by James T. Bartsch
"And God said, 'Let there be an atmosphere in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.''' Genesis 1:6
Image credit: Shutterstock; LiveScience.com
Day Two: Genesis 1:6-8
(6) And God said, "Let there be a sky in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters."
(7) And God made the sky, and He separated the waters which were under the sky from the waters which were above the sky. And so it came to be.
(8) And God called the sky "heavens." And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.
Translation by JTB.
(1) The most critical word in this passage is the Hebrew noun raqiya (7549). According to BDB, it conveys the idea of an "extended surface, (solid) expanse (as if beaten out) – firmamentum. 1. (flat) expanse (as if of ice), as a base, support. 2. The vault of heaven, or 'firmament,' regarded by Hebrews as solid, and supporting 'waters' above it." The KJV translation borrowed from the Latin and called it "firmament." The NASB, ESV, HCSB all use the word "expanse;" NIV, "vault"; New Revised Standard Version Updated, "dome." Thomas Constable explains the term as referring to "the sky, comprising the atmosphere, the solar system, and the universe beyond."... "God placed the sun, moon, and stars in it" (Gen. 1:16-17).
I agree with Constable that the English noun "sky" is a good translation of the Hebrew noun raqiya. The sky is what we see anywhere above us when we are situated on the earth. When God had finished his creation of the earth including man, the crown of His creation (Gen. 1:26-31), man could look upwards anywhere upon earth and see the sky. He could see birds flying in the face of the sky (raqiya) of the heavens (Gen. 1:20). And he could see the sun and the moon, and the stars slowly moving in their constellations up in the sky of the heavens (Gen. 1:14, 15, 17). The sky looked the same to him. Little did he know that the portion of the sky in which birds flew was decidedly different than the sky in which stars and galaxies navigated. He did not need to know that. Man, created in God's image, has always been creative. Much later in history, man would create airplanes and rockets and space stations that would enable him to move through and even above the Earth's atmosphere, far above that which any bird could manage. Today we know that there are distinct divisions of the sky.
(2) A caveat: Though "sky" is a good translation in Gen. 1:6-8, it does not really adequately convey to us the function of the raqiya in this passage.The Hebrew text clearly states, in the words of God, that the purpose or function of the raqiya in this passage, whatever way one chooses to translate it, was to exist between the waters, and thus, to separate the waters from the waters (Gen. 1:6). When God proceeded to make the sky (raqiya), He separated the waters which were underneath the sky from the waters which were above it. (Gen. 1:7). Finally, in this paragraph, we are told that God named the sky (raqiya) "heavens" (shamayim, 8064) (Gen. 1:8). That helps us identify the raqiya as a specialized portion of the heavens God had initially created on Day One of creation (Gen. 1:1). The special function of this portion of the heavens was to provide separation between the lower waters (the ocean) and the upper waters, which I take to be a Water Vapor Canopy. More about that in a moment. So this raqiya, as a portion of the heavens would serve as a separator between the distinct waters. Though the text does not here discuss this fact, the raqiya here made would also serve as an atmosphere in which all living things such as plants and trees and living beings, such as animals and man, would flourish.
(3) Let us review what happened on Day One. On Day One God had created the heavens (the fabric of the universe). That consisted of space, that is, height, length, and width. We cannot know for certain, but it seems most likely that the universe at the first was cold, dark, and empty. We know it was dark and empty. We presume it was cold. Second, God created the Earth. It was a watery matrix of water and minerals. We do not know the nature of the matrix. Initially, it was not organized, not hospitable for life (Gen. 1:2), and it was empty (Gen. 1:2), as well as dark (Gen. 1:2). The face or surface of the Earth was water, a global ocean. We are not told the components beneath the surface of the water. At some point on Day One, God also spoke light into existence (Gen. 1:3). God saw that the light was good! Moreover, He separated the light from the darkness (Gen. 1:4) So, wherever the light had a surface to illuminate and reflect, there was a great amount of light. By the end of Day One, the Earth was rotating on its axis in a 24-hour period in relation to the light. There was day and there was night. There was evening, and there was morning (Gen. 1:5).
