No. 3 The First "Gap"
"Without form and void".
BY CHARLES H. WELCH
Whatever the ultimate purpose of creation may prove to be, it is certain that it will not be attained without much sorrow and great sacrifice. "The Fuller" will be at work, and between the opening announcement of creation in Genesis 1 : 1 and the bringing in of the New Heavens and New Earth (Rev. 21:1, 2 Pet. 3 :13) and the "End"
(1 Cor. 15: 24) roll the eons or the ages with their burden of sin and of redeeming love. When the new heaven and earth was seen by John in the Apocalypse, he adds the words "and there was no more sea". That is a most evident reference back to Genesis 1: 2, where darkness and the deep take the place of order or
"And the earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep" (Gen. 1:2).
It is of importance that we remember that in the LXX, "the deep" is the same Greek word that is translated "the bottomless pit" in the Apocalypse.
When we read in Genesis that man "became" a living soul we immediately gather that he was not a living soul before he breathed the breath of life. When we read that Lot's wife "became" a pillar of salt (Gen. 19: 26) we understand that this was consequent upon her looking back. When Cain said "And it shall come to pass" (Gen. 4 : 14) we understand his fears concerning what would happen after others had heard of his deed. So, when we read "the earth was without form and void" and realize that the same verb that is here translated "was", is translated "became" or "come to pass" in these other passages in Genesis, we realize that here in Genesis 1 :2 we are looking at the record of the first great gap in the outworking of the Divine purpose, and must read
"And the earth BECAME without form and void".
The translation "was" in Genesis 1: 2 however is perfectly good, for in our own usage we often mean "became" when "was" is written. If writing on two occasions concerning a friend we should say (1) "He was a man" and (2) "He was very ill", everyone would understand that in the second case, this friend had "become" ill, and so "was" ill at the time spoken of, but it would be impossible to think that anyone would understand by the words "he was ill" that he had been created, or born in that state!
Darkness both in the O.T. and in N.T. is associated with death, judgment and evil, and Paul's use of Genesis 1:2,3 in the words "God, Who commanded the light to shine out of darkness" (2
Cor. 4:6) most surely indicates that in his estimation, the darkness of Genesis 1:2 is a fit symbol of the spiritual darkness of the unregenerate mind. Two words however are found in Genesis 1: 2 which are so used in subsequent Scriptures as to compel everyone that realizes what a great place "usage" has in interpretation, to acknowledge that nothing but catastrophic judgment can be intended by this verse. The two words that describe the condition of the earth in verse two are the Hebrew words tohu and bohu "without form and void". Tohu occurs twenty times in the
O.T. and bohu twice in addition to Genesis 1: 2. The only other occurrence of tohu in the writings of Moses is in Deuteronomy 32: 10 where it refers to "the waste howling wilderness". The use which Isaiah makes of this word is highly suggestive and full of instruction.
Isaiah 24. This chapter opens with a judgment that is reminiscent
of Genesis 1:2 "Behold the Lord maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth the inhabitants thereof . . . the land shall be utterly emptied, and utterly spoiled"
(Isa. 24:1,3). When Isaiah would once again refer to this state of affairs, he sums it up in the epithet "The city of confusion
(tohu)" (Isa. 24: 10), and there can be no doubt but that the desolation here spoken of is the result of judgment. Another example of its usage is found in Isaiah 45: 18 "For thus saith the Lord that created the heavens, God Himself that formed the earth and made it; He bath established it, He created it not in vain, He formed it to be inhabited". Here the AN. treats the word tohu as an adverb, "in vain" which the RN. corrects, reading "a waste". Whatever rendering we may adopt, one thing is certain, Isaiah 45 : 18 declares in the name of Him Who created the heavens, Who formed the earth and made it, that He did not create it
TOHU, it therefore must have become so. Even more convincing are the two passages other than Genesis 1: 2, where bohu is employed, for in both instances the word is combined with
tohu. The first passage is Isaiah 34:11. The context is one of catastrophic judgment and upheaval. The presence of such terms as "indignation", "fury", "utterly destroy", "sword" and "vengeance" in the first eight verses are sufficient to prove this, and one verse is so definitely prophetic of the upheaval at the time of the end, as to leave no option in the mind.
"And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree" (Isa. 34 : 4).
This passage is almost identical with the language employed by Peter when he speaks of the signs that shall precede the coming of the day of God at the setting up of the new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness (2 Pet. 3 : 12). The words tohu and bohu occur in Isaiah 34: 11, to which all these symbols of judgment-point:
"He will stretch out upon it the line of confusion (tohu) and the stones of emptiness
nor is it without significance that unclean birds like the cormorant and the bittern possess the devoted land, that nettles and brambles appear in the fortresses, and that dragons, wild beasts, screech owls and satyrs gather there. The whole is a picture in miniature of what the earth "became" in Genesis 1 : 2. Isaiah's usage of tohu and bohu is convincing, but "in the mouth of two or three witness every word shall be established", and accordingly we find the prophet Jeremiah using tohu and bohu in a similar context.
In the structure of Jeremiah four, verses 5-7 are in correspondence with verses
"The lion is come up from his thicket, and the destroyer of the Gentiles is on his way; he is gone forth from his place to make thy land desolate; and thy cities shall be laid waste, without an inhabitant"
"Destruction upon destruction is cried". "I beheld the earth, and to it was without form and void; and the heavens, and they had no light.. . lo, there was no man . . . lo, the fruitful place was a wilderness . . . broken down by His fierce anger" (Jer. 4 :
Here then are the three inspired occurrences of the two words tohu and
bohu, Genesis 1: 2, Isaiah 34: 11 and Jeremiah 4: 23. If Genesis 1: 2 does not refer to a day of "vengeance" or "fierce anger" should we not have to acknowledge that both Isaiah and Jeremiah by the use of these peculiar words, have misled us? And if once that be our conclusion, inspiration is invalidated, and it does not matter much what Genesis 1: 2 means, for our trust is shaken, and Moses too may be wrong! This however cannot be. We have in faith put into practice 1 Corinthians 2:13, and have found it blessedly illuminating. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and Moses, Isaiah and Jeremiah speak with one voice, because inspired by one Spirit. Nothing is said in Genesis 1: 2 concerning the cause of this primeval judgment, any more than any explanation is offered to explain the presence of the serpent in the Garden of Eden, but there are evidences that can be gathered from various parts of Scripture to make it clear that there was a fall among the angels, that Satan is a fallen being, and that the catastrophe of Genesis 1: 2 is associated with that fall. Into the gap thus formed, the present six day creation is placed as a
"fullness" carrying the Redemptive purpose to the threshold of Eternity, and it is here also that "age-times" begin.
The Pleroma Part 4