Previously I have described the Ancient Near East Context of Genesis 1-11, and described the evidence that Genesis 1-11 was written during the Babylonian Exile. This supports a further conclusion, that Genesis 1 is not simply representing a cosmic temple in the abstract sense; it is representing a cosmic temple in a manner which models the cosmos on Solomon’s temple, which would have been in the forefront of the minds of the Hebrew exiles in Babylon.
For me, this is the “missing piece” in the cosmic temple interpretation presented so ably by commentators such as John Walton. The cosmic temple of Genesis 1 is not simply a polemic against Babylonian cosmic temple imagery, it is a direct answer to the Exile’s pressing concern, “How can we worship God without the temple?”. The answer is that the entire cosmos is God’s temple, as Solomon himself had declared at the dedication of the temple.
I propose that Genesis 1-11 was written during the Babylonan exile to address the primary concern of the Hebrews; “How can we worship God in the absence of the Temple?”. Whereas Jeremiah had described Israel as “without form and void” (“tohu and bohu”), as a result of being destroyed by Babylon, Genesis starts with the earth in the state of “tohu and bohu” and shows its creation. This reassures the Hebrew exiles of their restoration to Israel, the re-creation of their land, and the re-sanctification of the cosmos as God’s true sanctuary. See here for a detailed presentation (though still a summary; I have written a lot more on this). This interpretation has a consistent witness in Second Temple Period Judaism, and early Christianity.
The interpretation also has significant explanatory power.
This interpretation also explains specific features of the Genesis 1 narrative. For example, why include a reference to a firmament at all, especially since we know it doesn’t literally exist? The answer is simple. The reference to the firmament is an important part of the temple imagery in Genesis 1; it’s a solid structure overhead, because it’s the ceiling of the temple.
This image summarizes key points of contact between Genesis 1 and Solomon’s Temple.