Genesis 1:2 – The brooding wife

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.

Genesis 1:2 – The brooding wife

17 thoughts on “Genesis 1:2 – The brooding wife

  1. excellent stuff =)

    at this rate should make it to Rev 21 just a number of years… keep at it!

    maybe could explain the abyss a bit more – as in there are no fallen angels dwelling there at creation – or for example.. Satan roams the earth?

  2. Jacky says:

    you mean the abyss=deep? i noticed that darkness was ‘over’ the ‘face’ of the deep.. and that this deep is supposedly empty, a creation of a jail cell for Satan and the fallen angels.. v. ominous.. and something can be said about Satan roaming as a guardian steward ezekiel 28.. and that gehenna is a punishment which he awaits, as opposed to the abyss which is a temporary place where all (fallen angels/unsaved men) await their second death in the lake of fire, which is new creation?

  3. irishanglican says:

    I cannot go with this mate, it opens the door to feminist theology, the Hebrew is not conscious to this this kind of moral or sense feeling. It must be theological and concrete, as their grammar. As Sir Edwyn Hoskyns said: Can we rescue a word, and discover a universe? Can we study a language, and awake to truth? Can we bury ourselves in a lexicon, and arise to the presence of God? (Cambridge Sermons, p.70)

  4. irishanglican says:

    My objection is in applying this to the Trinity, also. The object of the “brooding” is over the creation order or earth, and not a Trinitarian relationship. I am Eastern Orthodox creedal on the nature of the Trinity! The fem’s will blow the door open with this lexical read.

  5. I see.. that’s interesting. Well, i’m simply pointing out to the interesting use of gender throughout the Bible. I don’t see how what I said opens doors to feminist theology, but actually works to fight *against* it. Feminist theology bases itself on loose grammatical interpretations of the language (that is a generic statement, of course), but not only that, but fail to marry their grammatical interpretations to the complementarian theology offered by male to female headship, equal partnership and female-to-male submission. Of course, they do that by quoting the seemingly egalitarian verses from Galatians (there is no freedman/slave/man/woman etc) and THEN incorporating that theology into their lexical studies… but I’m starting from the Son’s submission to the Father, and the woman’s submission to the husband, the church’s submission to the head – and can’t help but notice the consistent female-to-male submission, let alone God’s mandate to Adam that the woman is a helper, not the head, of the relationship. I also think it crucial to fight against not only homosexuality and feminist theology when we speak of the language’s particular use of gender roles, since ‘sexuality’ and gender should be one and the same, rather than being of one gender but inclined to a heretical ‘sexuality’ as it were. I believe this is the reason Paul started with sexual immorality (Romans 1:18-32) as a direct heresy to the Trinitarian complementarianism, because the gender roles were NOT understood biblically, and that female necessarily means submission to male. Of course, I am merely looking at Genesis from a literary perspective, and the stuff I’ve said so far (imho) works in terms of the female-to-male submission. If you can point out otherwise, please show me how 🙂

    As you can probably see, my intention with the language is to not simply “bury ourselves in a lexicon” but to “arise to the presence of God” through qualifying the lexicon BY the intra-Trinitarian relationship rather than vice-versa. If I was to use the lexicon to ‘prove’ something, then I think you are totally right, that would open doors to feminist theology :(, since the lexicon itself cannot prove anything unless we have the presupposition of the Trinity behind that… and we all know the feminist/heretical theologies start on a completely different footing, and most likely (as you say) from their personal ‘feelings’ or personal ‘morals’ rather than Godly and edifying definitions of Christ-focused feelings/morals. I personally think it is therefore important to distinguish between the two, rather than amiss the truths of the Trinity by dismissing the anti-feminist pro-complementarian female-to-male relationship offered in Genesis 1:2, let alone the later verses 🙂

  6. Sorry irishanglican, i didn’t read your second comment, so my last comment might not have answered you to my best intention!

    I don’t think I mentioned the Spirit was brooding over something part of the Trinity… I only pointed out that the Trinity is there in the first few verses of the Bible, and that they are prepared or have already started to do their work in this dark creation, this “feminine” earth, in response to the “masculine” heavens – and that this corresponds to how the “masculine” Christ the bridegroom is the leader and true mediator stand in the stead of the “feminine” bride (and I can assure you, I don’t want to be called a ‘feminine’ bride, but that IS my role and relationship to Christ) when the Father looks upon us now.

    If I may add to my previous comment, I would rather than focus merely on gender, substantiate that by looking at how God relates to his people. He consistently refers himself as Israel’s husband (Hosea/Ezekiel/Isaiah/Song of Solomon/Ephesians/1 Peter) and Israel as the unrepentant wife and etc… and that throughout Scripture, the Trinity relates within himself relationally. If I were to build upon this theology, I would have to say that it stems in how the Three Persons refer to one another in an intra-Trinitarian manner, and how that ties into the male-female relational divide on an economic Trinitarian level.

