Scripture Verses Concerning The Firmament
firmamentmeaningfirm. firmament,the waters above itlet it divide the waters from the watersspread out the sky which is strong, and as a molten looking glassJob 37:18are the work of thy handsstretchest out the heavens like a curtainstretcheth forth the heavens alonein the firmament of the heavenspreadeth out the heavensstretched out the heavens stretcheth forth the heavens
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“Shortly after accepting the flat earth as model for world, I decided to reread the book of Enochs courses of the heavenly luminaries and found to my utter amazement that I was able to decipher the vision that the angel Uriel had shown him. Only by applying the circle of the earth as backdrop for those motions that one makes sense of Enochs description. This revelation led me to the publication of this Flat Earth trilogy.”
How Does The Bible Define And Use The Word Firmament
The word firmament is only used 17 times in the Old Testament and it comes from the Hebrew word raqiya, which is defined as an expanse or visible arch of the sky. The root of the word is raqa, which means to pound the earth like a metalworker or blacksmith hammers or beats metal flat and thin to make a covering. This technique was often used to create the items in the Tabernacle that were covered in gold.
The New Testament uses the word formed, which comes from the Greek words plasma and plasso respectively in Romans 9:20 in the same way: Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it,Why hast thou made me thus? It is clear that these words refer to something that was forcibly shaped into something .
The Bible uses the word firmament in the following verses:
- Genesis 1:6-8
- Genesis 1:14, 15, 17, 20
- Psalms 19:1
- Ezekiel 10:1
- Daniel 12:3
The most notable use of firmament is in Genesis 1:6-8, which describes when God commanded that a firmament be created to divide the waters on the earth from a mist like covering that watered the earth . This mist persisted until the flood of Noah that was caused by rain and ground water that sprang up. This flood is referred to in Hebrews 11:7 as something that Noah had not seen. Likewise, the first rainbow was seen in Genesis 9:13 as a sign that God would never again flood the earth.
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The Meaning Of The English Sky
Before we look at the Hebrew words in the biblical text, it is helpful to consider what we mean by the English word sky. The online Oxford Dictionary in the UK says it is, the region of the atmosphere and outer space seen from the earth. 2 The online Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it this way: the upper atmosphere or expanse of space that constitutes an apparent great vault or arch over the earth. 3 Dictionary.com is helpfully more precise by giving three definitions:
From my experience, I would say that during day-light hours most people think of the earths atmosphere when they hear the word sky. At night-time, they would normally think of what we often call outer space where the sun, moon, and stars are located. Of course, astronomers also think and talk about the sky this way. So, it is an imprecise word, just as is the Hebrew word for heaven , which refers to the domain of birds , the domain of the sun, moon, and stars and the abode of God . Like most words in every language, we cannot be certain what a word means or refers to until that word is used in a specific context: a phrase, a sentence, or longer text. So now we need to turn our attention to the Hebrew word behind the translations of firmament and expanse.
Encountering The Rakia As An Adult
There is no way around this ironclad ideology when one is thirteen and being instructed in yeshiva. I did, however, have one last encounter with the rakia as an adult, while attending a bar mitzvah two years ago on Shabbos Bereishes . In a side room, a guest speaker had come prepared to solve all of the cosmological problems of Bereishis. After about thirty minutes, it seemed that a room full of well educated, modern Orthodox men and women were fully satisfied by days that didnt mean days, and seeds that arrived on day three but bloomed on day four with the creation of the sun .
When I caught the speakers eye and asked about the rakia, I caused the lecture to grind to halt. Its a fictional structure, I had said, but looking around the room at surprised faces and questioning eyes, I realized no one other than the speaker understood my question. Rather than answer the question, the speaker challenged me: Who are you?
I was terribly embarrassed to introduce myself as an average Joe I hadnt written a sefer , attended any type of biblical academic program, or made so much as a podcast, to everyones disappointment. After introductions, the speaker informed me that my question was so good, it needed to be answered, after the shiur. True to his word, he found me at the kiddush afterward. The rakia he said, could mean air or clouds, he told me in private, and very quickly departed to his next lecture.
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The Firmament In The Bible
In the story of creation, as found in Genesis, God formed the firmament to divide the “waters above” the earth from the “waters below” the earth. As part of the cosmic design, the firmament is the formation above the atmosphere of Earth, understood as an immense stable arch. According to Genesis 1:8, God called the firmament Heaven, giving it significance beyond just the border between the earth and beyond.
