Oftentimes, those who advocate the view which suggests that the Earth is billions of years old suggest that God initially “created” the Earth (Genesis 1:1) and then later “made” (i.e., re-created) it in six days. As awkward as this sounds to those who take a more straightforward (and accurate) approach to reading Scripture, these old-Earth-advocates (oftentimes referred to as Gap theorists) make a distinction between the Hebrew words bara (to create) and asah (to make or fashion). They claim that bara and asah always mean two different things in relation to God’s creative acts. For example, not long ago I heard a gentleman on the radio teach that Exodus 20:11 does not mean that God created the Universe and everything in it in six days but that He “fashioned” or “re-created” the Universe in six days after originally creating it billions of years earlier. This man based his whole argument on the “fact” that “to make” does not mean “to create.”
What is the truth of the matter? After surveying the Old Testament, one finds that no distinction is made between God’s creating (bara) and His making (asah) in the creation account or anywhere else for that matter. The fact is, these words are used interchangeably throughout the Old Testament in reference to what God has done. In Genesis 1-2, the words “created” (bara) and “made” (asah) are used fifteen times in reference to God’s work. It is clear to the unbiased reader that these words do not stand at odds with one another; rather, they teach one central truth—that God created and/or made the Universe and everything in it in six literal days.
In Genesis 1:26 it is recorded that God said: “Let us make (asah) man in Our image, according to Our likeness.” Then we are told in the very next verse that He “created (bara) man in His own image.” How can one assert (logically) that in these two verses “make” and “create” refer to different creations? Near the beginning of the next chapter, we read: “When God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created (bara) and made (asah). This is the history of the heavens and the earth when they were created (bara), in the day that the Lord God made (asah) the earth and the heavens” (Genesis 2:3-4). Clearly, these words are used interchangeably in the creation account and throughout the rest of the Bible when referring to what God did “in the beginning” (cf. Psalm 148:1-5; Nehemiah 9:6; Exodus 20:11; Genesis 1:21,25).
Did God intend to communicate a different message every time He used different words to describe something? Absolutely not! Just as you may tell one person, “I mowed the yard,” you might mention to someone else that “I cut the grass.” You have spoken one truth, even thou you used two phrases. Oftentimes we do this when telling a story in order to escape monotony. When the psalmist proclaimed, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork” (19:1), his aim was not to teach two separate truths, but to teach one truth with different words. Later, when he wrote, “The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein” (24:1), he again was teaching one central message with different words. Likewise, when the Bible says that God “created” the world it means nothing more (or less) than God “made” the world (and vice versa).
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