Genesis 1:7
And 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.
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(7) God made the firmament.—This wide open expanse upon earth’s surface, supplied by the chemistry of nature—that is, of God—with that marvellous mixture of gases which form atmospheric air, was a primary necessity for man’s existence and activity. In each step of the narrative it is ever man that is in view; and even the weight of the superincumbent atmosphere is indispensable for the health and comfort of the human body, and for the keeping of all things in their place on earth. (See Note, Genesis 1:8.) And in this secondary sense it may still rightly be called the firmament.

The waters which were under the firmament . . . the waters which were above the firmament.—While this is a popular description of what we daily see—namely, masses of running water congregated upon earth’s surface, and above a cloudland, into which the waters rise and float—it is not contrary to, but in accordance with, science. The atmosphere is the receptacle of the waters evaporated from the earth and ocean, and by means of electrical action it keeps these aqueous particles in a state of repulsion, and forms clouds, which the winds carry in their bosom. So full of thoughtful contrivance and arrangement are the laws by which rain is formed and the earth watered, that they are constantly referred to in the Bible as the chief natural proof of God’s wisdom and goodness. (See Acts 14:17.) Moreover, were there not an open expanse next the earth, it would be wrapped in a perpetual mist, unvisited by sunshine. and the result would be such as is described in Genesis 2:5, that man could not exist on earth to till the ground. The use, however, of popular language and ideas is confessedly the method of Holy Scripture, and we must not force upon the writer knowledge which man was to gain for himself. Even if the writer supposed that the rains were poured down from an upper reservoir, it would be no more an argument against his being inspired than St. Mark’s expression, “The sun did set” (Mark 1:32), disproves the inspiration of the Gospels. For the attainment of all such knowledge God has provided another way.

1:6-13 The earth was emptiness, but by a word spoken, it became full of God's riches, and his they are still. Though the use of them is allowed to man, they are from God, and to his service and honour they must be used. The earth, at his command, brings forth grass, herbs, and fruits. God must have the glory of all the benefit we receive from the produce of the earth. If we have, through grace, an interest in Him who is the Fountain, we may rejoice in him when the streams of temporal mercies are dried up.Then made God the expanse. - Here the distinction between command and execution is made still more prominent than in the third verse. For the word of command stands in one verse, and the effect realized is related in the next. Nay, we have the doing of the thing and the thing done separately expressed. For, after stating that God made the expanse, it is added, "and it was so." The work accomplished took a permanent form, in which it remained a standing monument of divine wisdom and power.Ge 1:6-8. Second Day.

6. firmament—an expanse—a beating out as a plate of metal: a name given to the atmosphere from its appearing to an observer to be the vault of heaven, supporting the weight of the watery clouds. By the creation of an atmosphere, the lighter parts of the waters which overspread the earth's surface were drawn up and suspended in the visible heavens, while the larger and heavier mass remained below. The air was thus "in the midst of the waters," that is, separated them; and this being the apparent use of it, is the only one mentioned, although the atmosphere serves other uses, as a medium of life and light.

The firmament here is either,

1. The starry heaven; so called, not from its solidity, but from its fixed, durable, and, in a sort, incorruptible and unchangeable nature. Or,

2. The air; called here, the expansion, or extension, because it is extended far and wide, even from the earth to the third heaven; called also the firmament, because it is fixed in its proper place, from whence it cannot be moved, unless by force.

The waters under the firmament are seas, rivers, lakes, fountains, and other waters in the bowels of the earth.

