What happened in the book of Genesis 1:1 and 1:2:

..and the earth was without form

In verse 1 Bible said: in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

Verse 2 the earth was without from


4 Answers 4


In its simplest form, Gen 1:1-2:3 creation account can be seen as follows:

(A): Gen 1:1 - Prelude/summary – God created the heavens and earth

(B): Gen 1:2 - Introduction - Earth formless and worthless (God inactive)

(C): Gen 1:3-31 - 6 days of creation week

(B'): Gen 2:1 - Postlude/summary – God created the heavens and the earth

(A'): Gen 2:2, 3 - God sanctifies the seventh day and blesses it (God resting)

Thus, the prelude and postlude are integral parts of this account by providing an introductory overview and a conclusion. That Gen 1:1 is an overview can be readily seen from the content of what follows - the heavens were created on day 2 (v8) and the earth was created on day 3 (v10) using identical words as in v1. Specifically, the first 3 days' activities consisted of separation and the second 3 days consisted of population.

Day 1: Separates light from darkness

Day 2: Separates waters above from waters below (and thus creates heavens [ie, atmosphere between] - Heb: Shamayim as per v1)

Day3: Separates: seas from dry land (and thus creates earth - Heb: erets as per v1)

Day 4: Populates the heavens (ie, in vault between the waters above and the waters below, ie, the atmosphere) with lights. [Note, the text does not use the common Hebrew words for sun and moon here at all.]

Day 5: Populates the waters (below) with fish and sea creatures and the air (actually Shamayim, heavens) with birds

Day 6: Populates land (erets - same words as v1) with land creatures and man.

Thus, at the beginning of creation week (Gen 1:2) we have an earth that is covered in water and formless and worthless, BUT by the end of the week (v31) we have something that is "very good". Thus, we see that in addition to creating and forming, the account is set forth as a type of salvation story (like us) of taking something worthless and making it very good. (There is a similar use in Jer 4:23.)

While God created all things (Ps 33:6, 9, John 1:1-3, Col 1:16, Isa 45:1), Gen 1 is NOT concerned with the creation of what we call the entire universe. Gen 1 is only concerned with the creation of our world (not even our planet) which presumably had been created at some previous time. Then about 6000 years ago, (if the chronology in Gen is to be believed) we have this world's creation week as recorded in Gen 1:1-2:3.

Thus, Gen 1:1-2;3 is an integral account that contains no time gaps or any other literary contrivance. It simply concerns the creation of our world (not the whole universe). Most of the difficulty with this passage arises because some want to make Gen 1:1 about the creation of the whole universe - but the word for heaven (shamayim) is used exclusively of "atmosphere" in Genesis (eg, Gen 2:19, 20, 6:7, 17, 7:3, 11, etc) and, the word for earth (erets) is used exclusively for "dry land" throughout Genesis (ie, never with the meaning of "planet earth").


The author is not drawing attention to the unformed nature of the primordial creation per se, but from the start simply indicating that what follows is a description of that creation, i.e., rather than a distinct one; "made heaven and earth" is apposed with its elaboration contained in the following narrative, which is denoted by this parenthetical remark.

  • Are you saying that 1a is in apposition to 2ff and 1b is a parenthetical remark to call attention to that rather than to the Earth being informed? I don't see how you would set about to demonstrate that. Who does that in normal writing?
    – Ruminator
    Commented May 4, 2019 at 22:44
  • These chapters are extremely poetic in style, and even rhyme. This kind of parenthetical thing is common to poetic, prayerful, or passionate etc. forms of writings/speaking. E.g. "lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." It doesn't mean God was going to lead us into temptation ("God [does not] tempt anyone") but serves only to contrast and create urgency and necessity for the deliverance from the evil. The formless earth brooded over by God's Spirit and coming to life is part of the narrative; the lifelessness serves to contrast and prepare for what comes: order. Commented May 4, 2019 at 23:00
  • So do you agree that this is not describing ex nihilo but rather ex hudato?
    – Ruminator
    Commented May 4, 2019 at 23:07
  • No, the Bible explicitly says He created "ex nihilo" (οὐκ ἐξ ὄντων "Not of existing things"). 2 Macc 7:28. I.e. God didn't borrow anything He didn't create out of nothing. Commented May 5, 2019 at 16:26
  • Maccabees says that he made the world just like he made man. Man of course was made out of clay. See also: *2 Peter 3:5 NASB — For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, *
    – Ruminator
    Commented May 5, 2019 at 16:43

In Gen 1:2, the Hebrew word translated "was" is hayah, which could have been translated "became", as in, the earth became "without form, and void". Would God have created the earth in such a state? I guess that works for some folks, but not me. A better guess might be, Gen 1:1 relates God's original creation, perhaps untold eons ago. Then, something happened between verses 1 and 2, possibly over a long span of time, which threw the creation into a condition of chaos. Verse 2, in that scenario, would be God's "reworking" the surface of the earth, in preparation for the creation of man.


While I have not come to a firm conclusion about all the things presented in this video I do think it does an excellent job of presenting the case that prior to the Genesis 1 origin there was another iteration of the creation. You may or may not find it convincing. In general I think that Genesis 1:1 at least leaves open or suggests a pre-existing world but, this video only represents one view and should be taken somewhat critically:


Here's another one:


  • 1
    If it’s the beginning and the first day why do you suspect it’s not the first day but still the beginning? Show me another instance of a beginning that’s not the first day. All beginnings happen on their first day. Commented May 4, 2019 at 18:48
  • blueletterbible.org/search/…
    – Ruminator
    Commented May 4, 2019 at 19:27
  • I checked out your link. Each first day is the beginning of a new week. Beginning and first still correspond. If you notice for some reason English translations use ‘and’ or ‘then’ to begin verse 3. Would you reject how this was translated from the Hebrew? Commented May 4, 2019 at 22:52
  • As I understand it, it actually says "day one", "day two", etc.. I think the first clause reads more literally, "When God formed the sky and the land, the land was chaotic and devoid of life" or something like that. What I'm not appealing to is sticking evolution in the middle; that's not the point.
    – Ruminator
    Commented May 4, 2019 at 23:02

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