Waters Above the Firmament, the source of rain?

by VM44 29 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • VM44

    My own unscholarly thought is that the "Waters Above the Firmament" mentioned in Genesis chapter 1 was an attempt to explain the source of rain (water) that falls from the sky (heaven or the firmament).

    OK, now as O'Reilly would say, "Where am I wrong?".


  • garybuss
  • Poztate
    mentioned in Genesis chapter 1 was an attempt to explain the source of rain (water) that falls from the sky (heaven or the firmament).

    OK, now as O'Reilly would say, "Where am I wrong?".

    God was pissing on us...only a guess...

  • VM44

    Gary, thanks for posting that picture, I always have liked it when you have posted it previously in other threads, it is a good pictorial description of the Hebrew universe as per Genesis.

    Genesis specifically states that God caused a division between the waters above the firmament, and those below the firmament. The waters "below" He gathered together to form the seas.

    Note that the space between the waters is called the firmament. Genesis then goes on to call this firmament the "heaven" where the Sun, Moon and stars reside.

    No further mention is made about the waters "above" in Genesis chapter 1.

    Genesis chapter one is a description of cosmogony, or how the universe came to be. It is concerned with physical objects, the earth, light, water and so on. As we all know, there is no body of water residing "above" the heavens, so there would appear to be a hugh discrepancy between reality and what the first book of Genesis says.

    Which brings me to my question. Was the concept of "Waters above the firmament" an attempt by an ancient writer to account for the source of the rain that falls from heaven?


  • garybuss

    My .02
    Humans needed to understand the planet. It helped their survival. Obviously the aggregate of all their methods to survive worked. Some were accurate and some were not.
    All philosophy and all religion tries to answer three questions: Where did we come from? What are we doing here? and, Where are we going?
    Every culture had their explanations. They caused themselves problems by being superstitious and defending the status quo rather than challenging it.
    I'm not sure how older cultures, like the Egyptians and the Chinese, explained the earth and the universe.
    That which they couldn't explain became their religion. That provided the human mind with the answers to maintain equilibrium, a sense that all important questions were answered.

  • Narkissos

    Imo this would be too narrow (or too consistent) a view of the OT cosmology. While the "waters above the firmament" play a role in the Flood, ordinary rain is regularly connected with the clouds (Isaiah 5:6; Zechariah 10:1; Psalm 135:7; 147:8; Proverbs 16:15; 25:14; Ecclesiastes 11:3) which were visibly "under" the firmament, as they could obscure the sun, moon and stars (Ecclesiastes 12:2); they can be described as coming from the sea (1 Kings 8:43ff). Otoh dew can be (incorrectly from our scientific pov) related to the clouds (Isaiah 18:4; Proverbs 3:20) or heaven (Genesis 27:28,39; Deuteronomy 33:28; Haggai 1:10; Zechariah 8:12; Daniel 4:15,23,25,33; 5:21).

    Both the "abyss" or "deep" (tehom) below the earth, which is permanently connected with the sources or fountains of fresh water and rivers (Genesis 49:25; Deuteronomy 8:7; 33:13; Ezekiel 31:4,15; Psalm 78:15; Proverbs 8:24,28), and the "waters above" which can also pour exceptionally on the earth through the "windows of heavens" (Isaiah 24:18; Malachi 3:10), play a role in the Flood, along with rain (mtr, Genesis 7:4; geshem, Genesis 7:11f; 8:2).

  • Leolaia

    Yes, as this stated directly in Genesis 7:11, 8:2, and 'rbwt "window" is used elsewhere to refer to the windows of heaven (through which rain comes) in 2 Kings 7:2, 19, Isaiah 24:18 and Malachi 3:10. In almost all these texts, ptch "open" is used this word to refer to the opening of these heavenly windows. This notion is based on older Canaanite cosmology which also construed a heavenly deep whose windows were opened by Baal, the rain god, in his palace so that he could water the earth. The following text uses the exact same words as the biblical texts:

    "Let a window ('urbt) be opened (yptch) in the house, a casement in the midst of the palace! Baal opened a rift in the clouds; his holy voice [i.e. thunder] Baal gave forth; Baal repeated the issue of his lips" (KTU 1.4 vii 25-39).

