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Genesis 1:7

ויעש אלהים את־הרקיע ויבדל בין המים אשר מתחת לרקיע ובין המים אשר מעל לרקיע ויהי־כן׃

And God made the firmament, and divided between the waters which were under the firmament and between the waters which were above the firmament. And it was so.

The word translated in this verse as "created" is ויעש, a form of the verb עשה. The verbs עשה and ברא appear often in the Genesis 1 creation account, and they seem almost interchangable. So, why did the Author use the 3MS vav-consecutive imperfect of עשה instead of the 3MS vav-consecutive of ברא?

Some observations

Day 1: Neither עשה nor ברא is used in describing creation of the light, but instead we have yehi owr wa-yehi owr ('Light shalt exist.' And light existed.)

Day 2: עשה is used to describe creation of the firmament

Day 3: Neither verb is used for God's creation of plants, but instead the earth "sprouts" (דשא) the vegetation. The verb עשה, however, is used to describe the tree "bearing" fruit (perhaps, in its own way, "creating" fruit?)

Day 4: עשה is used to describe creation of the luminaries

Day 5: ברא is used to describe creation of the sea-animals and sky-animals

Day 6: עשה is used to describe creation of the land-animals. עשה is also used when God says, "Let us create man in our image." But then, we have ברא used 3 times when God says "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them."

In these observations, however, I fail to see a pattern which might explain the use of עשה on Day 2.

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You have done a very careful analysis.

bara does not mean "create out of nothing" as @A. Meshu has said. We know this because God created man using the dust of the earth. bara means to create something new that has not existed before.

You left out verse 1. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. This uses the word bara. This is not a title as some think because the next verse starts with "and". In the beginning God created the universe out of nothing. We then see following v1, on days 1-6 that God did not create anything out of nothing. It was all there from v1.

How long ago was that? The Bible doesn't say. It was in the beginning.

Day 1: Neither עשה nor ברא is used in describing creation of the light, but instead we have yehi owr wa-yehi owr ('Light shalt exist.' And light existed.)

God didn't create or make light here because light already existed.
God had created it in v1 as part of the universe.
How can God create a universe without light?
Are we to believe that God created water, fire, heat, sound, and all the elements in v1, but not light?

v2 says darkness was upon the face of the deep.
This implies there was light elsewhere in the universe.
It is like if I said, there was darkness over my whole neighborhood.
That implies that outside my neighborhood somewhere, there was light.
If the entire universe was dark, why would God say, Darkness was on the face of the deep?

When God said, let there be light, He brought light to the earth.
This was when the first of the 7 days began.
This was 6,000 - 8,000 years ago.

I understand that most Christians think the first of the 7 days began with v1.
The text does not say when this day began.
But it tells us when the this and all the days ended.
They all ended at the morning of the next day

Gen 1:5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening, and there was morning -- one day.

H.C. Leupold says it better than I could:

"Then came evening, then came morning - the first day." To try to make this mean that the day began with evening, as days did according to the later Jewish reckoning (Lev 23:32), fails utterly, because verse 5 reports the conclusion of this day's work not its beginning. - H. C. Leupold

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Day 2: עשה is used to describe creation of the firmament

God made the firmament around the earth. God had already created firmaments in v1, so God was not creating something that never existed before.
Now He made one for the earth.
The firmament is the earth's atmosphere which keeps the clouds separated from the earth, so we can see.
The firmament of the heavens, (definite article) into which God placed the stars on the 4th day, is our galaxy, which God created when He created the heavens in v1.

I never thought of the firmament being the galaxy before, but I think it makes more sense than any other interpretation I've ever heard! - Pascal's Wager

Thanks! I say that because God set the stars in the firmament.

Day 3: Neither verb is used for God's creation of plants, but instead the earth "sprouts" (דשא) the vegetation. The verb עשה, however, is used to describe the tree "bearing" fruit (perhaps, in its own way, "creating" fruit?)

I think the plant seeds were already left there from a previous creation on the earth that got destroyed between v1 and v2.

