Irrespective of whether one believes in Gap theory or not we see that the word Bara and asa is used several times in Genesis interchangeably. What confuses me is how are we to understand the actual meaning of the word in the text. Eg. in Genesis 1:7 we have the word yaas, are we to understand that it means to create out of nothing or to form or shape something?


4 Answers 4


The meaning of br' is to create, where the mechanism of creation is unspecified. It could mean creation ex nihilo. It could mean a slow fashioning. With br', that information is not given. However only God can br', man cannot br'.

'sh has the meaning "make, fashion, cause to happen". It usually provides more specification than 'br as it is often (but not always) used when you specify more information about how something was made rather than who made it. Simplistic rules that br' refer to instantaneous or ex nihilo creation are false.

Here is a selection from the TDOT entry for br'[1]:

The scope of the use of the verb baraʾ is greatly limited. It is used exclusively to denote divine creation and appears predominantly in the qal in the OT (38 times), and less frequently in the niphal (10 times). The rare nominal form berî’āh, “a creation, created thing,” occurs once (Nu. 16:30). As a special theological term, baraʾ is used to express clearly the incomparability of the creative work of God in contrast to all secondary products and likenesses made from already existing material by man. However, in poetic texts baraʾ is used in parallelism with → עשׂה ʿāśāh, “to do, make”

Here are excerpts from TDOT for 'sh[2]:

  1. Make. There are numerous instances of the meaning “make.” God makes garments for Adam and Eve after the fall (Gen. 3:21); people make implements of war (1 S. 8:12); Noah makes the ark (Gen. 6:14–16; 8:6); Abraham “makes” (i.e., builds) an altar (13:4; cf. 35:1, 3; Ex. 20:24–25) and asks Sarah to make cakes (Gen. 18:6); Jacob and Laban make a heap of stones (gal, 31:46); Jacob makes booths for his cattle (33:17).


  1. Create. “Making” takes on theological significance when Yahweh is the agent. Most of these texts refer to the creation of the world. In all periods, in fact, ʿāśâ was the commonest verb for “create”; [..] Whether a subtle theological distinction is involved or the text is a revision of an original ʿāśâ account may remain an open question.25 It is noteworthy that God says “Let us make humankind” (Gen. 1:26) but then creates them (1:27: 3 times bārāʾ). Thus 3 of the 6 occurrences of bārāʾ refer to the creation of humankind; a fourth appears in the combination bārāʾ laʿaśôṯ (2:3). Gen. 6:6 has ʿāśâ, but v. 7 bārāʾ. Deutero-Isaiah equates yāṣar, bārāʾ, and ʿāśâ (Isa. 45:7).26 God makes the earth and the heavens (Gen. 2:4 [J]; contrast 1:1 [P]; also 2 K. 19:15 par. Isa. 37:16, when Hezekiah invokes God in his prayer, and in Jeremiah’s prayer after purchasing a field [Jer. 32:17]). God will also make a new heaven and a new earth (Isa. 66:22; contrast 65:17 with bārāʾ). In the Psalms we find the formulaic divine epithet ʿōśēh šāmayim wāʾāreṣ: 115:15 (with the commentary in v. 16 that the heavens are Yahweh’s heaven, whereas the earth he has given to human beings); 121:2 (the mighty helper); 124:8 (“our help”); 134:3 (bestower of blessings from Zion); 146:6 (expanded: “… the sea, and all that is in them”; helper). Gen. 14:19 preserves an earlier formula: qōnēh šāmayim wāʾāreṣ.27 Deutero-Isaiah includes the universal statement: “I am Yahweh, maker of all things” (Isa. 44:24). Expanding on these words, 45:7 says: “Former (yōṣēr) of light and creator (bôrēʾ) of darkness, maker (ʿōśeh) of weal and creator (bôrēʾ) of woe”—in sum, “I am Yahweh, doer of all these things (ʿōśēh kol-ʾēlleh).” Wildberger rightly calls this verse “the most radical renunciation of dualism known to the Bible.”28 Individually, Yahweh made the stars (Ps. 104:19; 136:7–9), the sea (Ps. 95:5), the sea and the dry land (Jon. 1:9), as well as humankind (Isa. 17:7: “people will regard their Maker”; Job 4:17: “Can a man be pure before his Maker?”) or the earth with its people and animals (Jer. 27:5: “By my great power … and I give it to whomever I please”). God made the poor, and those who oppress the poor insult their Maker (Prov. 14:31; 17:5). God made the rich and the poor, and therefore they live side by side (Prov. 22:2). Job 41:25(33) appears to say that the crocodile was “made without fear” (“wholly intrepid”).29 Job twice calls God “my maker” (32:22, ʿōśēnî; 35:10, ʿōśay; cf. also ʿōśēhû in Isa. 27:11). PNs such as ʿaśāhʾēl, ʿaśāyâ(û), and ʾelʿāśâ bear witness to the same notion of creation.30

The point with either verb is to look at what the text is telling you, as both verbs are often used interchangeably when God is the actor, and the context is where you will get additional meaning:

  • In Gen 1.27, God created [br'] man in his own image
  • In Gen 2.7, God formed ['sh] man from the dust of the ground

The same act of creation, but when the emphasis is on God's responsibility for creation, br' is used, when a more detailed description of creation is given, then 'sh is used.

