The Firmament

And God made the firmament and divided the waters under the firmament from the waters above the firmament, and it was so. (Gen. 1:71)

What were these waters above and below the firmament? We know the firmament was the sky (Gen. 1:8), so what waters are above the sky. In fact, we know that the sun, moon, and stars are in the firmament (Gen. 1:14-17), so these waters are above the sun, moon, and stars. Of what is Moses speaking?

I wish I didn't have to write this chapter. I wish I could pretend, like so many others, that the things I'm telling you are not true. However, they are true. They are obviously and undeniably true, and anyone who says their not true is simply being willfully ignorant, not being spiritual or glorifying to God.

I am glad, however, that it is me telling you this and not a skeptic who would use it to discourage your faith in God or the Scriptures. I believe in God who created all things, and I believe that he inspired the Scriptures—all of them, including Genesis One. I do not believe that anything I'm about to tell you should reduce your faith. In fact, I believe that all Truth will inspire faith in believers.

The firmament, according to Genesis One, is a hard dome with the sun, moon, and stars in it, and the water is the storehouses of the rain, which are kept above the firmament. Like it or not, Genesis One says that the sun, moon, and stars are close, not millions of miles or many light years away.

Before I give you the definition of firmament from Strong's Concordance, let me give you a Bible verse that specifically says the sky is hard.

Hast thou with [God] spread out the sky, which is strong, and as a molten looking glass? (Job 37:18)

The phrase “spread out” there is the Hebrew raqa, which means to beat or hammer out. The word “strong” is the Hebrew chazaq, which can mean strong, but can also mean firm or hard. The “molten looking glass” is a reference to a brass mirror. Job is a very old book, and at that time mirrors were not made from glass but from metal that was poured out, then beaten flat and polished. The Holman Christian Standard Bible® renders this verse, “Can you help God spread out the skies as hard as a cast metal mirror?” The New American Standard Bible® has it, “Can you, with Him, spread out the skies, strong as a molten mirror?”

It is clear that Job 37:18 is stating that the sky is as hard as a metal mirror. Why? Well, one of the main reasons is that is what the word firmament means. “Firmament” has “firm” in it for a reason. It means something that's firm. The word “expanse,” used to translate the Hebrew raqiya in many modern versions, is a copout. My Strong's Concordance gives, as the first definition of raqiya, “extended surface (solid).” I'm sorry, but it's simply obvious from the context, from the definition of the word, and from Job 37:18, that the firmament in Genesis One is the solid vault of the heavens, a common belief in the Middle East during the time of the early Israelites.

There's simply no denying these facts. They are so. The question is, what are we going to do about it? Are we going to stick our head in the sand and pretend we never heard it? Are we going to give up on our faith because Moses didn't know that stars were giant balls of gas producing heat and light by nuclear fusion anywhere from a few light years to tens of thousands of light years away? Are we going to give up on our faith because God didn't think it was worth revealing these advanced scientific ideas to Moses at a time when neither he nor anyone else would have understood them? Or will we set our panic and fear aside and look with open eyes at the truth and know that all Truth leads to Christ?

The truth concerning this issue is fascinating. The Law, the first five books of the Bible, is a Suzerain Covenant. It's not an accident that Genesis through Deuteronomy is set up the way that it is. It's not an accident that they are called “The Law,” by the Jews. God and the people of Israel both knew they were making a covenant, and God gave the Israelites a covenant in a legal form that was typical for their day.

A suzerain covenant had three parts. The first part told what the suzerain, the king, had done for the people. The second part described the suzerain's requirements for the people. The third part gave the blessings and cursings for obedience or disobedience to the covenant. You'll recognize all three parts in the Law of Moses. Genesis and Exodus describe what God did for the people. Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers give his laws, and Deuteronomy gives the blessings and cursings.

One of the major things God did for the people was make them! He made not only them, but he made the sun, moon, and stars, and he made the sky. Therefore, God's suzerain covenant contains, and must contain, a description of the creation. It does not contain a scientific version of creation; why would God need to inspire Moses with an understanding of complex scientific facts completely unobservable and unbelievable to the people of his day?

What of the Genesis one version of creation? We can debate why God chose the particular description of creation that is given in Genesis one. I believe it was inspired. I believe that God chose the words “greater light” and “lesser light,” for example, rather than “sun” and “moon” on purpose. God did not mainly have the sun and moon in mind. God had his Son and his Church primary on his mind when he inspired those words. Jesus said that while he was on earth, it was day, but the night was coming. While he was on earth, he was the light of the earth. However, once he ascended to heaven, we his people became the light of the world. He is the greater light that ruled the day, and we are the lesser light that rules the night, shining not with our own glory, but with the glory of the Son.

The Scripture says, “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing” (Pr. 25:2). God has always hidden truth in the words of his prophets, including Moses. The prophecy of the virgin birth was a concealed prophecy. Isaiah 7:14, in context, is not a prophecy of a virgin birth many centuries in the future. In context, it is clearly a prophecy that a maiden who is not a virgin will give birth while Pekin was still king of Samaria and Rezin was still king of Syria. The child would be named Immanuel, and before that child was old enough to tell good from evil, neither Pekin nor Rezin would still be king.

This does not mean the prophecy is false. It is the glory of God to conceal a thing. The prophecy of the virgin birth was not clear until the virgin birth had happened. The word “virgin” itself was added by the translators of the Septuagint when they translated the Hebrew to Greek. While the Hebrew word can mean virgin, there is another word more commonly used when a virgin, rather than just a young lady, is meant. God did not use it, however, because Isaiah 7:14 was a dual prophecy. It had to mean both things, both the young lady who conceived while Pekin and Rezin were still king and Mary, the mother of Jesus.

That inspiration does not extend to scientific facts. It's not supposed to. It's completely unnecessary that scientific facts be inspired. When Christians rest the inspiration of the Scriptures on whether it's scientifically accurate or not, they destroy people's faith, because it doesn't take much research to find out that Genesis 1 and Job 37 say that the sky is hard. We dishonestly suggest that the phrase “circle of the earth” in Isaiah 40:22 suggests that Isaiah was inspired to know that the world is a sphere. The fact is that the Hebrew chuwg in that verse does not mean sphere. It just means circle. However, while we're parading Isaiah 40:22 as a proof of scientific inspiration for Moses, no one mentions Job 37:18 and the hard sky.

There's a similar situation with Job 26:7. It says that the Lord hangs the earth upon nothing. This, the defenders of scientific inspiration say, proves the accurate science in the Bible. However, they do not mention 1 Samuel 2:8, which says that “the pillars of the earth are the Lord's and he has set the world upon them.” Was the Book of Job inspired, but not Samuel? If so, is the sky as hard as a brass mirror?

People do not lose their faith over Truth. Jesus Christ is the Truth. People lose their faith over the lies that they are told about the Bible. They are told that God inspired scientific truth, when he did not, and then, when they find out that God did not reveal nuclear physics to Moses, they quit believing in the Bible. Is this sensible? Those who claim to defend inspiration, but use ignorance and deceit to do so, are not defending the Bible. Dishonesty will never bring us closer to Christ, who is both the Truth and the Creator.