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ָ ָ‫ב‬

According to BDB, ‫רא‬

ָ ָ‫ ב‬carries the basic definition of “to shape, create or

fashion, always of divine activity” in four categories:

1. of creation of the physical world (heaven and earth): mankind, the host of heaven,

the heavens, the ends of the earth, north and south, the wind,

2. of people and people groups (individuals): the individual man, the smith and the

waster, Israel as a nation, the seed of Israel,

3. of new conditions and circumstances: righteousness and salvation, darkness and evil,

fruit of the lips, a new thing, cloud and flame over Zion, and

4. of transformations: a clean heart, a new heaven and earth, transformation of nature.


ָ ָ‫ב‬

1. Original creation – God as the Creator

a) God creating out of nothing: nothing like this has existed before; the creations are

complete originals. They are whole and in perfect union with the rest of creation and

their Creator.

i. The original creation of heaven and earth (Gn. 1:1, 2:4; Ps. 89:12, 148:5; Is.

40:26, 42:5, 45:18, Am. 4:13)

ii. The original creation of animals, in this case sea creatures, every living thing

that moves and the winged birds (Gn. 1:21)

iii. The original creation of humans made in His image, initially in the form of

Adam – see also point 1.b) (Gn. 1:27, 5:1, 6:7; Dt. 4:32; Ez. 28:13, 15)

b) God refining His original creation of a human:


i. God refines man by gender to find an appropriate helpmate for him – the

creation of Eve as an additional human (Gen. 1:27, 5:2).

2. Ongoing Creation of People

a) Part of ongoing creation – God is creating additional humans (Ps. 89:47, 102:18

104:30; Is. 45:12), also those who may not exemplify His perfection, such as the

example in Is. 54:16.

b) Creation and preservation of the nation of Israel

a) God is starting a special people group for Himself, Israel (Is. 43:1).

b) God is rescuing His people by rejoining them to the people of Israel (Is. 43:7).

3. New Occurrences of Miraculous Nature

a) God creates events and occurrences in nature and in humans to prove His sovereignty

(Ex. 34:10; Nu. 16:30; Is. 4:5, 41:20, 45:7 48:7; 54:16; Jer. 31:22).

4. Transformation of Created Things/People

a) God brings about changes in His people (Ps. 51:10, Is. 57:19), also salvation (Is. 45:8).

b) God brings about changes in creation by re-creating (Is. 65:17, 65:18).

ָ ָ‫ ב‬WITH ‫צר‬
ַ ָ‫י‬

The verb ‫ ָיַצר‬has a very similar definition as ‫ָּבָרא‬, to “form or fashion”. However, in a

departure from the verb ‫ָּבָרא‬, the verb ‫ ָיַצר‬allows for divine as well as human activity as the

agent behind its execution. In the case of ‫ ָּבָרא‬, the action always originates with God Himself.

A good example in which ‫ ָּבָרא‬is paired with ‫ ָיַצר‬is Isaiah 45:18: “For thus says the

ֵ ‫ ) בו‬the heavens (he is God!), who formed (‫ ) ֹיֵצר‬the earth and made it
LORD,who created (‫רא‬


(he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): "I am the LORD,

and there is no other.”

On the other hand, an example for the use of the verb ‫ ָיַצר‬with a human agent is Isaiah 44:9:

ֵ ְ ‫ )ֹיצ‬idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit. Their
“All who fashion (‫רי‬

witnesses neither see nor know, that they may be put to shame.” This verb can also be found

in the meaning of “of a carver of wood, graven images”, such as in Is. 44:9, 10. As such, it is

does not imply the same sovereignty as the one implied by ‫ָּבָרא‬, which is always of divine


Interesting in this comparison is also the Niphal form of the verb as used in Isaiah 43:10:

“You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you

may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor

shall there be any after me.”. Here God compares Himself to other gods, all of which were

formed (‫)נֹוַצר‬, e.g. they had a beginning brought about by someone or something else. What

this once again reinforces is that God was before all things.


The investigation of the verb ‫ ָּבָרא‬has shown that a key element of its understanding lies

in its sole use for actions of a divine nature. God, Yahweh, the Holy One of Israel is the sole

subject of the verb in Hebrew Scripture passages. Even in its passive forms, God is the

implied subject.

When God created, He was addressing not things, but elements that signify life. Whether it

is a human being, an animal or a planet to support the life, it is that at which God looked and


deemed it to be very good. Clearly, God is not a materialistic God Who creates just to

possess, but One Who seeks relationship and harmony in perfection.

Likewise, in the verb’s use as signifying ongoing creation, God creates with a purpose:

individuals and people groups. It again shows His desire for relationship with those which He

calls into being. It also indicates that God creates those who will fulfill a purpose in His

divine plan, e.g. in Is. 54:16 with the mentioning of the smith and the ravager.

When the verb is used to indicate new events or miraculous occurrences in nature, it again

displays the sovereign nature of God. Nothing is wasted; nothing is done for selfish profit.

Rather, God uses the creation of signs in nature to again bring His creation back into

relationship with Him.

In its usage of indicating transformation, God shapes and molds that which He has created

back into conformity with His sense of perfection, allowing for a fresh start for His creation.

Finally, while God undoubtedly created this world ex nihilo, the sheer study of the meaning

of the verb ‫ָּבָרא‬, does not conclusively confirm this as the basis for a creation ex nihilo when

studying all instances in which it is used. Several verses use ‫ ָּבָרא‬in a fashion that indicate God

reshaping and re-creating that which already exists, e.g. when speaking of the clean heart

being created in Ps. 51:10, or in the example of “creating fresh lips of praise” in Is. 57:19.

However, the verb ‫ ָּבָרא‬always seems to indicate something God creates that is perfect and

fresh and whole. It is a Hebrew word, which clearly implies the sovereignty and grace of the

Lord God of the universe in that which He created and will continue to create.