God now creates the creatures which will inhabit water and the air. For the air creatures, He uses the phrases “above the earth” and “in the open firmament of heaven”. This means in the atmosphere, vs. one of the other two heavens, space or Heaven.
Curiously, God uses the phrase “bring forth abundantly” (KJV). My NASB uses “teems”. This is meant to indicate that there are lots of them. It doesn’t say exactly how many, but indicates that there are bunches. Some folks are bothered by the lack of precision, including me when I first read this. I like precision. But, I’ve come to realize that God is frequently very deliberate about using imprecise language. Why? I think it’s the same reason I mentioned in an earlier post in this series: He wants us to spend time checking it out. Humans have spent over 6000 years trying to figure it out, and while we’ve learned a lot, we are nowhere near complete in our understanding.
Anyhow, these creatures are important, because He gives two descriptions of them. In verse 20, He describes them as “living creatures”, and “birds that fly above the earth”. In verse 21, He says “great sea monsters and every living creature that moves” and “winged bird”. These aren’t two distinct lists of creatures. Rather, God is using one of the Hebrew methods of describing things: dualism. That’s where the author writes the same concept twice, but using different words or phrases. It’s meant for emphasis, not for precision.
There’s also something new on day five: God blesses the birds and sea life. This blessing is both a blessing and a command. It’s a command in the sense that He tells them to be fruitful and multiply. But, it’s also a blessing to be fruitful and multiple. Not only does he command them, but he also gives them the grace to get the job done.