Genesis 1 Day 5: The Creation of Sea and Air Creatures

By Ron Jones ©Titus Institute 2018

Scripture quotations are from the ESV Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version), ©2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved."


On Day 1, God created the raw material of the universe, the earth as a gigantic earthen sphere covered by water and outer space unoccupied until the proper time. He will be like a master sculptor who has prepared the clay to be molded. His Holy Spirit is hovering over the face of this world wide ocean ready to participate with the Father and the Son in the creation. God then creates a supernatural light by which the earth can begin to rotate on its axis and the first 24 hour day can begin. On Day 2, God creates the sky between the waters above (clouds full of water vapor) and the waters below (ocean). This is the beginning of the hydrologic cycle which God created to grow the food supply and sustain life. On Day 3 God creates the dry land, the seas and vegetation. The dry land will be what animals and man will inhabit and what will produce the vegetation that they will eat to sustain their lives. The seas are an essential part of the hydrologic cycle as well as sustaining life on earth. On Day 4, God fills Outer Space which he created on Day 1 with the sun, moon, and stars. Day 5 begins in v.20

Genesis 1 Day 5: The Creation of Sea and Air Creatures

Genesis 1:20-23 v. 20 And God said, "Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens." v. 21 So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 And God blessed them, saying, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth."

23 And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.

The fifth day concerns the filling of the waters and the skies with living creatures. It parallels the second day and the creation of the "expanse" that separates the waters from the atmosphere (1:6-8).

v. 20 And God said, "Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures."

On the fifth day God creates the living creatures that will inhabit the areas he separated on the second day, the land and sea.

v. 20 living creatures

This phrase, "living creatures" is also used of animals and humans, but not of plants and trees. This shows that plants are not considered by God as "living creatures." Plants and trees do not have life in them in the same way.

v. 20 swarm

Swarm refers to the movement of these creatures. All these sea creatures are moving about in the water filling the inanimate sea.

v. 20 and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.

v. 20 birds

This noun refers to more than just birds, but all the living creatures that fly above the earth.

v.20 "across the expanse of the heavens"

Notice, the birds fly across the expanse.

This shows that the expanse was not solid and was not revealed by God as if it was solid. Some OT scholars teach that the ANE cultures believed that the sky/expanse was solid with windows for water to go through and rain upon the earth. They say that the ancient Hebrews believed the same thing and God accommodated that view in the OT when he taught them truth.

Genesis 1 contradicts that teaching. God clearly reveals that the "expanse of the heavens," "the lower heavens" were not solid. Birds flew across it. Whatever the ANE cultures surrounding the Hebrews believed makes no difference to what God has clearly revealed in Genesis 1 about it. God is teaching the Hebrews as he taught Adam at the beginning, the sky/raqiya is not solid.

v. 21 So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind.

v. 21 So God created the great sea creatures

No one is quite sure what "great sea creatures" refers to here. It could be whales, large crocodiles, large sea serpents or some type of dinosaur that inhabits the sea. Most likely all of the above.

Psalm 148:7 Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all deeps.

God mentions these great sea creatures because they are living demonstrations of God's mighty power.

v.21 "and every living creature that moves"

God also created all the other smaller sea creatures and fish that inhabit the waters.

v.21 "according to their kinds"

God creates animals as "kinds" with similar characteristics as he did with plants. This creates order and limits in reproduction. We see this same order and limit today. That is evidence of the truth of Genesis.

v. 21 And God saw that it was good.

These living creatures will fulfill their purpose in the world as a benefit for human beings.

v. 22 And God blessed them, saying, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth."

This is the first time God blesses and he blesses them with the ability and command to procreate.

v. 23 And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.

The Creation of Man and Woman 1:26-28

Genesis 1:26 Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth."

Before God creates man and woman, he does something very different from the previous creation of plants, sea and air creatures, and animals, he makes a declaration of his intent to create human beings and gives their central role on earth in his kingdom. God declares that human beings will be made in the image of God and that they will rule over the earth. Human beings will not be like all the other creatures that God has created. They will be separate and above them in rule and authority.

