To Create (ברא)

Word Study

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1, KJV, ESV, and others)

The word translated "created" in the first verse of the Bible is the Hebrew word בָּרָא (bā-RĀ). It is enlightening to simply look at the information for this word in the lexicon HALOT. HALOT notes:

In the OT I ברא is a specifically theological term, the subject of which is invariably God.

This is interesting, because in English "to create" is a word we sometimes apply to humans as well, at least in a less formal sense: for example, we might say that Mozart was a creative musician. But in the Hebrew Scriptures, "the subject of [ברא] is invariably God", which is to say that God is the only one who "creates".

For the sake of scholarly completeness, I must mention that there are two other senses of the word ברא, but they are rarely used in Scripture and do not impact the points I am trying to make in this post.[E1]

Looking at the many examples of how ברא is used, two powerful truths will immediately strike us:

(1) "to create" is to bring something into existence, which did not exist.

(2) these various acts of bringing something into existence require a divine agency; that is to say, only God could do it.

Of course, many of these examples deal with the creation of "natural" objects:

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lᴏʀᴅ is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. (Isaiah 40:28, ESV)

Thus says God, the Lᴏʀᴅ, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it: I am the Lᴏʀᴅ. (Isaiah 42:5-6, ESV)

The heavens are yours; the earth also is yours; the world and all that is in it, you have founded them. The north and the south, you have created them. (Psalm 89:11-12, ESV)

Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name; by the greatness of his might and because he is strong in power, not one is missing. (Isaiah 40:26, ESV)

For behold, he who forms the mountains and creates the wind, and declares to man what is his thought, who makes the morning darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth— the Lᴏʀᴅ, the God of hosts, is his name!

These [earthly creatures] all look to you to give them their food in due season [...] When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. When you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground. (Psalm 104:27, 29-30, ESV)

Angels are also created:

Praise the Lᴏʀᴅ! [...] Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his hosts! [...] Let them praise the name of the Lord! For he commanded and they were created. (Psalm 148:1-2, 5)

God creates people, not only in a general sense of starting the human race, but also bring individuals into existance for specific purposes.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27, ESV)

I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” (Isaiah 43:6-7, ESV)

In another interesting prophetic passage in Isaiah, God's renewal of the holy land is referred to as an act of creation.

I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys. I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water [...] that they may see and know, may consider and understand together, that the hand of the Lᴏʀᴅ has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it. (Isaiah 41:18, 20 ESV)

There are many other passages of interest from these and other books of Scripture, such as Exodus, Deuteronomy, and Malachi, but it is not my goal to reproduce all the references here.


God's unique role as Creator, the one who brings things into existence, is an emphasized theme in the Scriptures. This is a profound truth which should weigh heavily on our minds. It applies certainly to the great heavenly bodies, as well as the humble creatures which crawl through the dirt. We ourselves are, in multiple ways, the creative works of God. God also causes events to come about in history which we would not have expected or imagined.

In addition: in view of what we have learned above, we must take seriously the various claims made in the New Testament Scriptures that Jesus the Christ is the Creator, or that he made all things (for example, John 1:3 and Colossians 1:16). The idea that Jesus was some lower intermediary agent of creation, or lesser god, is incompatible with the view of the Old Testament regarding God's unique role as Creator. We must either embrace Jesus as being in truth the one and only God of the Scriptures, or abandon our commitment to the New Testament Scriptures, as false revelation. Do not be ensnared by any cults or false teachers who claim to follow some middle path between the two positions.

End Notes

[E1] Sense II and III are, respectively, "to make oneself fat" and "to cut down [e.g., a forest]". Sense I ("to create") is used in Scripture only in the Qal and Niphel verb patterns, whereas II and II are, respectively, used only in the Hiphel and Piel patterns.

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