When you get down to it, the scholars do not agree as to what the Hebrew phrase, “Tohu VaBohu” as it appears in Genesis 1:2 means. There are various ways that it has been translated. My favorite translation the English Standard Version (ESV) says, “The earth was without form and void.” The Lexham English Bible (LEB) says, “formless and empty.” The New English Translations says, “without shape and empty.” The Good News Bible (GNB) says, “formless and desolate.” One of the looser translations, the Contemporary English Version (CEB) says, “barren with no form of life.” Going to an even less literal translation, the Living Bible (LB) says, “shapeless chaotic mass.” Eugene Peterson in his paraphrase called The Message (TM) says, “a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness.” But most translations simply use some slight variation of the King James Version (KJV) of “without form and void.”

More than a couple commentators relate the idea of formless and void with the idea of “confusion.” I don’t want to quote a lot of commentaries here but many of them agree with Matthew Henry’s assertion, “The earth is stripped of all its ornaments and looks as if it were taken off its basis; it is made empty and waste (v. 1), as if it were reduced to its first chaos, Tohu and Bohu, nothing but confusion and emptiness again (Gen. 1:2), without form and void.”[1] I Agree with the Apostle Paul who says in 1 Corinthians 14:33 “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.”

I would like to argue that God didn’t make the earth that way. Isaiah 45:18 (ESV) says “For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): I am the Lord, and there is no other.” Something had to have happened between verse 1 “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” and verse 2 “the earth was without form and void.” What could that have been? I think it was the sin of Satan. As I understand it, Satan sinned in heaven. Satan and a third of the angels were cast down to earth. Heaven was saved but not the earth. It became formless and void. The earth is almost reduced to the same condition again by the sin of man, under which the creation groans.  Jeremiah sees the consequences of the sin of Judah as creating a similar effect and uses the same words to describe what he sees. Jeremiah 4:23 says, “I beheld the earth, and lo it was without form, and void.”

Sin caused the world to be “without form and void.” That’s the condition of man before he becomes a “new creation” through faith in Jesus Christ. Matthew Henry says, “If the work of grace in the soul is a new creation, this chaos represents the state of an unregenerate graceless soul: there is disorder, confusion, and every evil work; it is empty of all good, for it is without God; it is dark, it is darkness itself. This is our condition by nature, till almighty grace effects a blessed change.”[2]

[1] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 1120.

[2] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 4.