Truth, Understanding, Insight

The earth was without form and void. Genesis 1:2

17th February 2010, mgh


1) The earth was without form and void. Genesis 1:2

Before the creation of plants, animals and man, the earth is described as being “without form and void”. This expression is used only a few times in the Bible and by looking at these examples we can gain a better understanding of the expression.

Genesis 1 : 2 reads as follows in the KJV.

And the earth <H0776> was without form <H08414>, and void <H0922>; (Genesis 1:2)

The word 'form' (Strong's <H08414>) is from an unused root meaning to lie waste, a desolation of the earth's surface, eg. A desert. Figuratively it is a worthless thing.

The word 'void' (Strong's <H0922>) is from an unused root meaning to be empty, a vacuity, a ruin

These two words are also used in conjunction with each other in Isaiah 34 : 10-11.

It shall not be quenched night nor day ; the smoke thereof shall go up for ever: from generation to generation it shall lie waste ; none shall pass through it for ever and ever But the cormorant and the bittern shall possess it; the owl also and the raven shall dwell in it: and he shall stretch out upon it the line of confusion (NASB and Rotherham 'desolation') <H08414>, and the stones of emptiness <H0922>.

The description, “the line of confusion <H08414>, and the stones of emptiness <H0922>”, incorporates the same words as are translated respectively as 'form' and 'void' in Genesis 1:2. As mentioned above some translations use 'desolation' instead of 'confusion', which appears possibly a better translation. The reason for saying this is derived from the following verses from Jeremiah.

The same expression as used in Genesis also occurs in Jeremiah 4 : 20-23.

Destruction upon destruction is cried ; for the whole land is spoiled : suddenly are my tents spoiled, and my curtains in a moment . How long shall I see the standard , and hear the sound of the trumpet ? For my people is foolish , they have not known me; they are sottish children , and they have none understanding : they are wise to do evil , but to do good they have no knowledge.
I beheld the earth <H0776> , and, lo, it was without form <H08414>, and void <H0922>; and the heavens, and they had no light .

Here the expression is identical to that in Genesis 1:2.

The use of the words in both Isaiah and Jeremiah relate to the Divine destruction of the habitation of sinful societies. In Jeremiah this is a prophecy about Israel. For the wickedness and disobedience of the Israelites they were to be scattered and dispersed. Their land, as history has shown, was to become desolate laid waste by nomadic tribes. The following verses show the vision of that desolate land. However there was to be a time when the land would return to fertility. In part this has been since the rebirth of the nation of Israel in 1948.

Jeremiah 4: 26-27

I beheld, and, lo, the fruitful place was a wilderness, and all the cities thereof were broken down at the presence of the LORD, and by his fierce anger. For thus has the LORD said, The whole land shall be desolate; yet will I not make a full end.

The context of Isaiah 34 is the punishment upon Idumea. This again is the Judgement of Yahweh. The people were to be destroyed and their land to become desolate and uninhabited. Both Jeremiah and Isaiah speak of destruction of civilisations and the desolation of once inhabited lands.

It shows that there is no difference in the usage of the Hebrew phrase translated 'form' and 'void' when used to describe the destruction of the judgement of Yahweh and how it is used in Genesis 1:2.

Tags: exegesis