Genesis 1:2
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved on the face of the waters.
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(2) And the earth.—The conjunction “and” negatives the well-meant attempt to harmonise geology and Scripture by taking Genesis 1:1 as a mere heading; the two verses go together, and form a general summary of creation, which is afterwards divided into its several stages.

Was is not the copula, but the substantive verb existed, and expresses duration of time. After creation, the earth existed as a shapeless and empty waste.

Without form, and void.—Literally, tohu and bohu, which words are both substantives, and signify wasteness and emptiness. The similarity of their forms, joined with the harshness of their sound, made them pass almost into a proverb for everything that was dreary and desolate (Isaiah 34:11; Jeremiah 4:23). It expresses here the state of primæval matter immediately after creation, when as yet there was no cohesion between the separate particles.

Darkness.—As light is the result either of the condensation of matter or of vibrations caused by chemical action, this exactly agrees with the previous representation of the chaos out of which the earth was to be shaped. It existed at present only as an incoherent waste of emptiness.

The deep.—Tĕhôm. This word, from a root signifying confusion or disturbance, is poetically applied to the ocean, as in Psalm 42:7, from the restless motion of its waves, but is used here to describe the chaos as a surging mass of shapeless matter. In the Babylonian legend, Tiàmat, the Hebrew tĕhôm, is represented as overcome by Merodach, who out of the primæval anarchy brings order and beauty (Sayce, Chaldean Genesis, pp. 59, 109, 113).

The Spirit of God.—Heb., a wind of God, i.e., a mighty wind, as rendered by the Targum and most Jewish interpreters. (See Note on Genesis 23:6.) So the wind of Jehovah makes the grass wither (Isaiah 40:7); and so God makes the winds His messengers (Psalm 104:4). The argument that no wind at present existed because the atmosphere had not been created is baseless, for if water existed, so did air. But this unseen material force, wind (John 3:8), has ever suggested to the human mind the thought of the Divine agency, which, equally unseen, is even mightier in its working. When, then, creation is ascribed to the wind (Job 26:13; Psalm 104:30), we justly see, not the mere instrumental force employed, but rather that Divine operative energy which resides especially in the Third Person of the Holy Trinity. But we must be upon our guard against the common error of commentators, who read into the text of these most ancient documents perfect doctrines which were not revealed in their fulness until the Gospel was given. It is a marvellous fact that Genesis does contain the germ of well-nigh every evangelical truth, but it contains it in a suggestive and not a completed form. So here this mighty energising wind suggests to us the thought of the Holy Ghost, and is far more eloquent in its original simplicity than when we read into it a doctrine not made known until revelation was perfected in Christ (John 7:39).

Moved.—Heb., fluttered lovingly. (See Deuteronomy 32:11.) This word also would lead the mind up to the thought of the agency of a Person. In Syriac the verb is a very common one for the incubation of birds; and, in allusion to this place, it is metaphorically employed, both of the waving of the hand of the priest over the cup in consecrating the wine for the Eucharist, and of that of the patriarch over the head of a bishop at his consecration. Two points must here be noticed: the first, that the motion was not self-originated, but was external to the chaos; the second, that it was a gentle and loving energy, which tenderly and gradually, with fostering care, called forth the latent possibilities of a nascent world.

Genesis 1:2. The earth — When first called into existence, was without form and void: confusion and emptiness, as the same original words are rendered, Isaiah 34:11. It was without order, beauty, or even use, in its present state, and was surrounded on all sides with thick darkness, through the gloom of which there was not one ray of light to penetrate not even so much as to render the darkness visible.

The Spirit of God moved, &c. — To cherish, quicken, and dispose them to the production of the things afterward mentioned. The Hebrew word here rendered moved, is used, Deuteronomy 32:11, of the eagle fluttering over her young, and of fowls brooding over their eggs and young ones, to warm and cherish them: but, we must remember, that the expression, as here used, is purely metaphorical, and must not be considered as conveying any ideas that are unworthy of the infinite and spiritual nature of the Holy Ghost.1:1,2 The first verse of the Bible gives us a satisfying and useful account of the origin of the earth and the heavens. The faith of humble Christians understands this better than the fancy of the most learned men. From what we see of heaven and earth, we learn the power of the great Creator. And let our make and place as men, remind us of our duty as Christians, always to keep heaven in our eye, and the earth under our feet. The Son of God, one with the Father, was with him when he made the world; nay, we are often told that the world was made by him, and nothing was made without him. Oh, what high thoughts should there be in our minds, of that great God whom we worship, and of that great Mediator in whose name we pray! And here, at the beginning of the sacred volume, we read of that Divine Spirit, whose work upon the heart of man is so often mentioned in other parts of the Bible. Observe, that at first there was nothing desirable to be seen, for the world was without form, and void; it was confusion, and emptiness. In like manner the work of grace in the soul is a new creation: and in a graceless soul, one that is not born again, there is disorder, confusion, and every evil work: it is empty of all good, for it is without God; it is dark, it is darkness itself: this is our condition by nature, till Almighty grace works a change in us. - II. The Land

היה hāyah, "be." It is to be noted, however, that the word has three meanings, two of which now scarcely belong to our English "be."

