The Study of Scripture
By Arlen L. Chitwood
The Septenary Arrangement of Scripture
Hebrews 4:1-11 deals with a rest that will be realized by “the people of God” during the seventh millennium dating from the restoration of the earth and the creation of man in the first chapter of Genesis.
Teachings surrounding this rest, textually and contextually, viewed from the standpoint of the way matters are outlined in the book of Hebrews, are based on three portions of Old Testament Scripture:
The experiences of the Israelites under Moses, and later Joshua, during a past dispensation form the type; and the experiences of Christians under Christ during the present dispensation, leading into the coming dispensation, form the antitype.
Then teachings surrounding a rest lying before both the Israelites in the type and Christians in the antitype are drawn from the rest that God entered into following six days of work in Genesis chapters one and two.
And the Sabbath was given to the Jewish people
to keep, ever before them, throughout their generations,
that foreshadowed by events in the opening two chapters of
Genesis (cf. Exodus 20:8-11; 31:13-17).
“Was” or “Became”
It would go without saying that there has been
a great deal of controversy over the years among theologians and
Christians in general concerning exactly how the opening two
chapters of Genesis should be understood. And it would also
go without saying that, as a result, confusion has reigned supreme
in Christian circles concerning not only these chapters but the
general tenor of the remainder of Scripture as well.
Those in one school (probably the position held by the majority today) view the six days in the first chapter as time revealing and describing God’s creative activity from verse one.
And those in the other school view these six
days as time revealing God’s restoration of a ruined creation (creation
seen in v. 1, a ruin
of this creation seen in v. 2a, and God’s restoration
of the ruined creation seen in vv. 2b ff).
1) The relationship of the three circumstantial clauses that form the second verse to that which is stated in the first verse.
The meaning of the Hebrew word hayah in verse
two (translated “was”).
1. The Three Circumstantial Clauses
The three circumstantial clauses in Genesis 1:2 are simply the clauses that form the verse:
1) The earth was without form, and void;
2) and darkness was on the face of the deep.
3) And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
In the Hebrew text there is what is called a “waw” beginning verse two (a conjunctive or disjunctive particle [actually, a letter in the Hebrew alphabet, the waw, prefixed to a word], usually translated “and” in most English texts). Some grammarians view this particle beginning verse two in a conjunctive sense (showing a connection between v. 1 and v. 2), and other grammarians view it in a disjunctive sense (showing a separation between v. 1 and v. 2).
(The other two circumstantial clauses in verse two begin with “waw” as well, which will be discussed later.
The Hebrew text of the Old Testament uses the “waw” more frequently in a conjunctive [“and”] rather than a disjunctive [“but”] sense. Of the approximately 28,000 usages of this particle, some 25,000 appear to be conjunctive and some 3,000 disjunctive. Normally the context determines how the particle is to be understood.)
Understanding the structure of the Hebrew text
after this fashion would necessitate viewing that which is described
at the beginning of verse two as the condition of the
earth at the time of the action described in verse one.
That is to say, God would have initially created the earth (v. 1)
in the condition described in verse two. Then the six
subsequent days would have to be looked upon as time in which God,
step by step, performed and completed His work of creation
introduced in verse one.
Using the King James Version (KJV) text to illustrate, the translators of the Septuagint used de and kai to translate the three Hebrew “waws” in this manner:
And [De, lit., But] the earth was without form, and void; and [kai] darkness was upon the face of the deep. And [kai] the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
And, viewing the verse beginning in a disjunctive sense of the preceding nature, there would be no connection between the first two verses of Genesis. Rather, a separation would exist instead. Within this view, one would normally see verse one revealing an absolute beginning, with verse two (along with the following verses) revealing events occurring at later points in time.
(Most holding this linguistic view see verse two as a description of God’s perfect creation [from verse one] being brought into a ruined state, separated from verse one by an unrevealed period of time. And they would, accordingly, see God’s activity during the six days as activity surrounding the restoration of this ruined creation.
Some holding this linguistic view though still see the six days as time revealing God’s creative activity. They view verse one as describing a “grand summary declaration that God created the universe in the beginning.” Then, apart from seeing a connection between v. 1 and v. 2, they view God’s activity during the six days as a revelation concerning how God accomplished that which He had previously stated in verse one.)
(Leupold, a Hebrew grammarian from
past years, in his commentary on Genesis, appears to capture
the overall thought of hayah to mark beginning and/or ending
points in each day quite well by translating, “. . . Then came
evening, then came morning — the first day the second day
. . . the third day,” etc.)
