In Genesis 2 we read:-
"These [are] the generations [records] of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens" - Genesis 2:4
The Bible is a record of this heaven and earth, and that's why it begins with the creation! There's no other book in the world that authoritatively claims to be the handbook of the universe!!
Genesis 1 provides a chronological account of how God created this universe. Genesis 2 is a non-chronological summary of the creation account in Genesis 1, giving some additional details. As far as I know, the Bible is the only book in the world that begins by saying "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth". The Bible is systematic and comprehensive - it begins from the very beginning!! Anyone alive today notices that our existence is tied up in matter, space and time. All these are alluded to:
Time consists of past, present and future. Space consists of length, breadth and height, and molecular matter is solid, liquid or gaseous. We thus have a "trinity of trinities". God seems to have made the universe in such a way as to reflect His triune nature.
We now know that the earth is only an inconceivably small part of the universe. Yet, it gets special mention, indicating that God is very much interested in this planet, and what's going on here. God is mentioned just after the words "In the beginning". He's the one in charge! He's there in the beginning and in the end as well! This is reiterated in the end of the Bible (Revelation 22:13)
Observation # 1: Heaven
There are three meanings for the word heaven:-
Observation # 2: It is not possible to reconcile Genesis 1 and 2 with any conventional cosmological theory in the world today.
See the details here.
Observation # 3: The water canopy
Since the word firmament [Hebrew rakia] means "expanse", there are two possible interpretations of Genesis 1:6:-
If the first interpretation is right, there are implications:-
Observation # 4: The "kind" - inbuilt variability in animals
God made various animals and plants to multiply "after [according to] their kinds" (Genesis 1:24). This means that there are some limits to the variation in animals. The "kind" specifies this limit. This limit seems to be broader than an individual species or breed. For instance, God did not create Labradors, German shepherds, mongrels and Pomeranian dogs - he made a dog like animal with the genetic potential to result in the various species of dogs that we know today. Thus, Adam could name all the animals in a day. Dogs can't be changed to people [like Evolution Theory says], but dogs can be made to vary among themselves - the manifestation of genetic information that already exists, rather than the generation of new genetic information like the evolutionists fantasize about. If you're a taxonomist, you can try figuring out the boundaries of kinds. For instance, does the "dog kind" include foxes, jackals and wolves? From Exodus 20:11, we can conclude that God created all the animal-kinds at this time itself. This would include animals extinct today, such as the dinosaurs.
Observation # 5: Man's dominion over nature
God's intention was for man to have dominion over the creation (Genesis 1:26)
As this is being written (October 2008), here in India, Hindus are butchering Christians in the state of Orissa - among the reasons given are that Christians are different; in particular, Christians eat beef, and so cows may get extinct. The cow is sacred to Hindus. The life of a cow has more value than the life of a human. Others believe that we should not kill pests, insects and so on - what right do we humans have to come to an ecosystem and displace these creatures?! The Bible makes it clear that God has given us this right. We are to exercise dominion over the creation. Of course, God wants us to be responsible (see Deuteronomy 22:6-7). Thus, the "mother earth" kind of environmentalism, in which man is treated as just another species, and the earth is exalted, is not for believers. Similarly, the Bible tells us how the world as we know it today is going to end. Hence, "save the earth" environmentalism is not for believers.
Observation # 6: Seedless plants
The word rendered "grass" in Genesis 1:11 also refers to herbs, and thus can be taken to include seedless plants, since seed bearing plants are explicitly mentioned in the latter part of the same verse.
Observation # 7: Rain
In Genesis 2:5 we read that it hadn't yet rained. Did it rain later? We're not told explicitly. We can conclude cautiously that Noah's flood -may- have been the first time it rained on the earth.
Observation # 8: The location of the Garden of Eden
Going by the places and rivers mentioned in verses 11-14, it was in the middle east. However, there is another possibility: after Noah's flood, people saw rivers and places that were actually not the same, but similar to what they knew before the flood, and gave them the same names like Euphrates, Hiddekel, Havilah, etc. [much like English settlers who named American places after places in England]. The mention of gold with Havilah (Genesis 1:11), the proximity of Ophir and Havilah (Genesis 10:29), and the later mention of gold with Ophir (1 Kings 9:28) suggest that the names may be genuine. Too bad we can't be sure!! In any case, we know the garden of Eden was destroyed in Noah's Flood, so there's no point in looking for it today!
Observation # 9: Free will
Genesis 2:17 records God's warning to Adam not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam had free will, to obey or disobey God.
Observation # 10: Marriage
Genesis 2:24 is the institution of marriage. Given that God instituted marriage for the first couple, it is no wonder that all cultures treat marriage as something sacrosanct, "made in heaven". The elements of marriage put forth are:-
Since they had no sin, Adam and Eve were unashamed although they were naked (Genesis 2:25).
Observation # 11: Angels
Genesis 1 and 2 do not explicitly mention the creation of angels, but from Exodus 20:11, we know that they were created within the first six days itself. More on angels
As believers, we need a clear understanding of Genesis 1 to make sense today's world and where we fit in it. When atheists ask us, "If a loving God exists, why is there so much evil and violence in the world today?", we need to be able to answer with an explanation of how God created everything very good (Genesis 1:31) but we marred it through our own sin. When we look at people who don't look like us, we need to understand that they are our blood relatives, descendants of Noah just like we are. They are just as human and just as in need of and capable of responding to the gospel as we are. There is no separate "homo sapiens" and "homo divinus", as so called christian leaders such as John Stott like to theorize.
The idyllic state in which man was created did not continue for long. Genesis 3 records the fall of man.