An Exposition of the Original Text of Genesis I and II

Part 3

Taken from: Bibliotheca Sacra and Theological Review

By Rev. Samuel Hopkins, Milton, N. Y.


5. "Without Form and Void."

"Now1 the land was without form and void." It was the יַבְּשָׁה, "the solid land." It was in existence, and in the state here described. But, as God himself testifies by Isaiah (xlv. 18) " not" such " did he create it." He found it (so to speak) in this state before he did that which he calls "creating it." His creating it took place after it had been such, and, of course, after it began to be. Let us examine the clause before us particularly and in detail.

"The earth was." The land-earth was in existence. The language is very definite. It naturally signifies, to all pupil- readers, that the self-same land, or earth, which is the subject of the whole discourse — the self-same land-earth on which we live — was actually existing then just as now, just as we know it; that is, substancely the same — in no one sense and in no one degree different, except as herein after set forth. We have no right to think otherwise.

We say the language is very definite; not "God created earth; earth was," but "God created the earth. Now the earth was." There is the same emphatic, rigid, individualizing definiteness in the fourth commandment; though it wrongly disappears in our version: " On six days did Jehovah make the earth." No Israelite at the foot of the mount could have understood this as of any other or different earth than the very one on which he stood, unchanged, save by the making.

On the eve of its creative experience, this our earth was. This unit mass was then. This, we say, is involved in the simple formula, " The earth (the solid) was." We have a right to say so, because the writer, not making distinction, by name or otherwise, between the earth proper before creating and after, gives us the right to say so. And if any one say that that earth was not a self by itself, or that that earth was another and a different self from this, then he must show good cause, and must find his cause in the text.

We make another memorandum. If the words "the earth was," by any adroit exegesis, can be so construed as not to express a real individuality, then, in the paper before us, we have no statement that our earth ever has been individualized, or even that it is now. If it is not in these words recognized as a unified body, separate from all other matter, then its unification is nowhere recognized through the whole account.

"The earth was without form " — a translation responsible for many mistakes and for much perplexity. The Hebrew word is (תֹהוּּ) tohu. This word and its companion word (בֹּחוּ) bohu, " a void," are not defined in the context, and neither is repeated. Each has a meaning, which we must find if we can.

In one instance, the word tohu, "without form," is rendered by the phrase "the empty place" (Job xxvi. 7), explained in the next clause by (בְּלִימָה) " nothing." In one instance (Job vi. 18) it is rendered by the word " nothing." Each, rightly enough. It is also rendered "for nought" (Isa. xxix. 21), meaning for what is worth nothing. Again, it is rendered by the word " confusion," as applied to " molten images" (Isa. xli. 29). But as idols are neither confusion nor no things, the better rendering is, " worth nothing," as in Isa. xxix. 21. the same is its meaning when rendered by the word "vanity" (1 Sam. xii. 21; Isa. xl. 23; xliv. 9; xlv. 19; lix. 4). In other instances it signifies "a wilderness," "a desert," "a waste," "a desolation" (Deut. xxxii. 10; Job xii. 24; Psa. cvii. 40).

These are all the passages in which the word occurs, except a few which we shall soon cite. However, we have really nothing to do with its meaning, except in its terrene, or geographic, applications. We take up, then, only its signification last mentioned, — a desert, a waste, a desolation, — as being purely applicable to the case in hand. With this caveat, however, — that as in the texts from which we have last quoted it we have no means of deciding, from the con text, the antecedent condition or history of the several tracts of which it is predicated, — that is, no means of deciding whether they had always been desolations, or whether they had become such through some lack or by some judicial blight, — so in the case before us we have no means of deciding, from the context, whether the earth had been always a desolation, or whether it had been made such through some lack or by some judicial blight.

The first passage we cite as explanatory of the terrene signification of this word is "The city of confusion (tohu) is broken down " (Isa. xxiv. 10). Here the tohu (the wasteness, the desolation) of the city is explained by the words "broken down." A city of tohu is a city in ruins. This is graphically illustrated by the context: "The Lord maketh the land empty and waste, . . . . . . utterly emptied and utterly spoiled . . . . . In the city is left desolation, and the gate is smitten with destruction."