(4) Now, what happened on the Second Day? On the Second Day, God made a sky. This served to divide between the waters which were under the sky from the waters which were above it. So, there existed an earth which was covered with water. Above the earth existed a sky. This sky divided the waters beneath it, a global ocean, from the waters which were yet higher, above the sky, presumably a water vapor canopy. So what purpose did the sky, thus far, serve? It served, I believe, as an atmosphere. Presumably this atmosphere had the correct amounts of nitrogen, oxygen, helium, and carbon dioxide, etc. to promote and support life upon earth -- plant life, animal life, and human life. Above the atmosphere was a significant amount of water. How much water? Let me propose that it was enough water, when precipitated, to rain continuously upon the earth for forty days and forty nights (Gen. 7:11, 12). That is a prodigious amount of water. I do not think that suggesting that clouds were what comprised the waters above the sky adequately explains what happened later. Later on, God judged man's evil by bringing on the earth a Global Flood. There was an incredible amount of water that descended upon the earth at the beginning of the Flood. The amount of water that descended from above was far more than could be housed in our earth's present cloud system. In fact, the word "cloud" (anan, 6051) does not even appear in the Hebrew text until Gen. 9:13, decidedly after the Flood.
(5) One more thing. However much water was above the raqiya (sky), it did not, shortly thereafter, impede humans on the earth from viewing the sun, the moon, and as many stars as one could see with the naked eye (Gen. 1:14-18). I might add that the light from the stars up in the sky was instantly visible, otherwise the stars would serve no functional purpose for man (Gen. 1:14).
(6) What are the ideas of others? Specifically, what are the lower waters and what are the upper waters? Let me give you Constable's explanation. He says,
God separated the waters, so that some of them remained on earth in a liquid state, and some above the earth as moisture in the atmosphere, probably as clouds, but not as a celestial ocean of solid water above the earth (citing Younker and Davidson). Before God made this division, there may have been a dense fog over the whole surface of the earth (citing Leupold).
In my opinion, Constable and many other interpreters operate, in this instance, from a uniformitarian perspective. I agree with him that the lower waters referred to the global ocean, which at that time comprised the entire surface of the earth. However, he does not believe the waters above the newly created raqiya were substantially different from our present day clouds. In my thinking, there were extraordinary differences. Furthermore, he does not differentiate sufficiently between the raqiya in which birds fly (Gen. 1:20) and the raqiya in which stars orbit in their galaxies (Gen. 1:14-17). Let me explain.
(a) The primary purpose of the raqiya in Gen. 1:6-8 was not to house stars, which had not even been created yet. Rather, its express purpose, according to this passage, was to separate between the waters underneath the raqiya and the waters above it. I do not believe the attempt to identify the waters above the rayia as clouds does justice to this passage or to the passage detailing the onset of Noah's Global Flood, specifically, the opening of "the floodgates of the sky" (Gen. 7:11-12). The word for "cloud," anan (6051), does not even appear in the entire narrative until Gen. 9:13, clearly after Noah's Flood. So I believe there was a profound difference between the pre-Flood hydrological conditions and the post-Flood hydrological conditions.
(b) Scientists today discern five distinct layers in our Earth's atmosphere. The lowest layer is the troposphere, followed by the stratosphere, the mesosphere, the thermosphere, and the exosphere. From a Biblical point of view, however, there are three levels of the heavens (shamayim, 8064). There exists the heavens in which birds fly (Gen. 1:20); there exists the heavens in which the sun, moon and stars navigate (Gen. 1:16, 17); finally, there exists the heavens in which is the abode of God (Gen. 22:11, 15; 24:7; Matt. 4:17; 2 Cor. 12:2). From a human perspective on the earth, we look upwards, and we cannot distinguish between the heavens in which the birds fly and the heavens in which stars and galaxies move. However, if we take a commercial flight and ascend, we can see a visible line of demarcation where a certain element of our atmosphere ends and the clearer portion of our atmosphere begins. My point is that we all recognize regions of the heavens. So it should be no surprise that the raqiya of the heavens includes both the realm of birds and the realm of stars. Nevertheless, in Genesis 1:6-8, God established the raqiya to divide between the waters underneath the raqiya from the waters above it.
In my study, the only thing that makes sense is that the waters above the raqiya consisted of a Water Vapor Canopy. I cannot begin to say how high up this Water Vapor Canopy existed. Did it exist higher or lower than the ozone layer, which still remains even to this day? We cannot know. Nevertheless, judging from pre-Flood longevity as compared to modern longevity, I believe this Water Vapor Canopy provided about eight to ten times as much protection from ultraviolet rays to humans living on the pre-Flood earth as the ozone layer presently provides us in the post-Flood era. That is why people lived eight to ten times longer back there before the Flood than we do today, and why reptiles back then kept living, and many of them grew to be of such enormous size prior to the Flood. Think of the immense sizes of certain varieties of dinosaurs!