1. "Be, as an event, start into being, begin to be, come to pass." This may be understood of a thing beginning to be, אור יהי yehiy 'ôr, "be light" Genesis 1:3; or of an event taking place, ימים מקץ ויהי vayehı̂y mı̂qēts yāmı̂ym, "and it came to pass from the end of days."

2. "Be," as a change of state, "become." This is applied to what had a previous existence, but undergoes some change in its properties or relations; as מלח גציב ותהי vatehı̂y netsı̂yb melach, "and she became" a pillar of salt Genesis 19:26.

3. "Be," as a state. This is the ultimate meaning to which the verb tends in all languages. In all its meanings, especially in the first and second, the Hebrew speaker presumes an onlooker, to whom the object in question appears coming into being, becoming or being, as the case may be. Hence, it means to be manifestly, so that eye-witnesses may observe the signs of existence.

ובהוּ תהוּ tohû vābohû, "a waste and a void." The two terms denote kindred ideas, and their combination marks emphasis. Besides the present passage בהוּ bohû occurs in only two others Isaiah 34:11; Jeremiah 4:23, and always in conjunction with תהוּ tohû. If we may distinguish the two words, בהוּ bohû refers to the matter, and תהוּ tohû refers to the form, and therefore the phrase combining the two denotes a state of utter confusion and desolation, an absence of all that can furnish or people the land.

השׁך choshek, "darkness, the absence of light."

פגים pānı̂ym, "face, surface." פנה panah, "face, look, turn toward."

תהום tehôm, "roaring deep, billow." הוּם hûm, "hum, roar, fret."

רוּח rûach, "breath, wind, soul, spirit."

רחף rāchaph, "be soft, tremble." Piel, "brood, flutter."

והארץ vehā'ārets, "and the earth." Here the conjunction attaches the noun, and not the verb, to the preceding statement. This is therefore a connection of objects in space, and not of events in time. The present sentence, accordingly, may not stand closely conjoined in point of time with the preceding one. To intimate sequence in time the conjunction would have been prefixed to the verb in the form ותהי vatehı̂y, "then was."

ארץ 'erets means not only "earth," but "country, land," a portion of the earth's surface defined by natural, national, or civil boundaries; as, "the land of" Egypt, "thy land" Exodus 23:9-10.

Before proceeding to translate this verse, it is to be observed that the state of an event may be described either definitely or indefinitely. It is described definitely by the three states of the Hebrew verb - the perfect, the current, and the imperfect. The latter two may be designated in common the imperfect state. A completed event is expressed by the former of the two states, or, as they are commonly called, tenses of the Hebrew verb; a current event, by the imperfect participle; an incipient event, by the second state or tense. An event is described indefinitely when there is neither verb nor participle in the sentence to determine its state. The first sentence of this verse is an example of the perfect state of an event, the second of the indefinite, and the third of the imperfect or continuous state.


2. the earth was without form and void—or in "confusion and emptiness," as the words are rendered in Isa 34:11. This globe, at some undescribed period, having been convulsed and broken up, was a dark and watery waste for ages perhaps, till out of this chaotic state, the present fabric of the world was made to arise.

the Spirit of God moved—literally, continued brooding over it, as a fowl does, when hatching eggs. The immediate agency of the Spirit, by working on the dead and discordant elements, combined, arranged, and ripened them into a state adapted for being the scene of a new creation. The account of this new creation properly begins at the end of this second verse; and the details of the process are described in the natural way an onlooker would have done, who beheld the changes that successively took place.

The same confused mass or heap is here called both

earth, from its most solid and substantial part; and the

deep, from its vast bulk and depth; and waters, from its outward face and covering. See Psa 104:6 2Pe 3:5.

Without form and void; without order and beauty, and without furniture and use.

Upon the face, the surface or uppermost part of it, upon which the light afterward shone. Thus not the earth only, but also the heaven above it, was without light, as is manifest from the following verses.

The Spirit of God; not the wind, which was not yet created, as is manifest, because the air, the matter or subject of it, was not yet produced; but the Third Person of the glorious Trinity, called the Holy Ghost, to whom the work of creation is attributed, Job 26:13, as it is ascribed to the Second Person, the Son, Joh 1:3 Col 1:16-17 Heb 1:3, and to the First Person, the Father, every where.

