2:1 finished. The strong emphasis in these verses on the completion of all of God’s creating and making activity is a clear refutation of both ancient evolutionary pantheism and modern evolutionary materialism, which seek to explain the origin and development of all things in terms of natural processes and laws innate to the universe. Creation is complete, not continuing (except in miracles, of course; if evolution takes place at all, it would require continuing miraculous intervention in the present laws of nature).
2:2 ended His work. This statement of completed creation anticipates the modern scientific laws of thermodynamics. The First Law states essentially the same truth: the universe is not now being created but is being conserved, with neither matter nor energy being created or destroyed. On the Second Law (the universal law of increasing disorder) see notes on Genesis 3:17 and Genesis 1:1.
2:3 sanctified it. God’s “rest” on the seventh day is not continuing; the verb is in the past tense–“rested,” not “is resting.” His blessing and hallowing of the seventh day could not apply to this present age of sin and death, but only to the “very good” world He had just completed.
Nevertheless, this “hallowing” of every seventh day was for man’s benefit (Mark 2:27), and was obviously intended as a permanent human institution, not controlled by the heavenly bodies which mark days, months, seasons and years, but by the physical and spiritual need of all men for a weekly day of rest and worship, in thankfulness for God’s great gift of creation and (later) for His even greater gift of salvation. The Sabbath (literally “rest”) day was incorporated in the Mosaic covenant with Israel in a special way, but its use preceded Israel and will continue eternally (Isaiah 66:23). However, the emphasis is on a “seventh” day, not necessarily Saturday. Since Christ’s resurrection, in fact, most Christians have identified their weekly cycle as centering on the first day of the week. The age-long, worldwide observance of the “week” is not contingent on the movements of the sun and moon (like the day, the month and the year) but rather is mute testimony to its primeval establishment as a memorial of God’s literal seven-day creation week.
2:4 generations. “Generations” (Hebrew toledoth) is the word from which the book of Genesis gets its name. In the Septuagint it is rendered by the Greek genesis, which in Matthew 1:1 is translated “generation.” This is the first occurrence of the formula which marks the key subdivisions of the book: “These are the generations of...” The others are at Genesis 5:1; 6:9; 10:1; 11:10; 11:27; 25:19; 36:1,9; 37:2.
In all except this first one, the name of a specific patriarch is attached. Parallels with the terminology of the ancient Babylonian tablets indicate that these names are actually the signatures of the original writers of the particular tablets. That is, each of these primeval patriarchs kept the narrative records of his own generations, inscribing them on stone or clay tablets, then appending his name at the end, when he was ready to turn over the tablets and the task of writing the toledoth to the next in line. They eventually came down into Moses’ possession, who wrote the last section of Genesis (37:3ff), obtaining the information from “the sons of Jacob” (Exodus 1:1), as well as organizing and editing all the rest under divine inspiration, so that the entire collection finally became, in effect, the first of the five books of Moses. Since the first tablet (Genesis 1:1-2:4a) tells of events prior to the existence of any witness to record them, God Himself either wrote this section directly or specifically revealed it to Adam. It describes the generations of no person, therefore, but rather those of the cosmos itself.
2:4 in the day. As per the ancient Babylonian practice, the next tablet, beginning at 2:4b, keys in to the previous one by a phrase which both associates with the preceding histories and initiates the new narrative. The “day” of this verse does not necessarily refer to the entire creation week, as day-age theory advocates allege. It more likely refers to the first day of that week, when God created the earth and the heavens, as just stated in Genesis 2:4a, then proceeded also to “make” them through the rest of the six days.