We now turn to the only remaining texts where this word is found, and where it stands (as in Gen. i. 2) in immediate connection with bohu, "a void." "For2 he shall stretch out upon it [that is, upon the land of Idumea] the line of confusion (תֹהוּ) and the stones of (בֹּהוּ, bohu) emptiness " (Isa. xxxiv. 11); that is, The Lord shall mete out to it the allotment of a desolation and the doom of a void. Now look at the context: " The streams, pitch; the dust, brimstone; the land, burning pitch; thorns in the palaces of the kingdom, nettles and brambles in her fortresses; the whole country a habitation of dragons, a court for owls; a trysting-place for wild beast, satyr, screech-owl, and vulture; lying waste from generation to generation."

Such is the awful and graphic definition of the tohu, or " desolation," which was to be awarded to Idumea. But she was also to receive an allotment of bohu — "voidncss," "emptiness." What was that? The context explains: The " great slaughter; the land soaked with blood; no nobles in the kingdom; her princes nothing; no one passing through her borders " — in this was to be her voidness, her emptiness, her bohu — a voidness of life. The ruin of her habitations, the tohu; her depopulation, the bohu which the Lord was to bring upon Idumea. Very clear illustrations, these, of these two words.

In Jer. iv. 23 we have the same entire phrase, both in Hebrew and in English, which occurs in Gen. i. 2: "The earth [was] without form and void." In verses 20, 27, the same word which is here carelessly rendered "the earth "is rendered" the land," and rightly; for the subject of discourse is the land of Judah. It is this land, or country, which the prophet prophetically describes as "without form and void"; literally and truly, " a desolation and a void." As with the text cited from Isaiah, so with this. Before it and after it are to be found the illustrative definitions of its terms.

"We are spoiled" — laid waste (Gesenius, שְׁרַד Pual form). "Destruction upon destruction! The whole land laid waste, even to its tents and curtains; the fruitful place a wilderness; all the cities broken down; the whole land desolate." Here is its tohu, "desolation," dire and complete. "Lo, no man!" Even "all the birds of the air fled! the whole city fled into thickets or climbed up upon the rocks; every city forsaken, and not a man dwelling therein." Here is the bohu, the "voidness" of Judah — voidness of life — not a man, not a bird.

In this case, as well as in the former, the ruin and the dispeopling of the land are represented as the effects of God's judicial visitation: " City and fruitful place broken down at the presence of the Lord, and by his fierce anger." Such, too, was the judicial visitation in the case we first cited (Isa. xxiv. 10): "The Lord had spoken the word; . . . . . therefore had the curse devoured the land."

We should take special note: In each case the antecedent conditions of the two lands, Idumea and Judah, is involved as part and parcel of the idea expressed both by tohu, their " desolation," and by bohu, their "voidness." This appears, because the antecedent condition loss their condition when these prophetic words were given, and because the whole reality of each class of woe depended upon what the antecedents were. The "desolation" foretold was a desolation in lieu of things constructed, a ruin of what had been made for a shelter, or for a defence, or for a joy — palace, fortress, garden, field, stream. The formed things wrecked; the useful made useless; the beautiful made repulsive; the whole made a ruin. In like manner, the "voidness" was a voidness in lieu of fulness — no people where had been a people.

Not that Idumea and Judah themselves were to have no configuration ("without form"), either of geographic outline or of superficial feature, but that every useful and every beautiful form, whether shaped by nature or by art, which pertained to them, was to be laid in ruin. Nor, again, that Idumea or Judah were to become " void" in the sense of having no thing in them, or that they themselves were to become " nothingness "; such language would be absurd; but simply that, alive with people to day, they should become void of people to-morrow.

These, and Isa. xlv. 18,3 are the only remaining instances in the Scriptures, except Gen. i. 2, in which the word tohu occurs; the only other ones in which the word bohu occurs. And here, as in Genesis, the two occur in marked and significant conjunction. But in these two instances they are each accompanied with full and clear illustrations of their meanings. Their surroundings — that is, the defining con text — we feel compelled to receive as their divine definitions.