Upon the face of the waters, i.e. upon the waters, to cherish, quicken, and dispose them to the production of the things after mentioned. It is a metaphor from birds hovering and fluttering over, and sitting upon their eggs and young ones, to cherish, warm, and quicken them. And the earth was without form, and void,.... It was not in the form it now is, otherwise it must have a form, as all matter has; it was a fluid matter, the watery parts were not separated from the earthy ones; it was not put into the form of a terraqueous globe it is now, the sea apart, and the earth by itself, but were mixed and blended together; it was, as both the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem paraphrase it, a waste and desert, empty and destitute of both men and beasts; and it may be added, of fishes and fowls, and also of trees, herbs, and plants. It was, as Ovid (k) calls it, a chaos and an indigested mass of matter; and Hesiod (l) makes a chaos first to exist, and then the wide extended earth, and so Orpheus (m), and others; and this is agreeably to the notion of various nations. The Chinese make a chaos to be the beginning of all things, out of which the immaterial being (God) made all things that consist of matter, which they distinguish into parts they call Yin and Yang, the one signifying hidden or imperfect, the other open or perfect (n): and so the Egyptians, according to Diodorus Siculus (o), whose opinion he is supposed to give, thought the system of the universe had but one form; the heaven and earth, and the nature of them, being mixed and blended together, until by degrees they separated and obtained the form they now have: and the Phoenicians, as Sanchoniatho (p) relates, supposed the principle of the universe to be a dark and windy air, or the blast of a dark air, and a turbid chaos surrounded with darkness, as follows,

and darkness was upon the face of the deep: the whole fluid mass of earth and water mixed together. This abyss is explained by waters in the next clause, which seem to be uppermost; and this was all a dark turbid chaos, as before expressed, without any light or motion, till an agitation was made by the Spirit, as is next observed:

and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters, which covered the earth, Psalm 104:6 the earthy particles being heaviest sunk lower, and the waters being lighter rose up above the others: hence Thales (q) the philosopher makes water to be the beginning of all things, as do the Indian Brahmans (r): and Aristotle (s) himself owns that this was the most ancient opinion concerning the origin of the universe, and observes, that it was not only the opinion of Thales, but of those that were the most remote from the then present generation in which he lived, and of those that first wrote on divine things; and it is frequent in Hesiod and Homer to make Oceanus, or the ocean, with Tethys, to be the parents of generation: and so the Scriptures represent the original earth as standing out of the water, and consisting of it, 2 Peter 3:5 and upon the surface of these waters, before they were drained off the earth, "the Spirit of God moved"; which is to be understood not of a wind, as Onkelos, Aben Ezra, and many Jewish writers, as well as Christians, interpret it; since the air, which the wind is a motion of, was not made until the second day. The Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem call it the spirit of mercies; and by it is meant the Spirit of the Messiah, as many Jewish writers (t) call him; that is, the third Person in the blessed Trinity, who was concerned in the creation of all things, as in the garnishing of the heavens, so in bringing the confused matter of the earth and water into form and order; see Job 26:13. This same Spirit "moved" or brooded (u) upon the face of the waters, to impregnate them, as an hen upon eggs to hatch them, so he to separate the parts which were mixed together, and give them a quickening virtue to produce living creatures in them. This sense and idea of the word are finely expressed by our poet (w). Some traces of this appear in the or mind of Anaxagoras, which when all things were mixed together came and set them in order (x); and the "mens" of Thales he calls God, which formed all things out of water (y); and the "spiritus intus alit", &c. of Virgil; and with this agrees what Hermes says, that there was an infinite darkness in the abyss or deep, and water, and a small intelligent spirit, endued with a divine power, were in the chaos (z): and perhaps from hence is the mundane egg, or egg of Orpheus (a): or the firstborn or first laid egg, out of which all things were formed; and which he borrowed from the Egyptians and Phoenicians, and they perhaps from the Jews, and which was reckoned by them a resemblance of the world. The Egyptians had a deity they called Cneph, out of whose mouth went forth an egg, which they interpreted of the world (b): and the Zophasemin of the Phoenicians, which were heavenly birds, were, according to Sanchoniatho (c), of the form of an egg; and in the rites of Bacchus they worshipped an egg, as being an image of the world, as Macrobius (d) says; and therefore he thought the question, whether an hen or an egg was oldest, was of some moment, and deserved consideration: and the Chinese say (e), that the first man was produced out of the chaos as from an egg, the shell of which formed the heavens, the white the air, and the yolk the earth; and to this incubation of the spirit, or wind, as some would have it, is owing the windy egg of Aristophanes (f). (Thomas Chamlers (1780-1847) in 1814 was the first to purpose that there is a gap between verse 1 and 2. Into this gap he places a pre-Adamic age, about which the scriptures say nothing. Some great catastrophe took place, which left the earth "without form and void" or ruined, in which state it remained for as many years as the geologist required. (g) This speculation has been popularised by the 1917 Scofield Reference Bible. However, the numerous rock layers that are the supposed proof for these ages, were mainly laid down by Noah's flood. In Exodus 20:11 we read of a literal six day creation. No gaps, not even for one minute, otherwise these would not be six normal days. Also, in Romans 5:12 we read that death is the result of Adam's sin. Because the rock layers display death on a grand scale, they could not have existed before the fall of Adam. There is no direct evidence that the earth is much older than six thousand years. However, we have the direct eyewitness report of God himself that he made everything in six days. Tracing back through the biblical genealogies we can determine the age of the universe to be about six thousand years with an error of not more than two per cent.