    Another text, which has striking parallels to Psalm 29 (which depicts Yahweh as a rain god, who is "enthroned on the flood"), is the following:

    "Baal sits like the base of a mountain, Hadad settles as the ocean, in the midst of his divine mountain, Saphon, in the midst of the mountain of victory. Seven lightning-flashes, eight bundles of thunder, a tree-of-lightning in his right hand. His head is magnificent, his brow is dew-drenched, his feet are eloquent in his wrath. His horn is exalted, his head is in the snows of heaven, with the god there is abounding water" (KTU 1.101 R 1-9).

    See also the reference to the heavenly deep in Psalm 148:4. In the Canaanite texts, there is also a tradition about the creator god El ruling from his own holy mountain (Mount Hermon) which lies at the meeting-place of the heavenly deep and the subterranean deep under the mountain. This dwelling-place is a garden from which the rivers flow that irrigate all creation (cf. the source of the major rivers in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2 and the location of Eden on the "mountain of God" in Ezekiel 28). This notion of the mountain being the meeting-place of the deeps is also found in the OT:

    KTU 1.4 iv 20-24: "[Athirat] set her face towards El at the source of the rivers, at the midst of the springs of the two deeps. She rolled back the Tent of El, and came into the pavilion of the King, the Father of the Bright One".
    KTU 1.100 R 3-4, V 60-64: "Shapsh, my mother, carry my voice to El at the source of the rivers, at the confluence of the two deeps (mbk nhrm b'dt thmtm)...[Horon] set his face towards the Tigris abounding in rain, and well-watered Tigris, he uprooted from among the trees the tamarisk, and from among the shrubs the tree of death".
    Psalm 42:4-7: "I am on my way to the wonderful Tent, to the House of God, among cries of joy and praise and an exultant throng. Why so downcast, my soul, why do you sigh within me? Put your hope in God, I shall praise him yet, my savior, my God. When my soul is downcast within me, I think of you; from the land of Jordan and in Hermon, in Mount Misar, deep is calling to deep (thwm-'l-thwm qwr') as your cataracts roar".
    Ezekiel 28:2, 13-14: "You say, 'I am El ('l) in the dwelling of the gods ('lhym); I dwell in the midst of the seas (ymym)'...You were in Eden in the garden of God ... you were on the holy mountain of the gods ('lhym)".

    The Quran (Sura 18:60) also refers to a cosmological "junction of the two seas" (majma'a albahrayni) at the extremity of the world. This mythological motif of the cosmic mountain is found in post-exilic writings regarding Mount Zion which would be the source of "living water" to water all creation (cf. Psalm 87:1-7; Ezekiel 47:1-22; Joel 4:18; Zechariah 14:8, 1 Enoch 26:1-2, Revelation 20-22), and in later Jewish tradition, the foundation for the Temple was believed to have kept the subterranean floods at bay; it was said to be the stone on which the world is based (Yoma 54b).

    As for the heavenly waters, this notion is elaborated in the apocalyptic tradition. The Book of Watchers (third century BC) for instance locates the waters as above the cosmic mountain:

    "And they [angels] lifted me up into one place where there were the ones like the flaming fire. And when they so desire they appear like men. And they took me into a place of whirlwind in the mountain; the top of its summit was reaching into heaven. And I saw chambers of light and thunder in the ultimate end of the depth toward the place where the bow, the arrow, and their quiver and a fiery sword and all the lightnings were. And they lifted me up unto the waters of life, unto the western fire which receives every setting of the sun" (1 Enoch 17:1-4).
    "From there I went in the direction of the north, to the extreme ends of the earth ... There I saw three open gates of heaven; when it blows cold, hail, frost, snow, dew, and rain, through each one of the gates the winds proceed in the northwesterly direction" (1 Enoch 34:1-2).

