This chapter begins what is known as the second Creation story. Some have completely distinguished this second account from the first. Some distinction must be acknowledged simply due to the fact of its separation from the first account. My personal view is that this second account is simply a continuation of the first, with further details and a different perspective (more on this later). In fact, I am of the view that this so-called second Creation story does not actually start until verse 5 of this chapter, and that these first four verses should actually be in chapter 1 (which I say in the knowledge that the chapter and verse divisions are neither inspired nor infallible, though the actual contents of Scripture are divine in origin and inerrant). But my judgment is of course not infallible; it is simply offered as the personal opinion of a Bible student on the matter.
Verses 2:1-4 end the first Creation story in Scripture, with the perspective focused on God as Creator. Verses 5 and following begin the second Creation story, and I believe the focus is centered upon God's highest creation, Man. This helps explain the two creation accounts, and each has important lessons for the believer.
Verse 1 follows immediately after the benediction of the previous chapter in which God judged His work to be "very good" in six days of Creation. That work is now completely finished, including all the "hosts" or contents of the heavens above and earth beneath. This verse seems like an insignificant summary at first glance, but I believe what it teaches about the creative power of God is important: God finished His work. That is, God's work in its entire scope was brought to completion, nothing was left undone, and most importantly, God Himself is not changed or lessened or weakened by the creative process which has just been finished. This is a very implicit reference to the infinite power of God as an argument from silence I think, because God is not described here as having changed (become tired, lost strength, decreased in creative ability, etc.) but the Creation is described as finished, and with completeness. This is very important for understanding the next verse.
Verse 2:2 brings the full force of this thought to bear upon the mind. God's work, unbelievably vast, is finished, and God rests from the work He has done. Because God has not been described as being wearied in His task here (a very important omission!) the "rest" here must be understood as a ceasing from activity, the reason for which is given first: the work is completed. Again, seven is used here as a number of perfection (see previous blog entry). So three ideas are evident here after some careful thought: God's work is completed, He ceases from the activity of Creation, and its initial created state is complete and perfect.
The third verse tells us that God blessed the seventh day, perhaps meaning that it is marked for divine praise in contradistinction with the other days. He also sanctified it, which means to "make holy" and refers to the only source of Holiness there is in this passage, Himself. In other words, this day shows us and represents the Holiness of God in some important way. I think that this important way is what I will call the Static Perfection of God: God's eternal, perpetual state of static changelessness and unalterable perfection. Because I know from other Scriptures that Christ is the Creator, I can recall Hebrews 13:8, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever" (though the verse is used in a different context there).
Now I confess that I am not a Hebrew scholar, and know no Hebrew, so I want to warn the reader that I am plunging on a tangent in this paragraph which can probably be ignored. I noticed that the "created and made" at the end of 2:3 have two different Strong's numbers, so I read both (created-1254, made-6213. Click on the numbers to see what I found). I am going to merely repeat some teaching I received on this: I cannot vouch for its accuracy, but I believe it makes sense. "Created" refers to what God created Ex Nihilo (out of nothing) by His power, while "Made" refers to God using some of the created things in some form or fashion to produce other things. I think this is seen for example back in 1:24 where God says let the earth (which He created) bring forth the living land creatures, and in 1:25 which says "God made [Strong's 6213] the beast of the earth after his kind" (KJV). The earth was "created" but the animals here were "made" in some manner referential to the earth. Perhaps this is wrong, but if so, it is a minor point, and I currently believe it to be true.
Verse 4 makes me want to rethink my terminology of the different perspectives between the two Creation stories. Here, it makes me think that the focal reference is in the creation of the heavens and the earth themselves as the handiwork of God, whereas 2:5 and following speak more about the creation of Man and his involvement with God. So, I believe at least that two perspectives on the same Creation event are recorded in Scripture, and that both are true, correct, and in ultimate harmony simply because they are presented as such in the Scripture covering both chapters (and given my stated presupposition of the Bible's truth and accuracy mentioned previously). Verse 4 says that this is the account of the Creation of the heavens and the earth, with no uncertainty, nothing left out, and no defense offered for the given explanation. For one who believes the Bible to be true, this is the authoritative account to be believed and cherished. A defense is simply not expected or required, at least according to this context (which I unreservedly accept as completely true).
Lastly is the idea of the Creation of the heavens and the earth "in the day that the Lord God made earth and heaven" (NASB). Now, if this is a literal day, then we have a contradiction here with the six days of Creation which Scripture explicitly testifies to taking place. Rather, I believe that this verse is explained by the previous verse (3), in which all of Creation is viewed from the finished perspective of God's completed, perfect work which is blessed and sanctified in the seventh day (Saturday, the Jewish Shabbat). I believe this verse is not contradiction the explicit teaching of the previous Scripture which detailed the six Creation days, but that a very important idea is communicated here for the believer. The entire Creation in all of its scope was complete and perfect first in the mind of God before Creation even started.
Thus, we have the summary "very good" of 1:31 (judged by the only standard, His Holiness of being and perfection of understanding), and the fact (I assert) that all of Creation is viewed from the vantage point of the meaning of the Sabbath. This Sabbath day ultimately is not so much about rest (though it is for that in the Old Testament), but about the perfect completeness of God and His worthiness to be Worshiped simply for the essence of His being, His total majesty, and His excellence of character (I admit I'm preaching here). Therefore the Sabbath day is really about worship, when viewed from Man's perspective, and about perfection and wholeness centered in the person of God, when contemplating the divine perspective given (sometimes implicitly) in these verses.