(k) "Quem dixere chaos, rudis indigestaque moles", Ovid Metamorph. l. 1. Fab. 1.((l) &c. Hesiodi Theogonia. (m) Orphei Argonautica, ver. 12. (n) Martin. Sinic. Hist. l. 1. p. 5. (o) Bibliothec. l. 1. p. 7. (p) Apud Euseb. Praepar. Evangel. l. 2. c. 10. p. 33. (q) Laert. in Vita Thaletis, p. 18. Cicero do Natura Deorum, l. 1.((r) Strabo. Geograph. l. 15. p. 491. (s) Metaphysic. l. 1. c. 3.((t) Zohar in Gen. fol. 107. 3. and fol. 128. 3. Bereshit Rabba, fol. 2. 4. and 6. 3. Vajikra Rabba, sect. 14. fol. 156. 4. Baal Hatturim in loc. Caphtor Uperah, fol. 113. 2.((u) "incubabat", Junius, Tremellius, Piscator, "as a dove on her young", T. Bab. Chagigah, fol. 15. 1.((w) ----and, with mighty wings outspread, Dovelike satst brooding on the vast abyss, And mad'st it pregnant.---- Milton's Paradise Lost, B. 1. l. 20, 21, 22. The same sentiment is in B. 7. l. 234, 235. (x) Laert. in Vita Anaxagor. p. 91. Euseb. Evangel. Praepar. l. 10. c. 14. p. 504. (y) Cicero de Nat. Deorum, l. 1. Lactant, de falsa Relig. l. 1. c. 5. (z) Apud Drusium in loc. (a) Hymn. ver. 1, 2.((b) Euseb. Praepar. Evangel. l. 3. c. 11. p. 115. (c) Apud Ib. l. 2. c. 10. p. 33. (d) Saturnal. l. 7. c. 16. (e) Martin. Sinic. Hist. l. 1. p. 3, 4. (f) In Avibus. (g) Ian Taylor, p. 363, 364, "In the Minds of Men", 1984, TEF Publishing, P.O. Box 5015, Stn. F, Toronto, Canada.

And the earth was {b} without form, and void; and {c} darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God {d} moved upon the face of the waters.

(b) As an unformed lump and without any creature in it: for the waters covered everything.

(c) Darkness covered the deep waters, for the waters covered everything.

(d) He maintained this disordered mass by his secret power.

2. And the earth, &c.] Notice, in the present verse, (1) that “darkness” exists which God is not said to have made: (2) that “waters” exist before the formation of the seas: (3) that “the spirit of God” is mentioned, without explanation of its nature or origin, as “brooding upon the face of the waters.” The whole picture is vague and obscure, because the touches, by which it is conveyed, are left unexplained. The old monstrous and grotesque figures with which primitive Semitic, and possibly primitive Hebrew, imagination sought to fill up the void of the unimaginable past, have been left out. The gap which they filled is not wholly supplied. The description is brief and condensed. But, even making allowance for the brevity of the narrative, we are conscious of the presence of features in it, which represent the dim and cancelled outlines of an earlier mythological story. The thought of the Israelite reader is elevated to a higher religious plane in this simple and stately account.

the earth] i.e. the materials out of which the universe is formed. We are not told what the origin of these materials was, or whether God had created them. God is not here spoken of as creating the universe out of nothing, but rather as creating it out of a watery chaos: cf. Wis 11:18. That which is affirmed in Hebrews 11:3, i.e. that God did not make “that which is seen out of things which do appear,” is not asserted in this verse, though it is implied in the general representation of God’s omnipotence and His solitary personal action.

was] The simplest description of what “existed” before the first day of Creation. To translate “became,” or “came into being,” in order to import into the verse an allusion to the nebular hypothesis for the origin of the solar system, is an expedient not to be entertained by any scholarly interpreter. It has, however, found favour in some quarters. Apologists have been known to appeal to this verse as demonstrating that the Bible contains anticipations of the latest discoveries in Natural Science, as if the Hebrew auxiliary denoted the process of gradual evolution out of nebulous gas.

