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The How, Why, and When of Creation, Part 2
You know what he's seeing here? He's seeing a land devastated by a foreign army, a land smoldering, burning, a land where the birds have fled away from the smoke and the devastation, a land where there's nobody left, they've been slaughtered, or they've been taken into captivity. So tohu and bohu , Jeremiah helps us understand that. He borrows the language of Genesis to describe a wasted, devastated place without any inhabitants. It's lost its former beauty. It doesn't have any form. It doesn't have any beauty. It is desolate and it is empty of inhabitants due to slaughter and flight.
The same phrase is used in Isaiah also, chapter 34 and verse 11. He talks about the judgment of God coming on the nations here. Isaiah speaking in verse 1 of 34, “O nations hear, listen, O peoples, let everybody in the earth hear, the Lord's indignation is against the nations, His wrath,” and so he talks about the devastation that's going to come when the judgment of God falls on the nations of the world. And in verse 11 he talks about some things that are going to happen to the animals and so forth, and then in verse 11, the middle of the verse, “He shall stretch over it the line of desolation,” the line of tohu , “and the plumb line of emptiness,” of bohu . It's going to be a desolate place and it's going to be empty of inhabitants.
Now, these words have to do with a waste place, a desolated place without inhabitants; devastation and depopulation, without shape and form, and without inhabitant. So when you see the words tohu and bohu in Genesis, it's not some tricky technicality that you're seeing there; it's just the word for devastation and emptiness. It was a waste place and there was no life there. That's exactly what it means. Maybe the best way to say it would be the earth was unfinished as to its shape, and unpopulated. That's exactly what it means, and that's understandable when day one started.
The material was there. There was time, and there was space, and there was matter, but it was unformed, and unpopulated. The original created elements mentioned in verse 1: time, in the beginning; the heavens, matter – or the heavens, space, and the earth – matter. God created them, God spoke them into existence; but yet they were undifferentiated, unseparated, unorganized, and uninhabited. God had not yet shaped them, and God had not populated the cosmos. So you have the raw materials mentioned in verse 1: time, space, matter. They are described, first of all, as unfinished as to shape, and unpopulated as to inhabitant.
Secondly, we further get a description. Verse 1 says, “Darkness was over the surface of the deep,” and the reason for that is that God hadn't created light. And up to this point, throughout all of eternity there was no created light; no created light. Everything was darkness.
The earth then in this shapeless, to some degree, and in uninhabited form, is engulfed in total, absolute darkness. There was no light at all, darkness was spread over everything. That's what it says, “over the surface of,” and it doesn't say “the earth,” but of “the deep.” Well that's interesting; that introduces another component here. What is this primordial deep?
Deep is a synonym used in Scripture for the sea; in fact, look later in verse 2. Darkness is over the surface of the deep and the Spirit of God was also moving over the surface of the waters, and here God through the Holy Spirit defines the deep as water. The word “deep” is used as a synonym for the sea. You can see that, for example, in Isaiah 51:9 and 10 .
So what do we have here? We have the earth engulfed in darkness, which in touching the surface of the earth touches the surface of water. So the earth is covered with water. The entire surface of the earth is water; it's a deep, it's a sea, it's a global, primordial ocean, surrounded by universal darkness. That is referred to also in Psalm 104, verses 5 and 6: He “established the earth upon its foundations…Thou didst cover it with the deep, as with a garment.” Like a cloak that covers you, the garment of the earth was water, and it says the waters were standing above the mountains. The unformed earth was literally covered with water.
In a sense, this is like a potter, who wishing to fashion a beautiful vessel and then to fill it to be used, first takes a lump of clay and places it on the wheel to mold and fit it to his purpose. So God first gets the raw material, and it is a mix of elements covered with water existing in universal darkness – this before He begins to shape it. And this, by the way, I think is what Peter, 2 Peter 3:5 , meant: “The earth was formed out of water.” The earth was formed out of water, “and by water,” of course, that being the Flood.
Proverbs 8:27 says, “He drew a circle over the face of the deep.” First thing, the matter became spherical. So God had this ball of elements that would constitute the earth when He shaped it, engulfed in water.
And the third commentary on the state of the earth on day one is most notable: “The Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.” I love this word “moving,” it's the word “hovering.” Hovering over this unformed and lifeless material, engulfed in water, and steeped in darkness, was hovering the Spirit of God, ruach elohim , God the Spirit. And this indicates superintending divine care and supervision. Job 33:4 says, “The ruach elohim ,” the Spirit of God, “has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”