“In the beginning…”

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1

Those are the first words of Divine revelation; the first words of Holy Scripture. Their importance is without parallel. In plain and simple terms they reveal the profound truth of an eternal God who is the Creator of the universe.

Genesis is the book of beginnings. It recounts the beginning of everything – everything, that is, except God Himself. The Creator is there in the beginning. Scripture makes no effort to either define Him or defend His existence. It assumes that God is the uncreated Creator, who existed before creation, who is not to be identified with creation, and who is not dependent on creation.

“The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.” Genesis 1:2

As God began the work of creation the earth was “formless and void.” The Hebrew word for “formless” is tohu, a word that normally stands for a barren desert. Its companion word in the text is “void” or “empty” – vohu. It occurs only three times in the Old Testament and is always immediately preceded by the word tohu. When the two words are used together they denote a condition of utter chaos.

Three problems are symptomatic of the earth’s tohu: darkness, a watery abyss, and an unformed lifeless world. These problems are addressed in succession on the first three days of creation. The problem of darkness vanished with the creation of light (Genesis 1.3-5). The watery abyss was brought under control by the creation of a firmament arching above the earth and making possible its oceans and atmosphere (Genesis 1.6-8). And, on the third day, the dry land appeared, completing the three spheres where the remaining acts of creation were to take place. The three spheres were water, atmosphere (air and sky), and land.

The problem of the “emptiness,” vohu, of these spheres still remained. They were addressed on the fourth, fifth, and sixth days. On the fourth day the firmament was populated with sun, moon, and stars. The fifth day saw the sky filled with birds and the seas stocked with all manner of marine life. The sixth day brought animals and human beings to inhabit the land areas of the earth. At the conclusion of the sixth day the earth was no longer tohu and vohu. It was God’s handiwork, filled with all things good and wonderful!

– Page Kelly, Journey to the Land of Promise: Genesis – Deuteronomy (Macon, Georgia: Smyth & Helwys Publishing, Inc.) 11-12.

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