The theory, however, would never have been thought of except for the well-meaning, but mistaken, purpose of defending the honour of Holy Scripture on the supposition that it must contain perfection of instruction upon all matters of scientific knowledge.

It is sufficient to remind the reader that the ancients were entirely ignorant of the Copernican theory of the solar system; and, ex hypothesi, could not have comprehended Laplace’s nebular theory.

It violates every canon of interpretation to assume that simple words, like “earth,” “darkness,” “water,” &c., were intended to convey to the Israelite reader not the meanings which the Hebrew equivalents everywhere else conveyed, but those which could only be understood after the scientific discoveries of the nineteenth century had transformed men’s conception of the universe.

Equally arbitrary is the explanation of this verse, that it is intended to summarize the period, or periods, of catastrophe which, according to some writers, preceded the present geological condition of our planet. Geology is a modern science. The view which regarded the geological history of the globe as a succession of gigantic catastrophes is now very generally abandoned. The theory, that the earth has reached its present condition through gradual changes which have taken place during an enormous span of time (the uniformitarian theory), has now received the general adherence of geologists. (Cf. Sir Arch. Geikie, Art. “Geology,” Encyc. Brit.)

On the other hand, the Hebrew conception of the Creation in this chapter is in agreement with a fundamental principle of scientific thought. It recognizes in Nature an orderly progress from the simple into the complex, from the lower into the higher. Evolution, in the modern acceptance of the word, would have been unintelligible. But the ideas of order and progress, which it endorses and illustrates, are dominant in the present description. See Special Note, pp. 45 f.

waste and void] A.V. “without form and void.” The Heb. tôhû va-bhôhû is untranslateable. The LXX, ἀόρατος καὶ ἀκατασκεύαστος, “invisible and unformed,” fails to give the meaning. The Latin, inanis et vacua, is closer to the original. The alliteration of the Heb. words cannot be reproduced in English: “void and vacancy” would partially represent the sense and the sound.

tôhû in Isaiah 45:18, where there is a reference to the Creation Narrative, seems to denote “waste” or “vacancy”; while bôhû = “emptiness,” “void,” occurs elsewhere only in Isaiah 34:11, Jeremiah 4:23, with a reference to the present passage. Conceivably, the words may contain some similarity to primitive names, which had become obsolete, but which had been used to personify the conditions of chaos out of which the universe was formed. We may, at least, in connexion with this suggestion, compare the Phoenician Βαύυ = Night, the Mother of Chaos, and the Gnostic technical terms Βύθος and Χαός, designating primaeval matter.

darkness] The existence of “darkness” is here assumed. It is not said to have been created. “Light,” not “darkness,” has its origin in the creative act of God.

For another conception, cf. Isaiah 45:7, “I form the light, and create darkness.”

the deep] Heb. t’hôm, LXX ἀβύσσου, Lat. abyssi. This word is generally used in the O.T. for the “Ocean,” which, according to Hebrew ideas, both encircled the world, and occupied the vast hollows beneath the earth: cf. Genesis 49:25. It is used like a proper name, without the article; and is very probably Babylonian in origin. In the present verse it denotes the chaotic watery waste destined on the Second Day to be confined within certain definite limits. It is conceivable that in primitive Hebrew mythology this t’hôm, or “abyss,” fulfilled the same part as the somewhat similar Babylonian Tiamtu, or Tiamath, “the Goddess of the Great Deep,” with a dragon’s body, whose destruction preceded the creative deeds of the Babylonian Supreme God, Marduk, or Merodach. Marduk slew the dragon, clave its body in two parts, and made the heaven of one portion, and the earth of the other. See Appendix A.

The Hebrew notion that, before the Creation, the universe was enveloped in the waters of the great deep is possibly referred to in Psalm 104:6, “Thou coveredst it [the earth] with the deep as with a vesture,” cf. Psalm 33:7.

the spirit of God] Nothing could more effectually distinguish the Hebrew Narrative of the Creation from the representations of primitive mythology than the use of this simple and lofty expression for the mysterious, unseen, and irresistible presence and operation of the Divine Being. It is the “breath” of God which alone imparts light to darkness and the principle of life to inert matter.

The student should be warned against identifying this expression with the Holy Spirit in the Christian doctrine of the Blessed Trinity. We must not look for the distinctive teaching of the Christian Revelation in the pages of the O.T.

