A Pre-Adamic World

Was there a world that existed before Adam? Is it possible that the earth was inhabited for a period of time between Genesis 1:1, when God first “created the heaven and the earth,” and Genesis 1:2, when the earth was – or became – “without form and void” as the result of cataclysmic changes?

     I do not believe that the Bible clearly states with absolute certainty that such a world existed before Adam. On the other hand, I do not believe that the Bible absolutely rules out such a possibility. Furthermore, there are certain passages of Scripture which suggest the existence of an inhabited world before Adam.

     The idea of an inhabited earth before Adam is sometimes called “the Gap theory” because it sees a gap between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth. Then at some later time, the earth was – or more accurately, became – without form and void as the result of Divine judgment and cataclysmic changes.

     Those who see the possibility of a gap of time do not just read that idea into the Scriptures in order to accommodate the foolish theory of evolution or scientists’ claims that the earth is much older than 6,000 years. That would be eisegesis and spineless compromise. Those who see the possibility of a world before Adam infer it from other passages of Scripture and from the Hebrew text of Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. Long before Darwin’s theory of evolution and long before scientists’ attempts to date the age of the universe, Jewish commentators saw different ways to understand the text. Some, such as Ibn Ezra (1092–1167), claimed that the Hebrew text supported the Aristotelian view of matter as something coeternal with God, thus making the “age” of the universe irrelevant.[1] I do not agree with Ibn Ezra and Aristotle; I mention this only to show that the Hebrew texts concerning creation can be understood in more than one way, and to show that the idea of a 6,000-year-old universe has not always been universally accepted by Bible believers. Those believers who say that the universe is older than 6,000 years are not denying the truth of the Bible; they are merely disagreeing with one interpretation of what the Bible teaches about the age of the universe.

     The universe may very well be only 6,000 years old. Even the acceptance of the Gap theory does not rule out the possibility, because the length of the time gap between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 may have been very short. On the other hand, it could have been very long. The purpose of this article is not to debate the age of the universe.[2] The purpose of this article is to present the arguments for the possibility of an inhabited world before the six days of creation (or perhaps more accurately, six days of re-creating) recorded in Genesis 1:3-31. So lets look at some of the passages that suggest this possibility.

     First, there is the phrase “without form and void” in Genesis 1:2. In Hebrew, “without form” is tohu; “void” is bohu. Together, the phrase is tohu va-vohu. (The va-prefix is “and,” which changes the “b” sound inbohu to a “v” sound.) The Hebrew word translated “was” in the KJV can just as accurately be translated “became.” The same verb is used to tell us that Lot’s wife “became a pillar of salt” (Gen. 19:26). The NIV affirms the legitimacy of this alternative understanding in its marginal note: “the earth became formless and empty.”

     So the question is: Did the earth become tohu and bohu, or did God originally create the earth tohu and bohu? Isaiah 45:18 answers that question. “For thus saith Yahweh that created the heavens; God Himself that formed the earth and made it; He hath established it, He created it not in vain,” This phrase “not in vain” is lo (“not”) tohu. This certainly refers to the original creation, for Isaiah first describes the creation of the heavens, then the earth, and he uses the Hebrew word for “create,” bara. So if God did not originally create the earth tohu, the inescapable conclusion is that the earth became tohu (and bohu) at some point in time after the original creation.

     Some commentators believe that Isaiah 24:1 refers to the cataclysmic changes that caused the earth to become without form and void.[3] “Behold, the Lord maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, andturneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof.” Isaiah 24:1 at its peshat (simple, literal) level sounds like a warning of what God will do in the future. However, the destruction described here seems to go even beyond the end-time destruction described in Revelation. Furthermore, even if Isaiah 24:1 does refer to some future destruction, that does not rule out the possibility that it is also a reiteration of Genesis 1:2, when the earth became without form and void, to serve as a warning against future judgment. In effect, God would be saying, “I made the earth become without form and void before, and I can do it again.”

     Isaiah used this kind of tohu and bohu imagery as a warning to the nations in Isaiah 34:11, where Yahweh threatens to stretch out upon the land “the line of confusion (tohu) and the stones of emptiness (bohu).” Here tohu and bohu are used together to describe destruction that comes as the result of Divine judgment. This at least suggests that the earth’s tohu va-vohu condition in Genesis 1:2 might also have happened as the result of Divine judgment.

Jeremiah also uses the tohu va-vohu expression to describe Divine judgment: “I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was without form and void (tohu va-vohu); and the heavens, and they had no light. I beheld the mountains, and, lo, they trembled, and all the hills moved lightly. I beheld, and, lo, there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens were fled. I beheld, and, lo, the fruitful place was a wilderness, and all the cities thereof were broken down at the presence of Yahweh, and by His fierce anger” (Jer. 4:23-26).

