“When God began to create heaven and earth, and the earth then was welter and waste and darkness over the deep and God’s breath hovering over the waters, God said, ‘Let there be light.’ And there was light.”
*welter and waste. The Hebrew thou wabohu occurs only here and in two later biblical texts that are clearly alluding to this one. The second word of the pair looks like a nonce term coined to rhyme with the first and to reinforce it, an effect I have tried to approximate in English by alliteration. Thou by itself means emptiness or futility, and in some contexts is associated with the trackless vacancy of the desert.
– Genesis 1:1, translated by Robert Alter, with commentary