The word for “wind,” Heb. ruaḥ, Gr. πνεῦμα, Lat. spiritus, was accepted as the most suitable term to express the invisible agency of God. In consequence, it is sometimes difficult to decide whether the word is used literally in its meaning of “wind” or “breath,” or metaphorically in its meaning of “spirit” as the symbol of the invisible operation and influence of the Almighty. An instance of this ambiguity occurs in our Lord’s words in John 3:8, “The wind (πνεῦμα) bloweth (marg. ‘The Spirit breatheth’) where it listeth, &c.… so is every one that is born of the Spirit (πνεῦμα).” Similarly, whereas the Targum of Onkelos probably rendered our clause by “wind from the Lord blew upon the face of the waters,” the Targum of Palestine renders “the Spirit of mercies from the Lord breathed upon the face of the waters.”

moved upon the face of the waters] The rendering of the margin, was brooding upon, furnishes the picture of a bird spreading its wings over its nest; it also reproduces the meaning of the participle of the Hebrew verb, which implies continuousness in the action. For the use of the same unusual Hebrew word, cf. Deuteronomy 32:11. “As an eagle that stirreth up her nest, That fluttereth over her young, He spread abroad his wings, He took them, He bare them on his pinions.”

By the selection of this word the writer conveys the thought that the continuous, fostering care of the Almighty was given to the welter of primaeval chaos no less than to the orderly successive phenomena of the universe.

Milton employs this metaphor in two well-known passages.

Thou from the first

Wast present, and, with mighty wings outspread,

Dove-like sat’st brooding on the vast Abyss,

And mad’st it pregnant …

Par. Lost, i. 19.

… Matter unformed and void. Darkness profound

Covered the Abyss; but on the watery calm

His brooding wings the Spirit of God outspread,

And vital virtue infused, and vital warmth,

Throughout the fluid mass.…

—vii. 234.

It may, indeed, be questioned whether, if the word is intended to denote the action of a bird, it should not be rendered “was fluttering,” or “was hovering,” rather than “was brooding.” Motion seems to be implied: and the simile is not so much that of a bird sitting upon its nest as that of a bird hovering with outstretched wings over the young ones in the nest. The choice of the word, with its allusion to bird life, has been thought to contain an intentional reference to primitive mythologies, e.g. Phoenician, Egyptian, according to which the universe was hatched by a female deity out of the primaeval egg of Chaos.Verse 2. - And the earth. Clearly the earth referred to in the preceding verse, the present terrestrial globe with its atmospheric firmament, and not simply "the land" as opposed to "the skies" (Murphy); certainly not "the heavens" of ver. 1 as well as the earth (Delitzsch); and least of all "a section of the dry land in Central Asia" (Buckland, Pye Smith). It is a sound principle of exegesis that a word shall retain the meaning it at first possesses till either intimation is made by the writer of a change in its significance, or such change is imperatively demanded by the necessities of the context, neither of which is the case here. Was. Not "had become." Without form and void. Literally, wasteness and emptiness, tohu vabohu. The words are employed in Isaiah 34:11 and Jeremiah 4:23 to depict the desolation and desertion of a ruined and depopulated land, and by many have been pressed into service to support the idea of a preceding cosmos, of which the chaotic condition of our planet was the wreck (Murphy, Wordsworth, Bush, &c). Delitzsch argues, on the ground that tohu vabohu implies the ruin of a previous cosmos, that ver. 2 does not state specifically that God created the earth in this desolate and waste condition; and that death, which is inconceivable out of connection with sin, was in the world prior to the fall; that ver. 2 presupposes the fall of the angels, and adduces in support of his view Job 38:4-7 ('Bib. Psychology,' sect. 1, p. 76; Clark's 'For. Theol. Lib.') - a notion which Kalisch contemptuously classes among "the aberrations of profound minds," and "the endless reveries" of "far-sighted thinkers." Bush is confident that Isaiah 45:18, in which Jehovah declares that he created not the earth roan, is conclusive against a primeval chaos. The parallel clause, however, shows that not the original state, but the ultimate design of the globe, was contemplated in Jehovah's language: "He created it not tohu, he formed it to be inhabited;" i.e. the Creator did not intend the earth to be a desolate region, but an inhabited planet. There can scarcely be a doubt, then, that the expression portrays the condition in which the new-created earth was, not innumerable ages, but very shortly, after it was summoned into existence. It was formless and lifeless; a huge, shapeless, objectless, tenantless mass of matter, the gaseous and solid elements commingled, in which neither organized structure, nor animated form, nor even distinctly-traced outline of any kind appeared. And darkness (was) upon the face of the deep. The "deep," from a root signifying to disturb, is frequently applied to the sea (Psalm 42:8), and here probably intimates that the primordial matter of our globe existed in a fluid, or liquid, or molten form. Dawson distinguishes between "the deep" and the "waters," making the latter refer to the liquid condition of the globe, and the former apply to "the atmospheric waters," i.e. the vaporous or aeriform mass mantling the surface of our nascent planet, and containing the materials out of which the atmosphere was afterwards elaborated ('Origin of the World,' p. 105). As yet the whole was shrouded in the thick folds of Cimmerian gloom, giving not the slightest promise of that fair world of light, order, and life into which it was about to be transformed. Only one spark of hope might have been detected in the circumstance that the Spirit of God moved (literally, brooding) upon the face of the waters. That the Ruach Elohim, or breath of God, was not "a great wind," or "a wind of God," is determined by the non-existence of the air at this particular stage in the earth's development. In accordance with Biblical usage generally, it must be regarded as a designation not simply "of the Divine power, which, like the wind and the breath, cannot be perceived" (Gesenius), but of the Holy Spirit, who is uniformly represented as the source or formative cause of all life and order in the world, whether physical, intellectual, or spiritual (cf. Job 26:13; Job 27:3; Psalm 33:6; Psalm 104:29; Psalm 143:10; Isaiah 34:16; Isaiah 61:1; Isaiah 63:11). As it were, the mention of the Ruach Elohim is the first out-blossoming of the latent fullness of the Divine personality, the initial movement in that sublime revelation of the nature of the Godhead, which, advancing slowly, and at the best but indistinctly, throughout Old Testament times, culminated in the clear and ample disclosures of the gospel The special form of this Divine agent's activity is described as that of" brooding" (merachepheth, from raehaph, to be tremulous, as with love; hence, in Piel, to cherish young - Deuteronomy 32:11) or fluttering over the liquid elements of the shapeless and tenantless globe, communicating to them, doubtless, those formative powers of life and order which were to burst forth into operation in answer to the six words of the six ensuing days. As might have been anticipated, traces of this primeval chaos are to be detected in various heathen cosmogonies, as the following brief extracts will show: -