This also is a personal intimate act of God. God doesn't say, "Let there be man." He says, "Let us make man in our image." "Us" and "our" are personal pronouns which bring out the fact that God is personally and emotionally involved in the creation of man and woman. God does not address the earth when he creates man as he does the plants and animals, instead he addresses himself. "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness," declares at the very outset the distinction and pre-eminence of man above all the other creatures of the earth.

There are two important interpretive issues in this passage, the meaning of "us" and the meaning of "image and likeness."

The Meaning of "us."

v.26 us make...our image

This is the first of four passages in the Old Testament where a plural pronoun is found in connection with God.

Genesis 3:22 "like one of us" Genesis 11:7 "let us go down" Isaiah 6:8 "And who will go for us?"

v. 26 us...our

Who is Elohim talking to?

There are several possible interpretations of these plurals:

1. God is giving a divine announcement to a heavenly court of angels

God is talking to his heavenly court of angels, but is giving a divine announcement, not an invitation to participate. Angels can't create so it has to be just a divine announcement. The problem with this view is that the statement "let us make man in our image" is not an announcement but an invitation to participate in the creation of man. "Let us" is an invitation to participate in doing something together. In this case, it is the creation of man. Angels would then be invited to participate in the creation of man which is not taught anywhere in Scripture and inconsistent with the nature and role of angels taught in the Scriptures. The interpretation that it is simply an announcement to angels of what God is going to do cannot be sustained.

2. God is talking about himself in the singular, but using a plural of majesty

A second interpretation of this statement is that it is a "plural of majesty." In later times, a king spoke in the plural at times when talking about himself and what he would do. But this is much later in history and there is no example of this usage in the Scriptures. So, it has very weak evidence.

Louis Berkhof, the well-respected theologian, wrote, "The Church has generally interpreted the plural 'us' on the basis of the trinitarian existence of God. Some scholars, however, regard it as a plural of majesty; others, as a plural of communication, in which God includes the angels with Himself; and still others, as a plural of self-exhortation. Of these three suggestions the first is very unlikely, since the plural of majesty originated at a much later date; the second is impossible, because it would imply that the angels were co-creators with God, and that man is also created in the image of the angels, which is an un-Scriptural idea; and the third is an entirely gratuitous assumption, for which no reason can be assigned. Why should such a self-exhortation be in the plural, except for the reason that there is a plurality in God." (Berkhof, L. (1938). Systematic theology (p. 182). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans publishing co.p.182)

3. God is talking within the Trinity.

It is an Intertrinitarian conversation. It is not meant to teach the Trinity which is not fully revealed in the OT, but to foreshadow the Trinity as is done in other places in the OT.

Lange writes, "The OT does unfold the idea of a Trinity. That the Old Testament knows nothing of a divine not true; yet the Trinitarian idea only unfolds itself germinally in the Old Testament, and here it had not yet come to its development." Lange, J. P., Schaff, P., Lewis, T., & Gosman, A. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Genesis (pp. 161-163). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

This is the interpretation of the early church fathers.

Mathews writes, "The interpretation proposed by the Church Fathers and perpetuated by the Reformers was an intra-Trinity dialogue...Although the Christian Trinity cannot be derived solely from the use of the plural, a plurality within the unity of the Godhead may be derived from the passage." Mathews, K. A. (1996). Genesis 1-11:26 (Vol. 1A, pp. 162-163). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

In Genesis 1:2, the Spirit of God is hovering over the waters of the deep. Surely, the presence of God's Spirit is hinting at the Trinitarian nature of God.

Job 33:4 The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.

Job may be the earliest book written in the OT. It most likely comes from the time of the Patriarchs. It shows that there was a clear understanding that the Spirit of God was involved in creation. So certainly, it can be understood from the context of Genesis 1 that in v.26 God is talking to his Spirit.

Later revelation in the NT tells us that the Son of God also was involved at that time.

John 1:1-3 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

John is clearly indicating that at the beginning in Genesis 1, the Son of God was there with the Father and was the one who actually did the creating at the will of the Father.

So, we see the Spirit in Genesis 1:2 and the Son in John 1:1-3, right there at creation. God the Father initiated and directed his Son to create everything and the Son did it by speaking it into existence and the Spirit carried it out.

