I'm new here. I've been reading and re-reading through Genesis for a few months, and it seems to me that the scenes described by the text about "the darkness" (חֹ֫שֶׁךְ choshekh) and "the Spirit" (רוּחַ ruakh) are similar:

Genesis 1:2 (LEB): 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.

Question: I wanted to know if the writer intended to write about the darkness and the Spirit similarly (if they did). Is this suspected relationship demonstrated in any passages in the OT, or in any other Jewish or Christian literature? And are there any commentaries or books that relate to this question?

Of course there are differences. The ones that I see are:

  1. The darkness isn't "hovering" or "sweeping" (as the JPS translates).
  2. The darkness is above "the deep" (תְּהוֹם tehom) while the Spirit is above "the waters" (מַ֫יִם mayim). מַ֫יִם can refer to any water, but both refer to the primordial waters in this context (write?).

I've also looked up other passages that use חֹ֫שֶׁךְ for "dark; darkness", but I don't exactly know how they help to answer my question (Ex 14:20; Dt 4:11; 2 Sam 22:12; Ps 18:11).

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    I am not clear as to what you mean by 'the language is similar'. Darkness was on the surface. The Spirit of God hovered. If water is dark, then the darkness is not above the surface. But the Spirit hovered above the surface. What exactly are you finding is similar ?
    – Nigel J
    Mar 29, 2019 at 15:57
  • I guess what I'm really talking about is how I visualized the scene described by the text, not necessarily the language itself. Thanks for the question, I'll edit my post.
    – el_maiz
    Mar 30, 2019 at 0:21

4 Answers 4


Dictionaries - Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology

Darkness in both the Old Testament (Heb. hasak [J;v'j]) and New Testament (Gk.skotos [skovto"]) is an evocative word. If light symbolizes God, darkness connotes everything that is anti-God: the wicked ( Prov 2:13-14 ; 1 Thess 5:4-7 ), judgment ( Exod 10:21 ; Matt 25:30 ), and death ( Psalm 88:12 ). Salvation brings light to those in darkness ( Isa 9:2 ). Although darkness is opaque to man, it is transparent to God ( Psalm 139:12 ). Indeed, God can veil himself in darkness at moments of great revelation ( Deut 4:11 ; 5:23 ; Psalm 18:11 ).

God Rules the Darkness. The biblical view of darkness and light offers a unique contrast. There is no thought that darkness is equal in power to God's light. The absolute, sovereign God rules over the darkness and the powers of evil. This is evident in several ways. First, God knows the darkness. He knows where it is ( Job 34:22 ) and what it contains ( Dan 2:22 ). Second, God rules over the darkness because he created it ( Isa 45:7 ; cf. Amos 4:13 ; 5:8 ). Third, God uses the darkness for his own purposes: to hide himself from the sight of men ( Psalm 18:11 ; 1 Kings 8:12 ) and to bring his judgment on evildoers ( Deut 28:28-29 ; Matt 8:12 ; 22:13 ), evil nations ( Eze 30:18-19 ), and false prophets ( Jer 23:12 ; Micah 3:6 ; Rev 16:10 ). Finally, God rules over the darkness eschatologically. The time of God's ultimate judgment, the day of the Lord, is portrayed in both the Old Testament and New Testament as a day of darkness ( Joel 2:2 ; Amos 5:18 Amos 5:20 ; Zeph 1:15 ; Matt 24:29 ; Rev 6:12-17 ).

Darkness and Crucifixion. It is against this background that the emphasis on darkness in the crucifixion scene may be understood. Luke records, "it was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two" ( 23:44-45 ; cf. Matt 27:45 ; Mark 15:33 ). While darkness often accompanies the conception of death in Scripture (cf. Job 10:21-22 ), darkness at the crucifixion scene displays God's displeasure on humankind for crucifying his son. It also indicates God's judgment on evil. But the torn curtain exhibits the opening of salvation to all through the death of God's Son.

