Genesis 1:2 – Arnold Fructenbaum in his commentary on Genesis gives great insight on this verse. “From the grammar of the Hebrew we know that It shows that Genesis 1:2 is not a result or development of Genes is 1:1, but the background to Genesis 1:3. The same point is made in Isaiah 45:18. This allows for two possible interpretations. The first is the Chaos View that sees verse 1 as giving the general account and summary and Genesis 1:2 as giving a description of chaos at the beginning of creation followed by Genesis 1:3 describing the beginning of the work of creation. So the original creation is not found in this account, only a re-creation. Genesis 1:1–3 all describe the work of the first day; and therefore creation is out of something that pre-existed the act of creation described by Genesis. However, according to this view, the starting point of Genesis is not creation, but chaos.
The second option is known as the Gap Theory, but it is not an ideal name because of misconceptions about what it teaches. In this view, Genesis 1:1 is the original creation in a perfect state; God created the heavens and the earth in a perfect state. Then between verses 1 and 2 there was a gap of time; and in this gap of time there was the fall of Satan, which resulted in the chaos of verse 2. The chaos of Genesis 1:2 is a result of divine judgment. In the Gap Theory, verse 3 marks the beginning of the first day of creation. Therefore, the original creation is in Genesis 1:1, followed by a gap of time in which something happened to cause the original creation to become chaotic.
From parallel passages such as Ezekiel 28:11–19, that something was the fall of Satan; and when Satan fell, it caused the chaos of verse 2. Then 1:3 begins with the first day of creation. This is the correct use of the Gap Theory: to explain the chaos of verse 2. The wrong use of the Gap Theory is for “dinosaur space.” It has been a convenient place to dump in the fossil record, the geological ice ages, etc.; and those who have held it for “dinosaur space” have been forced to make it millions, if not billions, of years long. This only results in conforming biblical interpretation to scientific theories, which is never, ever necessary. The Bible clearly teaches that physical death originates with the fall of Adam, so there was no physical death of any kind before the fall of Adam. The gap is there only for the fall of Satan and to explain the chaos of Genesis 1:2, but it need not be a very long time at all. It is not known how long it was, but it need not be millions and billions of years.1
The phrase “The earth was without form and void”, in the Hebrew denotes the meaning became void. It means that it became something that it was not originally. We see this illustrated in Isaiah 45:18. Those two words used together like this are found in two other places in Scripture and in both speak of God’s judgment (Isaiah 34:11, Jeremiah 4:23). The darkness is a picture in Scripture of evil and death as opposed to light and life. In regard to judgment: Exodus 10:21–23, the plague of darkness; I Samuel 2:9, where God assigned the wicked to darkness and also Isaiah 8:22. Bottom line v 2 indicates judgment.
When you connect all this with Ezekiel 28:11–16, we see that Satan was given stewardship over the earth in its original form. It appears that there was no oceans and in many ways was like heaven. When sin was found in Satan he not only judged but that judgment also came upon his realm. So that which was beautiful became dark, formless and devoid of life. Part of that judgment was the earth becoming covered with water and the precious stones hidden under the seas.
In Revelation 21:9-27 we learn that the new earth, which will be the eternal dwelling for God’s children will return to its original state. In these verses we are introduced to the Third Person of the Trinity. The Rabbi’s teach that Spirit here is the Spirit of the Messiah. This complements the teaching of John 1:1–3 that through the Son that all things were created. The Hebrew word for “moved” in v 2 is means “to hover,” or “to brood.” It is used in Deuteronomy 32:11 and Jeremiah 23:9, where it is translated by the word “shaken.” The Hebrew word is defined as a mother bird cares and protects her eggs. The Spirit is like a mother bird, is hovering over the chaos of judgment and is involved in the work of re-creation. It is the life-giving Spirit of God that brings forth light and life out of darkness, judgment and death.
The Jerusalem Targum, translates it this way: The earth was vacancy and desolation. Solitary of the sons of men and void of every animal, and darkness was on the face of the abyss and the Spirit of Messiah from before the Lord brooded upon the face of the waters.2
1 Fruchtenbaum, A. G. (2008). Ariel’s Bible commentary: The book of Genesis (1st ed.) (36–39). San Antonio, TX: Ariel Ministries.
2 Fruchtenbaum, A. G. (2008). Ariel’s Bible commentary: The book of Genesis (1st ed.) (40–42). San Antonio, TX: Ariel Ministries.