Genesis 1:20-2:3 (NASB)
Then God said, “Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens.” God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind; and God saw that it was good. God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” There was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.
Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth after their kind”; and it was so. God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good.
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so. God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
The Creation of Man and Woman
Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts. By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.
The observant among you might be thinking, “that’s a bit fishy… Phil normally quotes the CEV bible text, but today he has departed from the norm and used the NASB”.
You’d be right to be suspicious! The NASB is one of the few translations that does this properly and translates Genesis 1:21 as “God created the great sea monsters”, others wimp out and go for “whales” or “great sea creatures”. The Darby translation and the English Revised Version also go for “monsters” and the Jubilee Bible 2000 goes one step better with “And God created the great dragons.”
The Hebrew is הַתַּנִּינִ֖ם – hat·tan·ni·nim – which means “serpent, dragon or sea monster.”
There are far more obvious themes to be blogging about in these verses, yes, I realise that! Here, after all, is the creation of humankind in the image of God! Yet, I am distracted by sea monsters.
Well – who in their right mind wouldn’t be?
Sea monsters become, in the Bible, a symbol of uncontrollable chaos – forces beyond our control. The sea monsters gain a name – they become “Leviathon” – and the book of Job describes Leviathon in great detail: Can you draw out Leviathon with a fish-hook?
It is no accident that Leviathon inhabits the sea – that wild, cruel, dangerous, untameable place; and it is no accident that Jesus calms the storm at sea – if you can tame the sea, if you can tame Leviathon, you can tame anything.
So I am glad to find that at the heart of this very first creation story is God creating the sea monster. The wild, the dangerous, the unpredictable, the daunting, storm-tossed, perilous places of our lives – these things are part of the very fabric of creation, God made it that way. The scary things that fill us with dread are not extraordinary punishments from on high, our grief is not the consequence of past misdeeds, our fear is not simply a sign of weakness and faithlessness – these things are part of the very fabric of God’s creation – they were there right from the start.
But even those places are under God’s control; even those places, perhaps especially those places are the places where Jesus stretches out his arm and whispers, “Peace, be still.”