In one instance, the word tohu describes the " desolation " peculiar to a ruined city. In the two other instances, it describes a like " desolation " on a larger scale. In each case it evidently expresses what it docs not evidently express in those cases where it is rendered " desert " or " wilderness." In these latter cases it expresses a simple idea, — a bald fact, without any hint of its antecedents, — and is applied to districts which, so far as we know, contained no monuments of their past in the shape of ruins. In the three cases (Isa. xxiv. 10; xxxiv. 11; Jer. iv. 23) it presents a com pound idea; that is, not merely the idea of desolation, but also that of previous constructions; and not only the idea of previous constructions, but of such constructions demolished. So that, in these three cases, we do not get an idea of the whole fact expressed by the word, unless we embrace that of a city or a country before occupied by " palaces," " for tresses," and other dwellings, by " fruitful fields " and refreshing " streams." De-structure-ing is what it means, not a mere lack of structures.

Therefore, to translate the word by the phrase " without form " may be literally correct, so far as it goes. But the phrase is fitted to mislead the English reader, and therefore is unfortunate. In English idiom its natural import is, " having itself no form," " being of no form." But this was not true of either the city or of Idumea or of the land of Judah. The city had outlines, or configuration, or form, before and after its ruin. So had each territory. But even if we render tohu " without forms," meaning without structures, natural or artificial, we present but a negative idea. Whereas its true import, as made evident by the context, is positive and retrospective, indicating former structures brought to ruins; indicating, of the city and of the country alike, that they did contain the relics of forms structurally destroyed.

In three instances, however, the word evidently represents only "a wilderness" or "a desert," and is properly so translated in our version. These words signify a tract without dwellings; often, without flourishing vegetation; sometimes, without any vegetation. In these instances there is nothing in the context by which we can judge whether the places so denominated were once, or were never, flourishing, fertile, and beautiful. But this we know — a tract blossoming as the rose does not prove that it was not once a desert (Isa. xxxv. 1). This, also, we know — a tract being now barren does not prove that it was not once a very garden of the Lord. And any one who may deny either statement has the burden of proof upon himself. But we know more — that many a tract of country, once teeming with wealth and beauty, has become a barren desert; that God's own choice vineyard has been laid waste, and judicially — so waste that ten acres of vines have yielded but thirty quarts of wine, and eight bushels of seed but twenty-six quarts (Isa. v. 10); that the holy land, once proverbially prolific, is now, comparatively, but a sterile waste. And this we do not know — that any one of those three districts of country to which tohu is applied in the sense of a desolation was not once as laden with harvests, or as glowing with verdure, as the most fertile tract which has ever graced the world.

There seems, however, to be some testimony upon this point. At the close of his creative work, — "creating the land unto an inhabiting," — "God saw everything which he had made, and behold, very good." Whatever of the land was accessible to inhabiters was inhabitable, truly fitted for their inhabiting — for the purpose, " very good." Not only the garden in Eden, but every place where the man or the beast might go. As it came from the creative hand the whole was "very good" — fertile, beautiful, good to dwell in. No stunted, imperfect, ungainly growth, no repulsive barren, no howling wilderness, no scorching Sahara, no thistles, no thorns. And whatever place the Bible has called tohu must have lapsed from its primitive goodness, and become such; its very wasteness pointing to a beautiful past; like a cenotaph, speechlessly telling of an absent life and an absent glory.

These things being so, and it also being true that in three cases in which the word tohu is applied to portions of land its retrospective meaning is obscure, and that in three like cases such meaning is clear, is it wrong, is it presuming, is it chicane, to argue from the last to the first — from the clear to the obscure? If we reason that these several portions of land to which this term is applied without intimations of their former state had once been like those to which it is applied with such intimations, who shall convict us of going beyond the book?

