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  • Writer's pictureAllison Wilcox

Tohu Va Bohu

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. ~ Genesis 1:1-5





One of the greatest Bible Studies I was ever part of was one where my Old Testament professor from Philadelphia, Dr. Bob Robertson, came to my church and with a group of us went through Genesis 1 line by line - word by word even.


He read it carefully and beautifully, and gave us Hebrew words to let us see the poetry that we miss often in our English translations.


The word that stayed with me and will always I think was from verse 2: the Hebrew word, "Tohu va bohu," which we translate a bit inelegantly as "formless void and darkness."


Say that word out loud a few times. Tohu va bohu


And then perhaps you will have some inkling about the disservice we do to the beautiful opening of Genesis when we try to turn it into a science book.


Genesis 1 is a poem.


I'm a bit late in the game to loving poetry.  As an English major, I always preferred fiction.  And I liked my fiction without flowery language (Shakespeare perhaps excepted).


But as I have gotten older I have come to appreciate the Truth (with a capital T) that poetry conveys.  


Genesis 1 does not need to be science to be True.  True isn't how many days it took to create the earth or what the process was for that creation.  


True is that our God took 'tohu va bohu' and made it into paradise.


A paradise that we unfortunately seem intent on destroying.


When I read Genesis 1 now my first thought goes to the beauty God created.  Beauty which our inelegant English language perhaps can't perfectly convey. 



God of creation, if beauty is Truth and Truth is beauty, you have tried over and over to show us.  Help us not to miss it.   Amen.

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