Genesis 1:2

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Depiction of Genesis 1:2 by Wenceslaus Hollar.

Genesis 1:2 is the second verse of the Genesis creation narrative. It is a part of the Torah portion Bereshit (Genesis 1:1-6:8).

Analysis[edit]

Formless and void[edit]

Genesis 1:2 presents an initial condition of creation - namely, that it is tohu wa-bohu, formless and void. This serves to introduce the rest of the chapter, which describes a process of forming and filling.[1] That is, on the first three days the heavens, the sky and the land is formed, and they are filled on days four to six by luminaries, birds and fish, and animals and man respectively.

This correspondence is emphasised in the framework interpretation of the length of days in Genesis 1. Craig Rusbult notes

In a framework view, the six days describe actual historical events, arranged topically instead of chronologically. The framework is based on two problems in Genesis 1:2, with the earth being "formless and empty." The two solutions are to produce form (by separations in Days 1-3) and fill these forms (in Days 4-6) to connect related aspects of creation history in Days 1-and-4, 2-and-5, 3-and-6.[2]

Before God begins to create, the world is tohu wa-bohu (Hebrew: תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ‎): the word tohu by itself means "emptiness, futility"; it is used to describe the desert wilderness. Bohu has no known meaning and was apparently coined to rhyme with and reinforce tohu.[3] It appears again in Jeremiah 4:23,[Jer. 4:23] where Jeremiah warns Israel that rebellion against God will lead to the return of darkness and chaos, "as if the earth had been ‘uncreated’."[4] Tohu wa-bohu, chaos, is the condition that bara, ordering, remedies.[5]

Deep[edit]

Darkness and "Deep" (Hebrew: תְהוֹםtehôm) are two of the three elements of the chaos represented in tohu wa-bohu (the third is the formless earth). In the Enuma Elish, the Deep is personified as the goddess Tiamat, the enemy of Marduk;[5] here it is the formless body of primeval water surrounding the habitable world, later to be released during the Deluge, when "all the fountains of the great deep burst forth" from the waters beneath the earth and from the "windows" of the sky.[6] William Dumbrell notes that the reference to the "deep" in this verse "alludes to the detail of the ancient Near Eastern cosmologies" in which "a general threat to order comes from the unruly and chaotic sea, which is finally tamed by a warrior god." Dumbrell goes on to suggest that Genesis 1:2 "reflects something of the chaos/order struggle characteristic of ancient cosmologies".[7][8]

Spirit[edit]

The "Spirit of God" hovering over the waters in some translations of Genesis 1:2 comes from the Hebrew phrase ruach elohim, which has alternately been interpreted as a "great wind".[9] Victor Hamilton decides, somewhat tentatively, for "spirit of God", but dismisses any suggestion that this can be identified with the Holy Spirit of Christian theology.[10]

Rûach (רוּחַ) has the meanings "wind, spirit, breath," and elohim can mean "great" as well as "god". The ruach elohim which moves over the Deep may therefore mean the "wind/breath of God" (the storm-wind is God's breath in Psalms 18:15 and elsewhere, and the wind of God returns in the Flood story as the means by which God restores the earth), or God's "spirit", a concept which is somewhat vague in Hebrew bible, or simply a great storm-wind.[11]

Appendix[edit]

Veha'arets hayetah tohu vavohu vechoshech al-peney tehom veruach Elohim merachefet al-peney hamayim.

Translation Text
American Standard Version "And the earth was waste and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep: and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters."
Bible in Basic English "And the earth was waste and without form; and it was dark on the face of the deep: and the Spirit of God was moving on the face of the waters."
Darby Bible "And the earth was waste and empty, and darkness was on the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters."
God's Word "The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep water. The Spirit of God was hovering over the water."
Holman Christian Standard Bible "Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness covered the surface of the watery depths, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters."
Jewish Publication Society (3rd ed.) "The Earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep and a wind from God sweeping over the water—
King James Version "And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters."
The Message "Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness. God's Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss."
New King James Version "The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters."
Webster's Bible Translation "And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep: and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters."
World English Bible "Now the earth was formless and empty. Darkness was on the surface of the deep. God's Spirit was hovering over the surface of the waters."
Young's Literal Translation "The earth hath existed waste and void, and darkness 'is' on the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God fluttering on the face of the waters,"

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ Carlson, Richard F.; Longman, Tremper (2010). Science, Creation and the Bible: Reconciling Rival Theories of Origins. InterVarsity Press. p. 109.
  2. ^ Rusbult, Craig. "Is an old-earth interpretation of Genesis 1 satisfactory?". American Scientific Affiliation. Retrieved 5 August 2012.
  3. ^ Alter 2004, p. 17.
  4. ^ Thompson 1980, p. 230.
  5. ^ a b Walton 2001.
  6. ^ Wenham 2003, p. 29.
  7. ^ Dumbrell 2002, p. 14.
  8. ^ Dumbrell, William J. (2002). The Faith of Isarel: A Theological Survey of the Old Testament. Baker Academic. p. 14.
  9. ^ Blenkinsopp, Joseph (2011). Creation, Un-Creation, Re-Creation: A Discursive Commentary on Genesis 1-11. T&T Clarke International. pp. 33–34.
  10. ^ Hamilton, Victor P. (1990). The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1-17. New International Commentary on the Old Testament (NICOT). Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. pp. 111–114. ISBN 0-8028-2521-4.
  11. ^ Blenkinsopp 2011, pp. 33-34.

Bibliography[edit]

Alter, Robert (2004). The Five Books of Moses: A Translation With Commentary. W. W. Norton. p. 17.
Carlson, Richard F.; Longman, Tremper (2010). Science, Creation and the Bible: Reconciling Rival Theories of Origins. InterVarsity Press. p. 109.
Walton, John H. (2001). Genesis. Zondervan. ISBN 978-0-310-86620-6.

Further reading[edit]

  • Jewish Publication Society. The Torah: The Five Books of Moses (3rd ed). Philadelphia: 1999.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Genesis 1:1
Book of Genesis Succeeded by
Genesis 1:3