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and the earth was

shapeless and empty,

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and darkness

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was over the face of the sea,

and the Spirit of ELOHIM

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above the face of the waters.  (See comment below.)


at which time the earth was undeveloped and uninhabited, and there was a sense of gloom and hopelessness that hovered over the visible expression of the overwhelming and foreboding mass, but the Spirit of THE CREATOR AND OWNER OF ALL THINGS was in action over the feelings that welled up from inside of that great mass of potential.   (See comment below.)





If one considers the emphasis of “empty” to be “uninhabited,” as I have done in the paraphrase column, it becomes a hint at the creation of man in God’s image. It also sets the stage for the pattern God will use for Creation Week: He makes something, and then he separates it into distinguishable sectors, some of which are opposite each other. He also creates things in an empty condition and then returns to fill them.

2: “darkness”

To see my discussion of that symbolism, see the comment which interrupts the text after verse 2.

3: “spirit of Elohim”

Now we are introduced to another member of the God-head, the Spirit of God. The ancient Hebrews were not as clear as we are about the three-in-one nature of God, however, they had an inkling that God was at least two “members,” God and His Spirit.

4: "hovered":

This Hebrew verb can be rendered “to flutter, hover or move gently and with care, also brood.” The first three options are closer to the main idea because it involves movement, while “brood” takes things a different direction because it involves sitting still. Why would the Spirit of God hover over the chaotic original mass of creation? I believe that Deuteronomy 32:11 gives us a good answer using this very word picture. There a mother eagle is pictured as hovering over her young in order to show them how to use their wings. She also stirs up the nest and finally kicks them out of the nest, but it starts with showing them an example. Therefore that last part of Genesis 1:2 is included in order to show us that the intent of God’s Spirit was to help created matter move from a chaotic, useless state, to a useful and organized condition.


It appears that Gen 1:1 “In the beginning, Elohim created the heavens and the earth” refers to when God created matter. He made it in the form of water and the many things can be dissolved in it. The Bible goes on to show that God is the only creator, and all things were created by Him (See passages such as John 1:3 and Colossians 1:16-17). Therefore we understand that God created the waters, even though it is not described in the same way as other things that God created during the six days of creation week.

From the pattern we see, it is likely that He spoke the water into being just like the rest.

For the things that are not soluble in water, I’m sure God had a way to deal with that as well, but it is not explained to us.


Genesis one is probably not intended as true symbolism, yet it can be argued that hints of symbolism are present. The people of ancient times loved symbolism, and it was not uncommon for them to find double and even triple meanings in a word or phrase. In Genesis 1:2 the Jewish mind may easily have stepped over into considering the symbolic meaning of various elements of this passages to see if they might enrich the passage. When a passage that seemed to lean toward a literal, factual interpretation was also full of words that in other parts of their literature were commonly used as imagery, they would at least consider the possibility of symbolism to see if it added to the impact of the passage.


It is not hard to see why ancient peoples saw darkness as a symbol for evil, for danger, and for fear. It was during the darkness of night that robbers and other evil men did their evil works. It was at night that dangerous animals prowled about. Saying that darkness was over the face of the watery depths was a type of negative; it showed the need for God to act.


The face expresses what a person is thinking or feeling inside. In Scripture the outward expression of an internal attitude usually has to do with a relationship, either a close relationship, such as marriage, or a relationship with a huge disparity in authority, such as a ruler to a subject. In those contexts the face is used most often regarding expressions of favor or judgment. If this usage had any symbolism in it at all, it would have been stripped of the concept of relationship and would have pictured the water as hopeful, and expectant, knowing it had potential but needing God to act in order to bring out that potential.


The sea was seen by the ancients as dangerous and deadly. Sailors would leave and never come back. Storms were worse on the sea than on dry land. Also, since one cannot see very far into the deep water, one cannot know what terrible sea monsters may be lurking under there. The sea was often called the abyss, the place of death. The prior use of the term “darkness” seems to favor this being a symbol of foreboding and hopelessness, of danger and a lack of life.


In Hebrew “waters” only had a plural form; there was no singular form. However, it was used with singular and plural meaning, with context telling the reader what was intended. When the word “waters” was used in a plural sense, as we see at the end of verse 2, it represented an abundance of whatever was being talked about. If it stood alone, as it does in this passage, it simply means abundance in general.

The word for “waters” differs from the word used earlier and translated “sea,” “the deep” or even “the abyss.” The first one emphasizes the dark and fearful aspects of so much water, while this second reference emphasizes the potential held in so much water. The former seems to prohibit life, while the latter is life-giving. This is the first of many situations which demonstrate that God is good at turning negative situations into positive ones. It is also the first of many issues that involve two aspects pulling in opposite directions in order to create a final condition of balance.

Our lives can go one of two directions, they can be filled with turmoil, or filled with peace. If life is tumultuous, it is usually our own doing. We can choose to focus on the unknowns, the things we have no control over; or we can choose to seek God’s peace. In order to have peace we must place the unknowns in God’s hands, do our part, and trust Him with the results.


Water is very simple but at the same time it is amazing. It will dissolve more substances than anything else we know, meaning that it can be the carrier of important things like minerals and vitamins. Many common liquids (like milk) are water based. Besides being a carrier of things we need, water also makes up a very large percentage of our bodies since there is a form of water inside and outside our cells.

Water was designed to “climb” up the xylem of plants to get to the leaves. This is because it is slightly adhesive, i.e. it sticks to things. Some water evaporates off the leaves and “pulls” other water up behind it because water is also cohesive, meaning that it sticks to itself. In order for water to get to the top of very tall trees it is likely that both actions, climbing on its own, and being pulled by the evaporation from the leaves, are needed. In this we once again see the wisdom of the Creator.

Unlike all other substances, water stops contracting just before it gets to the freezing point and expands rapidly so that when it does turn into ice, it is less dense than the water around it and it floats. If frozen water did not float, it would sink to the bottom and accumulate on the bottom where it would likely never melt. Over time the ice would get thicker and thicker and basically fill any body of water with ice, except for a small layer on the top that could be melted by the sun. This would mean that, instead of protecting fish from the freezing temperatures of the air in wintertime, the ice would likely kill all the fish.

In the water cycle, water evaporates into the air, but it is still molecules of H2O. It begins to coalesce around a particle of dust or contamination, but it still hangs in the air, seeming to defy gravity. These droplets form into clouds. Some of these clouds become so large and dense that light does not penetrate from the top to the bottom of the cloud, making the cloud look dark and ominous from below. Yet even at this point the water droplets are still held aloft, despite the fact that water is heavy (one gallon of water weights about 8 Lbs). We are told that the clouds are held aloft by rising wind currents that keep them up there longer than otherwise possible. I wonder if it is more than just wind.

But finally the water droplets stick to each other enough times and get large enough that they yield to the force of gravity and start to fall as rain drops. But even here we see the thoughtful mind and caring hand of God. Water falls as drops, not in huge masses of water that would crush almost anything it might strike (Henry Morris, The Bible and Science, p. 27). Imagine if water fell from the sky one swimming pool’s worth at a time, several feet deep and many feet wide and long. Or what if there were no rain at all. There is no other conclusion except to say that the chemistry and physics which make the water cycle possible are a marvel of intricate design.

There are many ways in which water is amazing!