ever fallen on the earth which was, there-fore, utterly barren. The word translated ‘‘went up’’ is “iahleh” = ascended. The word ‘mist” is “ad.” It requires some explanation. It is a simple root word which denotes any-thing that emanates from something else; any idea of “force,” “power,” “necessity, “vigour’;; any “sympathetic or contagious emanation.” From these meanings it is easy to see how the word, applied in a more material sense, came to mean also “vapour,” “smoke,” “cloud,” “mist”; they are all “emanations.” The point that concerns us is that the translators selected the most materialistic meaning of the word that they could find-and, as we shall see, it will make no sense in the verse we are dealing with. The word translated “watered” is “hishekah.” It is not the ordinary “past tense” of the verb, but the “causative” form; it does not denote anything done, but the cause of something. The root of the word is “shk,” which conveys any ideas of “tendency,” “inclination,” “affinity,” “contact”; anything which acts “sympathetically,” which “enwraps,” “embraces,” “absorbs”; for instance, “shikkoo” means a “beverage”; “mashkeh” – something “to drink” or “to absorb”; “mashkeh” also means “irrigation”; “nahshak” means “kissed,” “touched,” “put in order,” “embraced”; “shok” denotes “amorous desire,” mutual inclination,” etc. So there are several ideas in the word to select from. We need not explain again the word “adamah” as it has already been dealt with. We have now all that is necessary for getting at the real meaning of the verse. Ii: the first place, if we accept “but” for the first word of the verse, it connects it directly with the statement that no rain had ever fallen on the earth, which was in consequence utterly dry and barren. Now, how could “mist” or “vapour” arise from anything that was void of moisture? In the second place, assuming for a moment that “earth” and “ground” were synonymous. we should have the extraordinary statement that mist” arose out of the dry earth to water the same dry earth. That would be no compliment to the intelligence of the Mosaic writer. Neither of those suggestions are worth a moment’s consideration. But if we read the verse in the light of what has been said in our earlier chapters we shall soon see that it not only makes sense, but also that it has something of real importance to tell us. Whatever it was that “emanated” from the earth, it was something that had to make its influence felt in the “adamah”-something of a spiritual nature; it was some-thing that had to take part in preparing the spiritual element from which “Adam” was to be formed. We have already seen that “Adam” was “created” as a universal spiritual “being,” and also as a human “Kingdom” of individuals on a physical plane. It was necessary then that Adam should be first formed in the Spirit world, of spiritual “human” elements, and then attracted to the physical plane to be “formed” into physical individual men and women. Elohim, as we saw in Chapter II, was the various Powers, Attributes and Qualities that had, so to speak, been latent in “Ain Soph” from all Eternity, flowing forth in the activities of creating. Elohim was not a “creation.” He was of the very “substance” of the Eternal One. He was, in the words of the Creed respecting the second “Person” of the Trinity: “begotten, not made.” The “whole Creation” was, as it were, a “shadow” or image” of His Being and “Adam” was to be created in that “shadow” and made to the Divine “likeness.” This “likeness” of Elohim, His self-expression in Creation, was the spiritual “element,” the “ground” (adamah) from which the Adam was to be formed. So the spiritual Adam was the “created” counterpart of Elohim; the universal human essence which has to be individualised in physical humanity.
At the point which our study of the narrative has reached a connection had to be formed between the physical plane “earth” and the adamah, so a “force” or “influence” “emanated” from the earth and “ascended” into the spiritual plane, “contacted” it and was “absorbed” by it. The earthly and the spiritual (to use the suggestions conveyed by the word “ishekah”) “embraced” or “kissed” one another, “inclined” themselves to one another so that a mutual attraction linked them together.
It may seem strange to some, to speak of any spiritual effluence from the physical realm, but there is no difficulty in the way of making what is meant quite intelligible. We all know perfectly well the tremendous spiritual effect that physical phenomena can have on, the human soul, and have had through all the ages of man s existence on earth. In the days of primitive humanity it was the activities of the physical forces of nature; those forces which men feared-and were powerless against: the lightning, the volcano eruption, the tornado, the earthquake, the sea in its anger, the terrors of darkness, etc., that most powerfully affected and awakened their souls, and led to their earliest spiritual experiences, and to their first religious thoughts. Those dread forces appeared to them to be instruments of punishment in the hands, some infinitely powerful Being or Beings who, they imagined, they must have angered, and must in some way placate. A poor and rather terrible “religion” that may seem to us to-:lay, but it is really quite impossible for us to realise the intensity of those early soul experiences, or the reactions to them of minds almost entirely “subconscious,” i.e., irrational. But we can at least understand that those primitive peoples would feel that the “gods” who could appear cruel and destructive in Nature, must desire to be placated by offerings of a similar character. That was the origin of the side of religion expressed, for example, in human sacrifices and mutilations. That, however, was not the only side of religion that arose from Nature phenomena. they were also aware that there were “gods” of a beneficent nature. They saw “Angus Og” awakened each Spring by the soft rain and the sunshine; they saw plants burgeon, flowers bloom, trees become laden with fruit, the yellow harvest of gram, etc. They did not need to placate the “gods” whose work all that was, but they felt that they must express their happiness and gratitude in song and dance, and offerings of the fruits of the earth. They felt that in so doing, they and the “gods” were joyful together. That perhaps was the first germination of the idea of “union with the divine,” which is the very essence of all the higher forms of religion. That was the brighter side of ancient religion. Thus it was that the influences arising from earth and earth life were actual forces developing and giving “form” to their souls, and enriching their spirits; and the verse we are now considering shows that while Adam was still a spiritual universal being, dwelling in purely spiritual realms, and had not yet become “realised” in physical men and women on the earth plane, similar emanating influences were ascending from the earth to take their part in the formation of his essential being.
In the original language of the “Creed” the word translated “person” did not suggest the idea of another “individual.”-T.F.