Cosmology, the Study of Origins
Then God said, "Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters." Genesis 1:6
Second Day: Creation of an Atmosphere
God's Creation of an Expanse between the Upper and Lower Waters
1. God's Proposal of an Expanse (Gen. 1:6)
Then God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” (Gen. 1:6)
"Then God said," – This is the second time we encounter the phrase, "Then God said," the first being in Gen. 1:3. This phrase appears in the Creation narrative in this precise formula in Gen. 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26, 29. In Hebrew idiom, the verb typically precedes the noun. "Then said" is the 3rd Person Masculine Singular Qal Waw Consecutive Imperfect of 'âmar (559), "to say or utter," preceded by the copulative waw; "God" is the Masculine Plural Common Noun for God, 'ĕlôhı̂ym (430), the generic name for God as the "Strong One." The significance is that God is a plural noun, but the verb "said" is a singular verb. So the complexity of God (a plurality of persons) combine in a singular action, here, speaking. The Waw Consecutive is used to denote consecutive sequence in narrative Hebrew literature.
"let there be" is the Qal Imperfect of hâyâh (1961), the verb of being.
"expanse" translates the noun râqı̂ya‛ (7549), almost universally translated “expanse” in the NASB. Other versions’ translations here include ESV and Young’s Literal, expanse; KJV, NKJV, firmament; NIV, vault; Common English, Contemporary English, and Good News, dome; The Message, sky. According to BDB, the word refers to an "extended surface," a "(solid) expanse (as if beaten out) – firmamentum 1. (flat) expanse (as if of ice), as base, support. 2. the vault of heaven, or 'firmament,' regarded by Hebrews as solid, and supporting 'waters' above it." Functionally, I would call this expanse, in this context, “atmosphere.”
It should be observed that there are two different uses of the word râqı̂ya‛ (7549), expanse, in Genesis 1. There is an expanse "in the midst of the waters" (Gen. 1:6) which "separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse" (Gen. 1:7). Birds fly in this expanse (Gen. 1:20). And then there is an expanse in which the sun, moon, and stars travel (Gen. 1:14, 15, 17). Both areas are termed râqı̂ya‛ (7549) because to the human observer, both then and now, the two are indistinguishable. Again, I would call this first expanse, the one which separated waters from waters, the one in which birds fly, an "atmosphere."
"In the midst of the waters" – "in the midst" translates the noun tâvek (8432), which means, in this context, "in the midst" or "in the middle of" or "in between." There is a prefixed letter bet which serves as the preposition "in." "Waters" is the always plural noun mayim (4325), meaning waters, used in a variety of applications. At this stage of God's creation, the Earth's surface consisted of nothing but "waters." So God was proposing an atmosphere "in the midst of the waters."
"and let it separate the waters from the waters." The verb "and let it" is the Qal Imperfect of hâyâh (1961), the verb of being, preceded by the copulative waw ("and"); "separate" is the Hifil Participle of bâdal (914), "divide" or "separate." God's plan was that this atmosphere would divide or separate between "waters" mayim (4325) from "waters" mayim (4325). The reader is not yet told in what way this atmosphere would bifurcate the waters. That information comes next, in Gen. 1:7.
2. God's Creation of an Expanse (Gen. 1:7)
"God made the expanse" – literally, "and (or "then") made God the expanse," where "and made" is the Waw Consecutive Qal Imperfect of the verb ‛âśâh (6213), to "do" or "make," an exceedingly common verb that appears 153X in Genesis alone. This is the first time it appears in the book. It appears in this chapter in Gen. 1:7, 11, 12, 16, 25, 26, 31. In this context, it is a creative act of God. "God" is 'ĕlôhı̂ym (430), the plural generic identifier of God. – "the expanse" – the noun râqı̂ya‛ (7549), the "extended surface" with the article, and identified as a direct object.
"and separated (between) the waters which were below the expanse"; – "and separated" is the Hifil Waw Consecutive Imperfect of the verb bâdal (914), "divide" or "separate"; – "between" – the preposition bêyn (996), "between" or "from between"; – "the waters" – the plural noun mayim (4325), waters, preceded by the article; – which were below the expanse; – "which were" is the relative particle 'ăsher (834), in this context, distinguishing the sphere of waters underneath the expanse from those above it; "below," literally, "from below" – translating a single Hebrew word that combines the preposition min (4480), "from" and the preposition tachath (8478), "under" or "beneath;" – "the expanse" literally, "in relation to the expanse," translating the noun râqı̂ya‛ (7549), "extended surface," with a prefixed lamed (letter L), indicating "in relation to."
"from the waters which were above the expanse"; literally, "and between" – the preposition bêyn (996), "between" or "from between;" – "the waters" – the plural noun mayim (4325), waters, preceded by the article; – "which were" is the relative particle 'ăsher (834), here speaking of the upper waters; "above," literally "from above," translating a compound of the Hebrew preposition min (4480), "from" or "above" and the preposition `al (5921), meaning "upon" or "above" or "over;" So the two prepositions, combined, reinforce the notion that the râqı̂ya‛ (7549), "extended surface," definitely and deliberately separated the waters which were underneath the extended surface from the waters which were above it. – "the expanse" – râqı̂ya‛ (7549), "extended surface," with a prefixed lamed (letter L), indicating "in relation to."
