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What does it mean that God saw that it was good (Genesis 1:18)?


God saw that it was good
Question: "What does it mean that God saw that it was good (Genesis 1:18)?"

Answer:
Seven times in Genesis 1, God observes His creation to be good. In Genesis 1:4, after He had spoken light into existence, He declared it to be good. In Genesis 1:10, after separating the water from the land, He called that good. After creating plant life, in Genesis 1:12 He saw that it was good, also. In Genesis 1:18, after putting in place a system for lighting the earth and for separating night from day, He calls that good. In Genesis 1:21, after creating animals to populate the water and the air, He observes that to be good. In Genesis 1:25, after populating the land with animals and insects, He calls that good, too. Finally, after creating humanity as the capstone of His creation (Genesis 1:26–30), He observed all He had made and declared it to be not just good but very good.

The Hebrew word translated as “good” in the English is tov. The term rendered “very good” is hennah tov, which could be translated as “certainly good” or “surely good.” It is noteworthy that the word good is never actually defined in the Bible—the concept is simply assumed. It does seem, though, that the kind of good referenced in Genesis 1 is a good in the qualitative sense of functionality. Because of the success in design and execution of all that was created, it could be that God was calling things good because they were effective for fulfilling the function for which He designed them. If so, this would reflect a kind of instrumental good.

It is also worth noting that in each of these instances it is said that God “saw” that it was good. That God was observing that these things were good implies that He had a design and purpose in mind and that the created products met His approval—He judged them to be effective for serving His purpose. As the Creator, God has the right to define and judge. He assessed that which He had created and determined it was good. This is a good reminder for us that, because He has the authority that only a sovereign Creator can have, we ought to look to Him to learn of His judgments and assessments. If He judges something to be good (or not good), then it is that.

It is encouraging to know we can trust God to inform us truthfully and accurately. If He is making determinations like this—assessing the quality of all things created—and if we can trust Him with that, then there is a precedent clearly presented that we can trust Him with anything. He is the determiner of what is good and what is not. This is one reason that Satan’s statement in Genesis 3:4 (that God was either wrong or lying and that Eve would not die if she ate the fruit that God had prohibited) was so evidently wrong. God had determined what was good and what was not, and He communicated that to Adam (Genesis 2:17). Unfortunately, Adam and Eve failed to acknowledge that, as the Creator, God had the right to define, assess, and judge. It is easy for us to make the same mistake, but God has graciously allowed us access to His creation account so we can learn that He is the Definer, and we can trust Him—we should trust Him, in fact. If we don’t, we are falling into the same trap Satan set for Eve: trusting someone else’s judgment when God has defined, determined, and communicated. Wouldn’t it be nice if we learned from our mistakes and didn’t repeat them?

Recommended Resource: Holman Old Testament Commentary, Volume 1: Genesis by Kenneth Gangel

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What does it mean that God saw that it was good (Genesis 1:18)?

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