Belief, God, Old Testament

Genesis 1:6-8 | What Does it Mean to Be Good?

God said:
Let there be a dome amid the waters,
And let it separate waters from waters!
God made the dome
And separated the waters that were below the dome from the waters that were above the dome.
It was so.
God called the dome: Heaven!

— Everett Fox, The Five Books of Moses

What does it mean to find something good? I hadn’t even really thought about that question at all until I realized there are three places where God isn’t pleased. Not angry, necessarily, but not announcing that “it was good” either.

On the first day (Gen 1:3-5), when God separates the light from the darkness — (by the way, I am sure that there are a frillion midrash stories from old rabbis that have made this point; I also can’t be sure that I came up with this point all on my own; it’s possible I read it somewhere and it germinated in the back of my conscious) — that doesn’t get a corresponding “and it was good.” There’s an “it was good” for the creation of light (Gen 1:4), but no “it was good” for separating.

On the second day, God separates waters from waters, and this is also not labeled as “good.” Here, we get a perfunctory “it was so.”

On the sixth day God creates humans, separated into male and female. The humans are blessed (Gen 1:28) — but that’s not the same as being called “good,” is it? Because God sees that “the wildlife of the earth after their kind, and the herd-animals after their kind, and all crawling things of the soil after their kind” were good (Gen 1:25); humans, though, are not singled out for goodness, only a blessing. Their lives are about to become impossibly hard, with a final separation of human from garden.

I think it’s the act of separation that’s being commented on, obliquely, by shrugging a little out of the “good” light and into the “doing your best” column. Separation is not creation.

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