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Tohu in Genesis 1:2 and the Cause of the Darkness

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Question #1:  Hello Dr. Luginbill,  I am reading your Genesis Gap (SR #2) material on the Satanic rebellion. I have a question for you. On the Hebrew word Tohu (describing the earth in Genesis 1:2) doesn't have "ruin" in the meanings listed as far as I can find. Strong's does list waste, formless, vanity, place of chaos and such but not ruin. I looked up ruin and got 11 Strong entries. I was wondering why you chose "ruin" in your work. I am not so sure that wasteland wouldn't work also. I haven't finished your works yet, I just started this past weekend, and haven't got a firm opinion yet but I can tell you that what you say, at this early stage at least, makes a lot of sense. I just got up to the part where "Who did not create it in vain (a waste) (ruin)" Is 45:18 Very interesting.

Thank you for your work.

May God richly bless you.

Response #1:  I am not the only one to employ this choice for tohu. The NIV has the following translation for a verse in Isaiah chapter 24 in which tohu occurs where the context is the Lord's coming tribulational devastation of the earth (i.e., the result of an active destruction as opposed to a passive chaos):

        The ruined [tohu] city lies desolate;       Isaiah 24:10a    NIV

The Hebrew here is nishberah qiriyath tohu, which we might render for our purposes here "the city [now characterized by] tohu has been shattered". Brown Driver Briggs says on tohu "primary meaning difficult to seize", and The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament likewise points out that the lack of Semitic cognates makes the interpretation of this word solely dependent upon our analysis of its use in context in the O.T. In my analysis, tohu generally suggests the result of an active process of destruction, and that is the primary connotation of "ruined" (a connotation that is lost when one renders it as "waste, formless, vanity, or place of chaos").

Tregelles' edition of Gesenius' lexicon suggests as a definition for tohu, among other things, "that which is wasted", "destruction", and has for the Is.24:10 passage quoted above the translation "desolated city". To my mind, destroyed, laid waste, desolated, ruined are all so closely synonymous as to leave little to choose between them. The point is that tohu in Genesis 1:2 represents the aftermath of a destructive event rather than some primeval, original "chaos". To be sure, in Greek and Roman mythology (and in modern scientific cosmology) this is the way the world is understood to have begun (i.e., in a chaotic unformed and unshaped mass; cf. Ovid's Metamorphoses book I, and the "big bang theory" respectively). So our understanding of the Genesis 1:2 phrase tohu ve bhohu is indeed critical to our interpretation of Genesis (as well as of Satan's rebellion and many other things). If one sees in this phrase an original chaos, one can square Genesis with mythology and science. However, if one sees that these words refer to the results of God's judgment rather than to some primordial confusion, one comes to different conclusions altogether, conclusions that allow both for a perfect original creation, and for the satanic rebellion which forms the theme of the series you are reading.

Finally, to return to the Isaiah 45:18 passage, it is consistent with my understanding of scripture and the character of our God that He would create everything perfect in the first place - every act and deed of God of which we are informed in scripture (or have seen with our own eyes) confirms this. If the situation in Genesis 1:2 really were to describe God's "first effort" of creation as resulting only in an incomplete, formless chaos, this would be completely unique in scripture and, to my mind, something completely incomprehensible and inconsistent with His divine character.

Hope this gets to the point of your question, and thanks for your interest in this ministry.  Please also see the following links:

Opposition to the Genesis Gap from the Creation Research Institute et al.

The Grammar behind the Genesis Gap.

The Shape of the Universe, Hominids, and the Genesis Gap.

Questioning the Genesis Gap

Whatever Happened to the Genesis Gap?

Where Can I Find More Information on the Genesis Gap?

Ex Nihilo Creation

The Genesis Gap (SR #2)

Yours in our perfect Lord,

Bob Luginbill

Question #2:  

Thank you so much for responding to my inquiry about Gen 1:2. I am very pleased that I have found your teachings. They make sense where there has always been some confusion. There are several areas I still have questions, of course, but more things make sense to me now.

I thought I would tell you what seems sensible to me about darkness. In the Gen 1:4-5 God divided the light and the darkness, day and night. It appears to me that He is setting up the creation in a way that gives Satan his place here temporarily. He said the light was good but never said the darkness was good. He knew the whole plan of salvation at this point and kept His creation in balance until our salvation is complete. It appears that at this point time, as we view it, was put into action. Without Satan's rebellion and without darkness there would never have been day and night / evening and morning the first day. I am sure you have known this for quite some time. For me this is a revelation. This seems further proof that the rebellion happened before this.

I became a Christian several years ago and have really only been studying the bible in earnest for about a year. I believe in Sola Scriptura and test all things against scripture. I don't like the NIV translation much because it appears there are many alterations away from the original meanings. I have so many questions I would like to ask but know you are a busy man. With your permission from time to time I would like to talk with you about different aspects of scripture, and/or faith.

Thank you again for your work and ministry in Christ. Also thank you for your quick response to my questions. It is a blessing to me.

Yours in Christ our risen Savior.

Response #2: 

Thanks for your good words. I am very pleased to hear that this ministry has been of some benefit to you. Yes, I quite agree with your framing of the light-darkness issue (except that for "time began at this point" I would say "human history began at this point". If you would like to know more about the seven days in particular (specifically on the separation of light and darkness), you might have a look at part 5 of the Satanic Rebellion series (see the link: The Seven Days of Re-Creation). The summary of how the seven Genesis days form the pattern for the seven Millennial days is at the end of this long section (pasted in here), and will give you an idea of what I mean:

Summary: the Seven Genesis Days compared with the Seven Millennial Days:

Genesis Days                                                                  Millennial Days

1. separated: light from darkness (general)                         separated: the truth from the lie

2. separated: waters from waters yielding air                      separated: freedom from the devil's coercion

3. separated: the dry land from water                                   separated: a holy people from a pagan

    filled:  vegetation                                                                  filled: Israel the vine

4. filled: regulating heavenly bodies                                      filled: Israel the standard-setting nation

    separated: light from darkness (specific)                         separated: right from wrong

5. filled: fish and birds                                                             filled: the Church's evangelistic base

6. filled: terrestrial animals and livestock                            filled: the Church's evangelistic

    completion: the First Adam by Eve                                   completion: the Last Adam by the

7. rest: blessing on the re-created world                               rest: blessing on the re-claimed world

As to the NIV, I certainly share your concerns. Sometimes they really miss the boat entirely, yet at other times they produce a very helpful rendering (because they put things in understandable English). One of the reasons that the KJV has been so successful is that it is both rather literary and at the same time "creatively ambiguous"; that is to say that it does a good job of paralleling the language of the Greek and Hebrew in an indefinite way so as to leave interpretation to the reader/exegete. Of course if one is right about the interpretation, the ideal thing is to make that interpretation come through (and do so, hopefully, in a fine English style). So the NIV is a lot like the little girl who "when she was good, she was very, very good, but when she was bad she was awful". Where it is right, it is pretty good, but that of course does not compensate for the many times it is dead wrong or misleading. For more detailed comments on this and other versions see the study "Read your Bible: Protection against Cults (a basic Christian right and responsibility)".

I would be pleased to help answer your questions where I am able to do so.

In Him,

Bob Luginbill

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