This, the second of our two Hebrew creation stories, is from Genesis 1:1 to 2:3. It thus appears first in the Hebrew Bible's Book of Genesis, but it is actually the younger of the two stories presented there. A considerable body of scholarship over the last two or three centuries has concluded that this story was written in about the sixth century B.C.. That was after Israel was conquered by the Assyrians in 722 B.C. and at a time when the Hebrews were faced with exile in Babylon.

    The author of this later story is known to scholars as "P", because he or she wrote from a much more "priestly" perspective than J, the author of the chronologically earlier story that appears in Genesis 2:4 to 3:24 (see "Yahweh", above). P's story is one of creation ex nihilo (from nothing), and the creation is a much more stately process than that in J's story. Because of the timing of its writing and the grandeur of its language, P's story has been interpreted by scholars "as an origin story created for the benefit of a lost nation in the need of encouragement and affirmation" (Leeming and Leeming 1994, p. 113). In fact, some scholars have suggested that P's story was actually written in Babylon.

    P used the name "Elohim" for the creator, and that usage is continued in the paraphrase below. "Elohim" (Image , pronounced "e lo HEEM") is actually a plural word perhaps best translated as "the powerful ones". P also used plural phrasing in the Elohim's creation of humankind "after our own likeness". Scholars have suggested that the use of the plural "Elohim" rather than the singular "Eloha" may hearken back to polytheistic roots of Middle Eastern religions and was a way to emphasize the magnitude of the deity in question. P's first people have no names at all, in keeping with the story's focus on the grandeur of the creator rather than on the created.


The Elohim

      In the beginning the Elohim made the sky and the earth, but the earth was shapeless and everything was dark. The Elohim said "Let there be light," and there was the light that made day different from night. And that was the first day.

      The Elohim said, "Let there be a dome to separate the heavens from the waters below," and there were the heavens. And that was the second day.

      The Elohim said, "Let the waters of the earth gather so that there are seas and there is dry land," and so it was. The Elohim said, "Let there be vegetation on the land, with plants to yield seeds and fruits," and so it was. And that was the third day.

      The Elohim said, "Let there be light in the heavens, and let them change with the seasons," and so there were stars. Then the Elohim made a sun and a moon to rule over the day and to rule over the night. And that was the fourth day.

      The Elohim said, "Let there be creatures in the waters, and let there be birds in the skies," and so there were sea monsters and sea creatures and birds. The Elohim blessed them, saying "Be fruitful and multiply". And that was the fifth day.

      The Elohim said, "Let the earth have animals of various kinds", and so it was. Then the Elohim said, "Let us make humans after our own likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, over the cattle and creeping things of the land, and over all the earth." The Elohim said to these humans, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it, ruling over the fish and the birds and the animals of the land. We have given you every plant and tree yielding seed. To every beast and bird of the Earth we have given every green plant for food." And that was the sixth day.

      And on the seventh day the making of the heavens and earth was finished, and the Elohim rested.




Sources for "The Elohim" and "Yahweh":

Norman C. Habel, 1971, Literary Criticism of the Bible: Philadelphia, Fortress Press, 86 p. (BS 1225.2 .H3)
David Adams Leeming and Margaret Adams Leeming, 1994, Encyclopedia of Creation Myths: Santa Barbara, ABC-CLIO, 330 p. (BL 325.C7 L44 1994)
John Lawrence MacKenzie, 1966, "Pentateuch" and "Adam and Eve" in Encyclopedia Britannica: Chicago, Encyclopedia Britannica Inc.
Herbert G. May, editor, The New Oxford Annotated Bible: New York, Oxford University Press, 1564 p.
Dagobert D. Runes, 1959, Concise Dictionary of Judaism: New York, Philosophical Library Inc., 237 p. (BM 50.R941c)
A.M. Silbermann, translator, 5745 [1985], Chumash, with Targum Onkelos, Haphtaroth, and Rashi's Commentary, Vol. 1: Jerusalem, The Silbermann Family, 281 + 29 p. (BS 1221 1985 v.1)
Julius Wellhausen, 1899, Die Composition des Hexateuchs und der historischen Bucher des Alten Testaments: Berlin, G. Reimer, 373 p. (BS 1215.W4 1899)

A much more extensive bibliography is available at

Other web pages of interest include (and succeeding lessons as well)



Back to the Table of Contents of Creation Stories from around the World.