[b-hebrew] sky

TedBro at aol.com TedBro at aol.com
Sun Sep 2 12:53:12 EDT 2012

Hi, George:
You raise two good and critical questions.
1)   in Ps. 29, with its parallels to the Ugaritic Baal as Rider  on the 
Clouds is a delightful text. Doesn't the passage use "clouds" and "flood"  
interchangeably, showing that the two terms refer to the same waters? Rather  
than picturing the clouds and the celestial ocean as different, doesn't this  
text show them to the same? and מבול therefore representing clouds, a 
poetic  figure for the potential source of the flood waters?
2) You ask: 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? 
Yep, I see pillars of the earth as part of the metaphor comparing Creation  
to the human activity of constructing a building. The "method of slicing 
off"  metaphor from literal speech is based on the same structure / activity  
described at times in literal terms and in other contexts as poetic. Job 
26's  "hanging the earth upon nothing" juxtaposes against Job 38's "pillars of 
the  earth."
Just to clarify, I'm not advocating a 100% scientifically accurate Biblical 
 text, but rather pointing out that medieval / fundamentalist sort of 
literal  interpretations of poetic texts do not necessarily represent the meaning 
of the  text itself in its original context. The ancients made some but not 
all of  the off-based errors that we moderns often attribute to them.  :-)
Ted Brownstein
In a message dated 9/2/2012 2:55:23 A.M. Central Daylight Time,  
George.Athas at moore.edu.au writes:

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 () 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 , 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 

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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