Genesis 1:9 And God said:

let the waters be gathered together under the heavens in one place and let dry land be seen.

The Hebrew word for 'gathered together' is qavah which means to wait, its translated in other verses in which it is used as 'wait, hope for, look for'.

My question is therefore: what must these waters wait for? In verse 10 it says:

And God called the dry land earth and the collection of the waters He called seas.

Again the Hebrew word for 'collection' is miqveh and means something waited for, confidence. This question I am asking not in a physical sense as God's word is much deeper than just a physical event.

Waters always represent God's word, and it is obvious from Genesis 1:6 that God separated His word into Word that was earthly and Word that was heavenly by the raqia(firmament: which means to pound the earth as a sign of passion - I interpret that as meaning a trial, something that causes one to pound the earth in passion and it ties in with James referral to earthly wisdom and wisdom from above)

Therefore: if water is word and the earthly word is told to wait - what is it waiting for?

  • 2
    Note that the verb is in its Niphal form in which case it means to be "gathered together" - hence the translation. "Wait" is only one of its meanings when it is Qal, Pi'el forms. Niphal changes the meaning as per Jer 3:17, Isa 60:9.
    – Dottard
    Feb 29 at 3:42
  • 1
    Waters always represent God's word is not true. Swirling water, heaving and moving, often (in scripture) represents the heaving and fluid restlessness of the nations upon the earth.
    – Nigel J
    Feb 29 at 8:39
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    I have to take issue with the claim that "waters always represent God's word." One very clear example is Revelation 17:15 “The waters that you saw where the harlot lives represent large numbers of peoples, nations, and tongues." Mar 1 at 3:44
  • @dan-fefferman: yes, but there were no nations yet in Genesis 1 and therefore that meaning cannot be ascribed to the word in context. Mar 2 at 4:17

2 Answers 2


Firstly, the concept of the waters being "gathered together" or "waiting" under the heavens in one place suggests a sense of order in creation. The Hebrew word "qavah" can indeed mean "to wait" or "to hope for," but in this context (context is key), it likely conveys the idea of the waters being brought into a cohesive, unified state as part of God's design. It represents the setting of limits and distinctions between different elements (land/sea) of creation.

Linguists count two separate roots for קוה (qawa). You have classified "qawa" under the first definition when it should likely be under the second. Let's start with a definition:

קוה I

The verb קוה (qawa I) probably originally meant to twist or stretch (or so sayeth BDB Theological Dictionary), and from that tensive meaning our verb came to denote to eagerly wait for, or wait with steadfast endurance. This verb yields the following derivations:

  • The masculine noun קו (qaw), meaning line or measuring line (which either reflects the verb's original meaning, or is from a whole separate root all together). This noun occurs little over a dozen times in the Bible (Isaiah 28:17, Job 38:5).
  • The masculine noun קוה (qow), a rarer variant form of the previous noun. It's used three times: Zechariah 1:16, 1 Kings 7:23 and Jeremiah 31:39. The masculine noun קוקו (qawqaw), meaning might or strength. This word occurs twice, in Isaiah 18:2 and 18:7.
  • The masculine noun מקוה (miqweh), meaning hope (1 Chronicles 29:15, Ezra 10:2).
  • The feminine noun תקוה (tiqwah), meaning cord. This noun is used in Joshua 2:18 and 2:21 only.
  • The exactly identical feminine noun תקוה (tiqwah), but now meaning hope (Jeremiah 31:17, Job 4:6, Ezekiel 19:5).

קוה II

The verb קוה (qawa II) means to collect or gather. It's probably indeed a whole other root, but it should be noted that when a rope is twisted so that it becomes a tensive coil, it also quite gathers up onto itself. In the sense of collecting or gathering, this verb occurs only three times in the Bible: in Genesis 1:9 the waters are gathered into one place; in Jeremiah 3:17 nations are gathered, and in Isaiah 60:9 ships gather. This root has two derivatives:

  • The masculine noun מקוה (miqweh), meaning collection or collected mass (Genesis 1:10, Exodus 7:19).
  • The feminine noun מקוה (miqwa), meaning reservoir (Isaiah 22:11 only).

Benson Commentary

Genesis 1:9-10. God said, &c. — From the production, or separation from gross matter, of light and air, and the assigning them their proper places and uses in the creation, God proceeds, on the third day, to separate, put in order, and control the clement nearest to them in quality and use, fluid like them, comparatively simple, and pure, and although not elastic, yet of great power.

Let the waters be gathered into one place — The abyss in the bowels of the earth, Genesis 7:11, and the hollows connected therewith. Thus, instead of the confusion which existed when the earth and the water were mixed in one great mass, there was now order; and by such a separation, both were rendered useful: the earth was prepared for the habitation and support of man, and various orders of land animals, and the waters for the still more numerous tribes of living creatures, formed to abide and seek their sustenance in the seas, lakes, and rivers.

Likewise, the usage of the terms "collection" or "miqveh" when referring to the seas conveys the idea of gathering or accumulating. Once more, this emphasizes the systematic arrangement of creation, as the seas are identified as separate from the solid ground.


If the waters are waiting, they are waiting to be stirred up or mingled. Source critics often see Gen. 1 as influenced by Babylonian mythology. In this hypothesis - explained for example by Alexander Heidel in The Babylonian Genesis - Gen. 1 is a monotheistic counterproposal to the polytheistic cosmology of the Enuma Elish, in which the primordial fresh water of Apsu combines with the salt water of Tiamat. Their union gives rise to the gods, the heavenly bodies and the Earth's vegetation:

When in the height, heaven was not named and the earth beneath did not yet bear a name, the primeval Apsu who begat them, and chaos, Tiamut, the mother of them both, their waters were mingled together. No field was formed, no marsh was to be seen; no one's gods had yet been called into being, And none bore a name, and no destinies were ordained. Then were created the gods in the midst of heaven.

According the 'Babylonian Genesis' hypothesis, the following passage (Gen. 1.1-2) is a monotheistic echo of the above:

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, and the earth was without form or shape, with darkness over the abyss and a mighty wind sweeping over the waters...

Here the waters are just beginning the mingle. The spirit of God hovers over them and stirs them up. To the degree that they have not mingled, they are waiting. Soon (in God's time) they will be gathered together and God will begin the creation of the heavenly bodies (14-19) - whom the Babylonians thought of as "gods."

Conclusion: Whether one accepts the Babylonian Genesis idea or not, the waters were waiting to mingle so that they could be gathered, and God could continue the process of Creation.

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