Knowing the idolatrous environment that existed in where they had been (Egypt), and in where they were going (Canaan), it’s hard to read Genesis 1 and not see it (at least at one level), as an emphatic rebuke of polytheism and its “god for everything” approach. Israel is told in no uncertain terms that the God who made the sun also rules over the water. The creator of animal life also made the stars in the sky. There’s not a multiplicity of gods constantly fighting over power and territory— there is one God who created and rules over everything. At the deepest level of our universe there is not chaos, but harmony.
I can’t help but think that this has something to say to our culture today. We say we believe in God, but we talk about Karma, Kabbalah, Scientology, Mormonism, etc., as though there m-i-g-h-t be something to them. We dabble with astrology and the occult, and give credence to all sorts of visions and revelations. We’re not unlike Israel —always eager to entertain something else (maybe it’s the consumer in us). For those who don’t know better, Paul would say they were very religious (Acts 17:22), which is ironic since most people now loathe such a designation. For the disciple, he would have something much stronger to say (1 Corinthians 6:9).
Genesis 1 powerfully and pointedly reminds us that polytheism has no roots in reality. Whether it comes dressed as multiculturalism, tolerance, or pluralism, it is baseless. False gods produce distorted value systems (i.e., the Karmic idea that the oppressed, disabled, or diseased, are that way because they were evil in a previous existence and now are merely getting what they deserve). That’s a morally repulsive concept and it didn’t come from the God of Genesis 1!
There is one God and He is the Creator of all. That’s as true today as it what when Moses recorded it for Israel. And it seems to me that we are just as much in need of recognizing and responding to this truth as they were.