    In the Book of Luminaries, which may be even older (fourth-third century BC), we read similarly:

    "And I saw the twelve wide openings in all the directions through which the winds come out and blow over the earth. Three of them are open in the forefront of the sky, three in the west, three in the right of the sky, and three on the left ... Out of the second gate, located directly in the center, proceed rain and fruitfulness together with dew" (1 Enoch 76:1-2, 6).

    The much later 2 Enoch gives an explicit description of the heavenly ocean:

    "They took me up onto their wings, and carried me up to the first heaven. And they put me down there. They led before my face the elders, the rulers of the stellar orders. And they showed me their movements and their aberrations from year to year. And they showed me in the light the angels who govern the stars, the heavenly constellations. And they showed me there a vast ocean, much bigger than the earthly ocean. And the angels were flying with their wings. And they showed me the treasuries of the snow and the cold, terrible angels are guarding the treasuries. And they showed me there those guarding the treasuries and they showed me the treasuries of the clouds, from which they go in and come out. And they showed me the treasuries of the dew, like olive oil" (2 Enoch 3:1-6:1).

    In 3 Baruch the heavenly ocean is instead located in third heaven, where it is a lake (= the Greek Acherusian Lake?) at "a very wide mountain", and the lake's waters are "that which the clouds receive to send as rain upon the earth" (3 Baruch 10:6).

  • New Worldly Translation
    New Worldly Translation

    I think the ancient writer (or plagariser) of the Noah story must have thought the waters above the firmament explained where the rain came from during the flood. Reading through Genesis it's obvious the ancient writers had no idea about how the water cycle worked and that there couldn't have been a time before the flood when no rain fell and everything was watered with a morning mist and also that the first rainbow ever seen was subsequent to the flood. There's also some figures around the net that people have calculated if there was some kind of water canopy above the earth. I can't remember the exact figures but it was something like unless the water canopy was only about 5 feet thick the heat on the earths surface would be like a pressure cooker and if the canopy was thick enough to cause a global flood the heat would be 900 degrees!

    That's a funny pic Garybuss, reminds me of the illustrations the leader of the flat earth society used to come up with.

    It's always funny hearing bible apologists who argue the inerrancy of the bible trying to explain the flood of Noah's day. Also the cosmogeny of Genesis chapter 1 is all in the wrong order!

    Genesis really is a hotchpotch of borrowed myths and fables.

    I don't know about you VM44 but Noah's flood was one of the first things I looked into when I was trying to seperate fact from fiction after leaving the org.

  • peacefulpete
    Note that the space between the waters is called the firmament. Genesis then goes on to call this firmament the "heaven" where the Sun, Moon and stars reside.

    Not the space but the thin solid dome that held up the water above. The sun, moon and stars moved upon the inner surface of the firmament. The word for firmament is raqiya and means, "beaten to a sheet" .

  • Leolaia

    There are two important texts that confirm this understanding of rqy` "firmament" in Genesis 1:6-7. Job 37:18 refers to God in his creation "beating out (trqy`) the heavens, hard (chzqym) as a mirror of cast bronze". Similarly, in a merkebah vision of the heavens, Ezekiel 1:22 notes that "spread out (ntwy) above the heads of the living creatures was what looked like a firmament (rqy`), sparkling like ice (k`yn hqrch), and awesome". Both texts reckon the rqy` as something solid and not a mere expanse of air. The Ezekiel passage also places the sapphire throne "on the firmament" (mm`l l-ryq`), i.e. the firmament serves as the floor for the throne. The ice-like appearance of the firmament in Ezekiel explains why Josephus uses the word krustallon "crystal, ice" in Antiquities 1.30 to describe the creation of the firmament:

    "On the second day, he placed the heaven over the whole world (tois holois epitithésin), and separated it from the other parts, and he determined it should stand by itself (kat' auton tetakhthai). He also placed a crystalline [structure] round it (krustallon peripéxas autói), and put it together in a manner agreeable to the earth, and fitted it for giving moisture and rain, and for affording the advantage of dews".

    The text in Ezekiel was also an influence on Revelation, which describes the heavenly throne as before "what looked like a sea of glass (thalassa ualiné), clear as crystal (krustalló)" (Revelation 4:6).

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