The later Homer Hoeksema was professor of Dogmatics and Old Testament in the Protestant Reformed Seminary.

God’s creation of the living creatures (Gen. 1:20-25)

It is becoming increasingly common in the church of today to confound the revealed truth of creation and the philosophy of evolution. The result is actually, that the former is denied and lost sight of, and the latter, the theory of evolution, actually prevails in the thinking of the church, so that the confession of the church concerning the origin of things becomes more and more secularized and indistinguishable from the position of unbelief. Today it can be openly taught even in Reformed churches that there has been no Adam, and no Eve, and no Paradise without sin and death, and that the biblical account must not be taken to teach what is recorded in the opening chapters of Genesis in any literal sense. The account of Scripture is time-bound and culturally-conditioned, so it is claimed. Therefore, adjustments must be made in our understanding of these parts of Scripture, so that anything but a literal account is found in them and so that room is allowed for the introduction of an evolutionary process which really does not coincide with the biblical record whatsoever. It is highly necessary, therefore, that the simple and fundamental truth of Scripture be emphasized and re-emphasized over against the errors of evolutionism that have crept into the thinking of the church and that are more and more becoming entrenched there.

Evolutionism, denying creation by the living God and denying the creation of every creature separately, offers instead the philosophy that all the separate beings, living and otherwise, developed from one another and developed ultimately from a single common source. It leaves the question open as to the origin of that first and common beginning of everything. The ground of this theory, remember, is not a matter of science, that is, of the observation of such a process. On the contrary, it is a mere theory. But especially in connection with the living creatures, the evolutionist attempts to point to two factors. The first is the similarity of various kinds of creatures; and the second is the gradation of the creatures, the gradually ascending scale from lower to higher creatures.

Now Scripture teaches the facts, but it denies the conclusion. It is very plain on this score, so that no one need be in doubt.

Notice, on the one hand, the gradually ascending scale in the narrative of Scripture concerning the living beings. First, there is the world of plants—living beings indeed, but not living souls, and bound to the earth in which they grow. Then, there is the animal-realm, with the fish and fowl created on the fifth 4 day, and the land-animals created on the sixth day. Finally, there is man, created in the image of God, the crown of the earthly creation.

But, on the other hand, notice at the same time that the Bible in no uncertain language attributes all these creatures in their ascending scale to separate creation by the Lord our God, and tells us that the Almighty did not create things to mix and to evolve into one another, but created every creature after his kind, so that while there is perfect order and system in God’s works, there is clear separation throughout. The evolutionist is deceived—not, however, by God’s work, nor by a mistaken understanding, but by his own unbelief.

We may note, first of all, the kind of creature which God formed on the fifth day and partly on the sixth day. This represents a further advance in the work of creation. The text speaks in Genesis 1 of the moving creature that hath life, of fowl that may fly in the open firmament of heaven (v. 20); again, of every living creature after his kind, referring to the land-animals (v. 24); and yet again, in verse 28, of every living creature that moveth upon the earth; and, once more (v. 30), of the creature wherein there is life. We may notice, too, that God speaks a word to these creatures. According to verse 22, God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful, and multiply,” etc. This implies that they multiplied by an act of their own will.

When we take the various scriptural data into consideration, therefore, we learn that the animal is a living creature—literally, in this passage of Genesis, a “living soul”—that moves. It is a creature that is free from the earth, determining its own movements from within, whether in the water, in the air; or on the land—swimming, flying, hopping, running, creeping.

On the one hand, therefore, the animal-kingdom is distinct from the world of plant-life. The plant has life also. But the plant is not free: it does not move about, but is rooted in the earth. Nor does the plant have any kind of consciousness: it cannot know itself at all, and it cannot determine itself in relation to its environment, nor can it know the world in which it grows. But the animal has a certain soul-life. According to Scripture, the soul of the animal is in its blood. The animal has such life that it not only is moved, but it moves. It determines its own movements, has and uses the power of self-locomotion. In a certain sense, the animal has understanding. The Bible reminds us of this in more than one way. Thus, for example, it speaks of the serpent in Genesis 3 as being wiser than any beast of the earth which the Lord made. It refers us to the wisdom and foresight of the ant. It presupposes a certain area of feeling, or emotion, in a beast when it reminds us, “A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.” Thus, there are in the animals as living souls those realities corresponding to what in man are understanding, will, desire; memory, imagination, love, truth and faithfulness, cunning, foresight, etc. We are, perhaps, accustomed to thinking of these realities under that catch-all term instinct, but, surely, a term like this does not take into account the scriptural description of the animal and his soul life. Moreover, the animal has the senses of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling. Also here, of course, there is differentiation and variety. Generally speaking, the higher the living soul is in he scale of the creatures, the greater are its senses. Some animals’ seem, to us at least, to have no senses perceptibly. In others, there may be only one that is markedly present. Others possess all these senses in some degree.

On the other hand, however, the animals are living souls distinct from man. Man is made a living soul by his being formed from the dust of the ground and by God’s breathing into his nostrils the breath of life. Man is distinct in that he is created in the image and after the likeness of God. This is not true of the animal. In a certain sense, perhaps, it may be said that the animals were created after man’s image. But, at any rate, the animal is no rational, moral being, and there is no spiritual aspect to the animal according to which it can live in personal communication with God. The animal cannot know God, cannot speak to God, cannot love God or hate God, cannot keep or break God’s commandments. But the animal has a certain communion, or affinity, with man. We can hardly imagine how that relation must have been prior to the entrance of sin and death and the curse into the world. But even now we can discern something of it, that the nearer the animal stands to man in the scale of the creatures the more affinity there is between man and the animal.

After this general characterization of the nature and place of the animal in the whole of creation, we may turn to some of the details of Scripture’s description.