The waters above the firmament, or above the heavens, as they are called, Psa 148:4, are either,

1. A collection or sea of waters placed by God above all the visible heavens, and there reserved for ends known to himself. Or rather,

2. The waters in the clouds; for the clouds are called waters, Psa 18:11 Psa 104:3, and are said to be in heaven, 2Sa 21:10 Mat 24:30, and the production thereof is mentioned as an eminent work of God's creation, Job 35:5 Job 36:29 Psa 147:8 Pro 8:28; which therefore it is not credible that Moses in his history of the creation would admit, which he doth, if they be not here meant; and these are rightly said to be above the firmament, i.e. the air, because they are above a considerable part of it. As God commanded and ordered it, so it was done and settled. And God made the firmament,.... By a word speaking, commanding it into being, producing it out of the chaos, and spreading it in that vast space between the heaven of heavens and our earth (z),

And divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; the lower part of it, the atmosphere above, which are the clouds full of water, from whence rain descends upon the earth; and which divided between them and those that were left on the earth, and so under it, not yet gathered into one place; as it now does between the clouds of heaven and the waters of the sea. Though Mr. Gregory (a) is of opinion, that an abyss of waters above the most supreme orb is here meant; or a great deep between the heavens and the heaven of heavens, where, as in storehouses, the depth is laid up; and God has his treasures of snow, hail, and rain, and from whence he brought out the waters which drowned the world at the universal deluge. Others suppose the waters above to be the crystalline heaven, which for its clearness resembles water; and which Milton (b) calls the "crystalline ocean",

And it was so: the firmament was accordingly made, and answered this purpose, to divide the waters below it from those above it; or "it was firm" (c), stable and durable; and so it has continued.

(z) ------and God made The firmament, expanse of liquid, pure, Transparent, elemental air, diffused In circuit to the uttermost convex Of this great round.------ Milton, Paradise Lost, B. 7. l. 263, &c. (a) Notes and Observations, &c. c. 23. p. 110, &c. (b) Ibid. l. 291. (c) "et factum est firmum", Fagius & Nachmanides in ib.

And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were {f} under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.

(f) As the sea and rivers, from those waters that are in the clouds, which are upheld by God's power, least they should overwhelm the world.

7. and it was so] This formula is here out of place. See previous note.Verse 7. - And God made the firmament. How the present atmosphere was evolved from the chaotic mass of waters the Mosaic narrative does not reveal. The primary intention of that record being not to teach science, but to discover religious truth, the thing of paramount importance to be communicated was that the firmament was of God's construction. This, of course, does not prevent us from believing that the elimination of those gases (twenty-one parts of oxygen and seventy-nine of nitrogen, with a small proportion of carbonic acid gas and aqueous vapor) which compose our atmosphere was not effected by natural means; and how far it may have been assisted by the action of the light upon the condensing mass of the globe is a problem in the solution of which science may legitimately take an interest. And divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament. The upper waters are not the material of the stars (Delitzsch, Wordsworth), although Jupiter is of the same density as water, and Saturn only half its density; but the waters floating about in the higher spaces of the air. The under waters are not the lower atmospheric vapors, but the oceanic and terrestrial waters. How the waters are collected in the upper reaches of the atmosphere, Scripture, no less than science, explains to be by means of evaporation (Genesis 2:6; Job 36:27; Job 37:16). These latter passages suggest that the clouds are balanced, suspended, upheld by the buoyancy of the air in exact accordance with scientific principles. And it was so. Six times these words occur in the creation record. Sublimely suggestive of the resistless energy of the Divine word, which speaks, and it is done, commands, and it standeth fast, they likewise remind us of the sweet submissiveness of the creature to the all-wise Creator's will, and, perhaps, are designed as well to intimate the fixed and permanent character of those arrangements to which they are attached. The Second Day. - When the light had been separated from the darkness, and day and night had been created, there followed upon a second fiat of the Creator, the division of the chaotic mass of waters through the formation of the firmament, which was placed as a wall of separation (מבדּיל) in the midst of the waters, and divided them into upper and lower waters. רקיע .s, from רקע to stretch, spread out, then beat or tread out, means expansum, the spreading out of the air, which surrounds the earth as an atmosphere. According to optical appearance, it is described as a carpet spread out above the earth (Psalm 54:2), a curtain (Isaiah 40:22), a transparent work of sapphire (Exodus 24:10), or a molten looking-glass (Job 37:18); but there is nothing in these poetical similes to warrant the idea that the heavens were regarded as a solid mass, a σιδήρεον, or χάλκεον or πολύχαλκον, such as Greek poets describe. The רקיע (rendered Veste by Luther, after the στερέωα of the lxx and firmamentum of the Vulgate) is called heaven in Genesis 1:8, i.e., the vault of heaven, which stretches out above the earth. The waters under the firmament are the waters upon the globe itself; those above are not ethereal waters

