Pir’kei Avot 5:1 tells us that the world was created with ten sayings, ten instances of the phrase, “And God said”, in the first chapter of B’reshit (e.g. “And God said, Let there be light” – Gen. 1:3).
Ten is a good round number, but actually there are only nine sayings. However, “in the beginning God created” (Gen. 1:1) is taken as a “saying”, since the Psalmist declares, “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made” (Psalm 33:6).
The phrase, “the word of the Lord”, informs us that God brought the universe into being by an effort of will.
There is a famous notion in Greek thinking that matter was always there and that God did not create the world ex nihilo, out of nothing.
Maimonides says (Guide 2:25) that this assertion of the eternity of matter is not automatically provable according to science, but even if it were it would still not affect our faith so long as we could argue, “Matter is eternal because it is the will of God that it should be so”.
Another idea implicit in the phrase, “the word of the Lord”, is propounded by the Midrash, which says that God’s Torah, which existed for generations before the world, was the Divine blueprint. God looked at His word, His Torah, and its pattern provided the outline of the universe and civilisation.
This interpretation conveys a lesson to mankind, who, according to rabbinic exegesis, are God’s partners in Creation.
Like God, man must look into the Torah to know what kind of world the Almighty desires, and he must work accordingly in developing his earthly civilisation on the basis of truth, justice and peace.