I believe that, in Gen. 1:6-8, God created an atmosphere in which man, animals, and plants could thrive abundantly. There was just the right amount of oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and water vapor to provide the proper ingredients, along with the appropriate humidity and air pressure, for optimal flourishing. But the primary purpose of this atmosphere was to separate the sea water below from the substantial Water Vapor Canopy above. This Water Vapor Canopy filtered out an enormous amount of ultraviolet radiation that today makes us age faster and more readily develop skin cancers and other maladies than was true with the first humans, even in their fallen state. There are creation scientists who deny the previous existence of the Water Vapor Canopy, but they are, I fear, working from a uniformitarian viewpoint. They cannot imagine how a Water Vapor Canopy could function without over-heating the earth, for example. But we must remember that all of creation was a miracle. None of it could have happened on its own without God supernaturally creating it. I am certain God was able to create a Water Vapor Canopy that would not endanger the lives of the earth's inhabitants, but would, on the contrary, enhance their lives.
The effect of the Water Vapor Canopy: A Gigantic, Global Terrarium. A terrarium is a miniature garden and is usually housed inside a small, sealable container such as a bottle or a jar. A terrarium is a fully functioning plant ecosystem. It is mostly self-sustaining, with the plants watering themselves through transpiration and condensation. The Earth, the terrarium God created, was a remarkable place. Its focal point was the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:8-15). It contained all manner of trees (Gen. 2:9). It appears to have been watered by a mist (Gen. 2:6) along with an amazing river that flowed from the garden and divided into four rivers, named Pishon, Gihon, Tigris, and Euphrates (Gen. 2:10-14). In the Earth from the beginning God would create every manner of land animal and every bird suitable for flying in the heavens (Gen. 2:19), along with every creature that swam in the sea (Gen. 1:20-22). The sea was, I believe, in the beginning, filled with fresh, not salty water. The Great Flood, a future act of judgment, would cause salty water. The terrarium God created had uniform temperatures, caused by the Water Vapor Canopy. There were, I believe, no polar ice caps. There were no deserts. Lush tropical forests grew all over the earth. There were no extinct animals, and no fossils. In this controlled environment there were no hurricanes and no tornadoes. The Earth God created had no sin and no death. He created man and animals to live forever. It was an ecosystem perfect when compared to ours today, There was, moreover, from the beginning, a moral component. There was an obligation to trust God and obey Him (Gen. 2:16-17). We know, sadly, that man listened to another voice, failed to trust God, disobeyed Him, and brought in death and decay (Gen. 3:1-24). But that is another history for another time.
Questions that Must Be Answered by Those Objecting to a Water Vapor Canopy.
(1) Why did God create man with no fur? Fur is one of the best insulators against cold, yet God created man with no fur. Not only that, but in the beginning man and woman wore no clothes, by Divine design. The last verse of Genesis 2 tells us that the first couple were naked and not ashamed (Gen. 2:25). Notwithstanding man's having neither fur nor clothes, God commanded him to fill the earth and subdue it (Gen. 1:28). That fits in neatly with the model that God created the earth, with its protective Water Vapor Canopy, as a gigantic terrarium. There was a more or less uniform, tropical temperature around the entire globe. Man needed no fur, and, presumably, he would need no clothes anywhere he walked upon the earth. It was a global tropical paradise whose focal point was an exquisite garden!
(2) Why do creationist uniformitarians insist on placing the moisture required for the Flood within the raqiya (atmosphere) instead of above it, as the Scriptures stipulate? Let me explain. Remember that Constable, cited above, and commenting on Gen. 1:6-8, made the following statement:
God separated the waters, so that some of them remained on earth in a liquid state, and some above the earth as moisture in the atmosphere, probably as clouds ... (emphasis mine).
We can see that Constable, representing the uniformitarian view in this issue, specifically states that in the original creation on the Second Day, God placed moisture above the earth (which is correct), but in the atmosphere, probably as clouds." In my view, that simply does not square with Scripture. Scripture specifically states that the raqiya (here atmosphere) separated the waters. It was placed between the waters (Gen. 1:6). It separated the waters which were underneath the raqiya (atmosphere) (i.e. the ocean) from the waters which were above the raqiya (atmosphere) (Gen. 1:7) (i.e., the Water Vapor Canopy). Uniformitarians insist on saying that the pre-Flood meterology was exactly the same as it is today. Today, clouds can only exist within the atmosphere, not above it. But whatever moisture God separated from the ocean by means of the raqia on the Second Day was distinctly above the raqiya (atmosphere), not within it. The question uniformitarians must answer is this: Why do you insist on placing the moisture of the pre-Flood Earth within the atmosphere instead of above it, as the Scriptures stipulate (Gen. 1:6-8)? At the end of the Second Day, the farthest out tangible entity was water. The raqia at that point was underneath the upper water! There were no clouds (moisture) within the raqiya!
