“And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.”
Here we see this “vault” being made between the water under and the water above this “vault”. This “vault” He called “sky”. So what is this vault? And what’s the water below and above? All of these questions and more will be answered in this study.
Let’s recap what we have so far. We have the universe and we have earth. The earth is basic in it’s form up to this point. It has water on it and that’s about it. So we have a really basic earth and God is going to start to form some different things on earth to make room for the inhabitants He is soon going to create on His earth. His next creation will be this “vault” that seems to have a job of separating two different kinds of water. Then we see that God calls this vault “sky”. Well most of us have a pretty good idea of what a sky is, it’s the blue stuff up above us. It is space and air and may even be seen as freedom for some. Well if this is the case, what’s this water being separated? Well, some Hebrew definitions might be in order to eliminate confusion. So let’s dive into some ancient Hebrew.
Vault? Firmament? Expanse?
The word for “vault” here is translated “raquia” in Hebrew which means “to stretch” or “expanse”. The King James Version uses the word “firmament which adds to the confusion”. The ESV translates this word “expanse” most accurately to its original definition. Let’s think for a moment about ancient cosmology. The ancient Hebrews had a basic and interesting view of the universe and what they thought it looked like. The Hebrews believed that a solid dome was around the earth and this is what they thought they were looking at when they looked at the stars and such. To them, it was a big dome all around earth and inside this dome was the space above them where the birds fly. While modern science and astronomers don’t view earth and the universe as such today, it is still important for us to realize what their views of cosmology were. With all that being said, we can see that God created an expanse or literally “sky” and God actually calls the expanse “sky” or “heaven” (“shamayim” in Hebrew) at the beginning of verse eight. This is what we call sky today. It is the space in which the birds and some airplanes fly and this is a hyperlink to when God fills this space with His creation of birds on day five.
What About The Water?
So we have this sky or space above us but what about the waters above? We can say that the water under the expanse is the water we have on earth. Verse nine of the Genesis 1 tells us that that when dry land appears, the water under the sky is gathered to one place called “seas”, indicating it was under the sky on the surface of earth at this point. But what about the water above? This can most simply be recognized as clouds and water in the atmosphere. Rain falls from the sky so we know that there is water above us in the form of clouds. There are also other theories about what this water could have been. Some say it could have been a water vapor canopy that covered the whole earth. Others say this water could be described as a reservoir in Godspace. The most reasonable explanation for this “water above” would be clouds but one cannot say with absolute certainty. What we do know is that God separated the water on the surface of earth from the water in the atmosphere. The area in between God calls “sky” and it is the same language we use today when we consider and talk about the sky.
“And It Was So”
These words appear for the first time on the second day. After God makes the separation, we see the words, “And it was so” indicative of completeness and the power of God. The Hebrew authors were big on emphasizing certain words and phrases in their literature. Since they didn’t write in all capital letters or underline and highlight words or phrases for emphasis they used another literature writing component to stress certain ideas called repetition. They would repeat whatever thought they were trying to emphasize and this got across to the readers as being important. So it should do the same for us. These words appear often, everyday in fact except for the fifth day (Genesis 1:7, 9, 11, 15, 24, 30). This is another biblical theme that will carry on even through Jesus and today. That is, God saying or doing something and that being the way it is. Some will look at judgment as being the “negative” side of this argument. It is true that God will judge all of us (Ecclesiastes 12:14), but this should not be the only absolute we think about. We should think about how God will never leave us (Deuteronomy 31:8), or how God will forgive our sins (1 John 1:9), or that we will have eternal life if we believe and follow Jesus Christ (John 3:16). These are all promises of God and they are all so. If we stay faithful to God , all of these will remain true because God has said so. The promises and power of God is depicted right here in the beginning, that whatever God says is so.
After this, we see the same pattern as before from day one with the cycle of “evening and morning” and the conclusion of day 2.
“And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning-the third day.”
So there’s a lot going on here. To begin with a quick summary of this passage, we have land appearing and pockets of water forming. We also see vegetation being created. Let’s start with the land first.
Land & Sea
When we left off before, we had water above the sky and water below the sky. God now focuses on the water under the sky. First we see God telling the water to be gathered to one place and then to let dry ground appear and it happens. Again, we see God speaking creation into existence and it happens. Now about this dry land. Many will argue that this is evidence of plate tectonics in the Bible and this was how land was formed. Others will say God just made land appear without scientific reasoning. Whichever case you believe, we can see that it is God creating all that we see today and the honor and glory belongs to Him. God also gives names to these two different types of places. He calls the dry ground “land” and the waters “seas”. What’s interesting to notice is that God says to let the water (singular) be gathered to one place, land appears, then He calls the gathered waters (plural) “seas” (plural). So what does this all mean? Was all the water one big ocean before land? Do we have oceans because of the land? Well, if we look at a map today we can see that all the water in the “oceans” are connected and continuous and not completely interrupted by land. If the water was divided, we would see land either all the way across the earth or land from the North to the South pole but we simply don’t see that. The water is one continuous body of water. Therefore, the most probable explanation is that when land appeared, this created divisions in the water which created “pockets” or “seas” (as God called them) of water on the surface but the water was not completely separated from itself as we see today. Nonetheless, we see God creating land to fill with animals and humans and as we’re going to discover next, plants.
Grass, Plants, and Trees
After God saw the land and seas to be “good” He said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” Many of us when we read this we think of every plant we see. Trees, flowers, grass, and every plant we see. However, this is not necessarily the case. What we see is seed-bearing plants and trees with fruit each according to their kinds being created. In other words, this is grass, edible plants, and fruit trees being created for food for the animals and humans God will create later. We also see that God says for the land to produce the vegetation. Although there is no specific mention of God making the plants, we see that it is only through His power all of this is happening. It is truly God creating and speaking creation into existence.
There is also a supposed contradiction out there that says that if God created plants here, why does it say in Genesis 2:4-5 that no plant had sprung? How did the animals survive if this was the case? This can confuse many, however, there is a very simple and clear explanation for this alleged contradiction. Let’s look at the Hebrew words and meaning for clarity. Let’s start in Genesis 1:11-13. We see vegetation appear, this includes grass, herbs, and fruit trees. In other words, edible plants for the animals (and humans) to eat. When we look in Genesis chapter 2, which is a zoom in on the sixth day and we see that no “plant of the field” nor “herb of the field” had shown up yet. This “of the field” context is extremely important. In Hebrew, “plant of the field” is translated “siah hassadeh” and “herb of the field” is translated “eseb hassadeh”. If we return to our main text in Genesis 1, we see the terms, “deshe” (grass), “‘eseb mazria zera” (herbs yielding seeds), and “ets pariy” (trees bearing fruit). The vegetation described in Genesis 1 are not the same as in Genesis 2. God also gives a reason as to why these plants in chapter 2 have not been seen yet in Genesis 2:5, “for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground”. God had not sent rain and man had not been created to work and till the ground for these plant and herbs of the field to spring up. To conclude, the plants in Genesis 2 were of the field and did not appear until man was created and the vegetation in Genesis 1 was grass, edible plants, and fruit trees.