This comment below from an answer to this question

The very, very short answer is YES, all spirit/intelligence (and matter) is self-existent, and the act of creation is forming them, not creating them out of nothing.

Has spawned this question.

LDS apparently holds that Genesis 1:1 describes a forming into shape by God of heaven and earth using not only pre-existent but self-existent material. The word translated "created" in Genesis 1:1 appears twice in Isaiah 45:18 alongside 3 other, different words describing various aspects of the creation process.

How does LDS explain the use of so many different words to describe what God has done in Isaiah 45:18 when they ultimately all just mean "re-shaping" already existing material?

For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else. 

  • I don't see the problem, this seems to re-enforce the idea that it wasn't creation from nothing, but forming. Authors use synonyms or similar words all the time
    – depperm
    Sep 28, 2022 at 13:08
  • 1
    @depperm Usually, when the Bible uses different words it is to express different things or different aspects of something. The Bible is not afraid of repetition when nothing different is being expressed. Sep 30, 2022 at 12:45
  • yes but even removing created and formed from Isaiah there are still multiple words being used for creation process (made and established). What needs explaining?
    – depperm
    Sep 30, 2022 at 13:21
  • 1
    @depperm What needs explaining is what each different word represents. Created (bârâ') and formed (yâtsar) would not be used separately if they meant exactly the same. LDS seems to say that creation and formation are identical. Oct 3, 2022 at 12:51

2 Answers 2


I'll reiterate that I don't see any need to explain different words that don't conflict with Church of Jesus Christ doctrine. The Church of Jesus Christ also rarely comes out with specific word breakdown (to Hebrew/Greek) and there doesn't seem to be any reference to this verse (Isaiah 45:18) in LDS resources, meaning it doesn't necessitate special explanation/attention (again nothing in the verse conflicts with doctrine, they have 4 accounts of the creation process1).

Using a Lexicon, one can see that the words from OP all have unique/specific meanings that don't contradict one another nor indicate creation from nothing:

  • that created (h1254) x2

to create, shape, form

  • (Qal) to shape, fashion, create (always with God as subject)
    • of heaven and earth
    • of individual man
    • of new conditions and circumstances
    • of transformations
  • (Niphal) to be created
    • of heaven and earth
    • of birth
    • of something new
    • of miracles
  • (Piel)
    • to cut down
    • to cut out

a primitive root; (absolutely) to create; (qualified) to cut down (a wood), select, feed (as formative processes

to form, fashion, frame

  • (Qal) to form, fashion
    • of human activity
    • of divine activity
    • of creation
    • of original creation
    • of individuals at conception
    • of Israel as a people
    • to frame, pre-ordain, plan (fig. of divine) purpose of a situation)
  • (Niphal) to be formed, be created
  • (Pual) to be predetermined, be pre-ordained
  • (Hophal) to be formed

probably identical with H3334 (through the squeezing into shape)

  • and made it; (h6213)

to do, fashion, accomplish, make

  • (Qal)
    • to do, work, make, produce
    • ... (further detail in link, stopped at 3rd lvl)
    • to make
    • ...
  • (Niphal)
    • to be done
    • to be made
    • to be produced
    • to be offered
    • to be observed
    • to be used
  • (Pual) to be made

(Piel) to press, squeeze

a primitive root; to do or make, in the broadest sense and widest application

  • hath established it, (h3559)

to be firm, be stable, be established

  • (Niphal)
    • to be set up, be established, be fixed
    • to be firmly established
    • to be established, be stable, be secure, be enduring
    • to be fixed, be securely determined
    • to be directed aright, be fixed aright, be steadfast (moral sense)
    • to prepare, be ready
    • to be prepared, be arranged, be settled
  • (Hiphil)
    • to establish, set up, accomplish, do, make firm
    • to fix, make ready, prepare, provide, provide for, furnish
    • to direct toward (moral sense)
    • to arrange, order
  • (Hophal)
    • to be established, be fastened
    • to be prepared, be ready
  • (Polel)
    • to set up, establish
    • to constitute, make
    • to fix
    • to direct
  • (Pulal) to be established, be prepared
  • (Hithpolel) to be established, be restored

a primitive root; properly, to be erect (i.e. stand perpendicular); hence (causatively) to set up, in a great variety of applications, whether literal (establish, fix, prepare, apply), or figurative (appoint, render sure, proper or prosperous)

Breakdown of the verse according to Church of Jesus Christ doctrine

For thus saith the LORD(Jesus) that created(formed, shaped) the heavens; God(Heavenly Father) himself that formed the earth and made it(created spiritually first, also directed the creation2); he hath established it(set it up, arranged it, prepared it), he created(formed, shaped) it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else.