     Jeremiah’s description of the earth as tohu va-vohu and his description of the heavens as having “no light” certainly sounds like Genesis 1:2, when “the earth was tohu va-vohu, and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” If Yahweh was giving Jeremiah a vision of what the earth looked like in Genesis 1:2, then what were these “fruitful places” and “cities” that were destroyed as the result of Divine judgment? It sounds like there was some sort of civilization with fruitful places and cities before the earth became without form and void. It sounds like there was a great flood that completely covered the earth with water, turning the fruitful places into a wilderness, breaking down the cities, and bringing darkness upon the face of the deep. This is not a description of Noah’s Flood, because Jeremiah saw “no man.” There were eight who survived Noah’s Flood. Furthermore, Noah’s Flood did not make the earth tohu va-vohu nor bring darkness upon the face of the deep.

     Jeremiah’s vision is followed by a warning: “For thus hath Yahweh said, The whole land shall be desolate; yet will I not make a full end” (Jer. 4:27). In other words, destruction is coming to the whole earth, but it will not be a total destruction as it was in Genesis 1:2, when the earth became tohu va-vohu, and all the fruitful places and cities were destroyed by a flood, and darkness covered the face of the deep, and there was no man.

     If there was an inhabited world before Adam, who or what were the inhabitants? This question can lead to all sorts of speculation, much of it foolish. We need to remember that even Scripture-based speculation is still speculation and not dogma. However, some Scripture-based speculation, if true, can help explain some things. Let’s consider Scripture-based speculation about what preceded Adam.

     First, we have to understand a Biblical principle that could be called the principle of double reference. Sometimes in the Bible, a visible human is addressed, but on a deeper level the words are actually being spoken to an invisible spiritual entity that is empowering and using the visible human as its agent. When the Lord spoke to demon-possessed people, He often was actually speaking to the demons. When He rebuked Peter one time, He actually called Peter “Satan,” because Satan was the spiritual entity inspiring Peter. The visible agent does not always have to be human. In Genesis 3, God spoke to the serpent, but on a deeper level, He was addressing Satan, the spirit being who used the serpent to tempt Eve.

     With this principle of double reference in mind, many theologians agree that Isaiah’s words to the king of Babylon are addressed not only to the earthly king of Babylon, but also to the spiritual entity who was over the king of Babylon, namely Satan: “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cast down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou has said in thine heart, ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.’ Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit” (Isa. 14:12-15).

     Many theologians believe that this passage describes the transformation of Lucifer, an anointed cherub, into Satan, the adversary and agent of evil. If Isaiah’s description of the fall of Lucifer is truly an account of Satan’s origin, then it appears that Lucifer / Satan ruled over some kind of kingdom on this planet before he fell. That Lucifer ruled a kingdom can be inferred from the mention of his “throne”; that his throne was on earth can be inferred from Lucifer’s desire to “ascend above the heights of the clouds.” If his throne was under the clouds, this places his kingdom on earth, not somewhere in heaven.

     If Isaiah’s words to the king of Babylon have a double reference and give us a glimpse of Satan’s pre-Adamic status and fall, then Ezekiel’s words to the king of Tyrus provide us even more details:

     “Son of man, take up a lamentation upon the king of Tyrus, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord God: Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created. Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee. By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned; therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the stones of fire. Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou has corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee” (Ezekiel 28:12-17).

     These words to the king of Tyrus are obviously addressed not only to the earthly king, the human agent, but also to Satan, the spiritual entity who empowered and used the earthly king of Tyrus. A king who was a mere human could not have been in Eden, the garden of God, nor in the midst of the stones of fire on the holy mountain of God. A human king would not have been called “the anointed cherub” who was “created” instead of “born.”

     Let’s sum up what the Prophets have told us so far:

u Isaiah said that God did not originally create the earth tohu, so apparently the earth became tohu (and bohu) sometime after the original creation.

u Jeremiah saw a vision of the earth in darkness, in its primeval condition of tohu va-vohu, and he saw cities that had been broken down and fruitful places that had become a wilderness.

u Isaiah and Ezekiel provide a description of Lucifer, the anointed cherub who through pride rebelled against God and became Satan, the Adversary and agent for evil. From Isaiah’s description, it appears that Lucifer had a throne and ruled over some sort of kingdom on this earth.

If we put the pieces together, it appears that there may have been some sort of civilization on this earth before the creation of Adam. It also appears that Lucifer ruled the earth as the anointed cherub, and launched his rebellion against God from this planet.

     The inhabitants of this pre-Adamic world may very well have been angels, not men. Revelation 12:4 says that the dragon took a third of the stars with him, which suggests that the inhabitants of Lucifer’s kingdom were angels, not men. Furthermore, 1 Cor. 15:45 says that Adam was “the first man,” which seems to exclude the possibility of any human inhabitants before Adam. Although one could argue that the verse just means that Adam was the first man of this present age only, which would not rule out the possibility of some sort of pre-Adamic, non-Adamic ‘men’ in prior ages.