Irenaeus who was a disciple of Polycarp who was a disciple of the Apostle John wrote in 180 A.D., "It was not angels, therefore, who made us, nor who formed us, neither had angels power to make an image of God...For with Him were always present the Word and Wisdom, the Son and the Spirit, by whom and in whom, freely and spontaneously, He made all things, to whom also He speaks, saying, 'Let Us make man after Our image and likeness.' [Gen. 1:26]" (Against Heresies 4:20:1)

Why does God bring in this intertrinitarian dialogue at this time?

This is intimate language within the Triune God as they are about to create human beings who will have a relationship with them as God. The Triune God will be personally involved in the lives of these beings he creates.

Notice that the plural possessive "our image" in v. 26 and the singular pronoun "his image" in v. 27. Here the unity and plurality of God are in view.

I think this is the same for "Elohim." Elohim is likewise in the plural form. In Genesis 1:1, Elohim which is in the plural noun form is followed by a singular verb form. Elohim hints at the Triune nature of God.

The Image and Likeness of God

v. 26 our image and likeness

These two words are used as synonyms in the OT. They are most likely used together for emphasis. But God does not define the image and likeness of God. We are left to discover its meaning.

I believe there are four aspects to the divine image of God in man.

1. It refers to the mental and spiritual faculties that man shares with God.

Among the many suggestions are that the image of God resides in man’s reason, personality, free-will, self-consciousness, or his intelligence, appreciation for beauty and aesthetics, being morally sensitive and morally aware and morally conscious, and the ability to communicate with language.

2. It refers to man’s ability to display the communicable attributes of God.

God made human beings with certain attributes that are like his attributes. These attributes are ones such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. All human beings can display these human attributes apart from having a relationship with God. However, for Christians God has promised that if we trust and submit to him and walk by his Spirit, he will empower us by his Spirit to display his love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control through our human attributes.

Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

3. It refers to man’s ability to have relationship with God and with other human beings.

Being made in the image of God also includes being made with the capability of being able to have a personal relationship with God.

Wenham writes, “The image is a capacity to relate to God. Man’s divine image means that God can enter into personal relationships with him, speak to him, and make covenants with him.” Wenham, G. J. (1998). Genesis 1–15 (Vol. 1, p. 31). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

4. It refers to man’s representation of God on the earth.

God’s intent was for man to rule over the earth as his righteous representative. The very next verse purposefully describes this rule or dominion. In ancient times, the king was said to be in the “image of God.” The king represented the god on earth and ruled as such.

Wenham writes, “That man is made in the divine image and is thus God’s representative on earth was a common oriental view of the king. Both Egyptian and Assyrian texts describe the king as the image of God (see Ockinga, Dion, Bird). Furthermore, man is here bidden to rule and subdue the rest of creation, an obviously royal task (cf. 1 Kgs 5:4 [4:24], etc.), and Ps 8 speaks of man as having been created a little lower than the angels, crowned with glory and made to rule the works of God’s hands. The allusions to the functions of royalty are quite clear in Ps 8. Another consideration suggesting that man is a divine representative on earth arises from the very idea of an image. Images of gods or kings were viewed as representatives of the deity or king. The divine spirit was often thought of as indwelling an idol, thereby creating a close unity between the god and his image (Clines, TB 19 [1968] 81–83). Whereas Egyptian writers often spoke of kings as being in God’s image, they never referred to other people in this way. It appears that the OT has democratized this old idea. It affirms that not just a king, but every man and woman, bears God’s image and is his representative on earth.” Wenham, G. J. (1998). Genesis 1–15 (Vol. 1, pp. 31–32). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

v.26 “man” and “let them”

“Man” is used here generically for mankind. We know this because the verb “rule” is in the plural form and in v.27 he creates “man” as male and female.

v. 26 And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

Notice, that God commanded the earth to sprout forth vegetation (v.11) and bring forth animals (v.24), but God created man directly and then gave him dominion over the animals and the earth. This shows man’s superior position above the animals and the earth.

