“And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” (Genesis 1:2, ESV)
What kind of images does this opening passage from Genesis create in the mind of man? What might this new nation of people that have been redeemed from Egypt by the hand of God think when they heard “The Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters”? The Spirit here is called the ruah of Elohim which can mean breath, wind, or spirit of God. This Spirit of God would become an active agent of God’s power manifest throughout His creation, and would also become a very hotly debated aspect of the nature of God down through the history of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim religions. Here in the opening of the book of beginnings we have a picture of the Earth formless, void and covered in waters, possibly an expression of chaos and disorder, and the Spirit of God hovering or vibrating over the face of these waters. Many of the creation stories of the ancient eastern cultures feature a theme of chaos to order, with chaos being very much associated with water. It was also expected that order would follow out of this chaos. So, here in the beginning of Genesis we begin to see one aspect of the Spirit of God’s power and actions in the creation story, bringing order out of chaos. Later when God creates man in His image is it then possible that one of man’s roles as an image bearer (one who acts as a representative of God) is to also continue to bring order out of chaos. (subdue the earth)
God would continue to give us more insight into His very nature as the scriptures would unfold to His people. At this point, we should stop for one moment and consider a very important aspect of how God has revealed himself to man. It is through His Word, and in His Word, we have ways in which God has described himself in terms that we can relate to. One way this is done is through what is called in the theological world an anthropomorphism. What that means is that God describes himself with human-like terms that we can associate with. When it says God’s righteous right arm, it does not mean that God who is spirit and invisible has arms or legs or anything else of that nature, but that for us to understand an aspect of His nature that is how He is described. This is very important to keep in mind, if we forget that basic concept we can begin to bring God down to our human level rather than keep him exalted.
That said, God’s Spirit, the very essence of who he is, is first revealed in the very opening passage of the scripture. It is the ruah of God that is hovering over the waters closely followed in the text with God speaking. What would Spirit, a word that also means breath mean to a people that had just some come out of Egypt?
Breathing is what shows life, so the Spirit would be seen as the source of life, and it is that source of life that is later shown to have given life to the first man. (Gen 2:7) We now have a theme about the very nature of God in that it is He that gives life to all things. We see this theme, as well as the creative theme, vividly displayed when Job says “The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” (Job 33:4, ESV).
We will continue this Journey to discover more about the Spirit of God in Part 2.
 A Study on the dual form of Mayim, Water; Min Suc Kee, Ph.D. University of Manchester (England), teaches Bible at the Korea Baptist Theological University in Daejeon, South Korea