Fish, birds and sea monsters (Genesis chap. 1, vers. 20-23)

moby_dick_p510_illustrationAnd 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. And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.  And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth. And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.

“Now the world is ready as we a dwelling place for living creatures. All the conditions for life have been given; therefore, on the fifth day begins the creation of living creatures. The report first names the inhabitants of the created spheres far from man, the water and the air. In theological formulation the report emphasizes very strongly what is new and unprecedented on this way of creation: the creation of living beings. (According to ancient Hebrew thought, plants did not share in life.)

The verb “barà” (“create”) to designate special and exclusive divine creativity is used here again deliberately. Significantly it is used first (if we disregard the summary v. 1) for the creation of living creatures (v.21). Compared with creation by word, “barà” points without doubt to a direct relationship between creature and creator. Life came into being not only by a word of command, but id derives from a more direct creative act of God.

Moreover, this newly created life is also the object of the divine blessing, i.e., these living creatures are the recipients of a life-giving, divine power by virtue of which they themselves are capable of passing on the life they have received by means of their own procreation.

The first living creatures that the report names are the mythical beings who live at the extreme limits of the created realms known to man, but precisely therefore an object of special divine pleasure. (Ps. 104:26; Job 40:15 ff.; 41:1 ff.). In the sequence of animals created, the fish and the fowl follow next.

The progression from the almost mythical sea monsters to the smaller and more harmless animals contains a significant theological statement: nothing in this realm, which, as we saw, is close nevertheless to the dimension of chaos, is outside the creative will of God. Outside God there is nothing to fear; even this creature is good in God’s sight!” (From Gerhard von Rad, Genesis Commentary, 1972, pp. 56-57)

Simone Venturini


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