1:2 “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (ESV).
Why did God begin the creation with this form and void? What is especially interesting is the Spirit of God hovering over the face of the waters. Again, let’s have some lexical fun. The word “Spirit” is commonly known as “ruach” (Hebrew) or “pneuma” (Greek), the first meaning “wind/breath”, whilst the latter (as we can immediately see the LXX’s theological imposition of translating “wind”) is more specifically spirit or an exhaled breath. This ‘wind/breath’ of God was hovering over the face of the waters as the ESV suggests. However, this word “hovering” is quite interesting – the original Hebrew ( מְרַחֶ֖פֶת ), “rachaph” seems to lean towards “brood” rather than “hover”. This is one brooding wind! Not only that, but the Greek for rachaph, “επεφερετο”, in the lexicon referred to as “φερω” suggests “bearing” (like a mother “bearing” a child). For what other reason does the feminine ruach of God (which, although in the Greek is a singular neuter, but in the Hebrew is feminine – a detail we should not overlook) bear/brood over the face of the waters? Perhaps the next verse will reveal much, but let’s gather out thinking.
1:2b therefore states that (my translation): “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the (female) wind/breath of God was brooding/bearing over the face of the waters”. More on the person of the Spirit later, and why his paradoxical femininity (as a role) is quite significant.
Let me ask… why did God create the earth like this? Why did he not create everything in a different procedure? Or perhaps made man first before the animals? Why did he not cut from Christ a world of life – but rather, he cut from Christ a world that is ‘without form and void, and dark’? This formless water which constitutes the make-up of the entire earth at that point, with much semblance to the Global Hydro-Punishment in Noah’s time – what does it mean? Jeremiah 4:19-28 provides the intra-biblical context – the earth that was without form and void shall be seen as “desolation” (4:27), a punishment in response to Israel’s foolishness and rebellion against the Christ.
Yet we can start putting the puzzles together – a world that is desolate is a world without Christ – yet didn’t I just say in the previous post that the heavens and the earth was cut from Christ? Rightly so, and it was cut and detached from the head (Christ), just like the Israelites who were cut off from the richness of the olive tree (Romans 11:21-22). For how can a formless world without the breath of God, made through Christ, have life?
And we can see that in a manner of these few words, we see the gospel being preached. God displayed the utter fallen nature of a world without Christ – a nation without Christ – a person without Christ. To Him, the non-Christians are the living dead, mere dry bones waiting for His breath to enter the dead bones to lay sinews, give flesh, cover with skin and put His breath inside for the sake of life – predestined as a Christian to know that He is the LORD (Ezekiel 37:5-6; Romans 8:26-30). So also, God created life by the Spirit in the Virgin’s womb, a barren womb of darkness through which Old Testament saints like Isaac, and the incarnate Christ was born in the life of the Spirit with the Spirit in Him so that he knows that the LORD is his Father, and gaining Godly wisdom by the Spirit (Luke 2:52;1 Corinthians 2:9-16). Simply put, without the Spirit, there can be no life in Him (John 3:5; Romans 8:26-30) – life not defined by what the eyes see, but what the LORD recognises (Isaiah 6:9-10).
Now that we understand the work of the Spirit, who is the Spirit, referred to as the third Person of the Trinity? A “him” whom we can grieve as in Ephesians 4:30, yet given a feminine role in the Hebrew? He indeed is a separate Person who speaks (Ezekiel 11:5), seen in visible form as a dove at Christ’s physical baptism.
Gender is something we should never underplay in the entirety of Scripture. For evangelical liberals and feminists, with their twisting of gender interpretation by their progressive philosophies have opened a pandora’s box of biblical eisegesis, subsuming Ephesians 5 and 1 Corinthians 11 under the banner of Galatians 3:28 for egalitarianism. Yet, gender role is exactly what God mandates for the sake of gospel-preaching, as if anything we do in life has any significance besides (1) worship of Him, and (2) evangelism by our worship of Him. Our human marriages, our ecclesiastical structures, our family-units, if following the pattern which the Pauline epistles exposed, can only be redeemed if the Triune nature of our God is preached. Without these gender roles, then we lose much of the delight which Scripture reveals about the Three Persons, and at once we are presented with a sweeping water-brush, diluting the role of the Three Persons, immediately making them inter-changeable and substitutional.
The pattern is obvious – the Son plays a feminine role to the Father, as the wife plays a feminine role to the husband. So the feminine “earth”, γη, הָאָֽרֶץ׃ which was without form or void, in direct contrast to the male “heavens”, ουρανος, הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם – that all things on earth submit to our God in the heavens; that the Son submits to the Father; that the wife submits to the husband — and following from the logic, that the feminine Spirit submits to the Father as the excellent wife (Proverbs 31:10), providing wisdom for Christ and Christians, and giving life to the formless earth as we shall see from v. 3 onwards.
What exactly happens when the Spirit gives life?
We already saw it in Ezekiel 37:5-6 pertaining to the conversion of a non-Christian to being born-again, prophesying what will happen to us (should we fall asleep in Him before the great Day) on His Second Coming; we already saw what he can do with the barren wombs of the likes of Sarah and the Virgin; and so also, the darkness of the world will continue to linger on in our pitiful souls had we not accepted the Spirit’s regeneration into our hearts. That the pit, the abyss, the deep where the fallen angels dwell, where darkness is but a shadow of eternal second death, and light is a shadow of eternal communion with Him (Revelation 21:22-27), the Light of lights. Lest we fall into the trap of Persian Zoroastrianism which worships the dualism of light and darkness, the diminished cult is yet again a mere shadow of Christ conquering Satan – and much like the sorrow of the religions in this world, they touch upon the gospel of Christ preached by God’s creation (Romans 1:20), yet take away God’s glory and honour by using the shadows as the focal point of their worship, making unfounded conjectures and twisting the symbolism of light and darkness to their own theology.
So also, the Spirit, as the excellent brooding ‘wife’ (in submission and in relation) to the Father, is much like a mid-wife, hovering, brooding, bearing – in anticipation for action, expectant of his participation in life bursting out of darkness through Christ.
The final translation is thus:
“The (feminine) earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep/abyss/pit. And the (feminine) breath of (masculine) God was brooding/bearing over the face of the waters.”
And so, in the same way, let us not forget that creation indeed pours out the truth of evening being inevitably conquered by the morning, the darkness being inevitably conquered by light, not because of some philosophical mish-mash, but simply because it preaches the anti-God inevitably being overcome by the Father, fulfilled in Christ and applied by the Spirit. Let us wake up everyday and remember the Spirit’s work in brooding over the void, the deep, and His work in response to the Father’s command to give the seal of eternal life to all things who love him and are called according to his purpose in the Sent One.