TOHU VAVOHU (תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ)

A phrase found in Genesis 1:2 that describes the condition of the earth immediately before the creation of light. Numerous interpretations of this phrase have been made: "formless and void, unseen and unformed, chaotic, in confusion, laid waste, desert, empty, unreal, nothing", while rabbinical interpretations interpret other meanings, including a "green line" and "damp stones". 

The words tohu and bohu also occur in parallel in Isaiah 34:11. Tohu is frequently used in the Book of Isaiah in the sense of "vanity". Bohu occurs nowhere else in the Hebrew Bible.


When God began to create heaven and earth— the earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep and a wind from God sweeping over the water— God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.

(Genesis 1:1-3)

For it is the LORD’s day of retribution, The year of vindication for Zion’s cause. Its streams shall be turned to pitch And its soil to sulfur. Its land shall become burning pitch, Night and day it shall never go out; Its smoke shall rise for all time. Through the ages it shall lie in ruins; Through the aeons none shall traverse it. Jackdaws and owls shall possess it; Great owls and ravens shall dwell there. He shall measure it with a line of chaos And with weights of emptiness.

(Isaiah 34:8-11)

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