"and it was so." "and it was" translates the Qal Waw Consecutive Imperfect of the verb hâyâh (1961), the verb of being, preceded by the copulative waw ("and"); "so" – the adverbial particle kên (3651), "so" or "thus." The meaning is that just as God proposed (Gen. 1:6), and just as He put into action (Gen. 1:7), so it came about. The phrase "and it was so" appears in this chapter in Gen. 1:7, 9, 11, 15, 24, 30.
Clearly the original earth God created was different than the present earth. The original earth, of course, on Day One, had consisted of a watery matrix, certainly on the surface (Gen. 1:2). On the second day, moreover, there was no visible land anywhere. The entire surface of the globe consisted of nothing but "waters."
God inserted an atmosphere, râqı̂ya‛ (7549), "extended surface," which served to separate waters below the atmosphere (i.e. the ocean surface) from the waters above the atmosphere (evidently a water vapor canopy of some sort). This explanation has fallen into disfavor even among many creation scientists, but I continue to think it is the most plausible explanation of what Moses was describing here. Hydrologically, the early earth was vastly different than our present earth, for the following reasons: (1) The normal mode of living for mankind on the pristine earth was in a state of nudity (Gen. 2:25). That presupposes that the entire earth, which God commanded man to fill and subdue (Gen. 1:28), consisted of a warm environment. (2) There seems to have been no rain before the Flood (Gen. 2:5-6). (3) When God opened “the floodgates of the sky” there was enough moisture in the waters above the atmosphere to rain solidly over the entire globe for forty days and nights (Gen. 7:11-12). That is a prodigious amount of water that modern clouds simply cannot hold! (4) Longevity before the Flood was off the charts in today’s terms. Men often lived in excess of 900 years (Gen. 5:1-27). Great longevity prior to the Flood would extend to animals also. The great dinosaurs were large because they continued to grow for hundreds of years. After the Flood, man’s life-expectancy plummeted (Gen. 11:10-32). See “The Declining Life Span of the Patriarchs Before and After the Great Flood.” It seems to me that the best explanation for this disparity is that a water vapor canopy helped shield the human race from harmful ultra-violet rays in the Pre-Flood era.
A Hebrew scholar once told me that there was no difference between our present earth and the original earth. He insisted that the waters above the râqı̂ya‛ (7549) were simply clouds. But I do not agree with him. The word for cloud is ‛ânân (6051), and that word does not appear in the narrative until Gen. 9:13, 14, 16, after the great Flood of Noah.
Once that water vapor canopy was condensed out of existence in the Great Flood, man’s life-span began a steady free-fall. See “The Water Vapor Canopy Theory” by the author. For a scientific discussion of the plausiblity of the water vapor canopy theory, see “Temperature Profiles for an Optimized Water Vapor Canopy” by Larry Vardiman, PhD.
3. God's Naming of the Expanse (Gen. 1:8). "God called the expanse heaven." Literally, "And called God with reference to extended surface, 'heavens.'" "And called" is the 3rd Person Masculine Singular Qal Waw Consecutive Imperfect of the verb qârâ' (7121), in this context meaning, "to name something." "God" is, of course, the always-plural generic identifier of God 'ĕlôhı̂ym (430). Its plurality used with the 3rd Singular verb harmonizes the complex tri-unity of God. "With reference to extended surface" somewhat clumsily translates the noun râqı̂ya‛ (7549), "extended surface," preceded by the preposition lamed, indicating "movement toward." "Heavens" translates the always-plural shâmayim (8064), according to BDB, "heavens, sky" – 1. a. visible heavens, sky, where stars, etc. are ... [JTB, here,] before which fowl fly, with waters beneath and above, ...." (The rest of the quote goes on to add, "...darkened with clouds, cleared by wind; whence comes rain, and dew ....") I dispute that in the pre-Flood earth there were either clouds or rain. The cosmology and hydrology of the early Earth was distinctly different than our present earth. It is worth noting that the universally plural occurrences of "heavens" allows for the heavens in which birds fly (Gen. 1:20, 26, 28, 30), the heavens in which the stars and other celestial objects navigate (Gen. 1:14-17), and the heaven which is the abode of God (2 Cor. 12:2). The terms râqı̂ya‛ (7549), "expanse" and shâmayim (8064), "heavens" appear in the same verses in Gen. 1:8, 14, 15, 17, 20. The term râqı̂ya‛ (7549), "expanse" appears by itself in the book of Genesis only in Gen. 1:6-7. The term shâmayim (8064), "heavens" appears by itself in the first two chapters of Genesis in Gen. 1:1, 26, 28, 30; 2:1, 4, 19, 20.
4. The Conclusion of the Second Day (Gen. 1:8). "And there was evening and there was morning, a second day." Several observations are in order. (1) The succession of evening, ‛ereb (6153) followed by morning, bôqer (1242) marks the termination of the second day. (2) The use of the ordinal number "second," shênı̂y (8145) without the article indicates that the second day is the same kind of day as was the cardinal number "one," 'echâd (259) "day," yôm (3117), which was carefully defined in Gen. 1:5. (See the comments on the cardinal number one, echad, as carefully defined in the article, "How Long is a Day?") (3) The use of the term "day," yôm (3117), combined with "evening" and "morning" in this context can only mean a normal 24-hour day. It cannot be stretched into a vast period of time in an attempt to accommodate the Genesis account of creation with the Godless, unscientific hypothesis of evolution and its flawed presuppositions.
(Scripture quotations taken from the NASB 1995.)
Last updated February 9, 2022