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Genesis 1:3-5 DAY 1
God Said, Divided, and Called

Hebrew Text

arqyw, ldby, <yhla ary - God said , divided, and called

God spoke and light came into being. In the Hebrew this is a command followed by its execution. The idea of creation by spoken word is not new. It probably comes from the royal court where the king gives a command, and it is carried out. Words were also seen as having magical powers in the ancient world (Moriarty 1974, 345).

God divides or separates the light from the darkness. The act of separation in creation is common in ancient Near Eastern creation stories.

Godís act of naming something brings it under Godís control. In the ancient world if you know the names of your enemies, you could control them by magic. The Egyptians practiced the magical cursing of their enemies by inscribing pottery bowls and figurines with the names of their enemies, and then smashing them to break the power of their enemies. These are called execration texts.

Sumerian Literature

A bilingual text of a hymn to the moon god Nanna praises the power of his word which says, "Thou! When thy word is pronounced in heaven the Igigi prostrate themselves. Thou! When thy word settles down on the earth green vegetation is produced" (Moriarty 1974, 346-7; ANET, 386).

Creation by separation especially heaven from earth is mentioned a numbered of times in Sumerain texts. Gilgamesh, Enkidu and the Underworld says, "When heaven had been moved away from the earth, When earth had been separated from heaven, When the name of man had been fixed" (Clifford 1994, 23). The poem Praise of the Pickax and Enki and Ninmah also tell of the separation of heaven from earth (Ibid, 31, 40).

Akkadian Literature

Enuma Elish

Marduk destroys and creates "images" by magic words in Enuma Elish.

Open thy mouth: the Images will vanish!
Speak again, and the Images shall be whole!
At the word of his mouth the Images vanished.
He spoke again, and the Images were restored (ANET, 66; Tablet 4:23-26).

It does not seem that God is using magic words to create in Genesis one. Marduk did not create the universe by spoke word, but by a battle against Tiamat.

The opening lines of Enuma Elish show the importance of naming an object which is synonymous with creation which say:

When on high the heaven had not been named,
Firm ground below had not been called by name,
When no gods whatever had been brought into being,
Uncalled by name, their destinies undetermined (ANET, 60-1).

Egyptian Literature

In The Theology of Memphis Ptah creates by thinking in his heart, and then speaking with his tongue. It says:

There came into being as the heart and there came into being as the tongue (something) in the form of Atum. The mighty Great One is Ptah the Ennead (of Ptah), however, is the teeth and lips in this mouth, which pronounce the name of everything. Indeed, all the divide order really came into being through what the heart thought and the tongue commanded (ANET, 5).

Ugaritic Literature

In Ugaritic there is also evidence of the power of the spoken word. In Keret it says, "The massage of the noble Keret, the word of the gracious one, [page of El]" (Gibson, 1978, 90; KTU 1.14.VI.40; COS, 337; ANET, 145). The Ugaritic thm may parallel the Hebrew dbr (Moriarty, 353).

Another passage in the Baal Cycle says, "Your decree (word), El is wise, your wisdom is everlasting. A life of good fortune is your decree" (Gibson, 60; KTU 1.4 IV.41-43; COS, 259; ANET, 133).

Next - Day One