Create (To) - Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old Testament Words
Usage Number: 1
Strong's Number: H1254
Original Word: bara’
Usage Notes: "to create, make." This verb is of profound theological significance, since it has only God as its subject. Only God can "create" in the sense implied by bara’. The verb expresses creation out of nothing, an idea seen clearly in passages having to do with creation on a cosmic scale: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth" (Gen. 1:1; cf. Gen. 2:3; Isa. 40:26; Isa. 42:5). All other verbs for "creating" allow a much broader range of meaning; they have both divine and human subjects, and are used in contexts where bringing something or someone into existence is not the issue. Bara’ is frequently found in parallel to these other verbs, such as ‘asâ, "to make" (Isa. 41:20; Isa. 43:7; Isa. 45:7, 12; Amos 4:13), yasar, "to form" (Isa. 43:1, 7; Isa. 45:7; Amos 4:13), and kûn, "to establish." A verse that illustrates all of these words together is Isa. 45:18: "For thus saith the Lord that created [bara’] the heavens; God himself that formed [yasar] the earth and made [‘asâ] it; he hath established [kûn] it, he created [bara’] it not in vain, he formed [yasar] it to be inhabited: I am the Lord; and there is none else." The technical meaning of bara’ (to "create out of nothing") may not hold in these passages; perhaps the verb was popularized in these instances for the sake of providing a poetic synonym. Objects of the verb include the heavens and earth (Gen. 1:1; Isa. 40:26; Isa. 42:5; Isa. 45:18; Isa. 65:17); man (Gen. 1:27; Gen. 5:2; Gen. 6:7; Deut. 4:32; Psa. 89:47; Isa. 43:7; Isa. 45:12); Israel (Isa. 43:1; Mal. 2:10); a new thing (Jer. 31:22); cloud and smoke (Isa. 4:5); north and south (Psa. 89:12); salvation and righteousness (Isa. 45:8); speech (Isa. 57:19); darkness (Isa. 45:7); wind (Amos 4:13); and a new heart (Psa. 51:10). A careful study of the passages where bara’ occurs shows that in the few non-poetic uses (primarily in Genesis), the writer uses scientifically precise language to demonstrate that God brought the object or concept into being from previously nonexistent material.
Especially striking is the use of bara’ in Isaiah 40-65. Out of 49 occurrences of the verb in the Old Testament, 20 are in these chapters. Because Isaiah writes prophetically to the Jews in Exile, he speaks words of comfort based upon God's past benefits and blessings to His people. Isaiah especially wants to show that, since Yahweh is the Creator, He is able to deliver His people from captivity. The God of Israel has created all things: "I have made [‘asâ] the earth, and created [bara’] man upon it: I, even, my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded" (Isa. 45:12). The gods of Babylon are impotent nonentities (Isa. 44:12-20; Isa. 46:1-7), and so Israel can expect God to triumph by effecting a new creation (Isa. 43:16-21; Isa. 65:17-25).
Though a precisely correct technical term to suggest cosmic, material creation from nothing, bara’ is a rich theological vehicle for communicating the sovereign power of God, who originates and regulates all things to His glory.
Usage Number: 2
Strong's Number: H7069
Original Word: qanâ
Usage Notes: "to get, acquire, earn." These basic meanings are dominant in the Old Testament, but certain poetic passages have long suggested that this verb means "create.". In Gen. 14:19, Melchizedek blessed Abram and said: "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, maker [kjv, "processor"] of heaven and earth" (rsv). Gen. 14:22 repeats this divine epithet. Deut. 32:6 makes this meaning certain in that qanâ is parallel to ‘asâ, "to make": Is he not your father, who created (qanâ) you, who made (‘asâ) you and established (kûn) you" (rsv). Psa. 78:54; Psa. 139:13; and Prov. 8:22-23 also suggest the idea of creation. The cognate languages usually follow the Hebrew in the basic meaning of "to get, acquire." Ugaritic, however, attests the meaning "create." In fact, qny is the primary Ugaritic term to express creation. The close relationship of Hebrew and Ugaritic and the contextual meaning of qanâ as "create" in the Old Testament passages cited above argue for the use of qanâ as a synonym for "create" along with bara’, ‘asâ, and yasar.
Usage Number: 3
Strong's Number: H6213
Original Word: ‘asâ
Usage Notes: "to create, do, make." This verb, which occurs over 2600 times in the Old Testament, is used as a synonym for "create" only about 60 times. There is nothing inherent in the word to indicate the nature of the creation involved; it is only when ‘asâ is parallel to bara’ that we can be sure that it implies creation.
Unfortunately, the word is not attested in cognate languages contemporary with the Old Testament, and its etymology is unclear. Because ‘asâ describes the most common of human (and divine) activities, it is ill-suited to communicate theological meaning, except where it is used with bara’ or other terms whose technical meanings are clearly established. The most instructive occurrences of ‘asâ are in the early chapters of Genesis. Gen. 1:1 uses the verb bara’ to introduce the Creation account, and Gen. 1:7 speaks of its detailed execution: "And God made [‘asâ] the firmament…." Whether or not the firmament was made of existing material cannot be determined, since the passage uses only ‘asâ. But it is clear that the verb expresses creation, since it is used in that context and follows the technical word bara’. The same can be said of other verses in Gen. 1:16 (the lights of heaven); Gen. 1:25; Gen. 3:1 (the animals); Gen. 1:31; Gen. 2:2 (all his work); and Gen. 6:6 (man). In Gen. 1:26-27, however, ‘asâ must mean creation from nothing, since it is used as a synonym for bara’. The text reads, "Let us make [‘asâ] man in our image, after our likeness… So God created [bara’] man in his own image…" Similarly, Gen. 2:4 states: "These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created [bara’], in the day that the Lord God made [‘asâ] the earth and the heavens." Finally, Gen. 5:1 equates two as follows: "In the day that God created [bara’] man, in the likeness of God made [‘asâ] he him." The unusual juxtaposition of bara’ and ‘asâ in Gen. 2:3 refers to the totality of creation, which God had "created" by "making."
It is unwarranted to overly refine the meaning of ‘asâ to suggest that it means creation from something, as opposed to creation from nothing. Only context can determine its special nuance. It can mean either, depending upon the situation.