Genesis 1-2 Deleted Scenes #2: God created prior worlds

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See, I will create
new heavens and a new earth.
The former things will not be remembered,
nor will they come to mind.

—Isaiah 65:17

The above verse from Isaiah along with a few others lead some rabbis to believe that our earth wasn’t the first God had created. This Jewish thought is expressed explicitly in the Zohar (14th century writings of Jewish mystical thought). Zohar Hadash identifies the prior worlds as totaling 1,000, as does Or ha-Hayim 1:12, which states that before God created this world, He created a thousand hidden worlds. These hidden worlds were created through the first letter, aleph. That is why the Torah, in the report of the Creation of this world, commences with the second letter, bet. This line of thinking was convincing to Rabbi Yitzhak Eizik Haver (1789-1853), who wrote, “The verse begins with the letter bet to hint that Creation was divided into two realms—that God created two beginnings.” The existence of the 1,000 worlds is linked to the verse “You may have the thousand, O Solomon” (Song of Sol. 8:12). Other sources, such as Midrash Tehillim 90:13, give the number as 974 worlds, which were said to have been created and destroyed over 2,000 years.[1] Other Zohar (1:262b) suggests that God thought about constructing worlds prior to ours but never went through with it.

Another verse that stood out is Psalm 90:5, interpreted as referring to the destruction of these prior worlds – suggesting that they were a mistake; the idea that God would regret a creation of his shouldn’t be too surprising, for even the Bible states that God “regretted that he had made human beings on the earth” (Gen. 6:6).

Sources and Further Reading:

[1] Schwartz, Howard. Tree of Souls: The Mythology of Judaism (p. 71).

Primary Sources: Genesis Rabbah 3:7, 9:2, 28:4, 33:3; Exodus Rabbah 1:2, 30:3; B. Hagigah 13b; Midrash Tehillim 90:13; Midrash Aleph Bet 5:5; Eliyahu Rabbah 2:9; Zohar 1:24, 1:154a, 1:262b, 3:135a-135b, Idra Rabbah; Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer 3; Sefer ha-’Iyyun Ms. Hebrew University 8330; Zohar Hadash; Sefer ha-Zikhronot 1:1; Rashi on Shabbat 88b; No’am Elimelekh, Bo 36b; Kedushat Levi; Or ha-Hayim 1:12; Esh Kadosh; Otzrot Rabbi Yitzhak Eizik Haver, p.1.


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