    Would you mind clarifying how an Eastern Orthodox interpretation of the Trinity will prevent a Trinitarian reading here, and secondly what you mean by “brooding” over the creation “order”? As far as I know, the Spirit was brooding over the face of the waters and was no longer ‘brooding’ when light entered into the world and that God started filling and forming the universe (briefly explained in my next entry).

  7. irishanglican says:

    I know that your desire is honest and true. But the nature of Trinity is really not economic. The Father is ungenerated, the Son is generated by the Father, and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. Any so-called economic aspects should be seen from the incarnational reality, and not the in Planonist subordinationist views. The Persons of the Trinity differ only in origin of their order, and of course not in substance. The Holy Trinity is three, distinct, divine persons (hypostases), without overlap or modality among them, who share one divine essence (ousia) – uncreated, immaterial, and eternal. And in God’s realationship to His creation, Orthodoxy uses the concept of a distinction between God’s eternal essence which is totally transcendent and His uncreated energies which is how He reaches us. It is also necessary to understand that this is an artifical distinction, not a real one. The God who is transcendent and the God who touches us are one and the same.

    As to Gen. 1:2, the primordial earth is lightless and landless. And neither the origins of darkness and the abyss nor the orgin of Satan is explained in Genesis. the “hovering or brooding” is better seen from the almighty Spirit making the earth into a place or habitation for human life and beings. It is a good read to see that the Spirit as He who gives life and order here. Thus the “brooding” if you must, is one of care but further work and creative acts.

  8. Jacky says:

    I need to spend more time meditating on that “artificial” distinction, which as you say is of course not a real one, where the transcendent and the God who touches us are the one and the same Trinity.

    Actually, maybe I’ve expressed myself insufficiently, but what you say in the final paragraph in the comment is s’th I heartily agree to…

    As to my views of the Trinity, rather than using the subordinationist view of the ‘economic’ Trinity (which I’m less thrilled about, since these divisions as well and terminology like ‘economic’ and so forth, which are thrown around with various definitions, do nothing but confuse theologians!), I’m completely for a complementarian view of the Trinity witnessed through our Christian lifestyle, whether in marriage, in ecclesiastical structure and so forth that are of course witnesses to the Trinity. Are men and women above one another? By no means… we are ‘essentially’ (note that word!) made from the same dust… yet their roles in marriage differ but complement each other’s equality in partnership.

    And in THAT sense is the Trinity working ‘economically’… rather than in a subordinationist view, which is of course closer to modalism and unitarianism.

    I would also totally agree that the Three Persons are of the same ‘ousia’ which, imho, rather than using the term ‘essence’ to describe God as is fondly used in so many systematic theologies, I would use a more “personal” description of the three since essence (as you noted) is a quirky description of a God who, rather than only being a transcendent “essence”, CAN also bond and speak and touch us, and by no means is this God merely an ‘essence’ but a personal entity, a personal ‘holy family’ as well, with three very different people but are all one God.

    But those are merely my own distinctions and care in using the term ‘essence’ (for the purpose of perhaps more refined edification) should it affect my future views on the Trinity and any further entries on the Trinity; in any case, your informed comments are duly noted, lest we become far too side-tracked 🙂 Of course, I need to meditate on these systematic theological terms like ‘essence’/ousia, ‘generated’, ‘spiration’ and so forth which is theologically implied… but I can give no writing on that yet 😦

    Indeed, the Spirit’s brooding is in anticipation of giving life… perhaps you misunderstood me there. Since without the Spirit, there can be no true life, and as you say, one of care, work, creative acts physically and spiritually.

  9. irishanglican says:

    Nice post, indeed the term personal-‘entity’ is good. Perhaps you would like to read Augustine’s De Trinitate? I was modeled on this, before I worked thru it…Years really. Augustine is the one who first brought forth the idea of a so-called psychological theory of the Trinity. He bases the explanation of the Holy Spirit as the mutual love of the Father and the Son. I no longer follow Augustine here, but it is worth reading and thinking about. Note, “For through him (Christ) we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.” (Eph. 2:18) Also for the filioque issue, see John 14:26. The Holy Spirit “proceeds” from the Father alone! And then maybe tru the Son? Even two Orthodox Fathers saw it this way: St. Gregory of Nyssa and St. Cyril of Alexandria.
    I am one that has worked closely (past) in the Society For Anglican-Orthodox Dialogue. I am drawn to many of their truths, but I am still Anglican.

  10. irishanglican says:

    Feminine derivatives. In Hebrew all nouns are either masculine or feminine. In most cases the nouns and noun derivatives are masculine and are converted into feminine nouns by adding one of the four suffixes, etc. And generally, masculine nouns are concrete while feminine nouns are abstract. But we must not press the abstract too far. Then of course combination derivatives, plural nouns, etc. The qualitative plural and quantitative, etc. again.
    We must be careful not to press abstract especially.