Then note the words, “. . . and it was so,”
at the end of verses 7, 9, 11, 15, 24,
30. “Was” in each reference is a translation of the word
hayah, and it is easy to see that “became” rather than “was”
would really provide a better description of that which occurred in
each instance, translating, “. . . and it became so” (cf.
“Let there be [a translation of hayah] . . . .” [vv.
3, 6, 14]).
is called to this fact because numerous individuals look at
translating hayah “became [or ‘had become’]” as so rare in
the Old Testament that serious consideration should not be given to
the thought of translating Genesis 1:2, “And [or ‘But’] the
earth became [or ‘had become’] . . . .” But the rarity is in the
English translations, not in a literal Hebrew rendering or in
certain other translations (e.g., in the King James Version there
are only 17 instances in all of Genesis where hayah
has been translated “became [or, ‘become’ [2:7, 10;
3:22; 9:15; 18:18; 19:26; 20:12;
21:20; 24:67; 32:10; 34:16; 37:20;
47:20, 26; 48:19]; but in the Septuagint there are
at least 146 instances [and some 1,500 in the entire Old
But this is to say that the correct linguistic
position for Genesis 1:2 and the correct corresponding
interpretation of the entire chapter — which can be shown by going
to the remainder of Scripture — is a position that God would have
expected man to see as evident when he began reading at this
point in Genesis, though man many times has not
done so (past) and does not do so (present).
1) There are good, reputable Hebrew scholars who hold varying views on the opening verses of Genesis, which are many times based strictly on their understanding of the structure of the Hebrew text, apart from contextual considerations.
2) Though the linguistics of the Hebrew text (within the different ways scholars understand the linguistics of the text) will support any one of these views, all but one are out of line with the remainder of Scripture and are, consequently, wrong.
That is to say, though it may be possible to
support different views from the structure of the Hebrew text alone
(the way different scholars understand the syntax of the Hebrew
text), different views cannot be supported when the remainder
of Scripture is taken into consideration — with or without the
Hebrew text. Scripture will support only one view, and that
one view is the position alluded to in the opening portion of this
1) “Creation” (an absolute creation [v. 1]).
2) “Ruin” of the creation (which means that the “waw” prefixed to the word beginning v. 2 must be understood in a disjunctive sense [“But”], and the Hebrew word hayah must be understood in the sense of “became [or ‘had become’]” [v. 2a]).
3) “Restoration” of the ruined creation (vv. 2b-25).
4) “Rest,” following six days of restorative work (1:2b-2:3).
And to illustrate this is not difficult at all. In fact, the opposite is true. It is a very simple matter to illustrate, from other Scripture, exactly how the opening verses of Genesis must be understood.
In this respect, first note the words tohu wavohu from the Hebrew text of Genesis 1:2.
The words tohu wavohu are translated “without form and void” in the KJV English text (“formless and void,” NASB; “formless and empty,” NIV; “waste and void,” ASV). These two Hebrew words are used together only two other places throughout all of the Old Testament — in Isaiah 34:11 and Jeremiah 4:23. And both of these passages present a ruin of that previously seen existing in an orderly state.
In Isaiah 34:11, “Edom” (vv. 5, 6), representing all nations in the future Lord’s Day (vv. 2, 8), was destined to become tohu wavohu (translated “confusion” and “emptiness” [KJV], “desolation” and “emptiness” [NASB]).
And in Jeremiah 4:23-28, there is a comparison of that which had previously occurred relative to the earth in Genesis 1:2a to that which was about to occur relative to the land of Israel.
The land of Israel was about to become tohu wavohu. That is, as seen in Jeremiah 4:23-28, God was about to do the same thing to the land of Israel (cf. vv. 14:22) that He had previously done to the earth in Genesis 1:2a. And the reason for both of these actions — that which God had done to the earth, and that which He was about to do to the land of Israel — was the same. Sin had entered (sin on the part of Satan in the former, and sin on the part of the Jewish people in the latter).
And, in complete keeping with this type of understanding of the use of tohu wavohu in Isaiah 34:11 and Jeremiah 4:23, Isaiah 45:18 (where the Hebrew word tohu is used, translated “in vain”) clearly states that God did not create the earth (in Genesis 1:1) in the manner described in Genesis 1:2a. Isaiah 45:18 states that God “created it [the earth] not in vain [not ‘tohu,’ not ‘without form,’].”
