Not Quite the Beginning

by Lois Tverberg

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. – Genesis 1:1

In Hebrew, the name of the book of Genesis is Bereshit, which is the first word of the book. It is translated, “In the beginning” in our Bibles.

The word starts with the Hebrew letter bet, which is quite obvious if you look at the first page of any Bible printed in Hebrew. The bet is printed extra large and extra dark, just to tell you that this is where you begin.

The letter bet corresponds to our letter B. It is the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet, like “B” is the second letter of the English alphabet.

There is an interesting Jewish sermon preached about this very first letter. The rabbis asked the question, “Why do the scriptures begin with the second letter of the alphabet rather than the first?” Their answer: To show that the scriptures do not answer every question, and not all knowledge is accessible to man, but some is reserved for God himself.

They point out that the letter bet is closed on the right side but open on the left. Since Hebrew is read right to left, it appeared to them that the Scriptures start with a letter that is open in the direction of the reading, but closed toward the direction of the beginning of the text. It’s as if there is a one-way sign saying that you need to start here and move forward through the scriptures.

The point of this is not to discourage study and inquiry, but to point out the important fact that some things God has chosen to allow to remain a mystery to man. Even in this first line, there is no attempt to answer the question of where God himself came from. Pagan creation accounts always began with stories about how the gods themselves came into existence, feeling the need to address that question. But God in his majesty does not give every answer, just as he did not give Job every answer to the questions he asked.

Even if God wanted to reveal a portion of his wisdom, the sheer magnitude would overwhelm us. We often forget that God designed everything from neutrons to galaxies, and that we are just specks in comparison to his unfathomable magnitude. There is wisdom in the humility to be able to say, “I don’t know” sometimes, and let God alone know all things.