I don’t know about you, but my mental picture of creation has always been full of mighty winds, enormous waves crashing, maybe even some lightening and thunder. I’m not sure where that image came from … but my picture was full of turbulence and upheaval. How have you always imagined creation?
Quite contrary to my image, however … thankfully … is the picture God gives us in Genesis.
“And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.”
I’m not sure where to start with this passage … it’s full of so many surprising and fantastically unforeseen discoveries about God!
In the last post we looked at the Hebrew word for Spirit of God and learned it was a feminine word. We also began to understand the ramifications of the fact that the Spirit—God—is described in the feminine. So, let’s begin today’s discoveries on the basic level of grammar.
If the idea of the Spirit as feminine seems questionable or difficult to swallow, Hebrew grammar helps us out by confirming the fact for us. “In Hebrew, verbs have gender and number, and every verb must agree with its subject in gender and number. Therefore, feminine singular nouns must take a feminine singular verb form.”
You guessed it; hovering is in the feminine singular form—agreeing with its subject—Spirit of God—it’s that simple. (Not sure why I haven’t heard much about this fact, however … hmm.)
Another interesting fact is that contrary to the Old Testament portrayals of God, neighboring ancient Near Eastern cultures divided their gods into distinctly male gods and female gods. Our God—introduced to us in creation—encompasses both genders and neither gender. Our God is beyond gender and inclusive of both genders right from the start.
And here’s the part I love …
While studying the word “hovering” I learned it’s not really hovering in the sense of an eerie floating spirit moving ghostlike over the waters. Rather … and listen closely … hovering is more correctly translated with words like: move gently, relax, to grow soft, cherish, and brood!
This is a maternal word—it’s a mother’s word!
It’s the same word Moses uses to describe God’s actions, “Like an eagle that protects her chicks and hovers over her young” (Deut. 32:11). It is the image of a bird protecting and nurturing new life that is forming under her!
The creation story in Genesis seems to want us to know that the earth is receiving the gentle maternal care of God!
It’s a story of God’s tenderness and loving presence!
It’s a story of motherly devotion as a new world is being formed beneath Her!
But there’s more…
The Hebrew word for water, mah-yim, begins and ends with the letter Mem. (Hebrew is read right to left.) In its closed form the mem symbolizes pregnancy and its open form it symbolizes birth; you can see the open and closed mem below.
מַיִם – water
Let’s put some things together…
We have the following words describing creation—formless, darkness, deep waters, the feminine word for God—is this sounding like a birth story to you?
Waters—birthing waters—something beautiful being created.
Water, in Scripture, is often symbolic of birth and rebirth. Noah’s flood waters were a new birth for the earth. When passing through the waters of the Red Sea, the nation of Israel was reborn. And baptism?… perhaps we ought to more accurately look at the waters of baptism as birthing waters! As we emerge from the waters of baptism (in whatever form they are given), it demonstrates our re-birth. We are now children of God … born of God … birthing waters.
Giving birth is not an unusual image for God in Scripture. Isaiah tells us God says, “But now, like a woman in labor, I will cry and groan and pant” (Isa 42.14). John tells us those who believe are children of God “… born not of flesh … but born of God” (Jn 1:13).
It is God who brings forth life … who labors to bring forth new life!
It’s not about body parts or reproductive functions. “Feminine energy is connected with fertility, but again, doesn’t need to be reduced to human reproduction. Growth, whether it’s spiritual, physical, or emotional, celebrates a feminine energy in that we give life to something that was not there before.”
So, if Scripture is God’s self-revelation … helping us to better understand and be in relationship with God, then what do you think God wants us to understand from this passage? What is it about God that is so important it is revealed to us in the very first verses of the entire Bible?
Here’s what I think …
The creation story is a love story!
It’s a true love story as our God gently sways, hovering, rocking back and forth, cradling this newly born creation—earth.
I believe Scripture is clearly teaching us there is a tender side to God that only the metaphor of a mother can reveal. Motherhood, the feminine, they do not define God; these similes just give us a better way to understand the whole character of our God.
I believe the creation story is in Scripture not only to tell us how our world was created, but perhaps more importantly, to help us know that as part of that creation, we are loved. We are coddled in the warm and caring arms of God—like those of a mother who looks into the eyes of her newborn and smiles.
If this information is new to you, it’s worth asking why? Why haven’t you or I heard this before? Why haven’t we been taught about the Spirit of God, about hovering, about waters of new life?
Whether you’ve thought about these traits of God before or not, I encourage you to share these insights about the whole character of God with someone else … maybe the next time you’re teaching Sunday school … maybe with your small group … your children or grandchildren … your pastor … anybody … so that others don’t have to ask why they have never heard about the feminine in God.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.”
Lying in bed last night it hit me—it all started with Eve and patriarchy’s distortion of what “helper” actually means. Afterall, how can a woman pay attention to her own needs when she’s told the very reason she exists is to focus on others?!
Okay … right up front … I am NOT an expert in self-care! I am learning right alongside you—realizing that self-care is not self-ish … learning how to prioritize my own needs … and perhaps the hardest, figuring out what those needs actually are!
Happy to announce a brand, new Facebook Page for Daughters of Eve!
Enjoy motivational quotes, thought-provoking facts, links to other helpful sites, access links to this blog, and some stunning and serene pictures. I’m just getting started … be sure to follow along so you don’t miss out!