Thus, if Gensis 1:2a is to be understood in the light of related Scripture bearing on the subject (which it must be [cf. Psalm12:6; Isaiah 8:20; 28:10; 1 Corinthians 2:13]), there can be only one possible interpretation — the ruin of a prior existing creation (from v. 1), because of sin. The earth from verse one “became” tohu wavohu.
The ruin seen in both Genesis 1:2a and Jeremiah 4:23, for a purpose, is with a view to eventual restoration. And the restoration seen in the continuing text of Genesis 1:2 (vv. 2b-25) and in the overall passage of Jeremiah 4:23ff (v. 27b), as well as in related Scripture (e.g., Isaiah 35:1ff), is also for a purpose.
Then, the whole of subsequent Scripture is perfectly in line with this type of understanding of the opening section of Scripture. The whole of subsequent Scripture is built on a septenary structure, with the foundation established and set in an unchangeable fashion at the beginning, in Genesis 1:1-2:3.
That is to say:
The heavens and the earth were created, there was ruin of the material creation (because of sin), God took six days to restore the ruined creation, and He rested the seventh day.
Man was created on the sixth day, man fell into a state of ruin (because of sin), God is presently taking six days [6,000 years] to restore man, and God will rest the seventh day (the seventh 1,000-year period [cf. 2 Peter 1:15-18; 3:3-8]).
And the latter restoration, patterned after the former restoration, is what the whole of Scripture is about. The whole of Scripture is about the same thing initially introduced and established in an unchangeable fashion in the opening thirty-four verses of Genesis (1:1-2:3). The whole of Scripture is about the creation of man, his ruin, his restoration over a six-day period (over a 6,000-year period), followed by a seventh day of rest (a seventh 1,000-year period — the Sabbath rest awaiting the people of God [Hebrew 4:9; cf. vv. 3, 4], the Messianic Era).
As previously stated, man would have been expected to understand this opening section of Scripture after the preceding fashion at the time it was written. And subsequent Scripture simply verifies the correctness of the way man would have been expected to understand this opening section at that time, apart from other revelation.
Days in Scripture
The structure of God’s revelation to man will
be set forth briefly under three headings, and material discussed
under these three headings will relate specifically to how
particular sections of Scripture handle the matter at hand. Then
attention will be called to other related Scriptures outside these
sections to better present the overall picture from the whole of
The Sabbath was given to Israel as a sign, and the Sabbath was to be observed by the Jewish people “throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant” (Exodus 31:16). In this respect, God stated concerning the Sabbath,
It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever: for in six days the LORD made heavens and earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed. (Exodus 31:17)
When giving the Sabbath to Israel (cf. Exodus 20:11) or referring to the Sabbath rest awaiting the people of God in the book of Hebrews (4:4-9), in each instance, for a very good reason, God called attention to that which had occurred in Genesis chapters one and two.
There is a latter work of restoration, followed by rest, which is based on a former work of restoration, followed by rest; and the Sabbath was given to the Jewish people to keep this thought ever before them.
But a ruin ensued once again. Man, an entirely
new creation in the universe, fell; and, as a result, the restored
material creation was brought under a curse (Genesis 3:17),
leaving God with two ruined creations: man, and the
According to Scripture, God set about to
restore the subsequent ruined creations in exactly the same
manner as He had restored the former ruined creation in the
opening chapter of Genesis. God set about to restore the two
subsequent ruined creations over a six-day period (in keeping with
Genesis 1:2b-25); and, in keeping with Genesis 2:2,
3, following His restoration work, God would then rest on the
Thus, the latter restoration must occur
over a six-day period. And this six-day period of restorative work
must, as the former, be followed by a day of rest.
The Sabbath was a “sign,” and a sign in
Scripture points to something beyond itself. This “sign,” the
Sabbath, points to a seventh-day rest that God will enter into
with His people (“the people of God” in Hebrews
4:9) following six previous days of restorative work.
Jesus performed such signs for one central purpose:
. . . that you
[the Jews] might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son
of God; and that believing you might have life through His
name. (John 20:30, 31; cf. John 2:11;
5:46, 47; 6:14, 21; 11:45).
Seven of the eight signs in the gospel of
John were performed in connection with particular days, all in
perfect keeping with one another, all in perfect keeping with the
sign of the Sabbath, and all in perfect keeping with the septenary
arrangement of Scripture. And all of the signs refer, after
different fashions, to the same thing. They
to things surrounding Israel’s
coming salvation and restoration, which will occur after six
days (after 6,000 years), in the seventh day
(in the seventh 1,000-year period).
