The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
In yesterday’s Daily Bible Verse Blog, we covered the chaotic state of the earth as revealed in Genesis 1:2, which describes it as “without form, and void.” We saw, based on other scriptures, that God would not have created the earth and universe in this state because everything God creates is perfect and orderly. So what is the explanation for the chaotic state of the created order described in the second verse of Genesis?
The truth is that Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 represent two different periods of time that are separated by perhaps millions of years. The key is the word translated “was” in our English Bibles. The word “was” is a translation of the Hebrew verb hayah. Hebrew lexicons point out that this word does not just denote the state of “being” at one moment in time, but can also describe a change (or progression) from one state of being or time period to another.
According to the Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon, hayah can be translated “to become” or “to come to pass.” The word is translated “became” or “become” 133 times in the Old Testament. (An example of hayah describing the transition from one state to another is Genesis 19:26 where Lot’s wife became—hayah—a pillar of salt.)
Taking all the evidence into account, the best translation of Genesis 1:2 seems to be “the earth became without form, and void.” The earth was not created in this state, but became like this in the intermediate time period between the original creation (verse 1) and the onset of the dark, desolate wasteland we read about in verse 2.
So what was the cause of this change in the state of the earth? Though Genesis 1 doesn’t describe it specifically, evidence from other parts of the Bible indicates that this was when the former archangel Lucifer led one-third of the angels in a war of rebellion against the government of God (Isaiah 14:12-14; Ezekiel 28:14-17; Luke 10:18; Revelation 12:4). This was when Lucifer became Satan the devil and a group of angels became demons. Apparently, the war that ensued between these spirit beings left the universe “without form and void.”