By Joe Yudin, CEO of Touring Israel
Most tourists who come to Israel do not come to Israel for a typical vacation. They come to get to know the Bible, to walk where the prophets walked or where Jesus walked. They come to see the scenery where God spoke to man and to experience their religion in the place where it was formed. Israel’s Ministry of Tourism and many tour operators and guides just don’t get this. Most of you want to have a religious experience or learn, yes learn on your vacation what you didn’t learn in Hebrew school or Sunday school, because you wanted to be outside playing ball or whatever, but yes you actually want to learn about Israel and its people and your connection to it and them. Of course you want to do it in a fun, interesting and engaging way.
That’s what I promise people even before they get here. I tell them that they will not have a typical vacation but a meaningful, touching experience that they will never forget. Yes, you want to hit the beaches, bars, shops, restaurants, etc., but that’s the cherry on top of the sundae. So it’s important when coming to Israel not to just see the sites, but start from the beginning of the story. So, where does it all begin?
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. Now the earth was unformed and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters. And God said: ‘Let there be light.’ And there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.” (Genesis 1:1-5)
What is going on here? Well this first paragraph of the Bible is a hotly debated topic. “Creationists” take this passage at face value and say that God created the heaven and the earth in a day. Secular scientists mostly reject this notion that the world was created in 24 hours. I am not pointing out this passage to take one side or the other. The reason I point it out is to show how one must approach reading the Bible in the land in which it was written, and to which its stories took place. Israel and the Middle East is a very complicated place. Israel is many different things to many different people. Most of the people who currently live in the Land of Israel are Jews. There is an old joke about the Jewish people: If you ask one Jew a question, he will answer you with a question, maybe even two questions. In Israel we never take anything at face value, especially the Bible. The Jewish tradition is that the Torah (God’s law, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible) is like a diamond, it has 70 facets which are all different but all true. The Talmud tells us that there are 70 valid explanations for every part of the Torah (Bamidbar Rabbah 13:15).
So did God create the world in one day? Yes, its right there in black in white so he must have most definitely. The real question we need to ask ourselves is what exactly was a day back then. Remember, there are seventy different ways to look at this passage. Let’s look at it again but broken down:
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”
Now the words for heaven and earth in the original Hebrew (hashamayim ve et ha’aretz) can also mean many other things. ‘Heaven’ can also be referring to the skies, the heavenly bodies or everything except the earth in the universe as well as the place in the heavens where God and the angels “reside”. The ‘earth’ can also mean land, the solid part of the mass in which God was creating. Were these two things that God created first separate or together? After all it is inferred that God creates the heaven and the earth together not separately. Is it possible that these two things were united upon creation?
“Now the earth was unformed and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters.”
So in this next sentence we see that the earth still was without form, dark, but did contain water. And God “hovered” over the water. Why the water? Isn’t water, according to the scientists, the key to the creation of life?
“And God said: ‘Let there be light.’ And there was light.”
So there is a flash of light all of the sudden that God commands to happen. What is this light? We know that it isn’t the sun, which comes only on the fourth day. We have to skip all the way down to line 17 for the sun:
“And God said: ‘Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years” (Gen. 1:17).
So that brings us back to the question how long was the first day in which God created the heaven and the earth? The sun wasn’t yet created so the first day certainly wasn’t 24 hours as we know it. Neither could have been days two, three and four.
So again, what was the light that God commands? Could this light have been the Big bang that scientists talk about? The bang that flings matter to the four corners of the universe? Maybe.
Come to Israel and take a fresh look at the Bible where it was written.
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