raqia encore

Rolf Furuli furuli at online.no
Mon Jul 22 02:21:38 EDT 2002

Dear Jan,

I do not think I can contribute much new to this thread, so I just 
want to make one comment regarding Genesis 7:10-12 (NIV)

Gen. 7:10 And after the seven days the floodwaters came on the earth.
Gen. 7:11  In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, on the 
seventeenth day of the second month - on that day all the springs of 
the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were 
Gen. 7:12 And rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights.

If a person in ancient times were to tell his audience that a huge 
amount of water above the atmosphere fell down and caused a worldwide 
flood, how should he do that in an everyday language?

In verse 11 the author used the traditional Hebrew way of saying the 
same thing in two ways. First he used the verb with the meaning "to 
cleave", "to split", and as an object of the splitting work he used a 
word meaning "spring" - "the springs of the great deep". So he used 
words that were familiar as a reference to phenemena on the earth to 
describe a dramatic event that never had occurred before. I think he 
managed to state his case in an understandable way.

Then he wanted to say the same thing with other words, and he used a 
verb with the core sense "to open", which is a good parallel to 
"split", and the object is a word which can refer to "a hole in the 
wall through which the smoke passes (Hoshea 13:3), "a nest or coop of 
pigeons" (Isaiah 60:8), and "a window" (Ecclesiastes 12:3). Depending 
on the eyes that see and one's paradigm, one can conclude that 
windows which already were made, but were shut, and now were opened 
to allow the water to fall down. Or, on can conlude that the second 
parallel clause means exactly the same as the first: an 
extraoridinary "opening" occurred, allowing the water to fall down.

If we accept "the rising of the sun" as a natural expression, there 
is no need to see any mythological thoughts in the words of Genesis 
7:11 - an extraordinary event must be expressed in a language that is 
somewhat figurative. Please note that even large crops of grain and 
olives etc. come through the "floodgates of heaven" (Malachi 3:10).

If you read Enuma elish, Gilgamesh and Atrahasis you will never doubt 
that you are reading myths, in many cases there is just one 
interpretation. If you read Genesis, several texts can be interpreted 
in two ways, either as expressing mythology, or as expressing natural 
things in an everyday language. Our paradigm  will be the deciding 



Rolf Furuli

University of Oslo

>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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