During the weeks after Easter our staff in Melbourne CBD have been reflecting on the resurrection. Last week we took some time to look at some texts from the Hebrew Bible instead of the New Testament. We started by looking at a section from the book of Jeremiah:
I looked on the earth, and lo, it was waste and void [tohu va bohu];
and to the heavens, and they had no light.
I looked on the mountains, and lo, they were quaking,
and all the hills moved to and fro.
I looked, and lo, there was no one at all,
and all the birds of the air had fled.
I looked, and lo, the fruitful land was a desert,
and all its cities were laid in ruins
before the LORD, before his fierce anger.
This is a Jeremiah's description of the land of Judah after it was conquered by the Babylonians, laid waste and the leaders of Judean society taken into exile.
I found it interesting that the Hebrew phrase tohu va bohu (translated here as 'waste and void') is used to describe the state of the land. This phrase also turns up in the first account of Creation in Genesis - although it often isn't translated exactly the same way:
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void [tohu va bohu] and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind [spirit] from God swept [hovered] over the face of the waters. (Genesis 1:1-2)
What's interesting is that most Biblical scholars think that the book of Genesis was probably written down by Jews during the Babylonian exile, after they had seen their own land made 'waste and void'/'tohu va bohu'. When read in this context, the account of Creation takes on a different meaning. Instead of understanding this as a story about God creating the world out of nothing, we might understand it as as story of God creating something good out of something that has been destroyed, turning a desolated land into a beautiful garden. Perhaps the gospel writers had this connection in mind when they wrote about the resurrected Jesus meeting his disciples in a garden?
As we read and talked about these pieces of scripture we found that this idea of God creating something good out of something that has been destroyed can be encouraging when we are working with people and communities that have been devastated.
- Christop Booth, Faith Engagement Coordinator