“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” – Genesis 1:1
“And the earth was without form, and void. And darkness was upon the face of the deep.”…and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” – Genesis 1:2
Okay hold up. So he created the earth, but the earth was without form and void? And if it was void and without form, how could there be a “deep” or a “face”? And where did the water come from? And what does it mean when the Spirit of God moved upon the face of those waters?
These are all questions that came to me when I started reading the Bible again. I could tell right out of the gate that this was going to take a long time. Two verses in and I’m already questioning everything!
I dug in and started studying the LDS Institute manual, the apocrypha, and Robert Altar’s The Five Books of Moses in hopes that I wasn’t the only one concerned about these questions. Here is what I found:
According to the above verses, the earth started as nothing (not unlike the way it was before the big bang). Then God decided that he would create something. And there it was. A pitch black floating orb of water. Imagine it as a black drop, completely circular, floating in outer space. An outer space with no stars or suns or moons either. Just blackness. Then God moves upon the face of the waters. But what does that mean, to move upon the face of this black watery circle? When I read this verse I immediately pictured that fairy from the Fantasia Firebird Suite video:
Its a nice image. But its wholly incorrect.
There is a book that I love called “The Five Books of Moses” which is a translation of the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) by a world renown Bible and Hebrew scholar named Robert Altar. He translates the original Hebrew straight to English, skipping all of the Greek and subsequent translations and mistranslations to give us a concise and clear picture of what was originally written. Here is how he translates the first two verses of Genesis:
“When God began to create heaven and earth, and the earth then was welter and waste and darkness over the deep and God’s breath hovering over the waters…”
Okay that changes things. Reading this answered a lot of questions for me. Like “how could the earth not exist and exist at the same time?”
And the verse about the Spirit of God moving upon the face of the deep. Why does it really mean God’s breath hovered over the waters? And what does that mean?
Here is what Alter has to say about it:
“hovering – The verb attached to God’s breath-wind-spirit (ruah) elsewhere describes an eagle fluttering over its young and so might have a connotation of parturition or nurture as well as rapid back-and-forth movement.”
In other Bible commentary this action is compared to a hen brooding over her eggs.
So literally, this verse is telling us that the Spirit of God sat over what was then just a black orb of water like a mommy eagle sits over her hatchlings in a nest. Amazing. So it would more correctly look like this:
This is an image of my God that I could get used to. A nurturer. A protector. A creator. An American Eagle.
I can’t wait to see what he does next. On to verse three!