raqia encore

Ian Hutchesson mc2499 at mclink.it
Sun Jul 21 14:33:40 EDT 2002

Dear Rolf,

Analogies are for clarification and are not argument, 
but the sun rises real early here in Rome -- though I 
imagine even earlier up there. (Incidentally, though 
it's easy enough to show that it is a metaphor in 
English, you don't show that we are dealing with 
metaphors in Hebrew. You can't assume it.)

>>Gen 1:6  the rqy` is able to divide waters, therefore it has solidity,
>>          otherwise how would it stop the waters above from falling?
>It was God, according to Genesis 1:6-8, who separated water from 
>water. If we take RAQYA( to refer to the atmosphere, the account 
>tells that huge amounts of water was situated above it and huge 
>amounts of water below it. 

What stops the waters above from falling? rqy` -- that 
was its job, hence the doors and windows.

>The rings of Saturn and the atmosphere of 
>Venus show that water and other matter can exist both in and above 
>the atmosphere without any solid firmament to keep it up there.

The analogies are not appropriate. The purpose of rqy`: 

wyhy mbdyl byn mym lmym

rqy` is the subject which separates the waters from 
the waters. God separated the waters by physically 
making (`$h) the rqy` to be the separation, byn mym 

>If all the water in the clouds of the earth fell down at the same 
>time, that would create 50 centimeters of water. 

Was this a consideration to the authors of Gen 1?

>>Gen 1:17 the stars were placed on the rqy` -- solid.
>Literally: "God gave them in the RAQIA(" where they could be seen.

Not literally. I'll grant that b- is usually 
translated "in", but it can mean "on" (eg b'rc) "at", 
etc, and should be decided by the context. The 
context is Gen 1:20 which talks of the pnym of the 
firmament of heaven, which gives you surface. (See 

(I also think that there is a problem in mapping "give" 
onto the semantic field of ntn in this case.)

>>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 [..]
>The sense is "above" or "across", a preposition is never "solid".

The sense is not "in" or "through" the pnym nor can it 
be "above" in this case. The prepositional weight is 
between the hypothesized observer and the pnym, near to 
the later. The normal choices in English I would have 
thought were "before" or "across". In `l pny thwm the 
observer is looking down. This is not the case in 
Gen 1:20 otherwise the birds would be on the wrong side 
of the firmament. There is no sense of the birds *in* 
the firmament, which is not available in the idea of 
`l pnym, but clearly separated from it, flying from our 
point of view across the firmament of heaven.

And pnym is not a preposition. We simply treat `l pnym 
as a composite one, just as we would with "on top of" 
in English. And I said those things which "have pnym 
are relatively solid" -- in this case rqy`.

>>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 [..].
>>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.
>I have commented on this material in a previous posting. 

My post wasn't a response to yours.

And I haven't seen a post from you that deals with the 
implications of Job 37:18 and the direct connection of 
the verb rq` to the firmament and hence to rqy` which 
would not have been missed by an ancient reader.

>Two more 
>comments: In order to get some understanding of an invisible God, 
>words from the realm of mankind are used. 

We don't get God being invisible until the pseudo-
Pauline Colossians. One shouldn't retroject.

>If one presses this 
>language, the nature and purpose of it is overlooked. And similarly 
>with poetic language, do not insist on a strictly literal 
>interpretation of such things as "the hands of God", that would again 
>overlook the purpose of such expressions.

Perhaps we are a little too eager to metaphorise in 
order to smooth wrinkles.

>That we take the nature of the language into account does not mean 
>that we rule out the possibility of finding mythological expressions. 
>Just look at the creation account of Enuma elish where the body of 
>Tiamat is parted in two halves, and heaven is made from one part and 
>the earth from another. This is mythological!

This is the basis of the division of the waters in 
Gen 1 and the subsequent creation. Tiamat, the waters 
of chaos, is there in 1:2 with the Hebrew cognate 
tehom. Marduk's divine wind is also there -- the 
fight isn't (Genesis has the propensity to hide what 
it knows, eg about Lamech, Enoch, the watchers, etc), 
but you'll find traces of it elsewhere in the bible. 
The Genesis telling is more abstract than its 
cousin's, though this doesn't hide elements that I 
would consider never reflected a physical reality. (I 
usually don't use the term "mythological" as it is -- 
in our circles -- more a term of abuse against those 
elements or cultures we don't appreciate, which leads 
to the reaction that Genesis could not have been 

>>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,
>>   [..]
>>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).

This sort of material your previous post cast aside 
as "figurative language", but how do you separate 
"figurative language" from "world concept"? Was the 
world created in six days or was this "figurative 
language"? If the latter, then the institution of 
the sabbath totally loses its value. (Hence the 
recourse of some to manipulate the significance of 
ywm in an effort of make the six day creation fit 
both one's current world concept and the necessity 
of the literal nature of the text.)

>>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.
>These late sources shows the view of their authors, but we need to 
>argue on the basis of the Hebrew text of the Bible in order to show 
>its view of the universe.

The scribes of Pseudo-Jonathan are also much closer to 
the linguistic tradition than we are.

Josephus shows the situation in the first century with 
all the presuppositions of that time, just as we show 
the present situation trying to read modern ideas into 
the text. He is conceptually closer to the cultural 
environment than we are.

How do you date either Genesis or Enoch coherently? 
I know Enoch's Astronomical Book was available in the 
early 2nd century BCE, so it was earlier. And Gen 1?
One cannot simply exclude data without supplying the 

>>Just what uses of rqy` point in any
>>other direction from the idea of its solidity?

Rolf, as your post was a specific response to me, I am 
surprised that you didn't answer this question.

>[..] The text should be allowed to speak for itself.

This is my point exactly.



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