1. The Chaldean legend, deciphered from the creation tablet discovered in the palace of Assurbanipal, King of Assyria, 2. c. 885, depicts the desolate and void condition of the earth thus: -

"When above were not raised the heavens,
And below on the earth a plant had not grown up;
The abyss also had not broken up their boundaries;
The chaos (or water) tiamat (the sea) was the producing-mother of the whole of them," &c. ('Chaldean Genesis,' p. 62.)

2. The Babylonian cosmogony, according to Berosus (B.C. 330-260), commences with a time "in which there existed nothing but darkness" and an abyss of waters, wherein resided most hideous beings, which were produced of a twofold principle... The person who presided over them was a woman named Omoroea, which in the Chaldean language is Thalatth, in Greek Thalassa, the sea, but which might equally be interpreted the moon" ('Chaldean Genesis,' pp. 40, 41).

3. The Egyptian account of the origin of the universe, as given by Diodorus Siculus, represents the heaven and earth as blended together, till afterwards the elements began to separate and the air to move. According to another idea, there was a vast abyss enveloped in boundless darkness, with a subtle spirit, intellectual in power, existing in the chaos (Macdonald, 'Creation and the Fall,' p. 49).

4. The Phoenician cosmogony says, "The first principle of the universe was a dark windy air and an eternal dark chaos. Through the love of the Spirit to its own principles a mixture arose, and a connection called desire, the beginning of all things. From this connection of the Spirit was begotten mot, which, according to some, signifies mud, according to others, a corruption of a watery mixture, but is probably a feminine form of too, water. From this were developed creatures in the shape of an egg, called zophasemin (Macdonald, p. 50).

5. The Indian mythology is very striking in its resemblance to the Mosaic narrative." The institutes of Menu affirm' that at first all was dark, the world still resting in the purpose of the Eternal, whose first thought created water, and in it the seed of life. This became an egg, from which issued Brahma, the creative power, who divided his own substance and became male and female. The waters were called nara, as being the production of Nara, or the Spirit of God, who, on account of these being his first ayana, or place of motion, is named Naray-na, or moving on the waters. A remarkable hymn from the Rig Veda, translated by Dr. Max Muller, also closely approximates to the Scriptural account: -

"Nor aught nor naught existed; yon bright sky
Was not, nor heaven's broad woof out-stretched above.
The only one breathed breathless by itself;
Other than it there nothing since hath been.
Darkness there was, and all at first was veiled
In gloom profound - an ocean without light."

(Vid. Macdonald's 'Creation,' &c., p. 51.)

