John Walton is an Old Testament scholar, who teaches at Wheaton College. He specializes in Ancient Near East history, and he was the author of The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate. Recently, he was interviewed on the Bible Project (Podcast 255), and he offered some very helpful guidance. Walton opines to us that Genesis, Chapter One is about God’s ordering of the Cosmos, and Genesis, Chapter Two is about God’s ordering of the Earth. This is helpful guidance in our journey to understanding Genesis. However, more important than knowing the history of the Ancient Near East (which can be helpful) is perceiving the spiritual meaning.
Happiness is impossible without order and structure. The spiritual must have precedence over the material. We must be oriented to the Heavenly. However, God uses the material world to explain to us the greater reality of the invisible and spiritual. At Genesis 1:2, we learn that the Earth was tohu bohu, which means “formless and void” or chaotic, meaningless, purposeless, and confusing. As we discussed in our previous blog (Genesis: Hebrew Cosmology, June 9, 2021), before there was a sun, moon, and stars, God said, “Let there be light.” Before there was physical light, God provided spiritual illumination. We must receive direction and guidance – an illumination – from the Creator about how to live. Judeo-Christian principles bring order to our lives. Human desires come from deep within us, but human desires, feelings, and passions must be ordered. Otherwise, we will destroy ourselves. As discussed in one of our earlier blogs (Primal Desires v. Higher Thinking, April 17, 2020), God designed us to have primal desires (like the desire for sex), but primal desires easily move to lust, sin, and spiritual death (meaning, no relationship with God). Unregulated desire is destructive to both self and those around us. Worship of God brings order, meaning, purpose, and direction to the human soul.
In the ancient world, great bodies of water (like the Ocean, Red Sea, Mediterranean Sea or even the Sea of Galilee) were metaphors for chaos. At one moment, they could be beautiful and tranquil, but in the next moment, they could be unstable, violent, and destructive. Ships mysteriously disappeared, and storms assaulted the land. Dangerous creatures lurked below the surface. The Sea, although a source of food, was an unstable and potentially dangerous place for humans.
Thankfully, God, the Holy Spirit hovered over the waters (mayim) (Gen. 1:2). The writer used the Hebrew word rahap, which includes the meaning of a mother bird brooding and hovering over her chicks. The Hebrew word rahap also includes the idea of a mother-bird cherishing her chicks. God was always with mankind, expressing His love and guidance.
At Genesis 1:2, we also read that darkness was over the surface of the deep (tehom, or “subterranean waters”). Metaphorically, these subterranean waters symbolize the deep sources and longings of human desire. Unfortunately, human desires are inclined to lust, confusion, imbalance, disorientation, and chaos. It is not hard for us to have an identity crisis. It is easy for us to have problems with such things as envy, jealousy, arrogance, anger, hatred, anxiety, lust, self-righteousness, addiction, selfishness, covetousness, laziness, stubbornness, and lack of discipline. Thankfully, God has provided His light to guide us in the right direction. Unfortunately, most of us want autonomy from God. Most prefer to function as the god of their own life. They do not want to know the way of the light or stay on its paths (Job 24:13). We are inclined to rebel against the light (Job 24:13). Mankind must grow up and mature.
The Bible provides us with Judeo-Christian principles, which provide us the rules by which we can live joyous and productive lives. The historical prosperity of the United States occurred because there were great numbers of citizens who chose to pursue a life guided by Judeo-Christian principles. However, our existence is now in jeopardy because we, more and more, have abandoned our spiritual heritage. With the abandonment of our spiritual heritage, a vacuum was created. Political Correctness, cultural Marxism, chaos, confusion and the endless search for pleasure have filled the vacuum. Great numbers of us suffer from psychological illnesses and a crisis of identity. Marriages, families, and neighborhoods are fragmented. For political advantage, people encourage hatred between the races, classes, and regions of the country. Our survival is hard to imagine. Individually, we have only one solution – pursue the light.
 “H8414 – tôû – Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 8 Jul, 2021. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/h8414/nasb20/wlc/0-1/>.
“H922 – bôû – Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 8 Jul, 2021. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/h922/nasb20/wlc/0-1/>.
 “H7363 – rāḥap̄ – Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 8 Jul, 2021. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/h7363/nasb20/wlc/0-1/>.
 “H8415 – tᵊhôm – Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 8 Jul, 2021. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/h8415/nasb20/wlc/0-1/>.