  11. irishanglican says:

    In Orthodox theology the aspect of Spohia, the Wisdom of God has been important, and hotly debated! It is rich called Sophiology, but must be very careful in the exegetical. I personally can see Mary the Mother of God, in some real sophia role..and Mother of the Church here also (St. John 19:25-27).

  12. irishanglican says:

    But in the Trinity, the Father is not just some anthropomorphic idea, but the monarch, regal the cause or origin of the Godhead, always the one from whom the Son is begotten eternally and also from whom the Holy Spirit proceeds eternally.
    “The dogma of consubstantiality, which safeguards the unity of the Holy Trinity, thus remains a sealed book so far as we are concerned – for in a religious sense it has neither assimilated nor unfolded.” ~ Fr. S. Bulgakov

  13. Jacky says:

    Hi irishanglican,

    thanks for your thoughts – it is definitely important not to push the abstract too far.

    with that in mind, i don’t think i’ve looked at the abstract too far (in any case, i’m not sure if that’s why you provided me with the information on Sophia and Tertullian’s consubstantiality), at least not to the extent of allowing the feminist/Russian theology of Sophiology taking hold – instead, i’ve noticed the relationship between the male-female in the language which are offered in the particular context of the book of the pentateuch to enforce the male headship nature of the Trinity, rather than allow other types of theology to take hold. i hope you’ve seen that throughout my other posts, where i stay sensitive to the hebrew grammar without taking it too far, and merely noticing the wonderful truths afforded by ‘male’ heavens and ‘female’ earth, ‘male’ Father and ‘female’ ruach – where the latter CAN be taken to mean Sophia, but I still maintain the wisdom to be the Spirit himself. I cannot prevent anyone from misinterpreting the gender differences, since as Christians we’re all about the business of breaking idols in our minds, and none of our theology is immaculate in that sense; it’s simply a matter of pointing out the difference between creating a new entity of Sophia or relating Sophia back to the Trinity, destroying this ‘idol’ and place it back into the intra-Trinitarian context.

    Indeed, i would end up condoning sophiology if i was to push the line of the wisdom of God, or even the bride of Christ as a (deified) Sophia – but I am, as Tertullian puts it, maintaining the consubstantiality, yet i would again push the whole personal entity aspect rather than mere consubstantiality and the variety of the personalities of the Three Persons to prevent a liberal/feminist view of all three persons being the “same”… which I think is what you’re driving at.

    All in all, thanks for the comment, perhaps you will see that I am quite careful when I use these gender differences in my other posts. If you find anything in particular offensive, please quote the relevant bible verse and give me your two cents, since I can’t (and I don’t intend to) please all crowds through the commentaries. thanks!

  14. irishanglican says:

    Jacky. Hey mate, yes your on my dirft now. I know we cannot stop the so-called liberals and feminists, but I cringe when they twist the text and scripture. And the sophia is a real interesting concept in Orthodoxy. In fact Serguis Bulgakov was brought up on heresy charges by some Russian Orthodox (of which he was Russian), for his views on the subject. I like Bulgakov very much, he makes ya think. But he sometimes presses a bit too far. If ya want a real treat, but some real thought? Read his book on the Holy Spirit called: The Comforter. It is out with Eerdmans books. But beware, this book changed my theological mind & heart! (2004)

    God Bless!

  15. I wanted to thank you for this wonderful read!! I absolutely enjoyed every bit of
    it. I’ve got you book marked to check out new stuff you post…

  16. CJ says:

    If you are a bird, the meaning of rachaph or “brood” means to hover over your young.
    Gen 1:2 does say the Spirit moved over the “waters”, but the word for “waters” is mayim, which means waste waters, urine, void, vain (useless, meaningless) etc. Somehow I don’t subscribe to the fact that the LORD GOD was hovering as a mother bird over waste nor did he create it!

    The primary definition of “brood” it to meditate unhappily or troubled. I equate this to “grrrr”.

    The book of the prophet Isaiah 45:18 clearly states that the LORD GOD did not create the earth to be void or in vanity (useless) which is what His Spirit was “brooding” over. I therefore submit that the meaning of the word rachaph in Gen 1:2 equates to “meditate on something of unhappiness”.

    “For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else” Isa 45:18 KJV

    This leads to the question: what made the void? the vanity? and what made the LORD to brood over this?
    Many believe between v1 and v2 (as do I) is the era when Lucifer fell and became Satan. He did not go willingly, he took 1 out of every 3 angels in heaven with him. Revelation 12 summarizes this.

    Gen 1:2 has little to do with gender, but pain and anguish over the fall of the most beautiful creation that the LORD ever created at that point. Lucifer was the magistrate of heaven, and when he fell, great was the fall.


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