And both the sign and type would foreshadow the
same future event. They would both point to that future time when
the nation will be healed and will be allowed to enter the land
under Christ, an event that will occur on the seventh day,
Israel has slain the Lamb (cf. Exodus 12:6;
Acts 2:36; 3:14, 15), but the nation has yet to
appropriate the blood (cf. Exodus 12:7, 13;
Zechariah 12:10; Romans 11:26). The Passover, the first
of seven Jewish festivals outlining a prophetic calendar and
sequence of events in relation to Israel, will be fulfilled in that
coming day when Israel does appropriate the blood. And this will
then be followed by a continued supernatural provision for the
nation, exactly as foreshadowed by the sign.
The eighth sign, in 20:1-29, has
to do with Christ’s resurrection, after two days, on the
third day. This sign pints to that coming third day, dating
from the crucifixion, when not only Israel but all of God’s
firstborns (Christ, Israel, and the Church [following the adoption])
will be raised up to live in His sight, which will be after two
days, on the third day.
a) At a time following the creation of the heavens and the earth (“the heavens . . . of old” and “the world that then was [the world existing at the time of ‘the heavens . . . of old’ (in Genesis 1:1, not during the days of Noah)]” [2 Peter 3: 5, 6]).
At a time following the restoration of the heavens and the earth
(“the heavens and the earth that are now,” existing since the
restoration in Genesis 1:2b-25 [2 Peter 3: 7]).
The destruction of the former is seen in
Genesis 1:2a (“But the earth had become without form,
and void; and darkness [the sun had ceased to give its
light] was upon the face of the deep [the raging waters]”),
and the destruction of the latter — destruction by fire — is seen in
succeeding verses in 2 Peter (3:10ff).
But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. (2 Peter 3:8)
Understood contextually (vv. 3-7), the
verse is self-explanatory. “The heavens and the earth,
which are now” (v. 7) must cover the entire septenary
period from chapter one (vv. 16-18), else 2
Peter 3:8 would be meaningless. And each day in this period is
revealed to be one thousand years in length — six millennia
of work, followed by one millennium of rest, based on the opening
verses of Genesis.
(Note one thing about the restoration in Genesis 1:2b-25 that should be understood. This restoration could only have been a complete restoration. No trace of “the world that then was” [the world preceding the ruin seen in Genesis 1:2a], or the subsequent ruined earth [in Genesis 1:2a], can be seen in “the heavens and the earth, which are now.”
A complete restoration would have removed all traces of anything having to do with “the world that then was” or with that world during that time when it lay in a ruined state. That is to say, geology today cannot show evidence of any type of pre-existing creation or a ruin of that pre-existing creation, for a complete restoration — the only type of restoration possible through the divine work seen in Genesis chapter one — would have removed all traces of a pre-existing creation and ruin.
In this respect, all that exists in the present secular world of history and science — e.g., the complete fossil record, the dinosaurs, topographical formations such as the Grand Canyon, etc. — would all have to be placed on this side of the restoration seen in Genesis 1:2b-25, within time covered by “the heavens and the earth, which are now.”
That which occurred during and which resulted from the Noachian Flood, 1656 years following the restoration of the earth (Genesis 6-8), along with later topographical changes on the earth during the days of Peleg [born 100 years after the Flood (Genesis 10:25), must be looked to for an explanation of numerous things of the preceding nature, not to a world lying in ruins in Genesis 1:2a, or to a world existing prior to that time.)
Viewing the whole of Scripture, the correct interpretation of the opening verses of Genesis can be clearly and unquestionably presented through:
1) The manner in which the Hebrew words from Genesis 1:2a, tohu wavohu, are used elsewhere in Scripture (interpreting Scripture in the light of Scripture [Isaiah 34:11; 45:18; Jeremiah 4:23]).
2) And through the typical nature of Old Testament history (1 Corinthians 10:6, 11), which has been set forth in a very evident divinely established septenary arrangement.
And these opening verses, providing the
divinely established basis for that which follows, must be
“The thought of a ruined condition of the earth succeeding its original creation . . . is . . . required by the typical view [that is, the earth’s creation, ruin, and subsequent restoration forms a type of (foreshadows) man’s creation, ruin, and subsequent restoration].”
Accordingly, the opening verses of Genesis
cannot deal strictly with Creation; nor can these
verses deal strictly with Restoration. Either view would be
out of line with the whole of Scripture, beginning with the central
theme of Scripture, the message of redemption.
absolute beginning, and a perfect creation [v. 1]).