Posted by Pastoral Musings on September 1st, 2012
Where The Chaos?
Our text tells us that God created the heavens and the earth, and that the earth was formless and empty. Some commentators today tell us that this passage is parallel to, or borrows from, certain Ancient Near Eastern myths which speak of the gods organizing the earth out of some sort of primordial chaos.
Certain ANE myths seem to speak of a watery chaos in which battles were waged between the gods. The Enuma Elish presents Tiamat as being some sort of sea creature/goddess with whom Marduk, god of Babylon waged war and won. There is, however, a vast difference between the unordered pandemonium of chaos in the ANE myths and the deep that is mentioned in the Genesis creation account.
The first thing that we need to recognize is that the unorganized chaos that was filled with upheaval and battle existed before the gods of the ANE myths. In Genesis the deep is created by God, thus distinguishing Him from the gods of Babylon, Egypt, etc.
As one studies the Enuma Elish, he finds that Marduk’s claim to fame and exaltation is due to his defeating Tiamat, the chaotic monster/goddess. It was as a result of this that he was elected by the other gods to be the high god. The glory of the God of the Bible is that He existed before all things and is Lord of heaven, earth, and all things. The Genesis creation account shows that there are no other gods than the God of the Bible.
There is also an Egyptian myth of a dragon which tried to conquer the sun god each night, but did not prevail. Our text shows that the darkness covered the deep, but there were no dragons. God spoke and light came into being. Instead of a life or death struggle with monsters or gods, there is simply a creation filled with darkness, and into this darkness God speaks and sends light with only a word.
The deep of the Genesis creation account is not chaotic. Though unorganized at first, it was not filled with gods and monsters. It was and calm, quiet, and empty earth which was covered with water. It seems that the Spirit of God hovered over the waters brooding, nurturing, and organizing; but not conquering, as there was no opposition to the work of the Creator.
The story, as it is told us in the Genesis creation account, shows us a creation and a God who is vastly different from the creation stories and gods of the ANE myths. The God of Genesis is the eternal, timeless, uncreated Creator who is Lord and Maker of all the universe. That is in contrast to the gods who are made from the bodies of other gods, gods who die or are killed, gods who battle among themselves, and gods who inhabit, or battle with the chaotic forces.
Looking at the Genesis creation account and the watery deep that covered the whole earth at the first of the creation, we find it quite calm and uneventful other than the creative work of God. This prompts the question, “Where the chaos?” The answer? It can be answered that it is in the ANE myths, but definitely not in the Genesis creation account.