"“And the Wind of God hovered over the waters.” There is deep disagreement among modern commentators as to the correct interpretation of this phrase. On the one hand von Rad, Speiser, Schmidt, Westermann, and neb see this as simply a description of the primeval chaos and therefore translate it “a mighty wind swept over the surface of the waters.” On the other hand, Cassuto, Kidner, and Gispen, as well as older commentators such as Gunkel, Skinner, and Procksch prefer the traditional translation: “The Spirit of God was moving …” while Ridderbos and Steck think “the breath of God” a preferable translation. The dispute centers on the two words in the phrase רוח אלהים.רוח can mean “wind” or “spirit.” אלהים almost always means “God,” but in a few passages it does appear to be used as an alternative to a superlative; hence the proposed rendering “mighty wind.”
Commentators are, however, agreed on the syntactic function of this clause. It parallels “the earth was total chaos” and “darkness covered the deep.” Indeed, “deep” and “waters” are virtually synonymous here. V 2 therefore consists of three parallel clauses describing the situation prior to the divine fiat in v 3. Since clauses 1 and 2 describe a situation of black chaos, a similar picture must be conveyed by the third clause, argue Westermann and Schmidt. A reference to the Spirit of God in such a context is inappropriate. Since אלהים can be used to express the superlative, the translation “great wind” is preferable.
However, reducing אלהים simply to a superlative seems unlikely in this chapter, which elsewhere always uses it to mean God. Furthermore, nowhere else in Scripture does the phrase רוח אלהים or רוח יהוה ever mean “great wind”: it always refers to the Spirit or Wind of God. Thus the phrase must be taken to involve some manifestation of God, whether as wind, spirit, or breath (cf. R. Luyster, ZAW 93  1–10). This is not necessarily in total contrast to the first two clauses mentioning chaos and darkness, for darkness is ambivalent; as mentioned above, at times it is synonymous with all that is anti-God, but it may also be his hiding place. It is impossible to make a firm choice between “wind,” “breath,” and “spirit” as translations of רוח in this case, but the verb “hovering,” used in conjunction with it, does perhaps fit “wind” better than either “spirit” or “breath.” Admittedly מרחפת “hovering” has been used to justify some less probable views. For example, Syriac raḥep can mean “brood over” or “incubate,” so it has been suggested we have here a picture of the Spirit incubating the world egg, a notion found in some Phoenician cosmologies. But this seems unlikely. Deut 32:11 is the only other passage in the OT where רחף (piel) is found. Here it describes the action of an eagle hovering over its young before it flies off. rḫp is also found in Ugaritic to describe birds’ flight. Beauchamp (Création, 172–86) observes that רחף would also aptly describe the motion of the wind, and it is for this reason I have adopted the rendering “Wind of God” as a concrete and vivid image of the Spirit of God. The phrase does really express the powerful presence of God moving mysteriously over the face of the waters. Beauchamp helpfully compares the description of the divine chariot to “a stormy wind” guided by the spirit (Ezek 1:4, 12, 20) and the references to wisdom watching over God’s creative activity (Prov 8 and Job 38) to this passage in Genesis. Though it cannot be proved that this is exactly what Gen 1:2 intends to say, these interpretations could be evoked by the image of the Wind of God hovering and ready for action."
- -- Gordon Wenham, Word Biblical Commentary, Volume 1: Genesis 1–15, Dallas, zu וְר֣וּחַ אֱלֹהִ֔ים מְרַחֶ֖פֶת.