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

Isaiah 45:18 (ESV): For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): “I am the LORD, and there is no other.

Did God create the earth empty?

  • Gen 1:2 is not about creating the earth but about restoring it to functionality - it already existed, being made previously in v1
    – Steve
    Oct 28, 2021 at 1:46
  • @NigelJ Maybe a duplicate, however I think this question is more about Isaiah 45:18. Most translations instead say "created to be empty", but I don't know which is a more accurate translation of the Hebrew.
    – curiousdannii
    Oct 28, 2021 at 5:41
  • This question is too vague, needs more clarity. Thank you Oct 28, 2021 at 10:58

2 Answers 2


The two critical words in Gen 1:2 that are used to describe the earth are:

  • תֹּהוּ (tohu) = formless
  • בֹּהוּ (bohu) = empty

With the earth formless and empty, God proceeds to give form and then fill as follows:

Days 1-3 - Forming or more accurately, Separating

  • Day 1 - Light separated from darkness, day separated from night
  • Day 2 - Waters above separated from waters below
  • Day 3 - Dry land separated from seas/waters

Days 4-6 - Filling and Populating

  • Day 4 - lights placed in the firmament of the day and night
  • Day 5 - fish placed in the sea and birds in the heavens
  • Day 6 - animals placed on the land and man created to work the land.

Thus, the progress of the six days of the creation week follows the simple plan of Gen 1:2, forming and filling the formless and empty.

At the conclusion of each day's activity, God pronounces the work (so far) as "good". However, only when the process is complete at the end of the 6th day does God say that it is "very good".

The implication is that at the beginning of the process earth is "formless and empty" - waiting for the rest of the creation process.

The record of creation in gen has been seen by many as a salvation record: God take an earth that is formless and empty (just like the sinner) and when God is finished the creation process (recreation for a sinner) God pronounces the earth, "very good", just like the saved/redeemed sinner.

  • Day 2 was not pronounced 'good'. Days 4-6 𝐅𝐫𝐨𝐦 light, water and land See אור and מ-אר-ת. Day 2 is a riddle: When the Father was separated from the son it was not a good day. 'Second' also means 'scarlet'. See שני . as in Is 1:18 "Though your sins be as scarlet..." The waters above were separated from the waters below.
    – Bob Jones
    Oct 28, 2021 at 11:42
  • 'Tohu' = 'vain' . He didn't create it in vain, but for a purpose, and he proceeded to fill it to fulfill the purpose.
    – Bob Jones
    Oct 28, 2021 at 11:46

I do not know anything about Hebrew, but here are some examples that show how other translations represent the same verse.


18For thus says the Lord, Who created the heavens, Who is God, Who formed the earth and made it, Who has established it, Who did not create it [e]in vain, Who formed it to be inhabited:


For this is what the LORD says— he who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited— he says: “I am the LORD, and there is no other.


For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens—He is God; He formed the earth and fashioned it; He established it; He did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited: “I am the LORD, and there is no other.