1 What is the understanding between the Genesis account and the book of Abraham account of creation? answer

2 The Mormon Church teaches that Jesus Christ created under the direction of Heavenly Father and He did not create the world "out of nothing."

All emphasis mine, indicating what I believe supports LDS understanding of the verse


Isaiah is highly poetic and regularly uses parallelism. As noted by Victor Ludlow:

Parallelism is the most distinctive quality of Hebrew poetry...In parallelism, a thought, idea, grammar pattern, or key word of the first line is repeated or continued in the second line. There are two basic types of parallelism, grammatical and semantic...Among the types of semantic parallelism...Synonymous parallelism: a theme of the first line repeats itself in the second line, but in slightly different words (Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, And Poet p. 32)

Blake Ostler has written a very thorough article on the subject of the Hebrew words used to describe creation in Isaiah, Genesis, etc. here. Ostler shows that all of these words are used in contexts which are decidedly not creation ex-nihilo, meaning none of these words can hold exclusively that meaning.

From Ostler:

There are three words in Hebrew scripture that can be translated in English as create. According [to some], b_r_’ means to bring about something with an absolute beginning, not created out of preexisting material. They argue that the verb which should have been used in Genesis 1:1 if Joseph Smith were correct is ‘asah, which they argue means to make something out of preexisting material in the same way that humans do, to fashion, accomplish, make, work or produce. In addition, there is the verb yatsar which means to form, fashion, frame, or make. But a sharp distinction between organizing preexisting material for ‘asah and absolute creation where before there was nothing in any sense for b_r_’ is simply an oversimplification. God made Israel out of preexisting people and a clean heart out of an existing heart.

On the other hand, these three verbs are often used interchangeably and in parallel structures showing that they have essentially the same semantic field. In Hebrew poetry, when words are placed in a parallel form (parallelismus membrorum is the technical term) the words are often used as synonyms or antonyms. For example, Isaiah 43:6-7 says:

Bring my sons from far,

and my daughters from the ends of the earth;

even every one that is called by my name:

for I have created (b_r_’ ) him for my glory,

I have formed (yatsar) him;

yea, I have made (‘asah) him.

Isaiah uses all three words for create to describe what God has done for those called by his name. Moreover, none of these uses of the word create in Hebrew mean to create ex nihilo, for they address how God has taken an existing person and created a new personality in that person to manifest his glory. Consider also Psalm 51:10 which uses the verb b_r_’ : “Create (b_r_’ ) in me a clean heart, O God; and renew my spirit within me.” In Psalm 33:15 the same thought is expressed using the verb yatsar: “He fashioneth (yatsar) their hearts alike, he considereth all their works.” The verbs b_r_’ and yatsar appear to be used interchangeably or as synonyms.

Similarly, in Genesis 1:21 and 27 it says that: “And God created (b_r_’ ) great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind, and God saw that it was good … So God created (b_r_’ ) man in his own image, in the image of God created (b_r_’ ) he him, male and female created (b_r_’ ) he them.” In comparison, Genesis 2:7 says: “And the Lord God formed (yatsar) man out of the dust of the ground, and breathed into him life; and man became a living soul.” Man was not created from nothing, but from preexisting dust of the ground. Further, Genesis 2:19 states that: “And out of the ground the Lord formed (yatsar) every beast of the field, end every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them.” Both man and beasts were created from existing matter, yet in chapter one of Genesis the verb b_r_’ is used for the same acts of creation whereas in chapter two the verb yatsar is used.

More importantly, both b_r_’ and ‘asah are used in parallel form in Isaiah 45:12 to describe the creation of the earth and man: “I have made (‘asah) the earth and created (b_r_’ ) man upon it.” In the same chapter of Isaiah, God is said to create (yatsar ) the earth: “God himself that formed (yatsar) the earth and made (‘asah) it; he created (b_r_’ ) it not in vain, he formed (yatsar) it to be inhabited.” (Isaiah 45:7, 18) It is abundantly clear from this verse that b_r_’ , yatsar and ‘asah are used interchangeably, for God creates the earth in all three senses.

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