We do so reason, and, we think, fairly. Reasoning that, in cases not illustrated, this term has a retrospective significance of thrift and fertility, we think we have our justification — enough, at least, to quit us of presumption or of trickery — in the same retrospective significance of the term where its significance is unquestionable; in other words, an exegetical justification, and, of course, an exegetical right. With one restriction, however, and only one; that is, in the absence of evidence to the contrary. Nay, more, we think we have the exegetical right to transfer to all cases in which this word occurs the very force which it holds where its force is clear. To all cases! and by exegetical right! Of course, then, to the only case not yet adduced — to the one important case in Genesis where the exigency requires a definition from without. In this instance, then, without assumption and for exegetical reasons, we claim:

That the word tohu in the Mosaic text imports not only an absence of all structures upon the solid land, but also the previous existence of structures there which had been de- structured.

Who can say rightfully, upon evidence taken from the paper itself, or upon other reliable evidence, that the solid land, then a tohu, " a desolation," had not before been a garden of wealth and beauty? We think we have as much right, and more, and upon Bible testimony too, to say that it had been — provided there be nothing in the account we are studying to contradict or to make against us. And if there be nothing such and here, why should we not retain our definition?

The earth was also "a void." Except in this case, the word bohu, " a void," occurs in the Bible but twice. Those instances we have produced. In each case it indisputably expresses a void of life, of living inhabiters. But this is not all; the wiping away of living inhabiters is also signified.

As tohu signifies a de-structure-ing, so does bohu signify a de-people-ing. We may say, and with perfect confidence, that this is its true and only meaning; and we have no right to attach any other meaning to it in the first chapter of Genesis.

The earth was not a vacuum; for it was a thing. The earth was not a vacuum; for it was an entity, and a " solid" entity; not void itself of life, but having no life upon it, and having had life upon it before. Just like the bohu of Idumea; just like the bohu of Judah. It once had living inhabiters; but they had been swept away — living vegetations, living creatures. Can any one sustain, Hebraically, any other meaning of the word? And, if not, will it not be ungenerous to find fault with ours?

But more. It being certain that bohu means living inhabiters gone, the whole point of pre-existing structural forms is necessarily conceded. It is involved even in this very word. Judging, as we must, from our own knowledge and experience of life, we cannot hold the idea of living inhabiters without holding the idea of co-present habitations, or, at least, of other structural forms — vegetation, for instance — adapted to the wants and comfort of living inhabiters, and from which habitations proper might be constructed. And thus even the word bohu, over and above its own distinctive and peculiar import, seems to contain within itself the very strong intimation of such structural forms as are specially and plainly indicated by its companion word tohu. So that, when we apply only the word bohu to the world before its creating, we do hold logically, even if unawares, the co-genial idea of pre-existing structural forms such as pre-existing lives do shadow forth.

In like manner, tohu, retrospective, contains within itself the very strong intimation of the co-presence of living inhabiters. For what were the structural forms for, were there no living inhabiters for them, or at hand, and about to be for them?

Thus the one word echoes the other, and the other the one. Twin words, sounding a pleasing harmony — twin words, each meaning the more when side by side; each pointing to the great past; each testifying, in its own way and responsively, of the tireless effluence of him who filleth all.

To conclude this matter: Even leaving out of account the debatable word tohu, or putting upon it such construction as caprice may elect or theory advise, the word bohu remains, unequivocal, inflexible. In each other case, accompanied by the same illustrative defining, which we are not bold enough to question or lithe enough to evade. In each other case it stands designating a former home of rational living beings. Therefore, having here no definition of any kind, it hero stands cither as an unknown quantity or as designating what it so clearly designates there — a former home of rational living beings.

The earth, then, at that point of its being where the sacred writer takes it up, was a (תֹהוּּ) structureless "desolation" and (בֹּחוּ) "a life-void "; not itself a confused chaotic mass, having no configuration; but a " solid," having had pertainings of individual forms, great or small, useful or beautiful, simple or complicated, — cither or all; which parasite forms were now strewed upon it or entombed within it, part and parcel of it, spoiled, demolished, in ruins. No such form, except prostrate and " broken down," pertained to it now. They had pertained to it in their perfectness; but that was in its past.