Day 4: עשה is used to describe creation of the luminaries

God had already created the heavens in v1. That includes the stars.
Here God made the stars in our galaxy.
He uses the verb "made" because stars already had been created in v1, so God was not creating something that never existed before.
There were stars in other galaxies, but not in our galaxy.
All the stars visible to the naked eye are in our galaxy. The closest galaxy to our own, Andromeda, looks like 1 star.

Day 5: ברא is used to describe creation of the sea-animals and sky-animals

These are new creatures, so God created them.

Day 6: עשה is used to describe creation of the land-animals. עשה is also used when God says, "Let us create man in our image." But then, we have ברא used 3 times when God says "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them."

Man was something new that never existed before.

From what you wrote, it sounds like ברא is used when God makes something for the first time ever and עשה is used when he makes something that has already been made before. – Pascal's Wager

Yes, and this is illustrated by the verse that summarizes all God's creation work in chapter 1:

Genesis 2:3 And God blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it, because that on it he rested from all his work which God created for making.

"created for making" is what the Hebrew literally says. Or it could be translated "created [in order] to make".

  • I think the Bible is a great commentator on the Bible. “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” ‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭11:3‬ I appreciate what you had to say but it feels so forced reading it, that its hard not to think you are experiencing cognitive dissonance. As an example, you said, light being made in v1 because v2 speaks of darkness but Isaiah 45:7 says that God יוצר darkness. Darkness is not the absence of light. Darkness has to be יצר. Now I’m convinced that v1 is part of day 1. – Autodidact Apr 20 at 2:55
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    please help me identify the name calling you speak of, it’s difficult to apologize for something I can’t see I committed, especially since I avoid ad hominems as they don’t help my case and are a distraction. Also the Hebrew, I’ve given up trying to fix it, I don’t know why it happens or how to fix it. But thank you. I’ll re read your post and see if it makes different sense than previously. – Autodidact Apr 21 at 0:07
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    I can see that it might come across as offensive to some but it’s not name calling ...and how else am I to convey the same idea that you are mixing two conflicting statements and still trying to make sense of both? I’ve experienced cognitive dissonance many times, and it usually helps if someone else identifies it for me because it’s not always obvious to me. Certainly it was not name calling or intended to degrade or belittle. anxiety that results from simultaneously holding contradictory or otherwise incompatible attitudes, beliefs, or the like – Autodidact Apr 21 at 1:02
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    +1 I never thought of the firmament being the galaxy before, but I think it makes more sense than any other interpretation I've ever heard! From what you wrote, it sounds like ברא is used when God makes something for the first time ever and עשה is used when he makes something that has already been made before. – Pascal's Wager Apr 23 at 3:08
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    @Pascal'sWager please explain how that makes any sense at all to you. The firmament is a galaxy? Are you aware that is secular science a galaxy is a massive collection of stars primarily? Stars are made on day four. How does that make any sense? And v7 speaks of waters above the expanse. Where did this water in this supposed galaxy go? This is entirely incongruent and yet it makes sense, how? Please explain. – Autodidact Apr 24 at 2:14
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Can't find related articles - yet i'm sure someone said that before me in the past 2000 years:

In biblical Hebrew, whn we read ברא it means to create from nothing, and when we read עשה it means to create something from something.

So as for your question: both water on the ground and water on the sky are made from the same thing - water. Since Genesis won't say that God created the water, the writer use עשה root to say that God made the sky and the sea. How? He "just" seperate the water...

  • This verse does not describe the creation of sky and sea. It describes the creation of a firmament, which can hold up the pre-exisisting waters. – Keelan Aug 1 '18 at 18:28
  • on the second day God separate the pre existing water and made with (some of) them the firmament. – A. Meshu Aug 1 '18 at 19:53
  • @A.Meshu If your theory is correct, that ברא means creation from nothing and עשה means creation from something, why would ברא be used for the sea-creatures and the fowls but עשה be used for the land animals? – Pascal's Wager Aug 1 '18 at 21:28
  • I guess it's like in evolution - all life started from sea. So God create the sea creatures and after a "day" made the land animals from them. – A. Meshu Aug 2 '18 at 3:49
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    . . . and if either of you are actually God, be sure to write a book about it. Also, please make it short and at a level that ordinary people can understand. ;-) – Dieter Sep 30 '18 at 21:25

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