(3) Where did all the water come from to rain non-stop over the entire globe for forty days and forty nights (Gen. 7:12)? The two primary causes of Noah's Flood were the splitting open of the fountains of the great deep and the opening of the windows of the heavens (Gen. 7:11). There must have been a prodigious water source somewhere above the atmosphere to accomplish that feat! Today, the average annual rainfall for the rainiest country in the world, Columbia, is only 127. 5 inches. That is 127.5 inches that descends over the course of 365 days. If rain fell at that rate all over the earth for a space of forty days, that would only amount to 14 inches of water. That would cause a lot of flooding, but could hardly account for the global flood described in Scripture (Gen. 7:17-8:13)! But for water to descend from the clouds of today all over the earth at the same rate as Columbian rainfall would be impossible. Today, vast areas of the earth, such as Antarctica, the Arctic, northern Africa and the interior of Australia are desert. Today, they would generate virtually no rainfall even over a period of forty days and nights. The weather conditions before the Flood had to be substantially different than they are today. For rain to have fallen continuously all over the globe for forty days and nights, there needed to have been a prodigious water source above the atmosphere. Today's clouds within the atmosphere simply won't accomplish that catastrophic event. The only mechanism I know of that could account for that much water is a substantial Water Vapor Canopy suspended above the atmosphere all around the globe. Without it there is no known mechanism in today's meteorological conditions that could account for the amount of rain everywhere that is described in Gen. 7:17-24.
(4) Why did the pre-Flood humans live so long? Here is a table that details the remarkable ages that men lived upon the earth prior to the Flood. Adam, the first man, lived 930 years (Gen. 5:5). His son Seth lived 912 years (Gen. 5:8). His son Enosh lived 905 years (Gen. 5:11). His son Kenan lived 910 years (Gen. 5:14). His son Mahalalel lived 895 years (Gen. 5:17). His son Jared lived 962 years, a new record (Gen. 5:20)! His son Enoch lived but 365 years (Gen. 5:23), but we don't count his numbers. In an enigmatic explanation, Moses records simply that "Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him" (Gen. 5:24). Evidently Enoch did not die. His son Methuselah set the all-time record for longevity. He lived 969 years (Gen. 5:27)! Lamech evidenced a precipitous decline in longevity. He lived only 777 years (Gen. 5:31). Immediately after Lamech, Noah, his son lived 500 years, and fathered, in short order three sons (Gen. 5:32). Though born prior to the Flood, Noah's longevity did not seem compromised by the increased ultraviolet radiation after the collapse of the Water Vapor Canopy at the beginning of the Flood. He lived another 350 years, and died at the age of 950 (Gen. 9:28-29). Clearly there was some advantage that pre-Flood humans had back then that we do not have today. The average age of the pre-Flood men (Gen. 5), excluding Enoch (Gen. 5:21-24) was a stunning 912.22 years! There is only one plausible explanation. They were protected from damaging ultraviolet rays by a protective Water Vapor Canopy.
(5) Why did man's longevity shrink dramatically immediately following the Flood? Shem, Noah's son, lived 600 years (Gen. 11:10-11); Arpachshad lived but 438 years (Gen. 11:12-13); Shelah, 433 years (Gen. 11:14-15); Ever, 464 years (Gen. 11:16-17). Then began another significant decline. Peleg lived but 239 years (Gen. 11:18-19); Reu, also 239 years (Gen. 11:20-21); Serug, 230 years (Gen. 11:22-23). Nahor lived only 148 years (Gen. 11:24-25); Terah lived 205 years (Gen. 11:26, 31, 32).
Once again, here is the life-expectancy table that compares the ages of the Pre-Flood patriarchs when they died (Gen. 5:1-32) with the Post-Flood patriarchs when they died (Gen. 11:10-32). The differences are startling. Clearly something in the environment of the earth after the Flood was dramatically different than it was before the Flood! May I suggest that something was protecting the pre-Flood patriarchs from harmful ultra-violet rays coming from the sun? May I suggest that it was a Water Vapor Canopy that did so? I believe a substantial Water Vapor Canopy helped shield them from the deleterious effects of the ultraviolet rays from the sun. That is why they lived so long, in some cases in excess of 900 years. It is clear to me that the Water Vapor Canopy that had protected man from many harmful ultraviolet rays had vanished. It had condensed when the floodgates of the heavens were opened. Today, we live but a tenth of the life-span of the pre-Flood humans.
