“Then God said, ‘Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.’ Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so.” Genesis 1:6-7.
This is one of the more difficult passages in Scripture. The words “firmament in the midst of the waters” makes absolutely no sense to anyone who picks up a Bible for the first time and tries to read it.
Before we are done, we are going to at least have a good understanding of these verses.
But first, for those who have read the prior study, “Let There Be Light, Genesis 1:3-5”, posted on 8-16-21 let us return to the little boat we were seated in.
If you will recall, we started out in a scary place, sitting in a small boat bobbing around in an almost suffocating, pitch black, impenetrable fog, when the words, “Let there be light” dispelled the darkness and a faint warm light filtered through the fog.
We are still in that boat my friends, but just remain seated and watch what God does next.
Thus far we have an idea of what the waters above and the waters below mean – the earth had been judged, and the chaos that remained was a world completely submerged in water and in place of atmosphere there was a fog so dense that light could not penetrate it. Yet now there is a faint glow and we are about to experience the second day of God’s re-creation.
“Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters”, what is a firmament? Firmament comes from a word meaning to “beat out and to spread out”, that is no help, it may describe an action but it does not convey what happened very well.
The word itself has the idea of a vault or hemisphere supporting the clouds above. J. Vernon McGee simplifies it this way, the word firmament means “air spaces”, what we call atmosphere.
Let us see how this plays out. You are still seated in your little boat, relieved that at least that you can see light all around you. Now something else starts to happen, the entire fog begins to lift straight up all around you. Slowly at first, then faster as it moves higher, it begins to recede into the heaven above.
Five feet at first, then fifty, then a thousand, and then thousands of feet; you begin to look around now and there is nothing but open sea and absolutely clear skies as far as the eye can see. It really does not matter how far you can see, there is no land.
Does this lifting sound like firmament which means, to spread out, to beat out?
Breathe in, the air is as pure as anything you might have imagined (the oxygen content was actually greater before the flood) and better than anything we experience anywhere today.
Look down into the clear blue water; are you thirsty, dip your glass in and drink the best water you have ever tasted, no heavy metals, chemicals, and not so much as an amoeba.
There is nothing living in this water, go for a swim, the only danger to you is that you could drown, there are no sharks, giant squid, or any other monsters of the deep to swallow you up. It is best to stay in the boat though, for there is more to come.
“And God called the firmament Heaven. So the evening and the morning were the second day.” Genesis 1:8.
Many of you are aware that there are three places called heaven and the same Hebrew word may be used to describe them, but just as the English word heaven can mean one of three things, it all depends on the context of the sentence or statement.
“God is in heaven.”
“Our spaceship will soar into heaven to the moon.”
“See the beautiful birds as they soar through heaven.”
There are three heavens, the atmosphere where the birds fly, starry outer space where the astronauts go, and the third heaven where God is seated with Christ at His right hand. God created all of the heavens and everything in them.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1.
“All things were made through Him [Jesus Christ], and without Him nothing was made that was made.” John 1:3.
As we have seen God created the atmospheric heaven to separate the waters from the waters, this is again referred to in Genesis 1:20.
“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.’” Genesis 1:20.
David wrote a beautiful Psalm which mentions the stars of heaven, outer space.
“When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained…” Psalm 8:3.
You will notice none of these things just happened; God is given credit for the creation of everything including the third heaven, the heaven of heavens.
“I know a man [the Apostle Paul] in Christ who fourteen years ago – whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows – such a one was caught up to the third heaven.” 2 Corinthians 12:2.
“…he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.” 2 Corinthians 12:4.
“Therefore know this day, and consider it in your heart, that the Lord Himself is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other.” Deuteronomy 4:39.
Finally that the heaven spoken of in this instance is the atmospheric heaven above us and not part of the other two, Scripture narrows it down.
“Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so.” Genesis 1:7.
In the next verse God calls this firmament Heaven which is sandwiched between the waters which were below it and the waters which were above it.
Now the waters which were below heaven covered the earth, and we will hear more about this on day three. The important thing here is that these waters will soon become the oceans that we are familiar with.
But what can we say about the waters above the atmosphere? There are those among conservative scholars who feel that the waters above the atmosphere became a canopy of sorts; and believe this canopy stopped the suns deadly rays.
It is one reason folks tended to live longer, hundreds of years longer in fact, before the flood.
Let us take this canopy theory a bit further; remember, this is all speculation because all we have are the Scripture passages we have been studying here for our proof text, and while there are other hints given throughout the Bible, this is pretty much it.
Did you know that at a depth of 3280 feet the ocean is completely dark, no light penetrates that deep? How deep do you suppose the fog (if that is what it could be called) was that completely covered the earth?
Is it possible that the fog was so dense or so deep (deeper than 3280 feet?) that we might not have been able to survive in our little boat, either drowning or suffocating?
What we do know is that this water mass began to rise until it was perhaps thousands of feet into the air. As it did so it would have expanded outward like a balloon expands as air is blown into it. As it moved outward it would have shrunk from a thickness of a few thousand feet to perhaps hundreds.
Bear in mind that God had brought in a supernatural light to illuminate the world as He made these changes, that is why those in the boat can see things so clearly now.
Whatever the case may be, Scripture has given us a basic framework to work from and for anyone who is still interested in what happened there are many good books on the subject.
No one has to just accept my views or anyone else’s if they have reservations.
“Your mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens, and Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the great mountains; Your judgments are a great deep; O Lord, You preserve man and beast. How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings. They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house, and You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures. For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light.” Psalm 36:5-9.
Waters Above and Below, Genesis 1:6-8 taken from godisrevealed.com posted on 4-16-14, updated on 8-19-21.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version, copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission, all rights reserved.
So what about Job 37:18 – Hast thou with him spread out the sky, which is strong, and as a molten looking glass?
“firmament.” The Hebrew word for this is raqia (pronounced ra-KEE-ah). Biblical scholars understand the raqia to be a solid dome-like structure. It separates the water into two parts, so that there is water above the raqia and water below it (v. 7). The waters above are kept at bay so the world can become inhabitable. On the third day (vv. 9-10), the water below the raqia is “gathered to one place” to form the sea and allow the dry land to appear.
Let me summarize some of the general arguments for why raqia is understood by contemporary biblical scholars as a solid structure:1
The other cosmologies from the ancient world depict some solid structure in the sky. The most natural explanation of the raqia is that it also reflects this understanding. There is no indication that Genesis is a novel description of the sky.
Virtually every description of raqia from antiquity to the Renaissance depicts it as solid. The non-solid interpretation of raqia is a novelty.
According to the flood story in Gen 7:11 and 8:2, the waters above were held back only to be released through the “floodgates of the heavens” (literally, “lattice windows”).
Other Old Testament passages are consistent with the raqia being solid (Ezekiel 1:22; Job 37:18; Psalm 148:4).
According to Genesis 1:20, the birds fly in front of the raqia (in the air), not in the raqia.
The noun raqia is derived from the verb that means to beat out or stamp out, as in hammering metal into thin plates (Exodus 39:3). This suggests that the noun form is likewise related to something solid.
Speaking of the sky as being stretched out like a canopy/tent (Isaiah 40:22) or that it will roll up like a scroll (34:4) are clearly similes and do not support the view that raqia in Genesis 1 is non-solid.
Read more here: https://biologos.org/articles/the-firmament-of-genesis-1-is-solid-but-thats-not-the-point
Thank you Mr. Scott for your comment. I will check out your link and research the Bible references in Genesis, Job, and Psalms.