Genesis (Part 2)

Genesis 1:2 … and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

Picking back up where we left off, we visit one of the most mysterious verses of the entire Bible.

There is a theory that a “gap” in time exists between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2. And in that indeterminable gap, we have the rebellion and fall of Lucifer/Satan, the earth’s fossil record history pre-man, etc.

Some further speculate that the phrase “darkness was over the face of the deep” is a reference to Satan’s claim of authority over God’s creation. Darkness and deep seem to represent a type of watery chaos present prior to God’s intervention.

The Hebrew word for “deep” or “abyss” is Tehom. תְּהוֹם

From the wikipedia page of Tehom:

Gnostics used this text to propose that the original creator god, called the “Pléroma” or “Bythós” (from the Greek, meaning “Deep”) pre-existed Elohim, and gave rise to such later divinities and spirits by way of emanations, progressively more distant and removed from the original form.

Tehom is also mentioned as the first of seven “Infernal Habitations” that correspond to the ten Qliphoth (literally “peels”) of Jewish Kabbalistic tradition, often in place of Sheol.

Assyriologist Heinrich Zimmern writes in his comparative study of Babylonian and Hebrew creation myths:

According to both traditions before the creation all was water. The deep is personified as a terrible monster, which in the Babylonian version bears the name of “Tihamat,” corresponding to the Hebrew “Tehom,” used as the technical expression for the primæval ocean. The Hebrew word is employed without the article, like a proper name, thus indicating that in Israelite tradition also it stood originally for some mythological being.

Robert R. Stieglitz stated that Eblaitic texts demonstrate the equation of the goddess Berouth in the mythology of Sanchuniathon with Ugaritic thmt and Akkadian Tiâmat, via the name bʾrôt (“fountains”)

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Putting this part of verse two in context with that portion of verse 2 covered in our previous study, we come to the following analysis.:

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. 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.

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. 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’.” Tohu wa-bohu, chaos, is the condition that bara, ordering, remedies.

Darkness and “Deep” (Hebrew: תְהוֹם‎ tehôm) are two of the three elements of the chaos represented in tohu wa-bohu (the third is the formless earth). In the Enûma Eliš, the Deep is personified as the goddess Tiamat, the enemy of Marduk; 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. 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”.

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”. Victor P. Hamilton decides, somewhat tentatively, for “spirit of God”, but dismisses any suggestion that this can be identified with the Holy Spirit of Christian theology.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.

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So we find a lot of insinuation and informed speculation, but the verse is somewhat vague and mysterious even after all of that. But now we are ready to hear God speak in verse 3.

6 thoughts on “Genesis (Part 2)

  1. I myself run pretty gnostic in thought so I was pleased to see that you are familiar with gnosticism. Also I’m very pleased to see you working in comparisons to the Enumma Elish! We seem to have some common base of study. I’ve been blogging lately reviewing a book about the “Watchers” in Genesis and using so called “extra biblical” sources to try and boil down what the stories meant to the generations past. I find all of it fascinating still even though I do not consider myself “christian” and no longer believe in things the way I once did.

    1. Hi, thanks for stopping by. The Genesis study focuses pretty heavily on the text and looks at it primarily from a traditional Judeo-Christian perspective. However, there are some sections where I try to bring some light to other points of view or perspectives on it. It’s been a while since I looked at the first few parts of this study but I do remember that the earliest portions of Genesis tend to lend themselves well to a wider discussion that includes a Gnostic perspective.

      That said, I would not anticipate finding a lot of that going forward, if I were you. I am no expert on Gnosticism and do not include a lot of that in the studies. But I hope you enjoy reading and I look forward to hearing from you.

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