If we assume that (ha 'arez) = 'the Lowlands'ø in opposition to 'the Highlands'', an interesting development occurs. With having been presumed to mean 'wasteland'; to mean 'empty'; and to mean 'dark', the primary translation was
"But the Lowlands were a wasteland - empty and dark."
Now the Lowlands may well have been 'empty' - that is, uninhabited, but there was no reason for them to have been 'dark'. However had other nuances such as 'obscure, unknown and unimportant'. In Proverbs 22:29, we read - 'Not for him the service of an obscure people' - this translation could equally well have read 'unknown people'.
A territory is unknown when it still has to be explored; and so 'unexplored' is our preferred translation in this context.
In the three following words, , in common with so many Middle Eastern words, can mean either of two opposites - in this case, 'over' and 'down from'; meant 'surface', and the 'deeps of the sea'.
Of the two opposites, it is clear which was intended because land is not usually described as lying over the 'surface of the deeps of the sea'; but it does, sometimes, lie under or below .
The Lowlands of the Jordan Valley do lie below sea-level as a result of the sinking of the Rift Valley. We put the wasteland, therefore, 'below the level of the sea'.
The second Part of this verse refers to something called the ruah which hovered over the surface of the waters. The standard English translation is 'spirit', and comes by way of the Greek pneuma which meant 'air' or 'wind'. This form was found in Enoch's account of his transportation from the Lowlands to the Highlands. There, it occurred in the expression 'Chariot of the Spirit', and we suggested that consideration had to be given to the possibility of a solid aerial craft capable of transporting Enoch to the Garden in Eden.
The term ruah occurs frequently in the Old Testament in contexts that require translation as something less nebulous than our word 'spirit'. Translations having, inevitably, been made in a religious context, the secular meaning has failed to surface. A few examples may be quoted here to support this hypothesis.
[1KIN 18:11-12] And now you say to me ø 'Go and tell your master that Elijah is here! But as soon as I leave you, the ruah of Yahweh will carry you away and I shall not know where.
[2 SAM 22:11]... he mounted a cherub, and flew and soared on the wings of the ruah.
[EZ 8:3] ... and the ruah lifted me up into the air - and took me to Jerusalem.
[EZ 37:1] The hand of Yahweh was laid upon me and he carried me away by the ruah of Yahweh, and set me down in the midst of a valley.
[EZ 43:4-6] The glory of Yahweh arrived at the Temple near the east gate. The ruah lifted me up and brought me into the inner court - and I saw the Glory of Yahweh fill the Temple.
All these examples (and there are many more that are similar) imply that the ruah, whatever it was, was material and capable of lifting a man, and of carrying him over considerable distances. In EZ 8:3, the distance was from Babylon to Jerusalem - a matter of five hundred miles.
In the Genesis text, the ruah is said to have 'hovered over the waters'; and it is possible that the Shining Ones looked down from it onto the Lowlands, in the same manner as Yahweh looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud in EX 14:24.
Moreover, attention has to be drawn to the fact that the cognate Sumerian equivalent of the Hebraic ruah was ru-a and the most archaic Sumerian pictograms for the syllables ru and a carry this interpretation a stage further:
These pictograms, in the vertical orientations in which they would have appeared on a clay tablet, are remarkably suggestive of some form of aerial craft 'hovering' over water. The wings (mentioned in 2 SAM 22:11) are clearly visible, but the underpart is not the body of a bird - it is closer to the shape of a boat with a keel. The natural deduction would be that the ruah was capable of flying and of landing on water.
|jerusalem bible||(alternative genesis)|
Now the earth was a formless void, there was darkness over the deep, and God's spirit hovered over the waters.
But the Lowlands were an empty area - being uninhabited and unexplored, lying below the level of the Sea. And the aerial craft of the Shining Ones hovered over its waters.