The earth was without form and void - The original term tohu and bohu , which we translate without form and void, are of uncertain etymology; but in this place, and wherever else they are used, they convey the idea of confusion and disorder. From these terms it is probable that the ancient Syrians and Egyptians borrowed their gods, Theuth and Bau, and the Greeks their Chaos. God seems at first to have created the elementary principles of all things; and this formed the grand mass of matter, which in this state must be without arrangement, or any distinction of parts: a vast collection of indescribably confused materials, of nameless entities strangely mixed; and wonderfully well expressed by an ancient heathen poet: -
Ante mare et terras, et, quod tegit omnia, caelum,
Unus erat toto naturae vultus in orbe, Quem dixere
Chaos; rudis indigestaque moles,
Nec quicquam nisi pondus iners; congestaque eodem
Non bene junctarum discordia semina rerum .
Before the seas and this terrestrial ball,
And heaven' s high canopy that covers all,
One was the face of nature, if a face;
Rather, a rude and indigested mass;
A lifeless lump, unfashion' d and unframed,
Of jarring seeds, and justly Chaos named.
The most ancient of the Greeks have spoken nearly in the same way of this crude, indigested state of the primitive chaotic mass.
When this congeries of elementary principles was brought together, God was pleased to spend six days in assimilating, assorting, and arranging the materials, out of which he built up, not only the earth, but the whole of the solar system.
The spirit of God - This has been variously and strangely understood. Some think a violent wind is meant, because , ruach often signifies wind, as well as spirit, as , does in Greek; and the term God is connected with it merely, as they think, to express the superlative degree. Others understand by it an elementary fire. Others, the sun, penetrating and drying up the earth with his rays. Others, the angels, who were supposed to have been employed as agents in creation. Others, a certain occult principle, termed the anima mundi or soul of the world. Others, a magnetic attraction, by which all things were caused to gravitate to a common center. But it is sufficiently evident from the use of the word in other places, that the Holy Spirit of God is intended; which our blessed Lord represents under the notion of wind, John 3:8; and which, as a mighty rushing wind on the day of Pentecost, filled the house where the disciples were sitting, Acts 2:2, which was immediately followed by their speaking with other tongues, because they were filled with the Holy Ghost, Acts 2:4. These scriptures sufficiently ascertain the sense in which the word is used by Moses.
Moved - merachepheth , was brooding over; for the word expresses that tremulous motion made by the hen while either hatching her eggs or fostering her young. It here probably signifies the communicating a vital or prolific principle to the waters. As the idea of incubation, or hatching an egg, is implied in the original word, hence probably the notion, which prevailed among the ancients, that the world was generated from an egg.
Other Adam Clarke entries containing Genesis 1:2:
1 Samuel 12:21
1 Corinthians 15:45
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