But, moreover, this "solid," the earth, was "voidncss," or "a life-void." Not that it was, and yet was "nothingness." This would be using words without sense. And not that it had no thing pertaining to it and corporate of it; for the ruins of its forms were there — "broken-down" monuments of its mystic antiquity, scattered up and down, hither and yon, in wild and awful chaos; like the after wreck of cities, of fortresses, of palaces, of fruitful places upon the humbled bosoms of Judah and Idumea. " Void," indeed, but not void of things. " Void," indeed, but not void, and never void, of these. " Void," indeed, but only void of its old inhabiters. Like Idumea and Judah, it was now bohu — empty of its proper lives. It had had them; but they were gone. Whatever may have been the forms of the lives which had pertained to it before, they were extinct or banished. Once full of inhabiters, now peeled; as after it was with Idumea, when " all her host [inhabiters proper] had fallen down as the leaf from the vine, as the fig from the fig-tree." As after it was with Judah, when her inhabiters proper had left her cities " void," had scud to the thickets and scaled the rocks.

But yet again, at this point of its hoar existence the " solid " — the earth — was stripped of its old forms and of its old lives, because "broken down at the presence of the Lord by his fierce anger, in the day of his vengeance." And as it was after, "when God spoke, purposed, would not repent nor turn back," so it was with the earth, upon the eve of her new genesis, and as a token of the same displeasure, merged in tears and draped with blackness (comp. Jer. iv. 28; Gen. i. 2). Such were the tohu and the bohu of Idumea and Judah; and such — the Lord being our ex pounder — were the tohu and the bohu of the pre-Adamite earth.

We see now, in a new and clearer light, the peculiar force of God's own testimony on this very point: "Not a tohu [a waste, a desolated place] did I create the earth."4 It could not have been brought into such a condition by a creative act; it must have been by a creative act. Desolating and depeopling are not constructing, but destructing; not genesistic, but ungenesistic; not shaping, but unshaping; not making, but unmaking. To describe demolition and death, " creating " is an unfit word, an antagonistic word. Excepting events purely as such, it belongs only to constructing, to form, to life.

One word in justification of our course in finding the meaning of these important words. The mere fact that they appear here for the first time does not give them lordship over their brethren. It docs not vest these identical words with the power of the keys.5 Here they lack the lexical clement. They are like unknown algebraic quantities, which we can work out only by terms which are known. With such terms, in other places, they stand in close connection, and by that connection they are illumined. What they mean in one place, they mean in another. Beyond, we find what they mean. From beyond we bring them, thus illumined, to this text, where the exigency calls for light. This is as lawful as in any other case. Such appeal to usage is always made by cautious interpreters.

If, however, some one yet urge that tohu and bohu else where do get their meaning from tohu and bohu here, let us put the rule to a test. We find definitions (purely conjectural) of the words here, such as these : "formlessness," "darkness," "irregularity of outward extent," "a fluid or rarefied condition, with an absence of all solidity or cohesion," "chaos," or "abyss bottomless, unfathomable"; תְּהוֹם "the deep," and תֹהוּ "a desolation" assumed to be synonymes. But if we receive such definitions, how will they answer in other places? Why, they lead us necessarily to the very strange statements: That the land of Idumea and the land of Judah were each formlessness; darkness; unsolid, uncohering fluidity; having irregularity of outward extent; chaos or an unformed mass; an abyss, bottomless, fathomless. We cannot so read the prophets, and therefore decline such a rule of interpretation, with our firm, but fraternal protest. Finding elsewhere, as we have done, the meaning of the words, and transferring their meaning thus found, we avoid all such practical annoyance.

We therefore claim that, in applying to this Hebrew phrase on the first page of the Bible the definition of it which we find, in such varied and glowing language, on the other pages where it occurs, we are not rash, or bold, or pseudo-excgetical. We claim that we have taken our key from good hands, and that we have used it, under dutiful compulsion only, to unlock the text. Can any one, for a different interpretation, offer a better authority? If tohu and bohu do not mean what we have said, for pity's sake let some one better gifted tell us plainly, categorically, and on other grounds than mere surmise, what they do mean!