(Note: There is no proof of the existence of such "ethereal waters" to be found in such passages as Revelation 4:6; Revelation 15:2; Revelation 22:1; for what the holy seer there beholds before the throne as "a sea of glass like unto crystal mingled with fire," and "a river of living water, clear as crystal," flowing from the throne of God into the streets of the heavenly Jerusalem, are wide as the poles from any fluid or material substance from which the stars were made upon the fourth day. Of such a fluid the Scriptures know quite as little, as of the nebular theory of La Place, which, notwithstanding the bright spots in Mars and the inferior density of Jupiter, Saturn, and other planets, is still enveloped in a mist which no astronomy will ever disperse. If the waters above the firmament were the elementary matter of which the stars were made, the waters beneath must be the elementary matter of which the earth was formed; for the waters were one and the same before the creation of the firmament.) But the earth was not formed from the waters beneath; on the contrary, these waters were merely spread upon the earth and then gathered together into one place, and this place is called Sea. The earth, which appeared as dry land after the accumulation of the waters in the sea, was created in the beginning along with the heavens; but until the separation of land and water on the third day, it was so completely enveloped in water, that nothing could be seen but "the deep," or "the waters" (Genesis 1:2). If, therefore, in the course of the work of creation, the heaven with its stars, and the earth with its vegetation and living creatures, came forth from this deep, or, to speak more correctly, if they appeared as well-ordered, and in a certain sense as finished worlds; it would be a complete misunderstanding of the account of the creation to suppose it to teach, that the water formed the elementary matter, out of which the heaven and the earth were made with all their hosts. Had this been the meaning of the writer, he would have mentioned water as the first creation, and not the heaven and the earth. How irreconcilable the idea of the waters above the firmament being ethereal waters is with the biblical representation of the opening of the windows of heaven when it rains, is evident from the way in which Keerl, the latest supporter of this theory, sets aside this difficulty, viz., by the bold assertion, that the mass of water which came through the windows of heaven at the flood was different from the rain which falls from the clouds; in direct opposition to the text of the Scriptures, which speaks of it not merely as rain (Genesis 7:12), but as the water of the clouds. Vid., Genesis 9:12., where it is said that when God brings a cloud over the earth, He will set the rainbow in the cloud, as a sign that the water (of the clouds collected above the earth) shall not become a flood to destroy the earth again.)

beyond the limits of the terrestrial atmosphere, but the waters which float in the atmosphere, and are separated by it from those upon the earth, the waters which accumulate in clouds, and then bursting these their bottles, pour down as rain upon the earth. For, according to the Old Testament representation, whenever it rains heavily, the doors or windows of heaven are opened (Genesis 7:11-12; Psalm 78:23, cf. 2 Kings 7:2, 2 Kings 7:19; Isaiah 24:18). It is in (or with) the upper waters that God layeth the beams of His chambers, from which He watereth the hills (Psalm 104:13), and the clouds are His tabernacle (Job 36:29). If, therefore, according to this conception, looking from an earthly point of view, the mass of water which flows upon the earth in showers of rain is shut up in heaven (cf. Genesis 8:2), it is evident that it must be regarded as above the vault which spans the earth, or, according to the words of Psalm 148:4, "above the heavens."

(Note: In Genesis 1:8 the lxx interpolates καὶ εἶδεν ὁ Θεὸς ὅτι καλόν (and God saw that it was good), and transfers the words "and it was so" from the end of Genesis 1:7 to the close of Genesis 1:6 : two apparent improvements, but in reality two arbitrary changes. The transposition is copied from Genesis 1:9, Genesis 1:15, Genesis 1:24; and in making the interpolation, the author of the gloss has not observed that the division of the waters was not complete till the separation of the dry land from the water had taken place, and therefore the proper place for the expression of approval is at the close of the work of the third day.)

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