‘Waste and Void’
In the beginning of God’s preparing the heavens and the earth, the
earth existed waste and void, and darkness on the face of the deep
and the Spirit of God fluttering on the face of the waters.
This above sentence is taken from Young’s Literal Bible with
some slight alteration to remove Robert Young’s literalisation of
the Hebrew tense that I might express it in idiomatic English.
And I have removed his italics as I think they are not,
I have to disagree with the word ‘preparing’ - I can see no
evidence for it. Bara appears to me to be a word that conveys
Bar, the root, is son, or clear, or - significantly -
choice. Barak is bless. Barar is - again - choice or polished. Barah
is to choose or to eat. Thus, bara, conveys to myself a matter of
something that is blessed, choice, desirable in the context of
partaking of it - ‘eating’; something that is as a son, that is, a
delight; something that is ‘polished’ or ‘clear’.
It is something that is desirable, that is finished off well, that has
been satisfyingly completed
And I would further adjust Robert Young’s literalisation of the
Hebrew tense by saying, in common with the AV and with J N
Darby: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth -
although the AV translates the plural shamayim, heavens, as a
singular, for some reason.
As to the Spirit of God, ‘moved’ is insufficient for the word rachaph ; ‘hovering’, J N Darby, or ‘fluttering’, Robert Young, is correct, in my view, its only other two occurrences being, Deuteronomy 32:11, as an eagle
fluttereth over her young; and, Jeremiah 23:9, all my bones
Thereafter, the earth existed tohu and bohu, says the original.
I am quoting just the words themselves and, for simplicity, not
Twenty times is tohu used in the Hebrew scripture, there being a
variety of English words attached to it in the AV. It appears to
me, by its very usage in those twenty times, that tohu is the
opposite of tohar, which only occurs three times.
Now, tohar means glory, as in Psalm 89:44, in relation to the throne and the kingdom of David being made to cease and being cast off. The
context, in this particular context of an earthly kingdom, albeit
the Divinely appointed earthly kingdom of Israel, therefore -
significantly - implies the absence of glory; the non presence of
It is a definitive contrast.
Tohar is also used by Moses to describe what was seen by
himself, Aaron, Nadab and Abihu - representing priesthood and
sonship; and by the seventy elders of Israel - representing
perfect and complete witness of testimony, a coherence of
assembly such as John saw in apocalyptic revelation gathered
around the throne. What was observed was the God of Israel.
And what was observed was the body of heaven in clearness,
‘Body of heaven’ conveys to myself something that I have
observed in daylight; that the deeper, azure, blue of the sky
directly above, being more substantial than the lighter,
turquoise, blue of the sky lower by the horizon suggests to my
eye that there is a dimension to the blueness of sky above me.
There is body to the blueness - a depth of dimension, suggested
by the differing depths of atmosphere and the coloration thus
And what is produced by this phenomenon is glorious. Out of a
clear blue sky, there is more than just thin blueness; there is a
glory to it. What the four and the seventy saw was clear, pure,
unspoilt and perfect - yet was neither thin, nor empty, nor vapid :
there was dimension and depth. There was glory.
Upon the nobles of the children of Israel, he laid not his hands.
Because of an altar and because of burnt offerings and peace
offerings; because of sprinkled blood - Exodus 24:4, 5, 6 and 8.
Also, they saw God and did eat and drink - a different revelation
than Moses being without, Exodus 34:28, for forty days and forty
nights as the law was delivered, in an agreement of covenant, to
the nation of Israel. There is nothing to eat or drink under that
Lastly, and once more significantly - again, a matter of definitive
contrast - tohar is used, in a couplet, which I consider as one
place, in Leviticus, 12:4 & 6, in relation to the purifying of a
woman who has born either a man child or a maid child.
Childbirth under the old covenant necessitates purification for,
under law - as all of the first man’s progeny, inevitably, are - the
event produces yet more humanity that, being conceived in sin,
Psalm 51:5, is born into a race that is, by inherited transgression,
in contradiction to the Creator’s purpose.
Therefore, once purified, tohar, the opposite state exists in the
woman to tohu.
Thus for tohar in explanation of its opposite, tohu : the heavens
and the earth were tohu, the opposite of glory and the negative of
a purified state and were like the desolation of Israel after the
cutting off of the throne and the kingdom which had been
Then, as to bohu, bohen is the great toe or the thumb; bohar is a
freckled spot and bohu occurs again in Isaiah 34:11 - the ‘stones
of emptiness’, a brilliant piece of translation, in my view. Bohu is
used but twice more, by Moses, Genesis 1:2, and by Jeremiah,
4:23, in the identical expression - in English AV translation -
‘waste and void’.
Bohu, to my mind, is something that stands out. It is different to
its surroundings, the fingers or toes, but is of the same kind. The
stones stand out as part of the landscape, yet they are still part of
it; for their very existence is a stark advertisement of the whole
character of the landscape. The freckled spot is a kind of skin,
but stands out from the skin, in the same kind of way. There is
something about an object that draws attention to it, though it be
not distinctive, in itself.
Thus, the background is of the progress of flesh - the great toe;
the work of the flesh - the thumb; and the earthly environment of
the flesh - the landscape. And, finally - and significantly fourthly;
north, south, east and west - the wider aspect of the environment
of the flesh - the heavens and the earth of creation.
Tohu and bohu, therefore, is, to me, a matter of the absence of
glory that, by a distinct absence, draws attention to itself. The
earth was inglorious - and distinctly so.
For the whole creation ought to be glorious.
1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth;
2 and the earth was tohu and bohu . . .
. . . . . the earth lacked glory - and it was obvious.
There is a lack, that is significant.
There is an emptiness, that cries out.
There is an incompleteness that must - it must - be addressed.
It cannot be hid.
It cannot be ignored.
It calls out to be remedied.
Reproduced from 'The Cherubim of Glory' Belmont Publications.