What does it mean that the earth was “without form and void”?

Last updated on March 7, 2022

When Moses started writing the book of Genesis, he was with the people of Israel in the desert, after having been rescued from Egypt by God. This detail is very important when studying the first book of the Bible. Before God revealed himself to his people as the Creator, He had already manifested himself as its Redeemer, while the central theme of the Scriptures is: Jesus Christ redeeming his people.

… The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2).

Note that if we do not have in mind the central theme of the Scriptures, then we can speculate on this verse, as many of us have already done. But how would Moses have understood this, inspired by God? How did the people of Israel understand this? And how should we apply it to our lives?

The earth was without form and void

It can be very difficult for us to understand that God created the earth disordered (in the Hebrew it would be “formless”) and void, but for Moses it was a revelation of hope, since Moses observes that out of the formless and void, God made a good creation in a great way. Do you see?

God creates a void and formless earth to manifest His redemptive power by giving it shape and filling it with life. Note that in the first three days God shapes his creation, and in the next three days God fills his creation; and all this with the power of his Word.

The darkness covered the waters, “darkness was over the face of the deep“; but the Spirit of God moved on the surface of these deep waters, “the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters“. Here is our Redeeming God, revealing that He has a great purpose: from darkness to light.

The people of Israel were void and without form

When God rescued his people from Egypt, “He found him in a desert land, and in the howling waste of the wilderness” (Deuteronomy 32:10). Do you see? He had a purpose, Israel was “without form and void” in Egypt but God would shape and fill them. He had already started this work when He rescued them, but it was aimed at a great hope: the promised land.

Moses did not write Genesis 1:2 to show the people of Israel a ‘mere creation’, but they were words of hope showing what God would do with his people and that it had not been a mistake to leave Egypt, but that God “encircled him, He cared for him, He kept him as the apple of His eye. Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions” (Deuteronomy 32:10-11). Once again our Redeeming God revealed his great purpose: from darkness to light.

We were void and without form

Now everything is clearer and applicable to our lives. Remember what our lives looked like before we came to Jesus Christ in repentance and faith? Exactly! “Void and without form”, in darkness. But God in Christ had a redemptive plan for his people. “For God, who said, Let light shine out of darkness, has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).

This is wonderful, God revealing his great purpose: from darkness to light. That is, Christ Jesus, the light of the world, rescuing his people from the darkness of sin; and all this according to the perfect plan of God drawn up from eternity. Thank God that He saved us for the love of His Name.

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