How do you reconcile the apparent contradiction between Isaiah 45: 18 and Genesis 1: 1–2?
Isaiah 45: 18 reads as follows: “For thus saith Jehovah who created the heavens, God himself who formed the earth and made it, he who established it,––not as waste did he create it: he formed it to be inhabited:––I [am] Jehovah, and there is none else”. Genesis 1: 1–2 reads: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was waste and empty, and darkness was on the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters”. The Hebrew word for waste in both passages (tohu) is the same––hence the apparent contradiction. Genesis 1: 2 speaks of a world that was waste and empty; Isaiah 45: 18 says that God did not create it waste. Now if in verse one of Genesis we are told that God created the earth, and in Isaiah 45: 18 that God did not create the earth as waste, then is it not obvious that verse two of Genesis, which refers to the earth as waste, cannot refer to the earth in its original created condition? Thus between the first and second verses of Genesis something happened to transfer the form of the earth from “not as waste” to “waste”.
The meaning suggested by the word waste is uninhabitable––as is made clear by the context in which it is used in the passage in Isaiah: “…not as waste did he create it: he formed it to be inhabited”. Thus when Genesis 1: 1 speaks of the creation of the earth, we can be absolutely certain on the inspired testimony of Isaiah that he created it habitable, since Isaiah tells us quite specifically that God did not create it “waste” (that is, uninhabitable). However, when we come to Genesis 1: 2 we find the earth is now uninhabitable, and the purpose of the creative acts detailed thereon are clearly to restore the earth to an habitable state. What caused the condition of the earth to change from “not as waste” to “waste” we are not told, nor the length of the interval between the first two verses of Genesis.
It has been suggested that the waste condition of the earth was as a result of God’s judgement against sin, and certainly the tone of verse two of Genesis gives credibility to this idea. However, some have objected to this on the grounds of Romans 5: 12: “For this [cause], even as by one man sin entered into the world, and by sin death; and thus death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned”. They argue from this that sin first came to the earth by Adam’s sin, and that therefore there could not be a previous judgement against the earth on account of sin. Even the most cursory examination of the early chapters of Genesis shows that this could not be true since we find a sinful being––the Serpent––on the earth before man had sinned. The fact is, the words world and earth are not necessarily interchangeable, and in Rom. 5: 12 world refers not to the planet but to the created system God established in Gen. 1: 3–23. Satan, though sinful, was a representative of a previous creatorial arrangement, and could not be said to have introduced sin into the “new” world.
One more Scripture needs to be considered: Exodus 20: 11. Here we are told that “in six days Jehovah made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them”, and this is brought forward as evidence that Gen. 1: 1 must be included in the six day creation. Yet the Hebrew word for made here is different from that used for create in Gen. 1: 1 and need not refer to exactly the same action. I believe the earth was made in the sense that it was formed to be inhabitable. The case in relation to “the heavens” is even more conclusive in that the “heavens” that Exodus speaks about clearly refer to the heavens made on the second day (Gen. 1: 6–8), rather than the creation of the heavens recorded in Gen. 1: 1.
Thus there is no conflict between Gen. 1: 2 and Is. 45: 18. God did not create the earth as “waste”––it became “waste” afterwards. Hence when God began to work afresh in Gen. 1: 2 it was upon a scene that “was waste” (my emphasis). This doctrine of an interval between the original creation of Gen. 1: 1 and the restorative work of verse two onwards has been called the “Gap theory” but it is not a theory at all. It is the only doctrine that fits the facts––and by facts I mean the statements of Holy Scripture. Some allege that the “gap” was only suggested in order for the vast ages demanded by the geologists to be incorporated into the Genesis record. On the contrary I believe it came about from a simple acceptance of what Scripture says. Science can only speculate about these things; Christians are to be occupied with what is revealed.