raqia encore

Ian Hutchesson mc2499 at mclink.it
Sat Jul 20 07:13:31 EDT 2002

Some indications regarding rqy`:

Gen 1:6  the rqy` is able to divide waters, therefore it has solidity, 
         otherwise how would it stop the waters above from falling?

Gen 1:17 the stars were placed on the rqy` -- solid.

Gen 1:20 birds flew not in the firmament but in the face of the 
         firmament of heaven, `l pny rqy` h$mym, and things that 
         have pnym are relatively solid (see, for example,
         Lev 14:53 `l pny h$dh, or Lev 6:7, `l pny yhwh), so there 
         is no sense of "in" in the phrase `l pny.

Ps 19:1  the rqy` shows the work of God's hands, so it is solid.

Eze 1:22 the rqy` is like crystal, ie it is solid -- though being like 
         crystal, I guess it may be transparent.

Ps 19:1 is especially interesting, as the work of God's hands suggests 
the work of an artisan, as in the one who beats metal.

Job 37:18 makes clear the thought of poured or cast (mwcq) metal, again 
the link with metalworking; the result is strong/hard, so the product 
is solid, like the molten (mwcq) sea in 1 Kgs 7:23 or the parts of the 
chariot which were all molten in 1 Kgs 7:33. 

Strangely though the word used in Job 37:18 for heaven is $xqym, and 
rq` is a verb describing God's act of spreading the $xqym, so the 
connection between heaven and the verb rq` is found here. Everything 
about the heaven in this verse is solid:

1) the verb, rq`
2) the adjective, xzq, ie $xqym xzqym (strong sky!)
3) the comparison, kr'y mwcq

This is all the verse.

Incidentally, in the Targum of Pseudo-Jonathan we find this 
description of the creation of the rqy`:

  And the Lord made the expanse, upbearing it with three fingers, 
  between the confines of the heavens and the waters of the ocean, 
  and separated between the waters which were below the expanse, 
  and the waters which were above, in the collection (or covering) 
  of the expanse; and it was so. And the Lord called the expanse 
  the Heavens. And it was evening, and it was morning, the Second 

The ancient tradition understood rqy` to be solid.

Gen 7:11 talks of the windows of heaven being opened to let rain fall. 
Gen 1:8 tells us that God called the rqy` heaven ($mym). Heaven also 
has doors in Ps 78:23, for God opened the doors of heaven to rain 
down manna. But this idea of doors and windows is not strange. Snow 
and hail are kept in "treasuries" ('crwt) Job 38:22, ready for their 
doors to be opened as well. And the tempest has its chamber (xdr).

Enoch's Astronomical Book has the sun and moon coming out of and 
going into gates in heaven.

Josephus in AJ 1,30 has a solid firmament.

We find this relentless solidity both in and out of the biblical 
tradition. This doesn't mean though that people couldn't formulate 
other ideas regarding natural phenomena, nor does it mean that there 
are no metaphors in the Hebrew text. However, I see nothing that 
goes against the constant solidity of rqy`. I don't think that a 
retrojection of modern ideas about the world will help understand 
what lies behind such terms. Just what uses of rqy` point in any 
other direction from the idea of its solidity? 


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