According to biblical cosmology, the firmament, seen as the sky from earth, is essentially a fixed upside-down container over the Earth, colored blue from the heavenly waters above it. The water for rain, snow, hail, etc. was stored outside the rakia, which had “windows” to release them onto the earth. Genesis 7:11 mentions these windows, stating In the six hundredth year of Noahs life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened.
Apologetics And The Firmament: Air Or Clouds
Modern Jewish audiences are not the first to be disturbed by the imaginary firmament so centrally displayed in the Bible. Conservative Christianity is equally anxious that such a state of affairs be reconciled.
In response to the Copernican revolution of the 16th century, John Calvinthe French theologian largely responsible for the formation of the Protestant movement, Calvinismsuggested in 1554 that the firmament refers to air or clouds. This idea occasionally appears on Orthodox Jewish discussions of this topic, as it did with the speaker in Shul, and was introduced into Orthodoxy by Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch .
Perhaps the clearest evidence that clouds or air is not really the answer is that no English Chumash/Bible that I have seen uses such a translation. If this were really such a persuasive answer, such a translation would be ubiquitous. I think back to my interaction with the guest speaker two years ago. Why was he only willing to discuss this in private conversation after the lecture was over? Its because it cant be offered as a public answer, out loud, since it leads to yet another, deeper problem.
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Fowl In The Open Firmament Of Heaven
Those who subscribe to the solid dome theory of Genesis 1 lay great emphasis on the fact that Genesis 1:20 describes the birds as flying in front of the raqia. Enns, for example, states that according to Genesis 1:20, the birds fly in front of the raqia , not in the raqia11. But this confusion has arisen because of a failure to differentiate between the heaven, and the firmament of heaven. Note what the text says: Then God said, Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens . The birds are consistently described in scripture as the fowl of heaven and they fly in the midst of heaven , but here in Genesis 1:20 they are said to fly across the face of, or in front of, the firmament of the heavens. The Hebrew paniym does indeed convey the idea of before, or in the face of, and this is how it appears to an observer standing upon the earth when the birds fly in the midst of heaven, they appear to be flying in front of the heavenly bodies which are set in the firmament of the heavens. The careful Bible reader will conclude that the birds fly in the firmament created on day two called heaven, but in front of the firmament of the heavens. Neither firmament are solid and the text does not give us any reason to believe this.
Drawings Of The Firmament
Throughout history, many people have attempted the interpret the visualization of the firmament through artwork. While each distinct, they share a similar overview of the firmaments place and meaning in the cosmos.
Above is a diagram representing features in the early Hebrew conception of the Universe. Ralph V. Chamberlin. “The Early Hebrew Conception of the Universe“. The White and Blue. Vol XIII no. 11, Dec. 24 1909. pp. 84-88
The Flammarion engraving is a wood engraving by an unknown artist that first appeared in Camille Flammarion‘s L’atmosphère: météorologie populaire . The image above depicts a man crawling under the edge of the sky, depicted as if it were a solid hemisphere, to look at the mysterious Empyrean beyond. The caption underneath the engraving translates to “A medieval missionary tells that he has found the point where heaven and Earth meet…”
What Is The Popularity Of The Word Firmament
The use of the word firmament was highest in the early 1600s with the publishing of the King James Bible . It was also popular in the early to mid-1800s with the rise of interest in end-times prophecies and the publishing of other lesser used Bible versions. Today, it is used very little, but mostly by people who use the King James Bible.
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On Day 2, based on the verbal root, raqa, they interpret the raqiya to be the spreading out of the air, which surrounds the earth as an atmosphere and the waters above the raqiya to be not the ethereal waters beyond the limits of the terrestrial atmosphere, but the waters which float in the atmosphere, . . ., the waters which accumulate in clouds and then . . . pour down as rain .
On Day 4, they say that the heavenly lights were created by God and placed in the firmament . But although they clearly take the days of creation as simple earthly days, and not as years or thousands of years , they reason that the primary material of the earth and the sun, moon, and stars were made in Genesis 1:1. They say the creation of the heavenly lights
was completed on the fourth day, just as the creative formation of our globe was finished on the third that the creation of the heavenly bodies therefore proceeded side by side, and probably by similar states with that of the earth so that the heaven with its stars was completed on the fourth day.
