Do the Hebrew words for create (Bara, Asah) support a gap?

There are a number of Hebrew words used for creating and making in Genesis1.  Some argue there is a clear distinction in these words which supports a gap theory.  The suggestion is that one word (bara) means to create from nothing whereas the other means to reform/build from existing material.

The first word used in Gen1v1 is as follows:

1254. bārā ‘: A verb meaning to create. Only God is the subject of this verb. It is used for His creating: heaven and earth ( Ge 1:1); humanity ( Ge 1:27); the heavenly host ( Isa 40:26); the ends of the earth ( 40:28); north and south ( Ps 89:12 [ 13]); righteousness; salvation ( Isa 45:8); evil ( Isa 45:7). David asked God to “create” in him a clean heart ( Ps 51:10 [ 12]). Isaiah promised that God will create a new heaven and earth ( Isa 65:17).[1]

This word is used in:

  • V1 of the heavens & earth
  • V21 the sea life and birds
  • V27 man was bara’d in the image & likeness of God

Another word is also used in the chapter

6213. עָשָׂה ` āśāh : A verb meaning to do, to make, to accomplish, to complete. This frequently used Hebrew verb conveys the central notion of performing an activity with a distinct purpose, a moral obligation, or a goal in view (cf. Ge 11:6). Particularly, it was used in conjunction with God’s commands ( Dt 16:12). It described the process of construction ( Ge 13:4; Job 9:9; Pr 8:26); engaging in warfare ( Jos 11:18); the yielding of grain ( Ho 8:7); observing a religious ceremony ( Ex 31:16; Nu 9:4); and the completion of something ( Ezr 10:3; Isa 46:10). Provocatively, the word appears twice in Ezekiel to imply the intimate action of caressing or fondling the female breast ( Eze 23:3,8).[2]

In the Genesis creation record the word is used in:

  • V7 God making the firmament
  • V11 & 12 fruit trees producing fruit
  • V16 making the sun and the moon
  • V25 making the land creatures
  • V26 of making man
  • V31 everything God made was very good

Drawing a distinction between the two words is difficult in the Hebrew from the definitions and also from the use in Genesis 1 itself.  The use of bara for sea life coming from the oceans versus asah for land animals from the ground makes any theological point hard to sustain.  This is further complicated by later passages like Gen 2:4 which directly relates the two words without any clear distinction in meaning:

These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created [bara], in the day that the LORD God made [asah] the earth and the heavens

The same repetition and equivalence occur in Gen 5:1 of the creation of Adam.

Additionally complicating for those wanting to use bara to support a gap theory is the use of asah in Scripture to clearly talk about everything existent in the universe:

Thou, even thou, art LORD alone; thou hast made [asah] heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things that are therein, the seas, and all that is therein, and thou preservest them all; and the host of heaven worshippeth thee.”  Neh9:6  KJV

Nehemiah clearly puts the creation of the stars in the same work as the land and sea creatures plus uses one word – asah to describe it.  This surely is talking about creation out of nothing.  We have already seen that Gen1:21 used bara of the sea life – but Nehemiah includes it within asah.  This quote should all but finish the discussion on distinguishing the Hebrew words as a basis for supporting a gap theory.


[1] AMG Old Testament Word Dictionary

[2] ibid

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