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Genesis 1:2

Hebrew Text

;vj - Darkness

Darkness was not the absence of light in ancient times. It is associated with thick black clouds (TDOT, 5:245-259). God inscribed a circle upon the face of the waters at the boundary between light and darkness. This circle is the horizon. Darkness has its own abode or storehouse like the light, snow, and hail. Darkness was a created matter (Isa. 45:7), but creation may mean it was ordered, named, and subjugated to God’s control. In Genesis 1:2 darkness covers the deep like thick black clouds. It is not just the absence of light. Did the absence of light cover the deep? No! In Genesis darkness is not abolished, but is subjugated to God’s control by separating it and naming it.

In Job 26:10 God inscribes a circle (gj) upon the face of the waters at the boundary between light and darkness. This boundary circle is the horizon. This circle held the heavens and earth together. A rip in this would flood the world with water. It is at the horizon where the light of dawn comes forth.

In Job 38:19 God asks Job, "What is the way to the abode of light? And where does darkness reside? Can you take them to their places? Do you know the paths to their dwellings" (NIV)? Job does not know the abode or the way of the light or the darkness. He has not entered the storehouse of the snow or hail (verse 22). Darkness is considered a substance that has its own house. Today we define darkness as the absence of light.

Psalm 18:11 says, "He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him-the dark rain clouds of the sky" (NIV). Here "darkness" is defined as "dark rain clouds." It seems that the substance of darkness is thick dark clouds. It is the dark clouds that cause or bring darkness.

Psalm 97:2 (also Job 22:14) says, "Clouds and thick darkness surround him (God)" (NIV). Darkness is like a tent or veil that shrouds the glory of God like the tabernacle. Darkness is a characteristic of theophanies.

Ancient Near Eastern Literature

According to the Babylonians the light of the moon kept the darkness of night from turning into the darkness of the netherworld where demons dominate especially when there was an eclipse or new moon.

In Egypt the Apophis is the dragon of darkness that is defeated by Re each morning. Apophis is said to swallow the sun when there is a solar eclipse. There is a constant struggle between light and darkness. In the Hymn to the Aton "Darkness is a shroud" which the sun, Aton drives away (ANET, 1969, 370).

Jewish Literature

Philo states, "To one he gave the name Darkness since the air when left to itself, is black" (On The Creation, 29; LCL, Vol. 1, 23). Here wht is translated as air and given the name Darkness.

In Genesis Rabbah the future is seen is this verse. According to R. Judah the darkness upon the deep refers to the generations of Enosh because their works are in the dark (Isa. 29:15; Neusner, 23). This may reflect the Fragment-Targum translation. R. Simeon states, "Darkness refers to Greece which clouded the vision of the Israelites through its decrees" (Neusner, 24).

Next - The Deep