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Chaos

by Rabbi Geoffrey W. Dennis
The primordial state before creation of the cosmos. In the Bible, God is the tamer of Chaos, forcing it to conform to His will. God word reshapes chaos, usually imagined as a watery void, into sky, oceans and land (Gen. 1; Ps. 104; Job 38). In pagan cosmogonies, the gods must battle personified chaos in order to create the universe. Personified chaos creatures, represented by Leviathan, Rahab, and Behemoth are still found in Jewish mythology, but they are both figuratively and literally domesticated, becoming yet another of God's creations, and in some interpretations, God's actual pets. Still, some Biblical passages hint that chaos is a constant threat, a power that lurks at the periphery of the cosmos and there is a danger it can be unleashed again, as it was in the Noah epic (Gen. 6-9).

Even if physical chaos is restrained, moral chaos is still a force in the world (Ps. 44; 74). Chaos is also the antipode of life, and is often associated with death, a form of chaos that humanity reintroduced into Godís universe (II Sam. 22:5-6; Gen. 2-3). In the End of Days, God will finally and completely subdue all residual chaos, perfecting the world morally and defeating death utterly (Is. 2; Is. 25:8).

Article copyright 2004 Geoffrey Dennis.


Article details:

  • Also known as:
    Tohu
    Tahum
    Tohu va-Vohu

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