Commentary on Genesis 1

Thesis: Since the scriptures had already been codified during the Maccabean period, the Persian period being an unlikely age for their origination, it seems likely the primary part of the Old Testament, from Genesis to 2 Kings, had been codified in the exile, by c. 540 BC, with earlier, late monarchic scrolls being used as sources, as suggests Walter Mattfeld. Of course, it is quite unlikely the Primary History was composed any time before 722 BC, when Judah was merely struggling for survival, and far from attempting to develop a coherent sense of national identity. Such an identity could only have been molded during the days of Hezekiah or the Exile. It is quite impossible that any Middle Bronze oral tradition might preserve accurately anything of the supposed Patriarchs, or that a coherent, codified monotheism existed before the days of the Monarchies. Let us then begin with the commentary.

Commentary on Genesis 1

1-”In the beginning”-i.e., in the beginning of worldly history, supposed heavenly earlier events being too fanciful and in too numerous editions to record.

“God”-that is, Elohim, which, by the late stage the text was composed, had become a mere title for YHWH, who was apparently thought to be the only god in existence. This is definitely a sign of a post-722 BC, but apparently pre-Hasmonean, train of thought.

“created the heavens and the earth”-The author is here describing a logical precursor to the next verse; that the heavens, that is, the vast expanse of space, must exist before anything in it, including light. The listener/reader is not intended to see these, but, rather, merely know that they are there.

2-“The earth was formless and void”-Somewhat reminiscent of the primordial ocean of the Sumerians. Jeremiah 4:23, dating to the days of Nabopolassar, parodies this verse, showing this narrative was existent in the days of Josiah. In v. 6 of this chapter, the earth is explicitly stated to have been covered entirely with water (and, seemingly, nothing else) during this phase.

“And darkness was over the face of the deep”-Making it more clear that the earth was invisible to any viewers, and that the waters of the ocean and sky were united in a great ocean. Other, later Judahite texts of the late 7th-early 6th Cs BC (and Iranian texts of the Early Persian period) state the earth is circular, and has ends. This might imply the later Judahites thought the early earth was very much like a dish, situated upon pillars, as stated in the Book of Job.

“and the spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters”-Apparently added to add some eventfulness to the narrative, and to give a picture of the relationship between God and the primordial Earth.

3- “Then God said”-Apparently written to emphasize the power of God, being able to create by commanding the universe by the spoken word


“’Let there be light’; and there was light”-That is, anything but blackness, the thing which allows to see. The light is implied in v. 3 of this chapter to have been mixed with the darkness, and have been a substance, like water or coal.

4-“God saw the light was good”-That is, God could make a value judgment that light was suitable to his goals, which do not seem to have reasons behind their existence.

Author: pithom

An atheist with an interest in the history of the ancient Near East. Author of the Against Jebel al-Lawz Wordpress blog.

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