It may be revolting and humiliating — this idea that our own home is but an old Golgotha of an old past. But even if we repudiate the textual idea, we cannot be rid of the idea. We cannot be rid of the omnipresent and heraldic fact. The great text-book of fossils reveals it. Equally the great text book of natural life; for this very life — vegetable, brute, human, alike — docs but pillow itself on the ruins of life, and get its very aliment from the ashes of death. we cat the past; we drink it; we are vestured with it. Death is our life ; our life is but death; and our deaths, in turn, will nourish lives to come. Every inch of earth is sepulchred. On the fatness of that sepulchre all life riots. Such has been the ceaseless chemistry of nature's laboratory since — the death of Abel? Such it was before. Adam, even in his innocence, must cat the herb-seed and the tree-fruit. For Adam's life the seed and the fruit must die. The sermon is a sermon in perpetuity. It is being preached to every gene ration. Its text for perpetuity is this very tohu and bohu. And it is placed here, on the first line of the world's history, purposely, it may be, — seasonably, without a may-be, — to humble us. That is all. If it be revolting to us, and repelling, it is not blotted out.

But docs not this Golgothic idea cut us off from all connection with that shadowy past, physically, historically, morally? Suppose it does. Should we hanker for the connection? Or, sceptical about such excision as conflicting with divine analogies, should we refuse it our faith if it is expressed in the record? Or ought such seemingly unseemly excision to modify our interpretation? But change the question. Does this idea preclude such connection? Why, the same planet which is our natal home was that of pre-genesistic lives. Our lives are interlinked with theirs, by history, by kinship, so far as we are dust of the same dust, and to the same dust return. And as there is a moral vibration coming to us from the modern cemetery of our own construction, or from the ubiquitous cemetery of the post-Adamic world, so is there a moral vibration of even a more solemn tone coming to us from the older cemetery of the lives before. It touches us; and therefore we value, as a great moral lesson of which we would not be deprived, our pregnant interpretation of the phrase before us. The doom of those dead of that bohu forewarns us. As are the moral connection and the retrospective impressiveness of the Noachian deluge and its ensepulchred lives, such are the moral connection and the retrospective impressiveness of the pre-Adamic deluge and its ensepulchred lives.

Once more, the idea of a new construction out of an old past, and of a new life out of an old death, may jar with all that is most sublime in our traditional conceptions of this Mosaic narrative. It may be out of harmony with our wonted ideas of God's great work in universal nature. It is. It must be. But which string is in fault? And yet, in this simple one-world creating there is left for us as much of sublimity as we can manage. As much? No; a sublimity too large and too intense for our managing. We find it in the one dominant and pervading idea, disclosed hereafter, of a Logos-power, which only wills, and it is. Less of vastness in one little world and its creating, but co-equal sublimity. But captiousness is unseemly here. We should be only humble pupils before this oracle.

"Darkness was upon the face of the deep." This word "the deep" (תּחוֹם) is almost a synonyme of the word "waters" (יַמִּים), with which the verse closes. The only difference seems to be that the latter word is used to designate any waters; the former, that particular mass of waters which God called "seas." The earth — the solid — was clad in waters. This is not distinctly stated here; but it is by the Psalmist (civ. 5-9) when describing the same event — "the laying of the foundations of the earth": "Thou didst cover it [the land] with the deep as with a garment. The waters stood above the mountains." Thus it was: The earth was mantled with waters; the waters were mantled with darkness. Such was the condition of the earth — the solid — when God took it in hand to "create it even unto an inhabiting."

Darkness was upon the surface of the watery mass; and the energizing power of God (Gesenius, רוּהַ, No. 4) was hovering over the surface of the waters; not yet operating upon, but ready to operate. The great deep — the sea (יָם, Job xxxviii. 8) — "broken forth as if it had issued out of the womb." Then did God make " thick darkness its swaddling-band, the cloud its natal garment." And now, as he was about to remand it, to enwomb it again, to shut it up once more "a sea with doors," the Jehovah-presence, silent, invisible, potent, like an eagle poised upon the wing (Deut. xxxii. 11) "was hovering" over this rebellious birth, just ready to bring back all things here to their old relations, to new order and form and beauty.