The interchangeability of br' and 'sh can be also seen in the many cases of parallelism using both:

Isaiah 41:20 (KJV 1900)

  they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together,
  That the hand of the LORD hath **done** ['sh] this,
  And the Holy One of Israel hath **created** [br'] it.

Isaiah 45:18 (KJV 1900)

  18       For thus saith the LORD that **created**[br'] the heavens;
  God himself that formed the earth and **made**['sh] it; he hath established it,
  He created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited:
  I am the LORD; and there is none else.

Amos 4:13a (KJV 1900)

  13       For, lo, he that **formeth**['sh] the mountains, 
           and **createth** [br'] the wind,

Therefore although there is an important distinction between God's ability to br' and man's ability to 'sh, that distinction dissolves when you are talking about God's br' and 'sh. In that case, you should view latter as further specifying the former, shifting the focus from who to how creation happened.

[1] Jan Bergman et al., “בָּרָא,” ed. G. Johannes Botterweck, Helmer Ringgren, and Heinz-Josef Fabry, trans. John T. Willis, Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1977), 246.

[2] Helmer Ringgren, “עָשָׂה,” ed. G. Johannes Botterweck and Heinz-Josef Fabry, trans. David E. Green, Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2001), 389.


On the following link, go down to the item marked, God's Day One Creation - A Type of the Word of God.


The first four and one-half pages provide much information you desire. A great example on Day-Six shows that man was created (bara') as one complex spirit having two operative capacities, male and female, and named Adam--not Adam and Eve. However, later on that same day, that same Adam was formed (yatsar) as flesh and blood and made ('asah) a living soul--still male and female. Even later that same day, Eve was formed (yatsar) out of the rib of Adam as a new and distinctly separate being. She was given the operative capacity (spirit) of the female, then, and only then was she joined back together with man to accomplish many things, including to provide the means for God to Father a Son--the seed of the woman--that perfect Lamb of God--that eternal King-of-Kings son of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, and David.

  • 1
    Is man a 'complex spirit'? Where do you have found this definition in the Tanakh? Commented Sep 13, 2020 at 6:23
  • @SaroFedele Gen 1:26: Let us "make man" to do specific earthly things as man, not as God. However, as part of the making of man, the Tanakah in v. 27 said firstly, so God "created man", not as we see flesh and blood man today, but as we can't see man--as a complex spirit--having the "can't see attribute" together with the "likeness of" a complex Spirit God. Do you contend that the WORD of God that spoke, saying, Let "us" make man in our image and after our likeness was not one operative capacity of the complex ONE TRUE God speaking to other operative capacities of the same ONE TRUE God. Commented Sep 14, 2020 at 20:58

The root idea of bara seems to be "purify". blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?strongs=H1252

All of Genesis is about purification. The waters were mixed with the dirt. God drew the waters to one place. God "purified" the waters. And its not just about elements. Animals too are purified. (Think "purebred"). God created apes (creepers) and then drew out man from the apes. God purified the human race by making us rational.



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This short study shows that there is no basis for saying that bara only means an instantaneous, out-of-nothing, supernatural creative action but that asah only means a slow, out-of-existing-material, natural process of making (under God’s providence, of course). In the creation account (Genesis 1:1-2:3) both words are used in reference to ex nihilo creation events and both are also used in reference to things God made from previously created material.

So, only the context in which the words are used can give the precise meaning, if there is a distinction to be made. The context of Genesis, indeed the whole Bible, is overwhelmingly in favor of interpreting both bara and asah in Genesis 1 as virtually instantaneous acts. Whether God created something out of nothing or created something from material that He had just made, the force of the words in context is that both kinds of activities were instantaneous and supernatural after God spoke “Let there be . . . .” In Genesis 1 and 2 we should assume ex nihilo (out of nothing) creation unless the text clearly indicates otherwise (e.g., Genesis 2:7, 22).

We can apply this to

Darby Bible Translation Genesis 1:7
And God made [asah] the expanse, and divided between the waters that are under the expanse and the waters that are above the expanse; and it was so.

From preexisting waters, God separated them into two parts: lower waters and upper waters.

8 And God called the expanse Heavens. And there was evening, and there was morning -- a second day.

I'm fine with this interpretation. Hope this help.

  • Was God stammering in Gen 2:3, "rested from all his work which God created and made"? Did He not create "the heaven and the earth" on Day-One, yet thereafter "make" (not form) the seas, and specifically "form" the earth on Day-Three? Is God confused by saying that He created the H & E on Day-One, but then did He create them again on Days-Three and Four? Why are liquid waters never said to have been "formed" in Scripture? Why was Eve never said to have been "created". Why was darkness only said to have been created, but light only said to have been formed. I'll trust the WORD of God. Commented Sep 14, 2020 at 21:33
  • @user35953 You say "there is no basis for saying..". The facts you mention I think are beyond dispute and clearly laid out, good. But I think how they are understood is up to interpretation. Showing why one interpretation is better than another is the crux of the matter and personally I think this answer is weak in this area. -1
    – C. Stroud
    Commented Apr 17, 2023 at 9:54

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