1. We may note that when the Word of God describes the animals, it does not view them through the eyes of the zoologist and describe them in scientific fashion according to their structure. Then, of course, we would expect a distinction into vertebrates and invertebrates and into all the various like classifications. Scripture also here does not purport to be a science textbook. Rather the Bible describes the animals in their creation according to the place that they occupy and according to the sphere in which they move. From this point of view there are the fish in the water, and the fowl of the air, and the beasts of the earth.

2. We may note that there is gradation. There are, first of all, those living creatures that were created on the fifth day. But there are also the living creatures of the earth—the beasts of the earth, the cattle, and the creeping things—created on the sixth day, the same day on which man was created. There is obvious here the general order in these two days of those creatures that are lowest, that is, furthest from our life, and those creatures that are highest in the scale, that is, nearest to man’s life. Furthest removed from our life are the creatures of the water. Nearer come the winged creatures, the fowl. Nearest, and thus created also on the sixth day, are the land-animals.

In this connection, the attempt is sometimes made to explain the fact that the fish and the fowl were created both on the fifth day from a certain structural likeness. A comparison is made as to the general shape of their bodies, as to the fact that they both have heads that break the way through the element in which they move (water and air), to the likeness of scales and feathers; of fins and wings, and so forth. Yet, it would appear that, though a study of these things certainly serves to remind us of the wisdom of the Creator in adapting each creature to its particular environment, nevertheless the text does not place any stress upon the structure of these creatures and on their similarities and dissimilarities as being connected with the fact that they are created on the same day.

3. We may note that there is still greater gradation among these living creatures within the three great classes distinguished in the text. In each class there are the lower and higher, so that the classes almost gradually shade into one another. At the lowest point it is difficult even to distinguish some of the living creatures from plants, or even from the non-living creature, while at the highest point there are the living creatures—even today in the creation as it is under the curse—which we take under our roof and in which is apparent a high degree of intelligence. As far as the different kinds of animals are concerned, the text mentions the creatures of the waters, speaking both of the great sea monsters and of all the myriad of living creatures that swarm the seas. Among the winged fowl it makes no special mention of various kinds, although here again we know that there is a vast variety. Among the land-animals there is mention made of the cattle, that live nearer to man, of the creeping things, and of the beasts of the earth, apparently the wild beasts that have their habitat away from man today.

Thus we may-behold again the unity, the organic unity and harmony of God’s work of creation. Creation rises in an ever-ascending scale of creatures toward man, the crowning work of God in the earth. In this unity there is an almost endless variety of living beings formed by our God—so many individual works of God, all designed by Him, created by Him, and telling His praises. Indeed, there is a speech of God here which by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ we may still discern, even though we do not know and see that creation in its former, perfect estate.

In the first place, we must listen to its speech concerning the wisdom and the knowledge of our God, as well as the speech concerning His wonderful provision for the creatures of His hand. All the myriad creatures with all their marvelous adaptation to their exact place and purpose in the whole of God’s works and with all their variety of beauty tell the praises of the Lord our Creator.

But, more than this, in the second place, also with respect to the animal-world we must bear in mind that the earthly was made with a view to the heavenly, the natural with a view to the spiritual. In this connection, we may briefly remind ourselves, for one thing, of the place that some of the animals were destined to occupy in the Old Testament scheme of the types and shadows. We think; for example, of the lamb that must serve as the type of the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. Or we may think of the many symbolical references to the animals in Scripture. The serpent, the lion, the lamb, the eagle, the he-goat, the unicorn, the horse—all these, and others, have a place symbolically in the speech of God’s revelation concerning the heavenly and spiritual things of the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. They were created with a view to that purpose.

But there is more.

We must remember in connection with all God’s work of creation that there is wisdom and purpose in each of Gods works with a view to the whole. Everything must be good, that is, able to serve the purpose for which it is made. All the various and manifold creatures together must serve the one purpose of functioning as a house for man to dwell in as God’s covenant friend. He, man, is the crowning work of God in the earthly creation—created to be king, that is, to have dominion over all the works of Gods hands, but as the friend-servant of the Most High, created after His image, in order to serve and glorify Him in the midst of all the works of God’s hands over which he has dominion. It is to this end that God creates all things. For that reason, and with that purpose in view, God creates the structure of that house in which man is to dwell in covenant communion with his Maker. But the Lord our God also furnishes that house, so to speak, and beautifies it. He does not purpose that His covenant-friend shall live in a bare shell, but in a beautiful and well-furnished home, surrounded by all the tokens of Gods lovingkindness and in the midst of all the works of Gods hands which testify of His goodness, His power, His wisdom and knowledge, in order that he, man, may behold all Gods wonderful works, may read the testimony of Gods goodness and greatness all around him in the house in which he dwells, and may employ all God’s wonderful gifts in His service. In a word, all in that creation must serve man, in order that man may serve his Creator in love, and may, in and with all that God gives him, testify, in effect, “O, my God! How wonderful Thou art! Thy fellowship is my delight! And it is sheer joy to be surrounded by the works of Thy hands and to serve Thee and obey Thy will.”

It is in this light that we must also view the creation of the whole realm of the animals on the fifth and sixth days of creation-week. God was furnishing a home, a beautiful and serviceable dwelling place for man, His king-priest, His friend-servant. The Lord our God is not stinting in His work. He furnishes a luxurious dwelling place, and lavishes His bounty upon it. It is to be a home teeming with life and activity, and resounding with the praises of the divine Builder and Artificer. To this end the almighty Creator forms a manifold realm of living souls, peopling the waters of the sea, flying under the firmament of the heavens, and dwelling on the earth below, with man, and representing an almost endlessly rich variety.

. . . to be continued