Let us review the ground over which we have passed, take note of some negative points to be kept in mind, and gather up those which have been textually unlocked. The negative points are important.

1. The earth does not comprise the world, but only its solid portion. 2. Nor does this signify that all the world was solid, except the waters. 3. Nor does it in the least degree indicate whether this solid, or whether this and the waters and the appertainings of each, had any describable shape — cubic, spherical, or otherwise. 4. Nor does it imply either that the solid had been solid always, or that it had not been solid always.

The points brought out are also important, and are very suggestive:

1. Before the "creating" there was a solid. 2. It was this very individual solid on which we live. 3. This solid had been the domicile of living creatures. 4. It had been graced with structural forms of natural symmetry and beauty. 5. It had been desolated; its lives and its forms alike extinct. G. The mass remained, under deluge and under darkness.

These simple facts, we say, are suggestive. This world and that the same. We are, therefore, justified in reasoning from this to that. The one fact of identity indicates that we may, that we ought, that we are expected to. Indeed, we can hardly avoid it, if we reason at all. The fact is an index-finger, and we ought to see that to which it points.

1. This our world is not alone; that world, the same, not alone. The inference is indicated; that is all. It is not demonstration, by any means. We get at it, however, by something like a logical, although instinctive, propulsion, but which has an authority sui generis. To us it would seem very odd, very unlike anything we have ever seen; very unlike anything, but the fabled Phenix, of which we have ever heard, — a solitary world. Nature docs not teach of such a thing. Reasoning does not. It is clean against all biblical analogies. Therefore we adopt our inference — that the old world, like the new (ours), was a world among worlds — a world having its fellows.6

But this throws us plump upon a coexisting cosmos, ante dating the creating here described. Be it so. It throws us, too, upon the same cosmos. Be it so, also; we accept the position.

2. This our world peopled, and with structural forms for its people; that world peopled too, and with structural forms for its people. This not an inference only, but also a fact stated in the writing. From this fact we reckon. We cannot look upon it with a dazed and gaping mind; we have no right to.

We do not know, indeed, that those peoples were just like ourselves; nor that those surrounding forms were just like the forms surrounding ourselves. Of course, we do not know that they all had necessities just like ours; so that we cannot reason assuredly from ourselves and ours to them and theirs. Yet, so far as we can judge, in the absence of all evidence to the contrary, both the animal and the vegetable lives then on this same world must have had necessities like ours, in the main, and like surroundings to meet those necessities. They must have had a sun.7 If so, their sun, ours; as their world, ours. And thus we are thrown again, by another route, but from the same Mosaic premise, upon a coexisting cosmos, antedating this Mosaic " creating," and identical with our own. With a double confidence, therefore, we accept the position. And with a double confidence we claim the position as one to which we are rightly led from our premises.

But we claim more. The writer, or rather his Divine Supervisor, tells us, before his history opens, that this world had been peopled — this world, which is in this cosmos, and under this sun. Now, can we possibly and rationally imagine this world in its aforetime, and having, as now, living denizens, yet without the same cosmos and the same sun? If not, then does the writer thrust us upon the position we have accepted; and he meant to do so. He meant to be understood as he knew that we should perforce understand him. He meant clearly to indicate that this world, when before inhabited, had the same astronomical surroundings and the same astronomical habitudes as now — the same sun and the same motions. What we claim more is, therefore, " by divine right." By this right we hold our position, and shall hold it, unless and until we find that our divine right is an illusion.

Pending this catastrophe, we ask: What right has any one to hold and to teach that the world was not astronomically arranged when it was tohu and bohu? What right to hold and to teach that then there was no sun? Again and again and again have we met with these (expository!) assertions; but we cannot remember that we have ever met with a single reason given.


