Day 001: Formless and Empty (Genesis 1)

Through the Bible: Genesis 1-3

“The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” Genesis‬ ‭1‬:‭2‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Believers accept on faith that God created ex nihilo—from nothing. So a careful reader might be bothered by the fact that God created in Genesis 1:1, but the earth was formless and empty in verse 2. The words “formless and empty” are the Hebrew words tohu and bohu. This exact phrase shows up only one other time in the Old Testament: in Jeremiah 4:23, when the prophet laments the destruction of Jerusalem. So why is creation described this way in Genesis 1:2? Was it not perfect to begin with? Did something happen between verse 1 and verse 2?

There’s a branch of creationism, called Gap Theory Creationism that speculates there was an unspecified period of time after the perfect creation of verse 1 and the “tohu and bohu” of verse 2. This gap could have lasted millions of years, and ended with some cataclysmic event, such as a meteor impact or the rebellion in heaven that led to Lucifer’s fall with a third of the angels (Isaiah 14:12, Rev, 12:8-9). This also could account for dinosaurs.

The Genesis account also takes it as a given that God created all that is out of nothing. The very word translated “created” (Hebrew bara) in verse 1 refers to creation out of nothing. An important point for the gap theory position is that bara isn’t used again until verse 21, when God created the sea creatures and birds; and 27, when He created man and woman.

The emphasis between verse 1 and verse 21 is more about organization than it is about creation. Moses, the author of Genesis, seems more interested in how God brought order from chaos than he is in the mechanics of creating something out of nothing,

Notice the focus on ordering and organizing in the first few verses: God separated light from darkness (verse 6). He separated the water above from the water below (vv. 6-8), differentiating sky from sea. Then He gathered the waters into one place so that dry ground could appear (verse 9-10). Throughout the account, there is a precise, logical order to things. Plants are created after the dry ground emerges (verse 11). The sun is created to give heat and light to the vegetation (verses 14-19). Fish in the water and birds in the sky logically follow the creation of sea and sky. Animals are created only after the earth has sprouted vegetation, so they will have something to eat.

All of this serves to teach us as much about God’s character as it does about God’s power. God is a God of order and not confusion. We can see that in how the sun and the moon mark times and seasons (verse 1:14; Psalm 104:19). We see it in the precise way He formed the different systems of the human body to function together. We see it in the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit existing together in complete self-sufficiency and harmony. We even see it in Paul’s instructions for orderly worship services (1 Corinthians 14:23). Most importantly, we see it in the fact that God sent Jesus into the world “when the time came to completion” (Galatians 4:4).

As we begin this journey, Tara-Leigh is going to encourage you to look for God’s character in the passage. So here is what we learn about God in Genesis 1: He is orderly. He’s rational. He isn’t capricious or temperamental. The God who brought order from chaos in the cosmos can be trusted to do the same thing in your life. This year, respond to the invitation he gives in Isaiah 1:18:

“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.

2 responses to “Day 001: Formless and Empty (Genesis 1)”

  1. Stacey Slack Avatar
    Stacey Slack

    What a powerful way of truth to start the New Year!!!
    God is a powerful, rational and orderly God! I look forward to continuing on this journey of knowing more about God through Scripture!!!
    May God richly bless you and your family!!!

    1. James Avatar

      Thank you! Blessings’

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