[b-hebrew] sky

George Athas George.Athas at moore.edu.au
Sun Sep 2 03:31:49 EDT 2012

Hi Ted!

Thanks for your post. There is a difference between the clouds that bring rain and the waters above the sky-dome (רקיע). In the flood narrative, the water is not brought by clouds, but rather by the opening of the sluice gates in the רקיע above allowing the celestial sea to inundate the earth below, and the bursting open of the springs of the deep (תהום). See Genesis 7.11–12. The separation of waters that is mentioned in Gen 1 is undone in the flood, such that the flood is envisioned not merely as a big deluge of rain, but rather as an act of uncreation leading to a new beginning—a second genesis. The flood (מבול) is, in fact, the celestial sea allowed to inundate the earth below. This is confirmed in Ps 29, where Yahweh is pictured as enthroned permanently at this celestial sea — that is, at the מבול, the same word for 'flood'. After all, Yahweh is pictured as the God of the Heavens, whose dwelling is above the waters — that is, on the other side of the רקיע, which is generally why he can't usually be seen.

Also, you quoted Job 26, but did not mention 26.11:

‏עַמּוּדֵ֣י שָׁמַ֣יִם יְרוֹפָ֑פוּ וְ֝יִתְמְה֗וּ מִגַּעֲרָתֽוֹ׃

The pillars of the sky totter, but freeze at his reprimand.

The fuller picture in Job is this: an earth seemingly suspended in an ether (in this, Job probably differs from other biblical writers who see the earth floating on water), with pillars holding up a sky that can totter. The next few verses imply that these were created by Yahweh's conquest of Rahab the sea snake. Are you seeing only the pillars of the sky as metaphorical? If so, why? What is your method for slicing off a metaphor here from reality in this bigger cosmological picture? Or is it the case that Job sees creation as the result of Yahweh's successful conquest of a chaos monster, resulting in a hard-panelled sky that balances on pillars.

Dean of Research,
Moore Theological College (moore.edu.au)
Sydney, Australia

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