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Initially it is said that God created the heavens and the earth, which would suggest that the heavens were created first since they're are mentioned first.

Genesis 1:1 NASB

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth

But after this scripture the author proceeds first to relate to the work of the earth, then that of heavens:

Genesis 1:2 NASB

the earth was a formless and desolate emptiness, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. .

When the events of the first chapter are recounted later the earth is mentioned first, then the heavens:

Genesis 2:4 NASB

This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made earth and heaven.

Would this then suggest that the earth was created first, then the heavens?

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  • 1
    There are two issues, here. The first is that there are plural heavens, the first being visible, the second being 'principalities and powers' who are the very fabric of creation and without whom there would be no space/energy/matter. The second issue is that there shall be a new earth and new heavens - a 're-arrangement' due to 'restoration' (apokattallasso). All of this needs to be considered. Up-voted +1.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Apr 19, 2022 at 8:07
  • "which would suggest that the heavens were created first since their are mentioned first" -- given that both are mentioned together, and in different orders each time, the more logical implication would be that they were created together/simultaneously.
    – Herohtar
    Commented Apr 19, 2022 at 20:06
  • Was it the heavens or the earth that was created first? Yes.
    – Mark
    Commented Apr 19, 2022 at 23:41

6 Answers 6

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In the Genesis account, Gen 1:1 is simply a summary of what is to come. In particular:

On the Second Day:

Gen 1:6-8 - And God said, “Let there be an expanse between the waters, to separate the waters from the waters.” So God made the expanse and separated the waters beneath it from the waters above. And it was so. God called the expanse “heavens”. And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.

That is, the heavens [shamayim] were created on day #2

On the Third Day:

Gen 1:9, 10 - And God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered into one place, so that the dry land may appear.” And it was so. God called the dry land “earth,” and the gathering of waters He called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.

That is, the earth [erets] was created on the third day.

Thus, the heavens were created one day before the earth.

In Gen 2:4 we have a different phenomenon of the Chiasm:

These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created,

in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens.

Further note that this is the first of the 11 "toledoths" in Genesis - see appendix below.

APPENDIX - Toledoths of Genisis

Almost all commentators now structure the literary form of the book of Genesis around the “Toledoths” – a Hebrew word that is variously translated as, “the generations of”, “the history of”, “the account of”, “the record of”, etc. The 11 Toledoths in Genesis are:

  1. Gen 2:4 toledoth of Heavens and Earth
  2. Gen 5:1 toledoth of Adam
  3. Gen 6:9 toledoth of Noah
  4. Gen 10:1 toledoth of Shem Ham and Japheth
  5. Gen 11:10 toledoth of Shem
  6. Gen 11:27 toledoth of Terah
  7. Gen 25:12 toledoth of Ishmael
  8. Gen 25:19 toledoth of Isaac
  9. Gen 36:1 toledoth of Esau
  10. Gen 36:9 toledoth of Esau in Hill Country
  11. Gen 37:2 toledoth of Jacob
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  • Going by this answer, how was the Earth without form and void in verse 2 Commented Apr 21, 2022 at 18:50
  • 1
    @FaithMendel - according to Gen 1:10 the "earth" was the dry arable ground, and thus when it was covered in water and darkness, it was without form and useless and thus, valueless. This is according to the record we have.
    – Dottard
    Commented Apr 21, 2022 at 21:33
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The core of this problem is in my answer to hebrew - Genesis 1:3, Did God Make Light? - Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange.

Notice that creation from nothing happens only 3 times:

  • the physical universe
  • animal life
  • humans with God's spiritual image

That is, all the other acts of creation were not instances of creation from nothing.

  1. In the beginning God created[0] the heavens and the earth. …
  2. Then God said, Let there be[1] a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let[1] it divide the waters from the waters.
  3. Thus God made[2] the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was[1] so.
  4. And God called the firmament Heaven. So the evening and the morning were[1] the second day.
  • [0] בָּרָא bara' to create the essence from nothing
  • [1] הָיְתָ֥ה hayah to transform or to have become
  • [2] וַיַּעַשׂ `asah to complete

See my Creation Verbs in Genesis page for an explanation of these and other Hebrew verbs used during the creation account.

The heavens (universe) and the earth are a single creation from nothing. The Earth is obviously part of the Universe, and after verse 1 it is transformed into its current form, not created from nothing.

For instance, the creation of the firmament (the Earth's atmosphere, also known as the first heaven, the second being space, and the third God's home) was an act of transformation and then of completion.

