The late Homer Hoeksema was professor of Dogmatics and Old Testament in the Protestant Reformed Seminary.
God’s Creation of the Living Creature (Gen. 1:20-25)
In this connection let us pay attention to the following facets of the creation of the animals which we have not yet considered.
In the first place, we call attention to the creative act as such, whereby the fish and fowl were brought into being on the fifth day, and the animals on the sixth day. Concerning the fish and fowl we read, first of all, in Genesis 1:20: “And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.” Again in verse 21 we read: “And God created great whales (or sea monsters, the larger creatures of the sea), and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind.” Concerning the animals we read in Genesis 1:24: “Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind and it was so.” Again in verse 25 it is emphasized: “And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind.” Once more, we note in Genesis 2:19: “And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air.”
There are several elements worthy of note here.
1.The text teaches that each of these different kinds of creatures is brought into being in its own sphere, ,and is by virtue of its creation and according to its increated nature adapted to the sphere in which it lives. There was no process of evolution and adaptation of various creatures to the spheres in which they lived. But they were created as they are and with the kind of nature they possess, and adapted to live according to the, particular divine ordinance for the existence of each. The ordinance for the fish is that it shall live in the water. It did not have to become adapted to that mode of existence. On the contrary, that ordinance is created in its very being and its entire existence is wonderfully adapted to that end. Thus we read that God said, “Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life.” Or, more literally: “Let the waters swarm swarms of living souls.”
The same idea is emphasized concerning the fowl. The ordinance of God for the existence of the fowl is that, while they are earth bound creatures, they shall fly about freely in the air. Hence, on the one hand, according to Genesis 2:19, they are like the animals, formed from the ground. For there we read that the Lord God “formed from the ground every beast of the field and every fowl of the heavens.” Though they fly in the air, and though some of the fowl are amphibious, their abode is the earth. Yet they are created to fly in the open firmament of heaven. The fowl were not brought forth by the waters, as our King James Version would seem to indicate. Nor were they produced by the firmament; nor, in fact, do they fly in the firmament, as also the King James Version suggests. But God ordained them by their very creation to be creatures of the earth which were peculiarly adapted to fly in the air: Thus we read literally in verse 20 that God also said on the fifth day, “Let fowl fly upon the earth, upon the face of the firmament of the heavens.” This presents the birds exactly as we see them and from the viewpoint of our earth. They fly upon, that is, over the earth. As we view them, we see them in the air against the background of the blue firmament of the heavens, that is, not flying in that firmament as such, but upon the face of the firmament. If thus we understand the creation of the fowl, there is a realistic picture of the nature of these creatures as we behold them from the earth; and at the same time there is clear harmony between the record in Genesis 1:20 and Genesis 2:19. Also the fowl, therefore, are adapted, fit, in their increated nature for the kind of existence they are to lead.
The same is true, in the third place, of the various animals. The animals are not brought forth by the waters; nor do they drop out of the air; but God calls them forth from the earth that is to be their abode and to which, as their habitat, their very natures are adapted by virtue of the creative Word of God. The earth is the sphere of their movement and their life; and they are brought forth in that sphere, belonging to it, fitting in it, as strictly earthy and material living souls.
2. We may note that Scripture emphasizes that these creatures were made after their kind. There are those who attempt to cater to evolution here even as far as the literal text is concerned. They have sought to explain the text as meaning, for example, that animal life developed somehow from the plants. The plants, then, are the living earth; and from that living earth the animals were brought forth by a process of development. This, of course, is only one of various attempts to vitiate the plain teaching of Scripture. But notice that Scripture here speaks of the three different main kinds of creatures: fish, fowl, and animals. Then it emphasizes repeatedly, with respect to each of these, that it was created after its kind: the living souls of the waters, all after their kind; the winged fowl, after his kind; and the land animals, each after his kind. This does not exclude the fact that there are various classes and families of animals, and that there are within these families many different varieties. But all these varieties are limited to their own species. The Bible here plants a barrier which cannot be and is not transgressed, evolution to the contrary notwithstanding. Clearer language it could not speak in this regard.
