Page images
PDF
EPUB

expressions used in these verses claim attention before the animals which, on the fourth day, were called into being. As in the introduction to the other days, the creative act is preceded by the command "Let"let the waters bring forth abundantly. In the English version of the scriptures, the relative pronoun that,is introduced after “fowl”— “the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly.” This has led to speculations which do not say much either for the sense or the science of their authors. Resemblances between birds and fishes, such as Owen never dreamt of, have been alleged. Distinctions have been drawn between the material of which the bodies of birds and fishes are made, and that which enters into the composition of the flesh and bones of land animals, which even a very little knowledge of natural science would have shown to be absurd. All this has been done because it was thought needful to make out, for the sake of the text of scripture, that fishes and birds were made out of water, and land animals out of earth. Thus, many most anxious to vindicate the ways of the Creator have been led to question his creative power, when they believed themselves successful in illustrating it. But if the word “that,” supplied by our translators, be rejected, as it seems to me the original language requires, all ambiguity vanishes, and we obtain a statement as simple as it is true to nature.—“ And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life ; and let fowls fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.” There is no information given regarding the material of which fish and fowl were made. We are simply shown what, in the main, was to be their sphere of existence; fish for the waters, fowl for the air. It is only when a summary of this is given in chapter ii., that we are told, “Out of the ground the Lord God formed every fowl of the air”-a sufficient answer to the water-origin theory. The words which follow harmonize with this view of the passage. Thus, if “created” be repeated in verse 21, the account would run—" And God created great whales,” &c., and “God created every winged fowl after his kind.” The attempt to limit the reference to "water-fowl,” is not worthy of the context. Besides, it overlooks the concluding sentence of verse 22—“And let fowl multiply in the earth.” In the accounts of the second and fourth days, which are specially characterized by adjustments and adaptations of previously existing materials, the work of the Creator is expressed by the terms “God made.” Here the expression is different. Creative energy of the highest kind is put forth, and the Spirit of God informs us that “God created" the living things referred to.

[ocr errors]
[graphic][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed]

In verse 20 the forms of life are named in general terms, as “creatures that have life" in the waters, and as “fowls that fly in the open firmament of heaven.” But in the next verse a more particular statement is given in what may be regarded as a rough sketch of zoological classification. It would be absurd to compare it with the present arrangements of zoological systematists, because it occurs in a book whose scope and end are spiritual and moral, not scientific. Nevertheless, it is interesting to observe that, just as the astronomy of the first chapter of Genesis does not, if fairly considered, contradict the Copernican system, so the zoology may be harmonized with a system of classification which may be held to be the fruit of the experience and research of thousands of years. The evidence of this in a tabulated form may, however, be reserved till we come to the close of the sixth day's work.

Of the "moving creatures that have life,” our translators specify whales—“God created great whales”—as the true rendering of the Hebrew word (tanninim). No little controversy has been waged regarding this word, and the expression “moving creature” (sheretz). But here, as in many other passages, the rule of interpretation has too often been a previously formed theory. It has not been taken from the Scriptures themselves. Having concluded that the work of this day is equivalent to the geological period which may popularly be designated as the “ age of Reptiles,” ingenuity is set agoing to make out the tanninim serpents, crocodilian types, &c. And in order to strengthen this, the “moving creature(sheretz) must mean a noxious creature ! But the terms “moving creature that hath life” of verse 20 includes in it both the “great whales” and the “every living creature that moveth' of verse 21 ; some of which we know were not only innocuous, but were afterwards permitted, being clean, as food to the people of Israel. It is no doubt true that there are several passages in which it can only mean such creatures as the serpent, the lizard, the snail, &c.; but when it does so we are guided to the meaning by the context. Here the context clearly warrants the interpretation now given. The same mode of remark may be applied to the use of the words “great whales" (tanninim). If the use of this term varies, its meaning can only be determined by the context. The following passages will help us to reach a conclusion as to the meaning of the word here, as satisfactory as can be obtained. The reader will notice that the quotations in only three instances point to serpents. The first class of passages manifestly refer to an inhabitant of the sea. “Even the sea-monsters draw out the breast, they give suck to their young ones: the daughter of my people

Vol. I.

[ocr errors]

is become cruel, like the ostriches in the wilderness." (Lam. iv. 3.) “ Therefore I will not refrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul. Am I a sea, or a whale, that thou settest a watch over me?” (Job vii. 12.) “Praise the Lord from the earth, ye dragons, and all deeps.” (Ps. cxlviii. 7.) In the following verses, however, there can be no doubt as to the meaning; the words point to the serpent properly so called :—“And the Lord spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, When Pharaoh shall speak unto you, saying, Shew a miracle for you: then thou shalt say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and cast it before Pharaoh, and it shall become a serpent. And Moses and Aaron went in unto Pharaoh, and they did so as the Lord had commanded : and Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh, and before his servants, and it became a serpent.” (Exod. vii. 8–10.) “Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder; the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet. Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.” (Ps. xci. 13–14.) “Their wine is the poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of asps.” (Deut. xxxii. 33. In many other portions of Scripture the term could not consistently be applied, even generally, to any either of the Cetacea (whales, dolphins, &c.) or Ophidia (vipers, snakes, &c.) They must point to land mammals or birds, with both of which classes they are associated. “But wild beasts of the desert shall be there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there. And the wild beasts of the islands shall cry in their desolate houses, and dragons in their pleasant palaces; and her time is near to come, and her days shall not be prolonged.” (Isa. xiii. 21–22.) “And thorns shall come up in her palaces, nettles and brambles in the fortresses thereof; and it shall be an habitation of dragons, and a court for owls. The wild beasts of the desert shall also meet with the wild beasts of the island, and the satyr shall cry to his fellow; the screech owl also shall rest there, and find for herself a place of rest. There shall the great owl make her nest, and lay, and hatch, and gather under her shadow : there shall the vultures also be gathered, every one with her mate.” (Isa. xxxiv. 13–15.) “Behold, I will do a new thing: now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert. The beast of the field shall honour me, the dragons and the owls; because I give waters in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people, my chosen.” (Isa. xliii. 19, 20.) “Then the eyes of the blind shall be

« PreviousContinue »