Final Darkness. The Old Testament and New Testament describe the future of the ungodly in terms of eschatological darkness, symbolizing perdition ( 1 Sam 2:9 ; Matt 22:13 ; Jude 12-13 ). "Hell" and "pits of darkness" describe the fate of angels who sinned ( 2 Peter 2:4 ; Jude 6 ). But for believers darkness will be dispelled by the presence of the light of the glory of God ( Rev 21:23-24 ; 22:5 ). It is only through the light of God in Jesus Christ that darkness can be dispelled.


The Old Testament. The Hebrew word for "spirit" is ruah [;jWr]. It appears 389 times in the Old Testament. Its varied use almost defies analysis, but some emphases are discernible. It is used more often of God (136 times) than of persons or animals (129 times).

Its basic meaning is wind (113 times). The trees of the forest sway before a wind ( Isa 7:2 ); a wind sweeps over the waters ( Gen 1:2 ); and the Lord walked in the garden at the breezy time of day ( Gen 3:8 ). It was an east wind that brought locusts ( Exod 10:13 ) and a strong east wind that divided the Red Sea and dried it up ( Exod 14:21 ).

Breath is also a basic meaning of this term. It is the Lord who gives breath to people ( Isa 42:5 ) and to lifeless bodies ( in 1:1 Ezek 37:9-10 in ; this chapter there is a wordplay on ruah [;jWr], allowing it to mean wind, breath, spirit a similar phenomenon is found in John 3:5 John 3:8 ; where pneuma [pneu'ma] means both wind and spirit.

I believe the author wrote about two created works of God as "darkness" and "Spirit." The only intended relationship is that they were both formed initially.

  • Thanks for your response! Maybe I should post this as a new thread, but is darkness always evil or anti-God? I ask because some passages describe God covering himself in darkness (2 Sam 22:12 and Psa 18:11). Please let me know if this question should be a new thread, I'm new and I don't know all the rules yet.
    – el_maiz
    Mar 30, 2019 at 0:30
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    From my research it appears that God is the master over darkness and he does hide himself behind darkness. An interesting question and perhaps deserves a new post.
    – Dan
    Mar 30, 2019 at 2:44

I dont think, that the author intended that the darkness and the spirit are similar.

First, Gen 1,2 isnt poetry, its prose, so we cant find a parallelismus membrorum.

Second, the act of creation in this text is, that god brings order into the chaos (תהן ןבהן). For example he creates light and separates it from the darkness.

Third, we didnt find any other traits, that god or his spirit is dark or bad. In the old testament are a lot of texts, that god is also in the darkness, a typical text is Jes 45,7 (I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord, do all these things). But in Jes 45,7 is a monotheistic statment, there is only one god, so he has create both good and bad.

Gen 1 has another statement, god brought order into the chaos and his spirit was present into the darkness, at the begin of creation.

  • Your Hebrew citations are incorrect. If you don't know Hebrew, just don't use it.
    – user2672
    Apr 3, 2019 at 5:43

The question is: What is darkness? In our lives, what we SEE keeps us safe. It's the unknown, the darkness, that endangers our physical lives. God's Spirit gives us truth and credibility to help us understand that the life that God has given us is real.


I have bumped into this question before... and never really resolved it fully. Somehow I think the term "darkness" is used to describe different things in the bible, but even so... I see God saying that he is the God of light and darkness... and I believe that is true... but not a popular thought or often preached. There may not be any darkness in God but that does not say that He does not use it for his ends.

God brought disaster down on the Jews, and made sure they knew it was his doing. But regardless of that, God has no darkness(sin) in him.

It is hard to digest, I think, because when we humans embrace darkness it is likely to be a sin of some kind. Offhand, I cannot conceive of a human using darkness to achieve a good thing... unless its the example of a surgeon cutting into the body. But I don't think we would go so far as to describe a doctor's efforts, not matter how painful, as "darkness."

Even war would be hard to describe as a needful darkness, although I believe the Catholic Church may have attempted to do so in their Just War Doctrine. Is killing acceptable if it serves justice? I certainly would not venture an answer.

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