MembersIn the Beginning was the Word – in Hebrew

Tohu va-vohu

By Aviel Schneider |

The biblical concept tohu va-vohu is translated in our English bibles as “without form and empty” or “formless and void.” The term is intended to describe a situation of utter disorder, confusion or chaos. In the German translations tohu va-vohu is translated as “chaotic and empty” (wüst und leer). So, where does the Hebrew phrase tohu va-vohu come from, and what does it really mean?

Tohu va-vohu consists of the two words tohu and vohu (תהו ובהו), which are found in this form only three times in the Bible. “And the earth was formless and void (תהו ובהו), and darkness was over the surface of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters” (Genesis 1:2). The exact combination of words (tohu va-vohu) is only found in one other place in the Bible. It appears in a vision given to the prophet Jeremiah describing the condition of a nation after war. Jeremiah describes the earth as tohu va-vohu: he no longer sees any light or any birds in the skies, the cities are...

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