In Genesis1verses20-23 sea creatures and birds appear

Here is what Genesis1verses20-23 say:

And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. 21 And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. 22 And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth. 23 And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.

Comments about other translations:

In verse 21 the KJV says God created “great whales”. Other translations translate whales as sea monsters (Amplified and NASV) and creatures of the sea (NIV).

The KJV fowl is usually translated birds in more modern versions.

Commentary on the meaning:

Verses 20 and 21 are brief, but they summarize the creation of untold thousands of kinds of water animals and birds. As mentioned before, there is good reason to believe this was not the first time that God had created such physical life on earth. Regardless of how similar these were to the “prehistoric” ones, God may have taken “a long time” (so to speak, since time is a created thing and does not affect God) to plan and design these for co-existing on earth with mankind.

The abundance of life forms created is stressed. A small inkling of the glory of God is shown to us by not only the numbers but the variety of the creatures.

Note that the sea and airborne creatures were created first. God chose to wait a little before creating those on land, as we shall see on the next page.

Verse 20 refers to birds flying in what some translations call “the open expanse of the heavens” (Amplified and NASV); the NIV uses the word”sky” instead of “heavens”. Remember that the narrative is intended to be understood by a person on earth, so looking up to the sky (the lowest parts of the firmament of the heavens) would be required to see birds in flight. Obviously there is a relatively low maximum altitude in which birds can fly (and live), but whether that is 20,000 feet above sea level, or 600 miles, is not the topic and has no bearing on the truthfulness of this story.

It seems clear that “whales” is not the correct meaning in verse 21. The Hebrew original, as alluded to in other Bible versions, implies both large and unusual or grotesque creatures. There have been, and quite likely still are, what most of us would call “sea monsters”. God created them for a purpose; the Book of Job refers to “leviathan” in Job 41 (where a creature is described that we do not necessarily know about today but surely fits the “sea monster” description). Whales certainly are impressive in their own right!

Verse 23 ends this passage of Scripture and is, as mentioned elsewhere, most reasonably construed as a 24-hour period. See the page on this site about the Seven Days of Creation for more about that.

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