Word Study

Tehom, "The Deep"

"In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on the same day all the fountains of the great deep burst open, and the floodgates of the sky were opened." Genesis 7:11

Uses of the Hebrew word, Tehom, "The Deep"
by James T. Bartsch, WordExplain.com

Negative Connotation Neutral Connotation Positive Connotation
Gen. 7:11 Noah's Flood as judgment on a wicked world [1] Gen. 1:2 Earth on Day One, Creation Gen. 49:25 Jacob blessing Joseph
Gen. 8:2 Noah's Flood as judgment on a wicked world [1] Job 28:14 Wisdom not in "the deep" Deut. 8:7 Bountiful land of Canaan
Ex. 15:5 Egyptians drown in Red Sea as a judgment of God Job 38:16 Inscrutable part of God's creation Deut. 33:13 Jacob blessing Joseph
Ex. 15:8 The Red Sea as a judgment on Egypt Job 41:32 Habitat for Leviathan Ps. 36:6 A favorable comparison to the character of God
Ps. 42:7 Metaphor - personal despair Ps. 33:7 Yahweh's skill as creator, sustainer Ps. 78:15 God's miraculous provision of water in the desert
Ps. 71:20 Metaphor - place of trouble
Ps. 104:6 The process God used at Creation (Gen. 1:1-2). Evidently also at the Flood (Gen. 7:19-20) Ps. 106:9 Deliverance of Israel
through the Red Sea
Ps. 77:16 Evidently phenomena occuring at the Red Sea Ps. 135:6 Yahweh's sovereignty over nature Ps. 148:7 Source of praise for God
Ps. 104:6 In a context that deals with Creation, I believe there is a dual reference also to Noah's Flood Pro. 3:20 Yahweh's skill in breaking up the deeps. This happened on the 3rd day (Gen. 1:9-10); also in the Flood (Gen. 7:11). Isa. 51:10 The Red Sea as a deliverance for Israel
Ps. 107:26 Mariners in a storm at sea Pro. 8:24 Wisdom pre-dated the global ocean depths of Gen. 1:1-2. Isa. 63:13 God led Israel through the depths of the Red Sea
Ezk. 26:19 God's judgment on Tyre Pro. 8:27 Wisdom was present when Yahweh formed aqueous earth into a sphere (Gen. 1:1-2).    
Ezek. 31:15 God's judgment on Assyria Pro. 8:28 The process Yahweh used to set the ocean's boundaries on the 3rd day (Gen. 1:9-10). [He used the same process to assuage the Flood (Gen. 8:1-13), but at a much slower rate.]    
Jon. 2:5 Jonah's near drowning as a judgment and motivator from God Ezek. 31:4 Source of water for a cedar metaphorically representing Assyria
    Amos 7:4 The deep a victim of a threatened judgment upon Israel    
    Hab. 3:10 The deep awed by the presence of God.    

Conclusion:  The view exists that tehom has a negative connotation. As this word study reveals, it is inaccurate to make a blanket assessment such as that. There are twelve occurences which can be cast in a negative tone. There are fourteen occurrences which are cast in a neutral tone. There are nine instances in which tehom actually is cast in a positive light. So each occurrence of tehom must be evaluated in its own context to see whether there is a negative, neutral, or positive connotaton. Even in the negative contexts, tehom is not inherently evil. Rather it is an ethically neutral tool that God used to punish evil people. For example, when God caused the fountains of the great deep to burst open (Gen. 7:11), it was not tehom that was evil, but the people of the world who were evil. I have generally categorized incidents of judgment as carrying a negative connotation. Two exceptions are Isa. 51:10 and 63:13, which underscored the blessing of the Red Sea event for the nation of Israel. In particular, there is no convincing evidence that tehom in Genesis 1:2 is portrayed in a negative light. This word study helps to refute the Chaos Theory of Origins.


1    In both Genesis 7:11 and 8:2 "the fountains of the (great) deep" evidently refer to an enormous subterranean and suboceanic pre-Deluge reservoir of water, apparently under great pressure. God supernaturally caused this enormous reservoir of water to "burst open" to precipitate Noah's Flood (Gen. 7:11), and He "closed up" the reservoir to begin the process of ending it (Gen. 8:2). See Walter Brown's explanation of the Hydroplate Theory, which effectively hypothesizes the scientific processes of Noah's Flood.

(Scripture quotation taken from the NASB.)

Published November 5, 2010

Updated March 24, 2014

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