I was looking at Genesis 1:2 the other day and I was wondering if I understood it correctly was the earth unformed and unfilled and covered (surrounded) by water and darkness?

1 Answer 1


That seems to be right. Genesis 1:2 reads: “Now the earth was tohu vavohu and darkness was upon the face of the tehom and the ruach elohim hovered over the face of the waters.”

No one knows seems to know what tohu vavohu means, but it denotes unformed or unfashioned matter. It seems that it is denoting that the world was unformed before creation as if G-d used pre-existing matter to form the world. The word tehom is usually translated as “deep.” The phrase ruach elohim is usually translated as “the spirit of G-d,” but ruach means “wind.” It is saying that a “a strong wind,” blew across a deep. The basic meaning of elohim is "powerful." G-d is called Elohim (in the plural) because G-d is more powerful than anything else.

  • where does "unfilled" come in?
    – rosends
    Oct 22, 2020 at 13:44
  • Is the deep the same as the waters?
    – Y.Talmid
    Oct 22, 2020 at 14:03
  • @Y.Talmid Well, we don't really know what tehom means. Its very obscure. It is usally translated as “deep.” But what is a “deep?” Some say it refers to water that covered the earth and that the earth rose above it. Though this is not really explicit in the text. Eitehr way, it seems to denote something existed before creation, a deep.
    – Turk Hill
    Oct 22, 2020 at 14:14
  • @rosends Again, unfilled and unformed seem to be the best translation for the obscure words tohu vavohu. No one really knows what tohu vavohu means. It seems to indicate that something in the world, if not the world itself was unformed. Some have suggested that this indicate that the world was soaked in water. Though this is not explicit.
    – Turk Hill
    Oct 22, 2020 at 14:16
  • 1
    This answer is not in keeping with traditional Jewish teaching. The parsha of Bereshit in particular is very complex information and near impossible to comprehend without the oral Torah. Ignoring the oral tradition on this turns the parsha into a fairytale appropriate only for children. The assumption that "no one seems to know what tohu vavohu means" is also simply wrong. Try looking, for example, at the commentary of Ramban on this. Concerning your struggle with a deeper understanding of the meaning of words, Try looking, for example at Sefer Kehillat Yaacov by Rabbi Yaacov Tzvi Yolles. Oct 22, 2020 at 15:52

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