Vine’s Dictionary of Old Testament Words.
Topic: TO CREATE
by Nancy Calendar
Text: “to create, do, make.” This verb, which occurs over 2600 times in the Old Testament, is used as a synonym for “create” only about 60 times. There is nothing inherent in the word to indicate the nature of the creation involved; it is only when asah is parallel to bara that we can be sure that it implies creation.
Unfortunately, the word is not attested in cognate languages contemporary with the Old Testament, and its etymology is unclear. Because ‘asah describes the most common of human (and divine) activities, it is ill-suited to communicate theological meaning, except where it is used with bara or other terms whose
technical meanings are clearly established.
The most instructive occurences of asah are in the early chapters of Genesis. Gen. 1:1 uses the verb bara to introduce the Creation account, and Gen. 1:7 speaks of its detailed execution: “And God made [asah] the firmament….” Whether or not the firmament was made of existing material cannot be determined, since the passage uses only asah. But it is clear that the verb expresses creation, since it is used in that
context and follows the technical word bara. The same can be said of other verses in Genesis: 1:16 (the lights of heaven); 1:25, 3:1 (the animals); 1:31; 2:2 (all his work); and 6:6 (man). In Gen. 1:26-27, however, asah must mean creation from nothing, since it is used as a synonym for bara. The text reads, “Let us make [asah] man in our image, after our likeness… So God created [bara] man in his own image…”
Similarly, Gen. 2:4 states: “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.” Finally, Gen. 5:1 equates two as follows: “In the day that God created [bara] man, in the likeness of God made [asah] he him.” The unusual juxtaposition of bara and asah in Gen. 2:3 refers to the totality of creation, which God had “created” by “making.”
It is unwarranted to overly refine the meaning of asah to suggest that it means creation from something, as opposed to creation from nothing. Only context can determine its special nuance. It can mean either, depending upon the situation. CHRISTIAN BBS ABBA II
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