1) The Hebrew particle Vav (וְ), like the Greek καί, has a great variety of meanings. Noldius, in his Concordance, specifics some seventy or eighty. It is sufficient here to say, that not infrequently it has the force of our word "now" in its sense of "at this time," as in our version Gen. iii. 1; xii. 1. And again, the force of "now" is a conjunction to introduce an explanation, as in Gen. xviii. 1: "Now, ho sat in the tent-door," etc. In this case, the account which follows is " explanatory " of how, or in what manner, "the Lord appeared unto Abraham," — the statement immediately preceding. The conjunction וְ intervenes to indicate this explanation. A case, we conceive, precisely parallel to the one in hand, "God created the heaven and the earth. Now (וְ) the earth was," etc. The Vav indicating a coming explanation of the preceding statement: " Now " (i.e. it was on this wise that God did create them) "the earth was without form," etc., to the close of the narrative. In cither of these cases, the natural effect of the translation "and," which appears in our version, is to reverse the time-order of the statements. In Gen. xviii. 1, to represent that God first appcored to Abraham, and that afterwards Abraham "sat in the door of his tent," etc. But the nature of the narrative forbids this construction; and so clearly that every reader reads "and," but understands " now," or, "on this wise it was." The same force, we conceive, pertains to the sumo particle in Gen. i. 2, and most pertinently. In this case, as in the other, a wrong index is given by the rendering "and." In neither case with "now" can any space of time be plausibly or naturally supposed between the first statement and what follows. In each case with now " the brief statement and the explanatory are bound together, or rather are identified by the conjunction. And in each the con junction indicates that the account following it is explanatory of the brief announcement before it. We have as much textual reason for saying that there is a hiatus of a thousand years, or of ten thousand, between the two clauses of Gen. xviii. 1, as for saying that there is a like hiatus between Gen. i. 1 and Gen. i. 2. The construction is precisely the same in each case. We do not regard the Septuagint as authority. Yet it is very noticeable how its translators in this particular case understood the Hebrew panicle. In all other cases, through out this chapter, they express it by καί; but here they express it by δέ. They do so also in iii. 1; x. 1; xii. 1; xvi. 1, where our version reads " now"; and also in iv. 1; xiii. I; xiv. I, where our version has "and." 

2) In our version the pertinence and force of the Hebrew particle (וְ) Vav is lost by the translation "and." With this conjunction the sentence seems to have no business there. It has the aspect of an interpolation. We give to the particle the rendering "for," or "because," which seems to us to be imperatively required by the context. Thus read, the sentence, otherwise irrelevant, assumes the highest importance; indicating impressively the cause of the fearful judgments described in the preceding and in the following context. For this signification of the particle, see Gesenius in וְ No. 4; Noldius וְ No. 30, p. 298.

3) See ante 1, Vol. xxxiii. p. 514.

4) Ante 1, Vol. xxxiii., p. 514.

5) Compare Prof. Lewis, in Lange, p. 132.

6) We cannot understand why it is so positively asserted by cosmogonic interpreters that the world "was not astronomically arranged" when in the state described in this second verse. we will state briefly our own views, without assuming to be dogmatical. When the first mass went off from the original incandescent nebula, its centrifugal force must have increased the distance between the two until the projectile had reached a point where the centrifugal and the centripetal exactly balanced each other. At this point, it seems to us, the separated body must have received orbital motion, and in ordinary cases, axial motion. The same must have been true in regard to other separated bodies; and also when these bodies, in like manner, were further separated. If we are correct in this, there could have been no time after the breaking up of the original nebula, when any one of the primitive photospheres was not "astronomically arranged."

7) Without pretentions to cosmic science we venture to make exception, away from exegetical ground, to the common assertion that "there was no sun" before the fourth Mosaic day. The remnant, after separations, of the grand original nebula was never extinguished. It has always been a sun. So also have been the remnants of its projected masses after their subdivisions. If so, there has always been one sun, from the first moment of primordial light, and always other suns, even before any worlds had ceased to be self-luminous.