3. Note that these fish and fowl and animals are all the product of God’s work of creation. All three words for “create” are employed at one point or another in the biblical record. God made them—that is, they are His workmanship. God formed them—that is, He gave to each creature its peculiar form and nature, after its kind. He created them, separating the one from the other, and giving to these creatures being outside of and in distinction from His own Being, separating them, as it were, out of His counsel. There is no process of development and growth, no evolutionary process. But, as the text also informs us, this making and forming and creating took place by God’s speech. God said, “Let the waters swarm . . . let fowl fly . . . let the earth bring forth.” Through His almighty Word, that which He spoke came into existence, the vast variety of living creatures representing, as it were, so many individual words of God. Moreover, with that same creative Word God blessed them; God addressed these living souls and by His creative Word gave them the power to reproduce themselves and the power to fulfill their calling and place in His creation to multiply and to fill the waters and the earth.
In the second place, as we have already suggested, the creation of all these living creatures also has its purpose, its goal, in the creation of man, who was to have dominion over all the works of God’s hands. Only, we must remember also that while man in the state of rectitude was the immediate goal, and the crown, of God’s creative work, this was not His only purpose. God had in view some better thing. All things were made in the beginning with a view to that ultimate purpose of God in Christ, and therefore also with a view to the course of history through which all things are to pass. It is because of this relationship also that it can be said that part of the purpose of the creation of the animals is seen in their symbolical and typical function, which they serve in order to teach us concerning the spiritual and heavenly realities.
We must bear in mind, therefore, that also the animal-world was destined to pass through a history, and it was created with that history and the consummation of that history in view. In this connection we may note the following three phases:
1.We must remember that, as they were created, all things stood at first in their original and perfect state. One may raise many questions in this connection. If sin had not come, what would have been the course of development in the animal realm? Would there have been death in the animal world? Would there have been the feeding of one animal upon another? Would the animals have reached some kind of higher state? And such questions can be multiplied. How must we view all these things in their original state?
We must be careful with regard to such questions. If questions of this kind arise out of a genuine desire to understand God’s Word, they deserve to be faced, surely. But there are many such questions raised nowadays in a critical spirit, and out of a desire to show that the Bible draws a foolish and impossible picture of things. In the latter case, of course, there is no point in attempting an answer. Questions of that kind have always been raised over against Scripture. Men of God like Augustine and Luther and Calvin already faced such questions. When, for example, Calvin and Luther faced the question as to what God was doing before the beginning, they replied by quoting Augustine to the effect that God was busy preparing hell for people with nosy questions. That is a case of answering a fool according to his folly. We must not, as fools, ask critical questions.
Certainly, there could have been no death originally. Of course, we must remember that sin is a fact, and that it is indeed a fact also according to God’s determinate counsel: it was for God no unforeseen circumstance. Moreover, we may also well remember that in terms of our present experience in this world of sin and the curse we cannot begin to imagine how things must have been in the earthly creation prior to the fall. All that we know from experience is a world subject to the curse and vanity, also as far as the animal world is concerned. While things, therefore, were created with the reality of sin and death in view, we must remember that originally all things were perfectly good. Death as a historical fact is the result of sin; and it did not enter the world before sin entered.
That also means that there could have been no war and no conflict originally. True, the animal has been so created that, as today, he can be nourished by another animal. In fact, we cannot even conceive of the whole existence of the animal world without the reality of one animal feeding upon another and with animals feeding only upon plants. But before sin and death there was no such warfare. This is in harmony, too, with the notice in Genesis 1:30 that God gave to the animals the green herb for meat. There was harmony originally: harmony between God and man, between man and the animal, between animal and animal. The creation was marked by peace, rooted in peace with God.
2. But that creation has fallen into the bondage of corruption. Man, created to be the head and king of creation as God’s friend, is at war with God. The king became God’s enemy. This war causes separation. It is the root of the separation between man and the animal. The animal does to man what man does to God. He rebels. There is separation among the animals. The animal does to the animal what man does to man. There is suffering and death in the animal realm also, due to the entrance of death and due to God’s curse. The creature is made subject to vanity. The higher the animal, the keener the suffering that it evinces.
3. But also that bondage of corruption is not the end. For Christ is appointed God’s Ring from eternity, to deliver His church and the entire creation from the corruption of sin and death, and to raise them to the level of the heavenly and the glorious in the new heavens and the new earth. From Christ as the Friend-servant of Jehovah He sends peace.
Even the whole creation, including the animals, recognizes this Christ. That is why you read in Romans 8 of the whole creation earnestly expecting and waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God. The creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. We know not what shall be the plan of that delivered creature, nor what form it shall take. Certainly we must not think earthy in this regard. But the animal kingdom shall certainly be delivered, along with the whole creation, and under the King and His people shall participate in the glorious liberty of the children of God.