At first glance, Genesis 1 seems like a straightforward account of how the world was created from a biological perspective. While the text does describe the natural order, the biblical message is broader than biology: Genesis 1 tells us why the world was created from a theological perspective. God’s creative activity mirrors the Temple-building process, so that Genesis 1 describes the entire world as a Temple in which God holds dominion.
According to Genesis 1:6, God creates a cosmic canopy: “an expanse (רקיע; raqia) in the midst of the waters.” The word for “expanse” (רקיע; raqia)—sometimes translated, “firmament”—is the same word used for the “ceiling” of God’s Temple: “Praise God in his sanctuary (קדשׁו; qadsho); praise him in the expanse (רקיע; raqia) of his stronghold” (Ps 150:1). Just like the world has an “expanse,” God’s Temple has an “expanse”; God builds the cosmos in the same way that the Israelites build God’s sanctuary.
God commands the priests to maintain a “light” (מאור; maor) in the tabernacle, the prototype of the Temple: “Command the Israelites to bring you clear oil of beaten olives for the light (מאור; maor), for kindling lamps regularly” (Lev 24:2). This command recalls when God makes the sun and the moon, which the Bible calls “the two great lights (מאורת; maorot), the greater light (מאור; maor) to dominate the day, and the lesser light (מאור; maor) to dominate the night.” (Gen 1:15). Even the seven-day creation corresponds to the span of “seven years” that it took Solomon to build the Temple (1 Kgs 6:38), and the subsequent feast “before the Lord our God seven days” (1 Kgs 8:65). While other ancient peoples also built temples for their gods, the Israelites asserted that their God lives and reigns, not only in a single Temple, but over the entire world!