Five categories of animals are mentioned: fish, birds, livestock/cattle, “over all the earth” (all other animals are implied in this phrase), and creeping things. This is the consequence of creating man in the image of God. God gives man rule and governance over all the creatures on the earth he has created. This is important to remember in a culture like ours that wants to equate animals with human beings or even exalt them over human beings.

v. 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them

V.27 is poetic language which is used for memorizing and acknowledging something important.

So God created man in his own image in the image of God he created him male and female he created them

Cassuto writes, “The poetic structure of the sentence, its stately diction and its particular emotional quality attest the special importance that the Torah attributes to the making of man—the noblest of the creatures.” Cassuto, U. (1998). A Commentary on the Book of Genesis: Part I, From Adam to Noah (Genesis I–VI 8). (I. Abrahams, Trans.) (p. 57). Jerusalem: The Magnes Press, The Hebrew University.

v. 27 male and female he created them

This defines “man.”

Notice a couple of very important truths here.

1. The male and female are equals before God. Both are created in the image of God.

2. Male and female are the only sexual identities created. God is defining sexual identity here and will again in Genesis 2. There are two sexes, male and female.

Mathews writes, “Them” also is found in 1:28, where procreation is its primary interest, obviously assuming the sexual differentiation of two persons, male and female. Hebrew terms for “male” (zakar) and “female” (neqebâ), as opposed to man and woman, particularly express human sexuality (and animals; e.g., Gen 5:2; 6:19; 7:3, 9, 16).” Mathews, K. A. (1996). Genesis 1-11:26 (Vol. 1A, p. 173). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

3. The male and female have the commandment to rule over the creatures of the earth.

Notice, that not only are both the male and female made in the image of God, but they are also given the mandate to rule over the creatures of the earth. However, as we will see, Genesis 2 will explain the role differentiation between them.

v.28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

I call this God’s First Great Commission given to all human beings.

God created Adam and Eve and gave them a commission. This commission was given to them as the father and mother of human beings and is to be followed by all their descendants. That’s everybody.

This commission gave them their meaning and purpose for living in the world God had created for them.

1. Be fruitful and multiply – produce and raise families

2. Fill the earth – spread out over all the earth, all of it belongs to man

2. Subdue it and rule over it.

Ruling the earth is now added to ruling over the creatures of the earth. This means that they are to use the resources of the earth to meet the needs of humans. In other words, God is saying “Create civilization.”

v. 28 and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.

This statement is repetition for emphasis. God wants us to be fully aware of the authority God has given to human beings to rule over the earth he has created for their blessing. This dominion involves ruling over animals for the benefit of mankind and civilization. God gives man the authority to subdue livestock to help man farm the land. God does not mean to abuse animals under their authority.

Psalm 115:16 The heavens are the Lord's heavens, but the earth he has given to the children of man.

v. 29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. v. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.

The original diet God ordained for man was primarily fruits, vegetables, and grains as well as dairy products as we will mention in Genesis 2. God provided for animals a wider diet of “every green plant.” This provision for man and animals of a continual food supply from the rich resources of the earth God had made shows his incredible love and grace.

v. 29-30 “every” and “all”

These words emphasize the abundance of the food supply over all the earth. So, man and animals were originally vegetarians. Later in Genesis 9:3, after the flood God gave human beings the authority to eat animals.

Genesis 9:1-4

1And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. 2The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. 3Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. 4But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.

This means, that if a person wants to be a vegetarian that’s fine. If a person wants to eat meat, that’s fine. Neither are Biblically mandated as better than the other.

v. 31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

v.31 “It was very good.”

God now looks at his whole creation and views its harmonious and wonderful environment for human beings and for all the animals he had made. For the first time, he says it was very good.

Could an old earth be called “very good”?

I wonder if God could have said the same thing, if the earth was millions of years old when man was created? Since animals cannot live for millions of years, there would have been death and decay during that time. How could God call that earth “very good”?

This is to me the real issue. The young v. old earth problem isn’t solved by arguing about days, but stepping back and looking at the kind of world that God provided for mankind and Genesis 1 reveals. It reveals a generous provider of everything for human beings to have a blessed existence, a brand new earth filled with an abundant food supply from the ground, animals to make the earth beautiful and interesting and helpful for man, and so much more. It was a creation that God called very good. To me, an old earth just does not fit that revelation of God.