The dates of this scenario are somewhat speculative. Even though it is speculation with a Biblical basis, it is certainly not something which people should be required to believe. However, if this picture of Lucifer ruling over a pre-Adamic civilization on this planet is true, how would believing it affect our faith? How would such information be useful to us? For one thing, it would help explain the origin of evil in this world. It doesn’t explain why God allowed evil to come into existence (I have yet to hear a satisfactory explanation for that), but it does explain how evil came into existence.

     It also helps us to understand why God told Adam to “dress and keep (shamar)” the Garden of Eden. Shamar means to guard or protect. Guard and protect it from what? Thistles and thorns? No, for these did not come into existence until after man sinned. Adam was supposed to protect the Garden from something far more sinister than weeds.

If Lucifer ruled the world prior to Adam, this would explain why Satan shows up on this planet shortly after the creation of man, a new being who is given dominion over the earth. Satan is trying to regain his old turf by persuading the new rulers of the planet to join him in his rebellion against God. If he can persuade them to rebel against God, then he can regain his throne on this planet, and continue to rule through fallen man. Even though “the earth is (rightfully) the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof” (Ps. 24:1), the Prophet’s words to the kings of Babylon and Tyrus show that Satan does indeed rule the fallen world system through sinful human agents. “The whole world lieth in wickedness,” (1 John 5:19).

     John Milton, in his epic poem Paradise Lost, portrays Beelzebub telling his demon co-horts about “some new race called Man, about this time to be created.” Beelzebub’s plan is to “seduce them to our party, that their God / May prove their foe, and with repenting hand / Abolish his own works. This would surpass / Common revenge, and interrupt his joy.” [4]

Satan’s plan is to defy God and rule the earth through fallen man. God’s plan is to defy Satan and rule the earth through redeemed man. The Almighty is almighty. He doesn’t need our help to defeat His enemy. If He wanted to, He could entirely and permanently snuff out Satan and evil in an instant. Yet for reasons known only to Him, the Almighty has chosen to use the unmighty to defeat His enemy. “Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast Thou ordained strength because of Thine enemies, that Thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger” (Ps. 8:2).

     If this scenario of a pre-Adamic world is accurate, it gives us a glorious glimpse into God’s purpose for creating man, and thus an understanding of the purpose of our existence. After Lucifer launched his rebellion from this planet, God destroyed Lucifer’s kingdom and made the earth without form and void. Then God renewed the earth and created a new kind of being to rule the restored planet. This new being, created in God’s image and likeness, was to replenish the earth, subdue it, and have dominion over it. This new being, Man, was weaker than the angels (“like to us, though less in power and excellence, but favored more,” Beelzebub says to his cohorts in Paradise Lost – Book II, line 349f).

     Matter is lifeless; angels are spirit (Ps. 104:4). Man is a combination of matter and spirit, and therefore “a little lower than the an-gels” (Ps. 8:5). Rather than snuffing out Satan and the fallen angels, the Almighty has chosen to use us, the unmighty, to shame His enemies and re-establish His authority on earth. “God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty” (1 Cor. 1:27). When David considered these things, it caused him to look up at the heavens, the moon and the stars, and ask, “What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? And the son of man, that Thou visitest him?” (Ps. 8:4).

     Read Psalm 8 and meditate on the words. David was humbled by his understanding of God’s purpose for man. Whether you are the President or a pauper, you have a purpose in the plan of God. Once you see that the Almighty wants to use you, the unmighty, to shame and defeat His enemies, it will humble you and inspire you to do whatever it takes to fulfill the purpose of your existence as an individual member of the Family of Redeemed Men. If you faithfully fulfill God’s purpose for you in this life, you will be glad for all eternity that you did so.

[1] Philologos, “On Language,” The Forward, Oct 1, 2004, p. 14.

[2] I am not a scientist, so I am not qualified to speak authoritatively about the age of the universe from a scientific perspective. I have read enough to make me highly skeptical of some of the methods used by scientists to calculate the age of the universe, so I am not convinced that it is as old as scientists claim. On the other hand, I am not convinced that the Bible dogmatically teaches that the earth is only 6,000 years old. Those who dogmatically insist that the Bible teaches this usually base their conclusions on two premises. First, they assume no gap of time between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. Second, they assume that the six days were literal 24-hour days. This too is debatable. The 24-hour literalists usually know that the Hebrew word for day, yom, can be used to refer to an era of time, as in the expression, “the Day of the Lord” or Yeshua’s statement, “I must work the works of Him that sent Me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.” But because each of the six days in Genesis 1 consists of one evening and one morning, the 24-hour literalists conclude that each day was 24 hours. Maybe, but this too is debatable… A literal “day” is one complete rotation of the planet. The length of the day is determined by the speed of the planet’s rotation. We know what the speed of the earth’s rotation is now, but we do not know with certainty what the speed of the earth’s rotation was during the six days of creation. It is entirely possible that God turned the earth very slowly as He worked on it, like a sculptor slowly turning clay on a rotating pedestal, carefully and painstakingly molding and shaping the details of his masterpiece…

[3] Scofield and Dake, e.g.

[4] Book II, line 348 & 368-371.

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