Similarly on the fourth day, the atmosphere was changed to allow the light of the Sun and Moon to be seen from the surface of the Earth.

One should also consider that there could have been a very long period of time between verses 1 and 2.

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  • Butterwort. Great word study you have put together in the link above! Each of those words have meanings that bring light unto things that are not always that obvious. The word "became" speaks volumes between Genesis 1 and 2 ...
    – Sherrie
    Commented Apr 20, 2022 at 1:05
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Bereshit does not mean „in the beginning”. Be- is an indefinite article. Ba- is a definite one. But the text does not say bareshit. It says bereshit. So a better translation would be:

1 When God began to create heaven and earth - 2 the earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep and a spirit of God sweeping over the water - 3 God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and God separated the light from the darkness. (Genesis 1, The Contemporary Torah, JPS, 2006)

Which is exactly how John begins his gospel. The heavens were second, Gen.1:6-8. And the earth was third, Gen.1:9-10.

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I would argue that the phrase bereshit should be rendered: ‘First and foremost’.

You first make a house (here planet earth which is integrated in the solar system) and will then furnish it!

I would also argue that the following texts are later insertions:

-Gen 1:7a (So God made the expanse and separated the waters beneath it from the waters above),

-Gen 1:16.

Huge flux/cloud of wandering material is divided into two parts: one part for the formation of the planet earth and the second part for the formation of other planets of the solar system.

You may read it this way and SEE if it makes sense!

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    Commented Apr 20, 2022 at 19:41
  • You’re assumption is based off of a modern secular cosmology and it is frankly incompatible with the cosmology of the Bible. Commented Apr 20, 2022 at 19:57
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In the beginning Elohim created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1

It looks like the heavens had to have been created before the earth was if you look at other verses in scripture.

In Job 38:5 we see the morning stars and sons of God shouting as earths cornerstone is being laid. Even from this first we can see that God had already created stars and sons of God. They were created before the earth was in place, in fact they witnessed the process of earths formation. One assumes that the heavenly or celestial realm was already in existence for these sons of God to dwell in.

Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. 5Who fixed its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched a measuring line across it? 6On what were its foundations set, or who laid its cornerstone,d 7while the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Job 38: 4-7

We also see wisdom was before there was the deep, abysses.

#8415 tehom Deep, sea, abys

That means the deep, water, too had to of been created at some point.

23From the age I was anointed, from the first, From former states of the earth. 24In there being no depths, I was brought forth, In there being no fountains heavy [with] waters, Proverbs 8: 2

In the beginning Elohim created the heavens and the earth. As for the earth it came to be a chaos and vacant, and darkness was over the face of the abyss. Genesis 1-2

Does it not make sense that when God created the earth it was not in chaos?

Something had to transpire to make it unrecognizable, without form.

It certainly makes sense if one looks at the translations for the word hahah. ( became)

◄ 1961. hayah ► Strong's Concordance hayah: to fall out, come to pass, become, be Original Word: הָיָה Part of Speech: Verb Transliteration: hayah Phonetic Spelling: (haw-yaw) Definition: to fall out, come to pass, become, b

The original earth was not created in chaos.

For thus said Jehovah, Creator of heaven, He is God, Former of earth, and its Maker, He established it -- not empty He prepared it, For inhabiting He formed it: 'I am Jehovah, and there is none else. Isaiah 45:18

In the beginning Elohim created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1

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The best answer is "both." The question has been debated since very ancient times. The greatest rabbinical schools of the period just prior to Jesus had opposing views on the subject.

Chagigah 12a:16

Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel dispute the order of Creation, as the Sages taught: Beit Shammai say: The heavens were created first and afterward the earth was created, as it is stated: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1), which indicates that heaven came first. And Beit Hillel say: The earth was created first, and heaven after it, as it is stated: “On the day that the Lord God made earth and heaven” (Genesis 2:4).

The physical heavens were certainly created prior to the physical earth. But for some, the account of Gen. 2 means that God created the earth and Adam first and the spiritual heavens came into being at the moment God breathed spiritual life into Adam. So the answer to the question is "both." In fact, this was one solution proposed in the same section of the Talmud.

But the Rabbis say: Both this and that were created as one, for it is stated: “Indeed, My hand has laid the foundation of the earth, and My right hand has spread out the heavens; when I call to them, they stand up together” (Isaiah 48:13), implying that they were created as one.

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