On Day 5, they translate verse 20 to read . . . let birds fly above the earth in the face of the firmament, which is close to the view I am advocating. But they make no further comment about the raqiya phrase.
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The Meaning Of Raqiya
The words firmament and expanse in English translations are renderings of the Hebrew word .5 The noun, raqiya, is related to the verb, raqa). This verb is used eleven times in the Old Testament and is translated variously in the ESV as hammer, spread out, beat, stamp, or overlay. Often it refers to spreading, beating, or hammering a thin layer of metal onto an object.6 God is said to have spread out the heavens and spread out the earth.7 The verb is used in the phrase stamp your feet in the sense of making noise.8 David poetically refers to pulverizing his enemies and stamping them as the mire of the streets. 9
What about the translations of raqiya as either expanse or firmament? Both ideas of spreading and hardness might be implied by the Hebrew verb raqa.
We can see the same in our own language. In English, hammered does not reveal the shape or material nature of a carpenters hammer, and stamped does not tell you what a postage stamp looks like or what it is made of. When used with abstract objects, the verbs have a very different meaning, for example in, He tried to hammer home his main point by raising his voice. Or, Her commitment to excellence was stamped all over the school she founded. Context is key.
Therefore, the meaning of the noun, raqiya, especially regarding its physical characteristics, must be determined by the context in which it is used. So firmament does not seem to be the right translation.
What Is The Firmament Made Of
I propose that the firmament is composed of some transparent or at least semi-transparent crystalline stone or glass which allows observers from the earth looking upward into and through the sky, ability to perceive the waters still in place above the firmament. This perceptibility is why I believe we see the sky as blue. Some portions of Gods throne may also be composed of this same crystalline material which may be why we see various mentions of the color sapphire and rainbows in association with it. The firmaments transparency may also allow God, angels, and heavenly visitors such as the prophets ability to peer down upon the earth in observance of all of its proceedings not that God would need such capacity to know all of what is occurring here upon the earth.
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Flat Earth: The Firmament Cosmoloy Space And The Bible
As I continue down this most exciting journey of cosmology and figuring out how things really work out there, I am continually pulled back to the truth of the Bible on this topic. Every time someone presents a view that opposes the Biblical position on cosmology, it starts to fall apart, or does not sufficiently convince me to move away. Do I have any biases? Yes, indeed. I believe that the Bible is true. In times past I used to somewhat suppress certain scriptures to help me cope in a world that opposed them and presented weird options, but as I age, I realize this is absolutely the wrong approach and that I can confidently continue to stand on the Bible in every aspect of my life: spiritually, physically, scientifically, etc.
There are two camps of Bible believers, I have noticed: the first camp says you dont have to think about this stuff, just believe, brother whilst the other camp says Dont just believe it but inquisitively question and marvel at how all this works. An example to demonstrate the two camps would be the scripture where Jesus walks on water. The first camp would say Dont think, just believe whereas I would say Believe, then marvel at the omnipotent God who dominated the physical realm, then consider, for pure interests sake, what natural/physical laws or norms were trampled for this miracle to occur! The more I investigate what God has done, the more I marvel.
And with that background, lets continue.
What Is The Firmament In The Bible
The prophets Ezekiel, Daniel, and David had visions of the firmamentthe raqiya in ancient Hebrew languageas a solid object.
Two passages in Ezekiel refer to visions of heavenly objects which are not recognized as part of the Earth today. Ezekiel described wings under the raqiya in Ezekiel 1:23 and a throne above the raqiya in Ezekiel 1:26. These visions are much more specific and varied than the description of the raqiya in Gods creation narrative of days two, four, and five .
In lovely poetry, Psalm 19:1 reads, The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork.The next five verses of Psalm 19 clearly indicate that the raqiya is in outer space, where the sun and stars are located. This Psalmist does not describe Earths atmosphere there are no birds in the air of the raqiya of Psalm 19. Psalm 19:4 describes a tabernacle for the sun and Psalm 19:6 says His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heatthereof.
Daniel, one of the prophets of the Old Testament, uses the brightness of the firmament as a metaphor for human wisdom and stars for ever and ever as a metaphor for righteousness in Daniel 12:3.
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