(6) Why, after the Flood, did God announce, for the first time, that seasons would perpetually exist upon earth (Gen. 8:20-21, 22)? Uniformitarian commentators assume there have always been seasons. But why should we assume that to be so? This pronouncement of Gen. 8:20-22 was only made after the Flood. I think it makes more sense to understand that, with the Water Vapor Canopy prior to the Flood, there were no distinct seasons as we know them today. Before the Flood, farmers could sow any time of the year, and they could reap any time in the year that their crops had reached maturity. Now, however, there would be a distinct time of year for sowing, and a distinct time of year for harvesting. For most of the world there would be distinct time of cold and a distinct time of heat. There would be a summertime, and there would be wintertime. This had not been so before. The collapse of the Water Vapor Canopy introduced cold air into the environment that, at the polar extremes would produce snow and ice caps. This had not been so before. It makes more sense, reading Genesis, to understand that it was the Flood that brought about enormous seasonal meteorological changes. Stability would return, but it would not be the same as it was before. Now, man would be forced to add a considerable amount of clothing to stay warm in the wintertime. He was not created that way, but the Post-Flood meteorology introduced the new normal.
(7) Why did dinosaurs and other reptiles grow to such an enormous size? For example, the Brontosaurus measured about 66 feet in length, while the Apatosaurus measured 70 feet. We know that reptiles continue to grow as long as they live. In the fossil debris left behind by Noah's Flood, we encounter reptiles of gargantuan proportions. How did they grow so large? My answer is that they, too, benefited from the Water Vapor Canopy. They lived much longer lives, and they continued to grow as long as they were living. Most of these dinosaurs were herbivorous. After the Flood, there simply was not enough foliage growing in the right conditions to support these giants. They rapidly became extinct. [Incidentally, WordExplain takes the position that evolutionists are completely mistaken about the age of the Earth and the antiquity of dinosaurs. This is true because evolutionists begin with certain false assumptions, a major one being uniformitarianism. The chronology of the Bible (Gen. 1-11) is far more reliable.The Bible explodes the myth of uniformitarianism (2 Pet. 3:3-13). See the off-site links Biblical Age of the Earth and Circular Reasoning Behind Secular Ages.]
(8) Why was a petrified tropical forest found inside the Arctic Circle in Norway? An ancient forest was recently discovered in Svalbard, a cluster of Norwegian islands in the Arctic Ocean. The article describes "a tropical forest densely packed wth 12-foot-tall trees with flared trunks and curbed branches of needle leaves ...." The uniformitarian-based article assumes, without proof, that the forest originally was located near the equator. The author assumes, without evidence, that "continental drift" was the mechanism by which the tree "stumps in the ground" were magically transported from an unnamed equatorial region to Norwegian islands located inside the Arctic circle. This is a classic case of circular reasoning, using one's assumptions to prove one's intended conclusion. It makes far more sense to assume that the "tropical" trees grew in the latitude in which they were found because the entire earth before the Great Flood was tropical -- a gigantic terrarium created by God. The Water Vapor Canopy enveloped the planet, kept out many harmful ultraviolet rays, and created a uniformly warm climate around the globe. It was warm enough for tropical trees to grow in Norway in what later became the Arctic Circle.
(9) Why are there remains of tropical animals such as mammoths and rhinoceroses found above the Arctic Circle in Northern Siberia?
Since 1800, at least 11 scientific expeditions have excavated fleshly remains of extinct mammoths. Most fleshly remains were buried in the permafrost of northern Siberia, inside the Arctic Circle. The remains of six mammoths have been found in Alaska. Only a few complete carcasses have been discovered. Usually wild animals had eaten the exposed parts before scientists.
Table 8 on page 279 summarizes 57 reported mammoth and rhinoceros discoveries.
If we now look for the bones and ivory of mammoths, not just preserved flesh, the number of discoveries becomes enormous, especially in Siberia and Alaska.
An estimated 5 million mammoths once lived and thrived along a 600-mile stretch of what is now the Arctic coast.
What could have caused all these tropical mammals to die so suddenly that even their flesh has been preserved? The only feasible answer is that during the collapse of the Water Vapor Canopy, cold air rushed in, temperatures dropped, and these mammoths were almost quick-frozen. As the flood waters rose, they were abruptly covered up before decomposition could set in. They survived, some in almost pristine condition for thousands of years before they were discovered in the permafrost. See also the article, Five ice-age mammoths unearthed in Coswolds after 220,000 years. I utterly dispute the date, but notice that even the paleontologists and archaeologists were astonished at the extraordinary state of preservation.
(10) What was so special about the rainbow (Gen. 9:8-17)?
(11) Why was there an ice age?
(12) Why is there "global warming" today?
(Scripture quotation taken from the NASB 1995)
Updated August 8, 2022