6. The description of chaos given by Ovid is too appropriate to be overlooked: -

"Ante mare et tellus, et, quod tegit omnia, caelum,
Unus erat toto naturae vultus in orbe,
Quem dixere chaos; rudis indigestaque moles quia corpere in uno
Frigida pugnabant calidis, humentia siccis,
Mollia cum duris, sine Pendere habentia pondus"

(Metamor.,' lib, 1:1). Yet not more remarkable are these indirect confirmations of the truthfulness of the Biblical cosmogony than the direct corroborations it derives from the discoveries of modern science.

(1) The nebular hypothesis of Laplace, which, though only a hypothesis, must vet be admitted to possess a high degree of probability, strikingly attests its authenticity. That eminent astronomer demonstrated that a huge chaotic mass of nebulous matter, revolving in space on its own axis with a sufficient velocity, and gradually condensing from a high degree of heat, would eventually, by throwing off successive rings from the parent body, develop all the celestial orbs that presently compose our planetary system. Though for a long time regarded with suspicion by Biblical scholars, and at the first only tentatively thrown out by its author, Kant, yet so exactly does it account for the phenomena of our solar system as disclosed by the telescope, that it may now be said to have vindicated its claim to be accepted as the best solution science has to give of the formation of the universe; while further and more dispassionate reflection has convinced theologians generally, that so far from conflicting with the utterances of inspiration, it rather surprisingly endorses them.

(2) The researches of physical philosophy in connection with hydrodynamics have successfully established that the present form of our earth, that of (the solid of revolution called) an oblate spheroid, is such as it must necessarily have assumed had its original condition been that of a liquid mass revolving round its own axis.

(3) Geological science likewise contributes its quota to the constantly accumulating weight of evidence in support of the Mosaic narrative, by announcing, as the result of its investigations in connection with the earth's crust, that below a certain point, called "the stratum of invariable temperature," the heat of the interior mass becomes greater in proportion to the depth beneath the surface, thus leading not unnaturally to the inference that "the earth has assumed its present state by cooling down from an intensely heated, or gaseous, or fluid state" (Green's 'Geology,' p. 487.).

The First Day. - Though treating of the creation of the heaven and the earth, the writer, both here and in what follows, describes with minuteness the original condition and progressive formation of the earth alone, and says nothing more respecting the heaven than is actually requisite in order to show its connection with the earth. He is writing for inhabitants of the earth, and for religious ends; not to gratify curiosity, but to strengthen faith in God, the Creator of the universe. What is said in Genesis 1:2 of the chaotic condition of the earth, is equally applicable to the heaven, "for the heaven proceeds from the same chaos as the earth."

"And the earth was (not became) waste and void." The alliterative nouns tohu vabohu, the etymology of which is lost, signify waste and empty (barren), but not laying waste and desolating. Whenever they are used together in other places (Isaiah 34:11; Jeremiah 4:23), they are taken from this passage; but tohu alone is frequently employed as synonymous with איך, non-existence, and הבל, nothingness (Isaiah 40:17, Isaiah 40:23; Isaiah 49:4). The coming earth was at first waste and desolate, a formless, lifeless mass, rudis indigestaque moles, ὕληἄμορφος (Wis. 11:17) or χάος.

"And darkness was upon the face of the deep." תּהום, from הוּם, to roar, to rage, denotes the raging waters, the roaring waves (Psalm 42:7) or flood (Exodus 15:5; Deuteronomy 8:7); and hence the depths of the sea (Job 28:14; Job 38:16), and even the abyss of the earth (Psalm 71:20). As an old traditional word, it is construed like a proper name without an article (Ewald, Gramm.). The chaotic mass in which the earth and the firmament were still undistinguished, unformed, and as it were unborn, was a heaving deep, an abyss of waters (ἄβυσσος, lxx), and this deep was wrapped in darkness. But it was in process of formation, for the Spirit of God moved upon the waters, רוּח (breath) denotes wind and spirit, like πνεῦνα from πνέω. Ruach Elohim is not a breath of wind caused by God (Theodoret, etc.), for the verb does not suit this meaning, but the creative Spirit of God, the principle of all life (Psalm 33:6; Psalm 104:30), which worked upon the formless, lifeless mass, separating, quickening, and preparing the living forms, which were called into being by the creative words that followed. רחף in the Piel is applied to the hovering and brooding of a bird over its young, to warm them, and develop their vital powers (Deuteronomy 32:11). In such a way as this the Spirit of God moved upon the deep, which had received at its creation the germs of all life, to fill them with vital energy by His breath of life. The three statements in our verse are parallel; the substantive and participial construction of the second and third clauses rests upon the והיחה of the first. All three describe the condition of the earth immediately after the creation of the universe. This suffices to prove that the theosophic speculation of those who "make a gap between the first two verses, and fill it with a wild horde of evil spirits and their demoniacal works, is an arbitrary interpolation" (Ziegler).

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